From DevOps to Platform engineering

Luca Galante runs a vibrant and fast-growing community around platform engineering and today he shares with us why every organization should invest in a platform engineering team.

We also talk about:
  • what is platform engineering
  • the difference between platform engineering and DevOps
  • what developer productivity has to do with platform engineering
  • why self-service for developers is so important

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Luca Galante
About Luca Galante
Luca is leading product at Humanitec, saw hundreds of DevOps and platform setups, and shares his learnings in his weekly newsletter PlatformWeekly (with 10k subscribers). He is also the core contributor to the Platform Engineering community, with 10k+ meetup members, and 8k+ Slack members.

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Read the whole episode "From DevOps to Platform engineering" (Transcript)

[00:00:00] Michaela: Hello and welcome to the Software Engineering Unlocked Podcast. I'm host Dr. McKay, and today I have the pleasure to talk to Luca Galante, who will talk with me about platform engineering.

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But now back to Luca. Luca is leading product at Humanitech and so hundreds of DevOps and platform setups, and he condensed all his learnings into his weekly newsletter that's called Platform Weekly, which ha, which has 10,000 subscribers.

He's also the core contributor to the platform engineering community that has more than 10,000 meet up, uh, members, more than 8,000 Slack members. And they're also having a platform con. This is a conference about platform engineering that has over 6,000 and attends in just one day. Well, so I think he knows

He knows a lot about platform engineering. I will pick his brain today. So I'm so, so happy that you're here, Luca with me today. Welcome to.

[00:01:24] Luca: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

[00:01:26] Michaela: So, um, I asked people today before having this, uh, conversation with you, I asked them, so what do you think about platform engineering

And they were like, what platform? What, what is that? Platform engineering. Yeah, exactly. Um, so can you maybe outline a little bit what is platform engineering? And um, I actually noted it's a little bit of a hype now. Why is that? What is it and why is it a hype right now?

[00:01:53] Luca: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so platform engineering, I, I define it as the science, but really the art as well of designing and really bringing together all the different tech and tools that you have in an organization, especially.

You're kind of mid-size, large size enterprise engineer organizations and bring all of that tech and tools into one golden path that enables, um, developers sell service and at the same time reduces the cognitive load on the individual developer and the individual contributor. And so these golden paths, um, are most often referred to as an internal developer platform or Id.

and that IDP is built by a platform engineering team or internal platform team, or platform team. And uh, the, the kind of like the key principle of of platform engineering is platform as a product, which means you have a platform team that is really a, works as a product team and ships a product, which is the platform to the rest of the engineer organizations.

Um, who are their customers? The, the developers. So developers are their internal customers, and that is really one of the, kind of like the key differences to something like sre, which is mainly focused on, you know, reliable production systems, really, and DevOps, which is a culture or philosophy. Um, never meant to be, it was never meant to be a job role.

Technically , um, and platform engineering is really a, a new, a new discipline, right? That actually hopes to. Um, bring to live, uh, the, the initial tenant of DevOps, which is you build it, you run, and, and so, If we, you know, if we think about, you know, DevOps, uh, cause I think this is important context to, to understand, you know, where platform engineering fits in the, in the, kinda like in the broader scope of things.

You know, DevOps, you know, it came up more than probably 10 years ago at this point. And, and when it did, the word was at very, very different place. Right? We, we were mainly working on monoliths, running on bare metal. Um, the infrastructure that we were running. Insanely less complex than it is right now.

You didn't have Kubernetes GI ups, you didn't have, you know, the CNCF Cloud native tooling landscape, which is like hundreds or thousands of different tools that nobody really understands how they fit together and. You know, and, and so the, the time is really different, right? And, and the initial idea behind DevOps is quite simple and, and is great, right?

It's, is to remove barriers between developers and operations and facilitate collaboration between them. But the issue is, in reality for many organizations, uh, what that turned into when you consider all this conve. Trends of GI ops, cloud Native Kubernetes, iac, and so on and so forth, is a world where, you know, developers are overwhelmed.

You know, they are overwhelmed by this extra cognitive load that is created by all these tools, very complex tool chains, where now just to do a simple deployment. To, you know, a preview environment. You wanna just like, say those two things in one sentence. In some engineer organizations, especially at large scale, that can take, you know, weeks.

Cause you need somebody to provision your, uh, you know, a database and set up your, um, you know, your preview environment. And then, you know, and, and only then you can like start touching like 10, 15 different like tech tools or complicated scripts just to do one simple deployment, right? And so what that results into is on the one hand, you know, waiting time and frustrated developers that are just like too afraid of touching all this, you know, spaghetti configuration stuff that they don't wanna mess up.

