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DevOps / Kubernetes / Platform Engineering

At Run Time: Driving Outcomes with a Platform Engineering Team

In this episode of The New Stack Makers, Valentina Alaria of VMware explored how developers and operations engineers intersect when platform engineering is introduced into an organization.
Oct 5th, 2023 8:55am by
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Platform engineering is having a moment for a number of reasons. Obviously, there’s one big one.

“Everything boils down to achieving a faster rollout of applications, because that translates into business velocity,” according to Valentina Alaria, senior director of product, for the Tanzu Next Generation Portfolio at VMware.

But there’s a danger in assuming that every organization that attempts platform engineering has the exact same mission, or context, or pain points, Alaria told Alex Williams, publisher and founder of The New Stack, in this episode of the TNS Makers podcast.

When Alaria’s company works with customers, she said, it looks at that organization’s specific needs and tries to match them with the solutions most appropriate to them. Customers are not, she said, telling themselves, “Hey, I’m just gonna go and build like this internal developer platform that is going to do anything and everything under the sun. They’re thinking of a very specific business problem.”

For instance, she noted, that one customer told her that it wanted to help junior developers joining its organization to have a faster time onboarding, so they could start contributing code sooner. In that case, Altria said, “I’m measuring, I’m building something, it’s just really all about creating that collaboration and discovery hub for my developers, and I’m all about that rapid onboarding and rapid contribution. And I’m actually looking at that first.”

But other organizations may have other specific problems they are looking at platform engineering to solve.

“In general, you can always say that most folks are looking at reducing complexity and reducing friction, and doing most more with what they have,” she said. “So that may mean that they want to be able to support larger development teams with a small number of operations folks or platform engineering folks. Also, they may want to be able to do more with the operators that they have, as they scale out their application practice, and they have more of these applications running in production.”

In this episode of Makers, Alaria and Williams explored how developers and operations engineers intersect when platform engineering is introduced into an organization. The conversation was sponsored by VMware Tanzu.

Tearing Down the ‘Wall of YAML’

Despite the variety of organizations and contexts that are adopting platform engineering, Alaria said, the goals of Devs, Ops and platform teams tend to run along certain lines.

“The importance from a developer point of view is that you want to write code that’s portable,” she said. “You don’t want to have to redo it, like I’m doing something in dev and then I’m going to have to like redo it from scratch when I’m ready for production.”

For developers, she added, the benefit of platform engineering comes when they “don’t need to understand what it means to be running production, what it means to meet specific business requirements.”

Devs, she said just want to have what they need, when they need it, to build and deliver their applications. And to tear down the “wall of YAML” that often comes with Kubernetes-orchestrated containers architecture.

As for operations engineers and a platform team, ”you want to make sure you can sort of declare things and for that application to run in different environments and have the platform to help you enforce that.”

A successful platform engineering initiative, Altria told Williams, means honoring all sides of this equation by setting up a strong collaboration model. “It’s a whole lot about creating the model through which these teams can, together, achieve the right set of outcomes.”

“Not in a toss-over-the-wall sort of manner, and also not, ‘Let me open a ticket and wait for someone to come back to me in, like, two weeks.’ But very much a collaboration and a flow that ultimately enables the creation of applications and the creation of value for the organization itself.”

Hear more of Altria’s thoughts on how platform engineering can help developers and operations engineers interact more productively — and about VMware Tanzu’s latest tooling to help support platform engineering.

Free ebook: Platform Engineering: What you need to know now

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TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Pragma, The New Stack.
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