Everyone wants to release software faster, safer, and provide superior developer experiences. Achieving these goals allows you to differentiate from the competition, attract top talent, and ensure success for yourself and your customers.
In reality, this is easy to say but hard to do. If developers are a precious resource, why does it seem we continually hinder their productivity when delivering new features? Let's further illustrate the problem:
Developers spend as little as 12.5% to 30% of their weekly time writing code.
Inaccessibility of information continues to be a problem, with 84% of respondents stating this impedes their ability to do their jobs or to make data-driven decisions.
Toolchain management is a constant barrier to developer productivity, with 66% of DevOps professionals wanting to consolidate toolchains this year. For example, the following graphic from CNCF is representative of just the cloud-native landscape.
Evaluating your software development process
While no one intentionally slows down processes or strives to increase tool sprawl, things become more challenging as your business evolves. For example, the following questions can emerge:
With hundreds of teams and apps, how do you achieve the same visibility as within a team using a few apps?
How do you enable development teams focused on emerging technologies to effectively collaborate with more traditional teams, sharing data across all teams, environments, and dependencies?
How do you keep development teams focused on maintaining enterprise-grade governance and delivering fast, secure features?
Ultimately, who oversees each of these?
At CloudBees, we often encounter organizations trying to solve these challenges, and here are the most common approaches:
Status Quo (Do Nothing)
The status quo is sustained with spreadsheets or other project management tools to manage their releases. As you can see in the following image, this can quickly spiral out of control.
This approach falls apart when it comes to onboarding new team members. It also results in a nightmare scenario for proving governance and compliance for audit reports.
Homegrown Solutions (Build)
Homegrown solutions are tailored to your tooling and unique business challenges. However, if you need to evolve, how quickly will you cope with new technologies, emerging security threats, and increasing customer demands?
Additionally, you will need to build and maintain systems for robust access controls, governance, and more to achieve a competent release process. These tasks move your high-value resources away from working on differentiated value for your organization.
While there appear to be short-term gains from a cost perspective, this approach is more expensive over time, leading most organizations to determine it's not worth the effort, leading to a search for a commercial solution.
Commercial Solutions (Buy)
Commercial solutions have the advantage of working with specialty vendors in the DevOps space. However, like most things in life, there are tradeoffs, such as sacrificing customization for ease of management.
When evaluating vendors, it’s critical to understand how they support past, present, and future workflows. Are these systems able to consistently communicate with one another? How are you accounting for the lack of visibility? Do they integrate with other tools you use?
Visualizing the optimal software development process
In a perfect world, you would enable autonomy in tool choice and working style to provide a killer developer experience.
Platform teams would provide standardized reusable components with guardrails tailored to the team’s work. Teams would unlock end-to-end transparency across all workflows, dependencies, and environments. Combining each of these components would result in improved collaboration, which would optimize business value.
To achieve this ideal setup at scale, you need to start with an orchestration platform, which provides enhanced visibility and leads to increased collaboration. Let's explore how.
Release Orchestration: Your Conductor
Orchestration is similar to the role of a conductor in an orchestra. Just as the conductor ensures all musicians are playing their parts in harmony, orchestration in software delivery involves coordinating different systems and services to work together efficiently.
It's about automating tasks, managing dependencies, and ensuring seamless integration between various components of the software delivery pipeline.
Platform Engineering teams need to make this readily available without becoming a barrier to developer productivity.
Visibility: Your Car Dashboard
Visibility is akin to having a clear and readable dashboard during a car drive. To drive safely and efficiently, drivers need to see and understand the speedometer, fuel gauge, warnings, and other indicators.
Similarly, DevOps teams need visibility into all software development lifecycle (SDLC) stages to ensure an efficient process. This visibility includes tracking the progress of development, identifying potential bottlenecks in real-time, application drift, and monitoring the health and performance of applications and infrastructure.
Having a platform that can seamlessly integrate with other tools, such as application performance monitoring (APM) tools, is one method for enhancing visibility.