And on the flip side of that, you have operations or DevOps in some cases, teams. Are completely overwhelmed and you know, are basically just trying to put out fires and fighting constantly ticket ups and. And so when we at Humanitech looked at this, you know, our, our funding team comes from, you know, people who built, uh, the platform, Xing, which is a big, you know, kind of like LinkedIn competitor in Europe that never really took off, but it's still a very company.

Um, our CT O actually built one of the platforms at Google and you know, we realized that in this whole DevOps revolution, what leading. Engineering organizations were doing was building platforms cuz they immediately realized, hey, there is no way that we can, you know, onboard hundreds or even thousands of developers like they were doing every day.

Um, but, um, you know, and expecting everybody to understand this full, you know, super complex, increasingly complex cloud native setup. And so we need some sort of platform layer here to enable developer cell service on the one hand, and then make ops life easier on the. and that's kind of where platform engineering was started.

And this is where we started also doing the work on our community that happy to talk more about.

[00:07:13] Michaela: Okay. So, um, let's, let's dig a little bit deeper and I want to, you know, decompartmentalize a little bit what you were saying right now. Um, So we have DevOps on one end, right? Where, um, there was this strive that developers also run the code, right?

So that you're not throwing code over and then another person or another team is reliable for even to test it, right? So I think everything came a little bit more closer together over the last, let's say 15 years, right? So, uh, respo. Developers took over more responsibility for testing the code, but also for running the code, but then for shipping the code, right?

Um, and so now that we have this so close to us, uh, but we have more tooling, it becomes extremely complex. Right. So , if, if you are a developer, you should be good, let's say in in in JavaScript and React. And you should know maybe some backend, and then you should know some databases. And then you should also know Kubernetes.

And I think then already your, your world explodes, right? Um, right. And then maybe some monitoring and some observability and so on. So it becomes extremely complex and I think there's not one person that can know everything. And even for teams, it becomes a complex, uh, way to do it. . And what you are telling me, I think, is that there are all these tools and then we put them together like pieces and puzzles and then maybe have some scripts that, you know, glue that together.

Um, and then it becomes brittle also and difficult. And so platform engineering teams emerged a little bit out of this need of making that more structured, more systematic, and also having an owner that. Takes over the architecting such systems that are based on tools and, and, and, and already, you know, technologies, whole technologies that are actually coming into that.

Is that, is that a correct understanding of what platform engineering is?

[00:09:06] Luca: Yeah, you said it really well, . Okay. I have another question for you. I couldn't said it said it better myself. ,

[00:09:13] Michaela: what you are also talking is DevOps and then site reliability. Site reliability, engineering, right? Mm-hmm. . But another thing that comes up in my mind, especially because I've worked on that over the last two years, is develop experie.

And I see a lot of, um, platform teams that you're talking about, right? Those platform from teams also being interested in develop developer experience, right? Because we want to make the life of developers easier, right? We want, we want them not to sweat because, you know, uh, they can't deploy, right? They want, we want them to ship code really, really fast.

Um, but I think the idea of really calling it something. Straight out like telling, saying it's it's developer experience and we are also responsible for that. Um, is another task. Do you see that, that people are really interested in that or is it only a part of the developer, uh, the, the platform engineering folks that are interested in DeVero developer experience?

What's your perspective on, uh, perspective on that?

[00:10:13] Luca: Absolutely. Yeah. That is, I think the most important thing that platform teams need to care about is, you know, building that really tight feedback loop with their developer teams, the development teams and, um, you know, make sure that they really optimize for their day-to-day developer experience.

Right. And that is where it's so important that you treat your platform as a product that you're. and you treat developers as your internal customers. Cause otherwise that flow, that feedback loop breaks. Um, and so, you know, what we see in the community and in the marketing in general, successful platform engineering teams do is.

You know, they treat the platform as a product. As we said, they have this really tight feedback loop with developers. They also have a really clear mission and role, which is stated and almost internally marketed, as you know, clearly different from a DevOps or SRE team, right? So, um, your mission is not simply.

Um, which is not necessarily simple things, right, but, um, is not to, you know, worry about maintenance and reliability of your systems is to, you know, improve, you know, the dev developer experience continuously of all the development teams, whatever it is, you know, that is, there needs to be a clear mission.

That is communicated to the rest of the engineer organization to position the platform team and make sure and set them up for success. That's really important. Um, the other thing that we see Plat, you know, successful platform teams do is. Um, you know, focus on common problem and really focus on this like minimum and common denominator across the engineering organization, right?

