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Kubernetes / Platform Engineering

Demo: Self-Service Kubernetes with Rafay’s Backstage Plugins

A demonstration of how platform teams can further improve developer experiences using Backstage, with the help of Rafay’s Backstage plugins.
Dec 4th, 2023 6:44am by
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CHICAGO — Backstage has been adopted at a rapid pace in the three and a half years since it was launched by streaming giant Spotify. So much so that many organizations using it want their toolchains to be easily integrated into their existing Backstage setup.

This is what Mohan Atreya, senior vice president of product and solutions at Rafay, describes as “Backstage native.” His tongue may be slightly resting in his cheek when he says this, but it nevertheless speaks to the reality of how organizations now think about developer experience.

“The message that we consistently hear from our customers, and all kinds of users to the platform, is many of them are standardized on Backstage as this single place where the developers can go to because they like that consistency and experience” he told Alex Williams, publisher of TNS, in this episode of The New Stack Demos recorded at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America.

This reality has shaped the way Rafay, a Kubernetes operation and management platform, thinks about its products. “We cannot force organizations to speak our language,” Atreya said. “Rather, we should go speak their language.”

It’s for this reason that Rafay introduced Backstage Plugins earlier this year. Backstage Plugins is a set of open source plugins designed to help platform teams simplify working with Kubernetes for their developers.

In this episode of TNS Demos, Atreya guided our audience, through Backstage Plugins, demonstrating how it can help platform engineers do more with Backstage and further elevate developer experience.

Reducing Devs’ ‘Cognitive Load’

Among the key parts of the Backstage experience are templates. These are a feature that makes it easy for platform engineers to provide certain configurations or guardrails that remove the burden — or cognitive load— on developers. Atreya said templates provide a “prescriptive workload” for developers, removing the need for them to think about the “low-level gory details” of the infrastructure that sits beneath the work they’re doing.

Templates are the bedrock of the principle of self-service that is at the core of every developer platform and portal initiative. However, offering self-service templates to provision Kubernetes infrastructure has proven difficult. That’s why Rafay’s contribution could be significant.

As Atreya guided our audience through Backstage Plugins, he highlighted the benefit for developers: “As a developer, I didn’t need to know anything about networking. I didn’t need to know anything about the instance types. I didn’t need to know anything about, what kind of add-ons need to be on the cluster. Did I need Istio or not?”

He continued: “An organization or platform team can provide an extremely, brutally simple experience for a developer whose only interest in life is, ‘I want to deploy my container and test it.’”

Backstage Plugins deliver significant benefits for developers. But it’s important to note that the Plugins are also valuable to platform engineering teams and site reliability engineers (SREs).

For platform engineers, Backstage Plugins can span the scope of what they are able to do with Backstage, giving them more control over the kind of guardrails they build for software developers while also improving the actual developer experience. In turn, SREs can leverage the capabilities of Backstage Plugins to provide even better support when things go wrong.

Watch the demo to learn more about Rafay’s Backstage Plugins.

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