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Platform Engineering / Software Development

Internal Developer Platforms: Helping Teams Limit Scope

In this episode of The New Stack Makers, Ben Wilcock of Tanzu talks how the company is helping make it easier and quicker for organizations to adopt platform engineering.
Jan 31st, 2024 7:04am by
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CHICAGO — As Ben Wilcock, a senior technical marketing architect for Tanzu, sat amid the exhibit floor at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America, he put his finger on the biggest pain point organizations face when they start building an internal developer platform.

In a word: scope.

“You only have to look around us where we are right now,” he said on this On the Road episode of The New Stack Makers “There are within 20, 30 yards, probably 20 or 30 different projects, that are all vying for your attention on Kubernetes. And they all have huge value to bring.

“But if you’re a platform engineering team, you’re starting with a blank piece of paper, kind of figuring out how you’re going to, first of all, select the right projects for you, and then integrate those projects together.”

And once those choices have been made, Wilcock added, then your team has to keep track of software updates, new features, and all of their dependencies.

“It’s a hugely complicated task, and it will take you many years to achieve something in many cases,” he said. “That’s what we hear from customers.”

In this episode of Makers, Wilcock talked to Heather Joslyn, TNS editor-in-chief, about internal developer platforms, and how Tanzu (owned at the time of recording by VMware, now by Broadcom) is helping make it easier and quicker for organizations to adopt platform engineering and build their internal developer platforms.

Building an ‘Easy On-Ramp’ for Developers

The sheer scope of options certainly has advantages for software developers, Wilcock said. But aside from the sheer cognitive overload presented by the dizzying number of options, it also carries some other disadvantages.

“If you have every developer team using a different mechanism to get their software into production, that becomes very difficult to sustain over a long period of time,” he said. “And you can find that errors can creep in very easily that way.

“A well-engineered platform listens to what developers want, and it provides them with that easy on-ramp. But at the same time, it offers a degree of standardization that allows engineering organizations to reduce the amount of effort that they have to spend on maintaining lots of different solutions for the same problem: how do I get my code into production?”

Tanzu has drawn together many of the ideas it has about developer needs in the Tanzu Application Platform, which allows organizations to have more of a sort of a turnkey approach,” Wilcock said. “Meaning that they don’t need to build the entire platform themselves.

“We try and build platforms that are flexible and malleable, but at the same time offer a good amount of functionality out of the box that should satisfy what those teams need in order to be successful.”

At its user conference in August, the company announced the Tanzu Developer Portal.

“We have a very successful developer portal as part of the Tanzu Application Platform,” Wilcock told the Makers audience. “So that basically provides that window for developers, that sort of focal point for their software development operation, where they can share information. And we found that a lot of folks were very interested in being able to access that as a standalone feature.”

The Tanzu Application Platform, and tools like the new Developer Portal, allow organizations to “kind of skip the line a little bit and move faster toward a place where you still have platform engineering, you still have platform engineers … but you didn’t necessarily have to figure out how to merge together 20 different open source projects, before you could start to see some value.”

Check out the full episode to learn more about platform engineering, internal developer platforms, and the Tanzu roadmap.

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