And so when you're thinking about rolling out a platform, you know, how do you win over your, your developers, like of course you wanna focus on developer experience, but you know, How do you, um, how do you make sure, you know, you can't, you can't usually roll out to like hundreds or thousands of developers or at once.

And so it's really important to focus on that set of problems that you see across, you know, the board there is where, where the, the most pain lines, and again, that only comes from like surveys. You know, just general, you know, traditional product research, really talking to your customers and then, you know, iterating on the features, iterating on the features, and make sure that you don't reinvent the wheel all the time.

Um, but you know, you brought up earlier this idea of glue that's actually. A really, really valuable part, um, of, of the job, of platform teams is really gluing together their, you know, what is a very complex tool chain into one golden path that makes sense. And I think crucially. , you wanna provide developers with a choice of what is the right golden path for a data, right?

So as an example, what you said, right? You have, you might have, you know, a lot of, um, you know, front end, like a junior front end engineer that really wants to worry about reacting JavaScript and nothing, and not too much more than that. , right? So they don't care whether you're running on E Ks, G K E, which region, like they don't care about any of that, right?

And so for them, you might want to build a really, you know, high level, high obstruction, golden path that just lets them, you know, easily deploy a test, a small change to their dev environment. And that's it. But then you also might have somebody like a, you know, senior backend engineer that really loves messing out, messing around with her helm charts and um, you know, yamo files and so on.

And so what you wanna provide to them in that case is, you know, the ability of going off path, the ability of, you know, messing around with like lower level stuff. And so, you know, What we advocate for in the platform engine community is really a, you know, a toolbox that, um, you know, platform teams use.

There is an unop opinionated toolbox to build opinionated golden path. Why? Because you, there's no better person than your platform, your own platform team to understand what is the right level of instruction and what does a golden path really means for, um, our organiz. .

[00:14:44] Michaela: So I have, uh, many questions. I wrote down actually four that are really important, so we have to cover all of them.

Um, the first one I started with, the first one is that, Uh, how long is it to go ? 10 years ago? You know, uh, I, I would say I was in the platform team a little bit different. I think it's not exactly the same. Um, maybe I was more in a, ah, it, it's really early days right? Back then. Right. So, but I was working at Microsoft and um, at that point it was called, um, tools for software engineers team.

Right? So we were providing mm-hmm. , the tools for the software engineers. Um, but what I have seen there, and then actually my team was. Reorged, uh, because it grew and grew and grew, right? It became more and more important into one ES one engineering system, which I think, you know, it's a little bit, this idea of first we were, um, we were responsible, responsible for making the build faster for, for, you know, the large organization, which sounds trivial, but if you're running Microsoft, uh, for example, a Windows, it's not that, right?

Uh, you know, you can really spend some time to optimize this build time or we were making testing faster or more reliable or, So we were working with different teams really on those problems that they were seeing with testing, with build, um, with, with, uh, code ownership and so on. Um, and then it was, uh, because it was becoming more important, it became this a large one ES team, right?

One engineering platform. And I have seen at that point that a lot of companies tried to, especially larger companies, tried for from this very scattered landscape, right? This team is doing it that way. The S team is doing it a little bit different. They are using a very different tool, Jane, into this one engineering system where you say, well, an organization with 200,000 people should all have the same tools, right?

Right. I think people went a little bit away from that. Uh, but there's still a, a, a little bit of, of this idea, which is I think, different from what you were saying. Right. So, um, you were saying listen to your customers. Um, where, what I have seen, um, in the early days, it was more a top-down approach, right?

It was like we. Get, for example, , right? So now we have, you know, this tool or we have this hammer, let's, let's put it that way, right? We have this hammer, uh, that works very well and we want everybody to use it, right? Independent of their situation. Um, or we want, you know, that everybody does this, uh, you know, does something this way so that we can keep knowledge and you know, it.

Stream, like processes and so on. Um, do you still see that or, um, is there really this focus on, well, uh, depending on what our, you know, customers need and how is our internal developers within a com company I can have as scattered or a, a complex and, you know, uh, a landscape as it's not uniform, not coherent.

[00:17:37] Luca: Yeah, so it can definitely not be a top-down approach. Right. And in fact, I was having an interesting conversation this morning with somebody about this, where, you know, we were saying, hey, would the ideal scenario for a platform for a new platform team. Be, um, Greenfield, right? And it's like, kind of like, cuz from a, a purely theoretical standpoint, you, you'd argue yet, right?

Like, oh, you can choose everything, right? You can pick your perfect stock and like design all the flows and so on. But the issue is, the, the issue with that is then you're already going kind of like the password, which is basically saying, , I know what's best. Mm-hmm. , right? Um, and then you, you'll all need to like, kind of just like fit into this like, mold that I've created for, for this platform.