Collaboration: Your Coach
Collaboration is like a well-coached sports team where each player knows their role and how it contributes to the overall game strategy.
Similarly, in software delivery, successful collaboration requires clear communication and understanding between developers, testers, operations, and other stakeholders. Everyone should understand their roles, responsibilities, and how their work contributes to the final product.
Platform Engineering plays a significant role here by providing self-service capabilities, often through golden paths and IDPs.
Tying These Concepts Together
Now that we've defined each element individually let's explore how they work together.
Orchestration and Visibility: Effective orchestration enhances visibility. Automated and coordinated processes make monitoring and identifying potential issues more manageable. Likewise, good visibility can help improve orchestration by highlighting areas where automation could be beneficial.
Orchestration and Collaboration: Orchestration tools can enhance collaboration by defining transparent workflows, automating routine tasks, and ensuring everyone understands where their work is in the workflow. This transparency allows teams to work better together, focusing on their areas of expertise, and eliminates the need to chase down status updates.
Visibility and Collaboration: When there's good visibility, all team members clearly understand the project status, which promotes better collaboration. Everyone can see the big picture and understand how their work fits it, leading to more effective teamwork and a better product.
In essence, orchestration, visibility, and collaboration are interconnected aspects of the software development process. They collectively contribute to the smooth execution of tasks, efficient problem-solving, and the successful delivery of high-quality software. They provide the flexibility required to support the evolving demands of the modern enterprise.
The Rise of Platform Engineering
Earlier, we posed the question of who is ultimately responsible for solving the challenges facing modern software delivery challenges.
Many organizations have introduced a dedicated Platform Team (or Platform Engineering) to ensure that development organizations have unencumbered access to the tools, processes, and information they need to meet business and innovation goals while making developers happy and productive.
“Gartner® expects that by 2026, 80% of software engineering organizations will establish platform teams as internal providers of reusable services, components, and tools for application delivery. Platform engineering will ultimately solve the central problem of cooperation between software developers and operators." (source).
Recent research commissioned by CloudBees shows this trend is ahead of schedule, citing that “83% of respondents have either fully implemented platform engineering or are in some phase of implementation.”
As Platform Engineering teams become more prominent, they will become the solution to the challenges listed earlier. Specifically
Enabling autonomy in tool choice and ways of working. Increased autonomy improves the developer experience by reducing their need to perform mundane tasks.
Building golden paths, which are guidelines or best practices used to create consistent development standards. Golden paths help developers deliver software faster while providing governance to reinforce consistency across the organization.
Providing internal development platforms (IDPs) to make the management and adoption of tools more accessible. IDPs focus on abstracting as much of the underlying infrastructure away as possible and provide the tools and environments to develop software.
These are just a few examples of how Platform Engineering teams can contribute to providing a better developer experience, which leads to increased productivity.
How CloudBees can help
CloudBees platform covers many capabilities to help organizations deliver software and services faster through an integrated platform experience.
Architecture: It is architected using cloud-native technologies, ensuring it scales efficiently and supports deployment to any cloud provider.
Flexibility: It offers developers flexibility in building workflows using either GitHub Actions-style DSL that is container-based or a drag-and-drop graphical user interface (GUI).
Promote best practices: CloudBees platform promotes modern software delivery best practices such as progressive delivery, CI/CD, release orchestration, and Value Stream Management (VSM).
Services inheritance model: CloudBees provides platform engineering teams with the ability to centrally manage properties and rules at the platform level.
Open Standards: The platform also supports open standards and de-facto standard technologies such as Kubernetes, Open Policy Agent (OPA), Keycloak, and, coming soon, OpenFeature.
CloudBees provides enterprises with the necessary visibility to enhance collaboration by orchestrating their entire software development toolchain. As a result, platform engineering teams can scale developer happiness and productivity with self-service workflows that support autonomy and tool choice while reinforcing consistency, governance, and security across the organization.
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Gartner Article, “What Is Platform Engineering?” October 26, 2023.
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