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PLATFORM ENGINEERING

Breaking Through the Buzz of "Platform Engineering" with Michael Levan

On the latest Livin' On the Edge podcast episode, I interviewed industry expert Michael Levan, and broke downthe nuances of platform engineering. We sifted through what's just buzz and what's actually relevant to those of us working in in the developer world. Here's what you need to focus on to get the multifaceted world of platform engineering right in your organization.

Jake Beck
December 6, 2023 | 6 min read

"I know platform engineering won't just be a trend because we've been doing this practice for years, just without a name for it…Platform engineering is here to stay, and we need to put processes behind it," – Michael Levan, industry expert.

The industry is quite taken with the term ‘platform engineering'. It was pervasive at this year, and everyone is trying to figure out what it is, how we do it right, and what actually matters.

On the latest episode, I interviewed industry expert Michael Levan, and broke downthe nuances of . We sifted through what's just buzz and what's actually relevant to those of us working in in the developer world.

Here's what you need to focus on to get the multifaceted world of platform engineering right in your organization.


First Things First: Define Platform Engineering


Platform engineering is a discipline focused on designing and building internal developer platforms, toolchains, and workflows that allow for self-service capabilities for software engineering organizations.
"My take on it is platform engineering– a platform engineer is an engineer with a product mindset. We are creating environments. We are giving ways to deploy systems software internally for our teams internally," shares Michael. "Clients, whether you're doing something in e-commerce, whether it's a car company, whether it's whatever it is… you're doing something and creating a product."
Continuing this example, once you've created that product, you then give it to customers. It's the same concept with platform engineering–and the only essential difference there is that 'our customers, our clients in , are engineers inside of our company. It could be developers. It could be IT. It could be cybersecurity. It could be the DevOps team. We are creating environments. We are giving ways to deploy systems and software internally for our teams.'

And if your organization has prioritized positive developer experience , then applying the platform engineering concepts should come easily. Michael insists that many organizations have practiced a platform engineering approach for years but did not realize it.

"Think about platform engineering holistically, and it's what you've been doing already, but for your internal teams, now just bringing it out into the open," shares Michael. "Don't focus on what marketers are saying about platform engineering practices. Don't get caught up in the hype and let that confuse you. We'll also see a lot of that for the next 6-8 months, so do your best to cut through the noise."


Outcome-Based Decision Making & Selecting the Right Tools

To truly implement this platform engineering, one of the central themes Michael shared is the significance of outcome-based decision-making. Michal emphasized that platform engineering recognizes the importance of understanding the desired outcomes before selecting tools. Organizations can avoid creating unnecessary technical debt and build more effective and sustainable platforms by focusing on the end goals.

And when choosing tools with a platform engineering mindset, Michael saysfocus on platform functionality. Be sure to carefully evaluate requirements, such as running virtual machines and containers, before selecting your tools. Another tip is to lign tools with specific use cases rather than blindly adopting popular solutions. Often a tool that's best-in class rather than what’s popular can serve your team better from a platform engineering perspective.


High-Velocity Teams

Another concept we explored was the idea of high-velocity teams, where a small team with subspecialties focuses on different platform layers. This approach benefits smaller companies that may not have more resources to form distinct subgroups within a platform engineering practice.

"I'm a big fan of high-velocity teams–where each team member has a specific expertise, and the team collectively covers different layers of the platform. It definitely leads to a more streamlined and effective development process," shares Michael.

A high-velocity small team might make sense for those wanting to practice practical platform engineering but may need more resources and team size to tackle it. Focus on dedicating individuals to specialize on specific layers such as Kubernetes, implementation, platform capabilities, platform interface, or interactions.

Technology Trends are Inevitable

"With the current landscape of platform engineering, there is such an abundance of tools, vendors, and methods. It can be challenging to keep up with the rapidly evolving landscape, even for me as someone who works independently and dedicates time to exploring new technologies. I can't imagine what that's like for the regular engineer," shared Michael.


Keeping up with all of the hype can be overwhelming but, as it relates to platform engineering, the substance seems clear. With an emphasis on outcome-based decision-making and strategies for high-velocity teams, the real-world impact is clear.

Taking a holistic approach is critical. In the meantime, check out our podcast page if you're seeking more episodes and https://www.getambassador.io/podcasts.