Whereas the, I think the, the ideal scenario actually, and, and frankly what we see in the vast majority of cases in practice is, you know, you have a, a brownfield complex enterprise setup and now you wanna roll out the platform initiative, which. We already have, you know, tens of development teams with their own stack, right?

Like these people prefer using, um, you know, Argo cd. These people prefer using Argo plus Jenkins. This is like Circle CI and something else, right? So, Um, now that's where you understand as a platform team, if you listen right and, and you, and you look closely, that's where you start understanding, okay, um, I can see some pattern, I can see some preferences.

I understand I talk to them, right? And this is where you start formulating an idea of what this like minimum common denominator is. And that is the starting point of your platform. And I would argue that it's probably actually a better starting point. It. A more difficult one and a more, a more laborious one than, Hey, we can start from scratch and just dream up the ideal platform.

But I think is something is, is, is one that in the long run will probably, um, you know, come closer to what the developers actually want. And so I think that's actually the, the, the best way of, of approach.

[00:19:45] Michaela: Another trend and I think, yeah, something that evolved over time. When I look at, you know, how, how platform engineering or whole this industry somehow, uh, formed itself, is that like 10 years back, I only saw people doing what I'm doing.

At large organizations, you know, I saw people at Microsoft. Yes. I saw them at Google. Even Spotify was too small at that point. Right, right. And now I see platform engineering teams and the interest for that also at medium size companies or startups. Um, maybe not at two person show right. . Um, um, but uh, you know, like if they have.

I don't know, what's the numbers? 50 people. It could be that there is already somebody responsible for, for doing that. Right. 50 engineers or something. Um, do you see the same trend? Is it also, is it something that just large organizations do or is uh, is platform engineering and thinking about developer experience and this common denominator and so on, is that something that smaller organizations should care?

[00:20:49] Luca: Yeah, it's a great question. Um, and actually you said I think the right number, uh, it's about 50 , I would say, uh, you know, 30, 50. That's when I think you start seeing the things breaking, right? Because you have two, I think you have two scenarios below that threshold, right? Like, either you have, you know, people are saying, all right, like, I'm just gonna go with the past, like something that, you know, maybe like five or 10 years ago could have been like in Heroku for instance.

Now you have a bunch of other solutions for that. Or like, As a service type of things. Um, and that, those are great for, you know, those, those like smaller use cases, the problem is they don't really scale, right? Like when you start wanting to have those different golden paths that we were talking about earlier, then it becomes really hard because that toolbox is just not flexible enough, right?

Um, and then the other scenario is basically you just have your like 10, 15, senior backing engineers and everyone is kind. You know, really comfortable handing, handling your IAC modules and your Kubernetes like helmet charts and, and stuff like that. Right? And that's also fine, but that's also doesn't scale.

Cause you can't just hire those people Right. Forever. Um, you'll, you'll hire more junior people, especially as a scale and, um, you just can't expect everybody to be familiar with that, especially if they weren't. In the early stages of building it. And so that's where we start seeing then a, a trend towards platform teams forming.

Um, and, and you're absolutely right, um, you know, it trickle down from very large companies to, you know, smaller and smaller companies. And I think the threshold, the, the, kinda like the cutting point is a, is around us like 30, 50 engineers. I think also important to mention. You know, the very, um, then, then I think the question becomes, what is the, you know, minimum common denominator?

What are the, what are the, um, you know, patterns that you see in, in, um, platform building that you can replicate across the board so that you avoid people inventing the wheel over and over again? And that's kinda like what we worry about when we think about constantly humanity. . And so, you know, in that cases I always say, Hey, if you're like a Google, like of course Google will build your own platform.

Cause they have like very, and in fact they have many different platforms internally, right? Because they have like very specific requirements and they're just like at a huge scale, right? But, um, if you are not at that scale of a Salesforce over Google, where you actually have like multiple platform teams internally competing with the.

Um, but you just have like one platform team. Then you wanna provide that platform team with the best possible toolbox to make them succeed. And you don't wanna, and you wanna make sure they don't reinvent the wheel and just like build the whole thing from scratch, but leverage a combination of, you know, either open source or open source and, and, and commercial offerings that give them that initial kind of, you know, found.

That, that then can be that sort of unop opinionated, um, you know, toolbox that we're talking about to go build your own opinionated platform and your own opinionated workflows on top. But I think it's important that you kind of focus as a platform team on that serve like last mile optimization and not on let me build the entire, uh, thing from scratch, which is something that unfortunately we see a lot of people doing.

