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What is the difference between DevOps and platform engineering?

Written by Wed 8 Feb 2023

Building on from the concept of DevOps, platform engineering is seen by some as the next step or evolution of DevOps.

For many years the DevOps methodology has been at the centre of the software development and IT industry. Its many advantages over traditional software development and management processes, namely the ability to enable engineers to quickly release products at the same time as improving their quality, make it a powerful method.

However, in recent months the platform engineering approach is rapidly growing in popularity.  Platform engineers create a product called an Internal Developer Platform that covers the whole lifecycle of an application.

DevOps or platform engineering?

A number of similarities exist between DevOps and platform engineering, with some experts saying the two are virtually the same. But key differences remain that separate the two from one another.

DevOps is a culture and set of practices that aim to improve collaboration and communication between development and operations teams. The goal of DevOps is to increase efficiency and speed of software delivery by automating processes and integrating development and operations workflows.

The role of platform engineers is to monitor the complete software development lifecycle, with one element of this being to establish workflows that support developers to rapidly code and release software. It is hoped that platform engineering will create opportunities for self-service by embracing automation.

Pinning down an exact definition of platform engineering is problematic. Luca Galante, a member of the product team at Humanitec, offered a simple definition: “Platform engineering is the discipline of designing and building toolchains and workflows that enable self-service capabilities for software engineering organisations in the cloud-native era.”

On paper, DevOps professionals typically stay close to the ideals of ‘you built it, you run it’. Yet, due to the massive range of tools now deployed, the reality is usually rather different. In an environment where developers are responsible for everything in a lifecycle, their workload can become massive and hard to complete.

Platform engineering instead embraces the DevOps approach, by utilising their processes and tools, but then works to build reusable services to be used by all types of staff across a whole business.

Platform engineering usually comes into its own when DevOps has reached a high level of maturity and DevOps professionals begin to work together to find a scalable solution to a challenge they encounter that impacts different teams. Rather than each team creating their own solution, they can band together and make use of the benefits offered by platform engineering.

In other words, DevOps is concerned with how teams work together, while platform engineering is concerned with what they work on. Both DevOps and platform engineering play critical roles in modern software development. DevOps helps to improve the efficiency and speed of software delivery, while platform engineering provides a solid foundation for applications and services. Both fields have the opportunity to work together to achieve the ultimate goal of delivering high-quality software in a fast and efficient manner.

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Written by Wed 8 Feb 2023

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