Internal Developer Platforms – Part 1: Introduction

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In recent years, the software development landscape has undergone significant changes, with terms like „Containerization,“ „Microservices,“ and „Cloud“ becoming increasingly influential. These technologies represent just the tip of the iceberg in a vast array of tools and practices shaping modern software development. The field is continuously evolving, with Artificial Intelligence tools now becoming part of developers‘ everyday toolkit.

Pain Point: Cognitive Load

As the complexity of IT infrastructure grows, so does the cognitive load on developers. They are expected to navigate an ever-expanding universe of tools and technologies, even for basic tasks such as app deployment. This scenario is challenging because developers‘ primary focus should be on coding and creating software efficiently.

Solution: Internal Developer Platform

To address these challenges, leading tech companies like Spotify, Google, Netflix, and Github have developed Internal Developer Platforms (IDPs). These platforms aim to simplify the development process by integrating existing infrastructures and tools, thereby facilitating information exchange throughout the software development lifecycle. IDPs serve to abstract away the underlying complexity, allowing developers to focus more on their primary tasks and less on the intricate details of the technology stack.

The rising interest in such platforms suggests a shift towards more streamlined, efficient development environments. As this trend continues, delving deeper into the technology and understanding its implications for software development could prove beneficial. The ongoing evolution underscores the importance of adapting to new tools and practices in the ever-changing landscape of software development.

Basic Features

Increasingly, cloud providers are offering tools that extend beyond the standard Integrated Development Environment (IDE) to assist developers with ancillary tasks such as management, deployment, and observability. These tools are part of internal platforms, setting them apart from public services like Github, which focus on code management. Recent examples of Internal Developer Platforms (IDPs) include Atlassian and Gitlab. IDPs serve as central hubs, often featuring a „cockpit“ that provides an overview of resources and statuses. Some now incorporate AI to help with routine tasks. The aim of these platforms is to enhance the Developer Experience and reduce cognitive load.

Solutions on the market

More and more commercial vendors provide an IDP based on Spotify Backstage. 

For example, at RedHat,  the core of the Developer Hub announced in May 2023 a self-service portal based on Backstage, where developers can find all the necessary resources for their work, including a software catalog, documentation, and best practices. The portal also offers standardized software templates and pipelines, aiming to simplify the often cumbersome deployment process. For example, Red Hat aims to reduce the cognitive load on teams and make onboarding easier for new members.

Adopting the plugin concept from the underlying Backstage project, vendors have released its own plugins, which are available to customers and the Backstage community. These plugins enhance the portal with features for Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD), Observability, or Container Management, and the IDP is capable of running non-Red-Hat plugins as well.

Autor

Dr. Guido Söldner

Geschäftsführer

Guido Söldner ist Geschäftsführer und Principal Consultant bei Söldner Consult. Sein Themenfeld umfasst Cloud Infrastruktur, Automatisierung und DevOps, Kubernetes, Machine Learning und Enterprise Programmierung mit Spring.