It can be extremely resource intensive and extremely time consuming. And, you know, sometimes it's worth it. And a lot of times it's, it's not. And, and we see a lot of organizations underestimate the effort of, you know, not just building a platform , which can be like one or two years, uh, at any, you know, considerable size of company, but also maintaining and improving that platform.

And we see actually a lot of organizations making this mistake where they. Hey, you know, we had this platform, initiative's gonna run for a year, then we're gonna, this platform is gonna be great. And actually, you know, when you ship the v1 that's when the work starts, like, like with every other product, right?

And so, um, it's, it's, it's a lot of work. And, and, and we want the engineering, the platform teams to focus on that optimization part and try and provide them with an initial toolbox to get started.

[00:24:55] Michaela: Okay, so let's. Let's step a little bit back and look at what's the outcome, right? What's the product really?

How can I imagine that, right? So, um, I would say probably in the purest form, it's infrastructure is code. Um, but I think probably to, to reach that there are probably many steps. Maybe it's a document at the beginning, , um, maybe it's, uh, maybe it's GitHub's actions. I don't when, when we are really small, right?

So, uh, Uh, C I C D pipeline run. Right? And we have some GitHub action scripts, or we have some, um, maybe I. , could we say we are a, a platform engineering team if we have Sapir, , you know, take over things from one system to the other. Is that, is that, is that an engineering platform, , or, or how, you know, what, what's the form that we are striving for?

What's the, you know, the golden rule? How, how should that look like? Is it the document? Is that enough? Can we say that's already a platform that we build, that we describe. Which tool boxes are, you know, going in or that we are using. And maybe, you know, there is a Titan script and there is is a back script and you know, this is how you run them with those commands or you know, I think there's a.

A large, uh, virality of forms, how we could actually have that from quite manual to extremely automated. So, so what, what is the toolbox that you are talking about? Do, do I go to GitHub and is there a repository and I download, you know, uh, uh, a standard, um, platform engineering, um, poer plate coat, , and then I start customizing that to my needs?

Or how, how does that.

[00:26:34] Luca: Yeah, I love this question. This is such a good question because. It's actually something where I think we see the largest gap right now in the, both in the community and the market broadly, which is, um, you know, obviously, you know, the, the history of software engineering really is a history of, of progressive obstruction and platforms, right?

So, Everything is a platform. Everyone wants to be a platform, right? Every tool like markets themselves is a platform. So, um, but I think what we see, you know, specifically around platform engineering is a focus around two main areas, which is application configurations and infrastructure, uh, configurations, right?

And so having those two as the kind of like the core pillars of your delivery setup, right? And yeah, your delivery setup kind of like, you know, starts in your get base system, then goes into your ci, your c. and then touches all the parts of the infrastructure and you know, from dev to production. And, um, but you know, the, one of the, I think like fallacies and sort of like anti patterns that we see out there is um, especially when there is a top down initiative around, hey, we need to build a platform.

Cause it's cool and, you know, people say we should do it. Um, then kind of like people go. Looking at what is the, you know, looking at developer workflows chronologically, right? And so then they analyze it, right? Where, where does a developer start when, you know, she wants to create a new application, a new service.

And it's like, oh, they go get and like, um, and so then they start looking at um, you know, they look at this workflow and they're like, alright, this is where we're gonna start building the top right. And so then the answer a lot of times becomes, For instance, in turn, developer portals or you know, servers, catalogs like backstage, which don't get me wrong, it's a great product.

They're, they're huge contributors to the community. We're, you know, we're big fans and we weren't closely with them. But the issue a lot of times, especially if you're not a massive in the organization, which is the vast majority of cases, is that is not where the value lies. , right? If you're trying to think about where, where is the painful thing, what is the painful bit for developers within your, uh, application and infrastructure configuration world within your delivery and C I C D setup?

It's usually the configuration management bit. It's not the, you know, let me start with the, with the, you know, with which template and so on for the services of reach, scaffolding and. Um, that's, that's where we see, um, most of the focus. And that's where we promote a, an approach to configuration management that we call dynamic configuration management.

Um, and is really focused on dynamically generating conflict files. On the fly at deployment time for developers in a way that, you know, basically removes everything that is like the, the entire kind of like, uh, cognitive overload of trying to figure out what are the dependencies, what do I need do in specific environment and so on.

And really just like have them work against one single, um, Uh, configuration format that then can work environment in an environment agnostic way across their entire setup. Um, and yeah, so that's, that's kind of where we, where we see, you know, the, the, the focus in terms of, you know, platform engineering.

But you bring up a really good point, which is, um, you know, I think apart from engineering community, Gone through, you know, multiple phases. One was in the last couple of years, which was like the, the initial, the nascent phase of, um, you know, hey, The promise, the initial tenant of Dells, because you build it, you run, it can actually be, um, you know, uh, executed in practice through platform engineering.

