Internal Developer Platforms – Part 3: Components of IDP’s

Table of Contents:


Understanding the Components of Internal Developer Platforms (IDP)

After having motivated the advantages of an IDP, we want to focus on the components of an IDP: Internal Developer Platforms (IDP) are designed to streamline and enhance the efficiency of development tasks through a variety of integrated tools and technologies. These platforms comprise six core components that work together to create a cohesive development environment. 

1. Application Configuration Management (ACM) allows you to centralize the management of application configurations. This makes for more convenient management of configurations and enhances service capabilities for such scenarios as microservices, DevOps, and big data. ACM is essential for managing application configurations in a standardized, scalable, and reliable manner. This includes handling various configurations often stored in YAML files, facilitating easier setup changes, versioning, and maintenance. ACM also relates with a proper GitOps strategy, Infrastructure Orchestration (for example with Terraform or Helm) and Environment Management

2. Infrastructure Orchestration (IO): This component integrates the IDP with existing technology setups, including CI/CD pipelines and hardware infrastructure. It ensures that images created during the CI process are correctly deployed into environments like Kubernetes clusters, potentially managed through service accounts provided by cloud operators. Typically, technologies like Terraform or Ansible are used.

3. Environment Management (EM): EM enables developers to create, update, and delete fully provisioned environments at any time without operations team intervention. This promotes efficiency and cost savings by avoiding unnecessary operational expenses and delays. Once again GitOps and a proper GitOps strategy alongside with Infrastructure Orchestration and Deployment Management is crucial.

4. Deployment Management (DM): Focused on integrating CI/CD pipelines, DM allows developers to concentrate on coding by automating building, testing, and deployment processes. This includes selecting the correct environment for image deployment and keeping a record of all deployments for auditing and debugging purposes. Tools like GitLab CI, Tekton or Argo will be a good choice for the integration into to IDP.

5. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): RBAC controls who can access what within the IDP. By defining roles like Member, Manager, and Admin, IDPs ensure that access is appropriately managed, minimizing unauthorized access and tailoring permissions to the environment type—production or development.

6. Self-Servicing: This feature enables developers to use IDP services without relying on other teams. Self-servicing can be implemented through no-code solutions like graphical user interfaces or through more open solutions like command-line interfaces (CLIs) and APIs. It encompasses accessing templates, creating microservices, and managing software components, promoting a culture of collaboration and innovation across teams and stakeholders.

By integrating these components, Internal Developer Platforms empower developers to work more autonomously, streamline processes, and enhance collaboration across teams, leading to more efficient and innovative development practices.

Summary of Components

The following table recaps these components:

Application Configuration Management (ACM)Manages app configurations in a scalable way, simplifies setup changes, and maintains version control.
Infrastructure Orchestration (IO)Integrates with existing tech tools like Terraform and Ansible and manages the underlying infrastructure
Environment Management (EM)Allows for the creation and management of applicationenvironments.
Deployment Management (DM)Integrates with CI/CD pipelines, enabling developers to focus more on coding than on deployment logistics.
Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)Manages user permissions within the IDP, ensuring secure and appropriate access.
Self-ServicingProvides developers with tools and services for efficient and autonomous project management.

Introducing an IDP

After having discussed the components of an IDP, let’s now discuss how to introduce an IDP in an enterprise environment.

When introducing an Internal Developer Platform (IDP), there are primarily two approaches: self-development or acquisition from an external provider as a complete package. In the case of self-development, the task usually falls to the Operations Team or a designated „Platform Team“ within the company. This team is primarily responsible for creating, developing, maintaining, and optimizing the IDP while ensuring it meets organizational needs.

The Platform Team maintains close communication with the rest of the organization to identify issues at both the team and corporate levels. Their responsibilities include setting basic configurations for applications, managing permissions, ensuring standardization by design, managing infrastructure, service level agreements, optimizing workflows, and configuring the IDP to automate recurring processes.

Alternatively, the Platform as a Service (PaaS) approach involves using a platform provided by an external provider, who takes over the tasks mentioned above.

Companies with specific IDP needs and a capable Platform Team usually prefer the self-development route. Instead of building from scratch, teams can utilize various tools and services to assemble the platform, such as platform orchestrators, portals, service catalogues, Kubernetes control planes, and infrastructure control planes. They can also integrate common tools and technologies, possibly already in use internally, like PostgreSQL databases, Kubernetes for infrastructure, Harbor for image registries, and GitLab CI for continuous integration.

A typical IDP tech stack might include tools like Backstage for internal developer portals, ArgoCD for GitOps, and Terraform for infrastructure provisioning. While some of these tools, like Backstage and ArgoCD, are open-source and free to use, others may have different cost structures, including usage fees. The selection of tools involves considering cost structures, integration concepts, scale, and hosting models. Self-development offers design freedom but comes with challenges such as the increased effort, steep learning curves, and lack of official support for open-source tools, which may necessitate extensive research for technical problems.

Summary of IDP Implementations

ApproachTeam involvedKey responsibilitesBenefitsChallenges
Self-DevelopmentPlatform TeamBuilding and maintaining IDP Managing permissions Standardization and workflow optimizationCustomizability; Integration with existing toolsHigher effort and learning curve Costs for infrastructure and setup
Lack of official support
PaaS (External)External ProviderProviding and maintaining IDP Managing infrastructure and permissionsReduced internal workload Professional supportLess control and customization Potential ongoing costs


Dr. Guido Söldner


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.