Right? And it was about hammering that idea here and there and, you know, platform engineer really exploded last year. We had, you know, Gartner putting it on the hype cycle, the, our community, you know, quadrupled or more in size. and, and really there was like a lot of debates. There was a whole controversy on Twitter around Dell is that long platform engineering, happy to get into that as well, but like really the, um, you know, platform engineering exploded.

Um, and so. Now, you know, there are a lot of people that are coming into the community that are coming into this trend and going, okay, like, I get it. I'm sold. This is cool. I'm in, where do I go? Right? And, and then there's crickets, right? There is no good place for people to get started. There's no blueprints.

There's no reference architectures, there is no, um, you know, just starting points for people. And so this is something that from a community perspective in the platform engineering community, Focusing heavily on this year. And really, and, and it's also gonna be, in fact, one of the, the, the trucks that I'm personally really excited about, uh, platform Con 23, which is really just platform blueprints and, and just bring the practitioners and try and start building, you know, phase one was about building a, a, uh, if you will, a shared.

Framework for how to think about these things now is about, you know, building and sharing actual blueprints and architectures. And so this is what we're focusing on now. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:31:52] Michaela: And, um, coming back to these blueprints and, and how can I imagine them, are they, is that code, is that, is that, as I said, saper actions?

Is it a GitHub action? Is that already, you know, is that enough or, or how does that, how does that look like? And, and, and how is it stored? How, how do we make sure that it's, you know, um, updated? Like especially these glue, you know, between the systems? Yes. How, how, what do we do with them? How do you evolve?

Are there smells that I can have with them? Right. And, and are diversion and so on.

[00:32:28] Luca: Absolutely they are version, and it goes back to what I was saying earlier, right? They're really like, if you think about it, the two pillars are the application configuration and infrastructure management bit, right? So, um, what that means in practice is, you know, yamo files and helm charts on the one hand and IC modules on the other, right?

And those live in a, uh, you know, in your get based system. Um, and that's something that is really important and something that. You know, we are have, have spent a long amount of a lo a long amount of time, sort of like debating within the community because the initial kind of instinct of a lot of people when they think about a platform is a dashboard effectively, right?

Is having this like really nice UI that makes especially management really happy. Um, cuz they can like see what, you know, the door metrics for the teams are and like click around and so on and so forth. But the reality set is the value really lies into, you know, version code. Right. Um, to be clear and, and that is what developers want.

Right? So to go back to what we were saying earlier, um, you know, we've seen many platform teams. At rolling out their platform because they focus on this kind of like click ops approach. Mm-hmm. to, you know, build a, a, a pretty ui and, and, and developers will use it. Well, that actually doesn't work in the vast majority of the cases.

Why? Because developers really enjoy, you know, their, you know, their code based workflows, right? Like they work and get, they push something and so they don't wanna. Jump out into this clunky ui, try and figuring out, ok, what do I need to do now? Like, um, and then, and then you go back to what you were doing earlier, which is black, your ops or platform team, and like, Hey, how do I do this again?

Right. And so instead is really like the, the, you know, the most, some of the most successful platform initiatives that we've see in the market. Have really embraced, you know, again, they listen to developers. They figured out, hey, what do they want? They want code based. This is what they're used to. Alright, let's let, let's build an interface which is fully code based.

And, um, and, and that's the way to go in our opinion. . Yeah. Yeah,

[00:34:31] Michaela: that sounds good. So another question that I have for you to understand the role and the responsibility of a platform engineering team is, mm-hmm. , what about, uh, education? Do you provide also education within your organization? Would you go and, you know, um, Yeah, tell people how to, to use certain tools or for example, how to spin up test environments, how to write those configurations, how to adjust those configurations.

Um, or is that something that's outside of the platform? Engineering, um, responsibilities, shop role.

[00:35:05] Luca: No, it's very much, uh, in within the, the, the, the set of responsibilities. And I think it's a great question because it, it kind of, it hints at something I think that a, a trend that, that we've seen. So, you know, if you, if you look at us from a historical perspective, right?

The, you know, you look, you go all the way back to kind of like the cis Adam Day, which was, you know, this poor person, you know, in the basement trying to actually like, install real servers and, and you know, then, you know, develop people. Throw over the mythical fans and they tried to like, all right, now I need to like actually deploy this thing and, and make it all work.

Right? Um, and so the communication was, was extremely limited. And, and, and I think like as you go through like, you know, DevOps access and so on, you see a, just like in a, a correlation of increase in needed communication skills, and I think this is even more. When you look at sort of like the next iteration, which is the platform engineer, communication skills become extremely important in this role because you need to not only, you know, build that really tight feedback loop that we're talking about with developers.

You also need to get, you know, management and executive by end. You need to really being able to like sell this thing internally and. and work in this multi-stakeholder environment with different teams. Right. Um, and then as you said, train, train and educate people is that isn't sorry, is an extremely important part of the job.

Right. Um, and so for sure, um, I think, you know, the, the, the key kind of. Um, skillset of the platform engineer is on the one hand this like product mindset, which maybe not all traditional infrastructure folks necessarily have. You know, I'm sure everybody can adopt it, but it requires a mindset, a mindset shift.

Towards that. And then the other bit is communication, training, education, um, and really just evangelize, right? And I mean, you see this as extremely true in, you know, very large organizations. We had, um, we have a couple of talks that I can, I can share with, with your audience later. Um, one is from, uh, gal Navarro.

He gave it at the last platform in 2022, and is about, you know, the salesman. Of, of the platform engineers and how, how do you, how do you sell internally? And another one that I think is really interesting is by Aaron Erickson. He built one of the, that, that actually will ended up being the successful, um, platform initiative at Salesforce.

And at Salesforce it was like an interesting, you know, situation where you had actually multiple platform teams competing with the chat. And if you think about that scenario, you, your communication skills need to be like on, you know, on, on I, on Hyperdrive. , it's a little bit like you're in a, a startup in an open market.

You can't just worry about, you know, the product that you're building, you really need to worry about like, what's your go-to-market, what's your distribution of your product? Right? And so you really need to become like a marketing and salesperson educator.

[00:37:56] Michaela: Yeah. And so, um, because I'm also training, uh, software engineering teams, I want to know is.

Part of the platform engineering or is that a boundary? You know, there must be some boundary where, where we say, well, you know, training, um, engineers is, is okay for let's say CI and CD pipeline, but we are not training them how to test their systems or I'm specializing on code reviews, right? Because they're big.

Pain point for, for many, many organization. Right. And there is actually a lack of training. So is that also something that the platform engineering team would take over or would worry about how people conduct code reviews and how they do that? Or is that outside, let's say testing code reviews, let's say secure coding practices.

Right? We can spend that even further. Right. So where, where is the boundary of what is still you? Part of a platform engineering team and their education to the organization and, and what's outside of that?

[00:38:53] Luca: Yeah, I mean, a bit of a cop out answer maybe, but it depends, right? So if, if, if you're, I think if you are a small platform organization, obviously you're not gonna have, you know, a ton of resources to kinda, everybody needs to wear all their hats, right?

Um, we've definitely seen very large companies where they have dedicat. You know, evangelists and trainers just for their platform initiative, right. So I think it's a question of resources. Um, but in general, I think, you know, it's not necessarily the actual engineer. Maybe that, um, is, you know, the people actually building the platforms and shipping features for it that are the main, uh, evangelists.

I would say, you know, a, a really active role is played by the product. And, and I think the PM of the platform is actually an extremely interesting position. And in fact, you know, in the platform engineering Slack, one of the most active channels is the product management channel. Um, cuz there's so many dimensions to, you know, PMing a platform, you know, is all this, everything that we talked about is like, you wanna be the glue you, you wanna, you, you need to position yourself with executives, not as a cost center.

As a, as a value driver, you need to evangelize it. Right? And, and a lot of that needs to be driven on a, on a product management level. And so I think, you know, to answer your question at a, at a, at a small scale, for sure, the PM in a larger scale, you know, you're gonna have, the PM is gonna be supported by a dedicated, sort of like evangelist.

[00:40:27] Michaela: Yeah. Yeah. So I ha I have another, another question for you, . For example, when I was doing this study on developer experience, right? Um mm-hmm. , there were some concerns, you know, and, and I hear that over and over again. There are concerns that engineers. Do not know best. Right. So you were saying at the beginning you were saying, oh, you go to your customers because they know best what they need and so on.

Right. But sometimes, you know, it's coming up over and over when I'm talking with people, uh, there are some skeptics that say, well, maybe they don't know best. , not all of them know best because they, maybe they haven't been exposed to something else, right? Maybe they haven't seen faster review cycles.

Maybe they haven't seen how, you know, a, a fully automated C I C D works. Like maybe they are working against a standard or a status quo. Um, where, uh, if you're not bringing outside, you know, you know, ideas, we will get stuck into, you know, Doing things, how we always did them. Right. Um, do you see that as well, that, that that can happen?

That, uh, you know, that, um, you know, shipping, I don't know, shipping, uh, every three months is seen as normal and actually fast, but actually we, what we want to know, and if we compare and benchmark with, you know, the successors and the leading companies, we should ship three times a day. Right. .

[00:41:48] Luca: Right, right.

Yeah, absolutely. And that's, I think, um, that's where. Really, you see whether you have a good platform team or not. Right? Because, you know, building a tight feedback loop with developers doesn't mean blindly listening to them, right? It means, you know, listening and, and like weighing. And I think one of the advantages that platform teams have right now is if your platform engineer, you are very likely to be, you know, Um, quite like probably an early doctor and, and, and pretty much on the cutting edge of, you know, the whole cloud native and, and sort of like textile conversation right now.

So in that case, you have somebody that usually is somebody you know that is driving already in a victim by, you know, by default and then can sort of like find what's the right. Of drive and how far, how far I can push with developers listening to them. Right. Um, that's certainly something that could change.

Um, and, and I and I over time, and I think, you know, the key is what is this system of checks and balances that we can put into place? Because, you know, what is true of developers can also be true platform engineers themselves. Right. You know, we have seen certainly platform teams that have fallen for, you know, Fallacy of, oh, this like shiny new tech that came out and I'm really excited about, and everybody is saying it's amazing, you know, and it's gonna solve all our problems and let me just like try to like fit it somehow as a, you know, square in a rod hole.

Um, Into our platform design and, and that obviously can create more, more harm than good. And so, um, yeah, it, I don't think there is a perfect answer. Just, uh, be thoughtful . Yeah. So

[00:43:40] Michaela: maybe for beginners. Right? And also to round up our, our interview today. Um, If I'm a beginner, uh, or maybe new to platform engineerings, and I'm wondering, is that actually something for our organization?

Would that help us? Should we start something like that? What's a good place for me to go and, uh, find resources about platform engineering and even make up my mind if, you know, that will be a good, a good investment of our.

[00:44:08] Luca: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, platform is probably the best place to start.

You, you have a blog there with a lot of resources. Internal developer as well is, is an actual repo where, you know, it is open source. People can, uh, do their own PRS and commits and, and we see. You know, there's a really good rundown of what are all the tools, what are the problems, what are the core principles?

Um, so those are two extremely good places to start. Platform, platform. Then from there you can join, you know, the Slack channel and really just get into the weeds of it. You know, there are 8,000 plus. Platform practitioners, some extremely experienced that have built, you know, the platforms at Walmart, at Apple, you know, and, and, and some that are just getting started just like you.

Right? And so that's a perfect place, I think, to just get a feeling for delay of the land. Um, and I think also platform, you know, we just updated the, the website. Um, you know, with the new, with the new addition. 23 is gonna happen in. We're expecting 150 to 200 talks by some of the best leading, you know, DevOps and platform practitioners.

And so that's free. Um, and it's virtual so people can join from anywhere. So that's also a really good place. Oh, that's pretty cool.

[00:45:22] Michaela: Yeah. Yeah. I will link all of that in my show notes. Um, yeah, the last question that I have for you is what are, and it must be a short. What are the three benefits that people get out of, um, you know, the three main benefits that people get out of if they are investing in platform engineering?

What do you think?

[00:45:42] Luca: Um, self-service. No frustration. And no ticket ops.

[00:45:51] Michaela: No. Ticket ops.

[00:45:52] Luca: What? What's that? Oh, ticket ops is just, you know, um, Ops team basically being like bombarded with inbound ops requests. By the development teams, right? And so the idea is like, um, you know, the benefits of of platform, the benefits of a platform are on the developer side.

I don't need to wait any longer. I don't need to slack my ops. I, I can just self-serve what I need to run my and services independently. So no frustration, self service. And on the other side of the equation is no ticket ops, no. You know, living my life as a glorified, stressed out help desk, and, um, and just working frankly on better problems, like more interesting problems.

Optimize your production setup. Not stand up the same Postgre sequel for the 10th time.

[00:46:38] Michaela: Yeah. Yeah. Will AI do that for us in two years? ,

[00:46:43] Luca: who knows? It seems like AI is gonna

[00:46:45] Michaela: do everything, can do a lot, right? Yeah. We are all, actually, they will do the, the interview that we just did, just better. Exactly. Okay.

Well, look, I thank you so much for being on my show. I really, uh, thank you. Enjoyed talking to you and learning all about platform engineering and, uh, yeah. Thank you so much.

[00:47:02] Luca: Okay. Thank you so much for having me. I hope people find it interesting. Yeah.

[00:47:05] Michaela: Bye-bye. All right. This was another episode of the Engineering Unlocked Podcast.

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