With the increased reliance on various technologies for software development, both software and hardware need to grow along with those technologies to provide reliable and secure services. However, this need has led to creating more complex solutions than ever. Thus, the importance of robust infrastructure has come to the forefront to deliver these solutions reliably at a global scale. Due to these facts, the platform team has to face different challenges to provide and maintain this infrastructure without affecting the software development lifecycle (SDLC) or end-users.
What is a Platform Team?
We have Dev for development, QA for testing, and likewise, the platform team for managing the infrastructure of an organization. This infrastructure includes both internal SDLC resources like CI/CD pipelines, staging/testing environments, production resources, and in most cases, managing software deployments. The platform team will handle most operational aspects of an SDLC. They are the key component that manages most of DevOps tools and platforms, bringing the full benefits of DevOps.
What does the Platform Team do?
The platform team is deeply entrenched in almost all aspects of SDLC. Therefore it can have individuals with different technical skills ranging from infrastructure engineers, network engineers, security professionals to more specialized roles like Kubernetes administrators.
The responsibilities of the platform team can differ depending on the exact requirements and the particular organization. However, in general, they are responsible for the following tasks.
- Provision, manage, optimize and secure infrastructure either on on-premise and/or cloud environments ranging from servers, networking to databases, etc.
- Carry out software deployments and continuous monitoring.
- Managing CI/CD pipelines and ensuring all the tools and platforms are available for the delivery team.
- Access control. As the platform team has access to almost all the resources, they are responsible for managing who has access to specific resources and the scope of access.
- Automating workflows and processes.
- Managing resource utilization and costs.
Challenges experienced by Platform Teams
Now let’s talk about challenges faced by the platform team. The larger and more complex the environment, the more challenges the platform team will have to face.
- The primary challenge is managing configurations, policies, variables securely and consistently across the infrastructure. The situation gets further complicated when using different platforms, and the complexity goes over the roof when dealing with multi-cloud architecture. Even a simple file type difference like JSON and YAML configs can lead to additional management overhead.
- Keeping track of changes. At a minimum, this task involves tracking the actual changes plus the user, the reason for the change, the time of change, and the affected resource.
- The platform team can not simply go ahead with changes, and these changes should be properly verified before proceeding with them. Ideally, this verification should come via a change management portal with a proper workflow for approval from both the requester and the relevant leads.
- Repeating the same configuration steps consistently to set up environments.
- Managing different tool stacks. As different departments use different tools and platforms, the platform team needs to manage them all without causing disruptions to the SDLC.
- Dealing with automation complexities. One team may request a new automation process, yet it should be carefully evaluated as even a simple request may cause cascading effects in complex environments.
- Managing authorization and authentication across platforms. It should be properly configured for each user and group, only permitting actions against allowed resources.
- Optimizing infrastructure performance and cost without affecting users.
DevOps and Infrastructure Challenges
DevOps undoubtedly helps to create a more agile and faster software development lifecycle with a more collaborative environment between all the teams involved in the development process. However, this faster pace of development can lead to situations where platforms teams are constantly under pressure to carry out infrastructure changes quickly.
The DevOps-based delivery pipelines rely on automation and facilitate this faster development. Configuring and maintaining all these automation throughout the delivery pipeline from code builds, testing to automated deployment and monitoring is the responsibility of the platform team. With the rapid release cycle, there will be constant tweaks, configuration changes, or even complete infrastructure overhauls not only to the production or staging infrastructure but all the tools and platforms used by internal teams to develop the software. To configure and maintain all this is the responsibility of the platforms team.
All in all, modern DevOps practices may create a stressful environment for platform teams with constant changes to the delivery pipeline.
How does using different tools and toolsets affect these challenges?
Different tools and toolsets are the cornerstones to powering modern automated software development lifecycles. Platforms teams need to constantly maintain and modify all aspects of the delivery pipeline to manage the infrastructure without affecting the product development and delivery.
Most of the time platform teams rely on multiple tools to power a single delivery pipeline. These can range from version control, code build tools, automated test frameworks, Infrastructure as Code tools to complete CI/CD platforms. Configuring and managing all these different tools and toolsets adds an additional layer of complexity to the platform team. When it comes to troubleshooting, it can be a really arduous process as there is a high chance of configuration error in a single tool that may affect a different tool impacting the complete delivery pipeline.
In the DevOps world, it is nearly impossible to separate different tools and toolsets powering CI/CD pipelines while getting the benefits of DevOps practices. Different tools enable platform teams to properly tackle challenges faced in managing the delivery pipelines and infrastructure. To simplify managing multiple tools, centralized management tools are quickly gaining popularity. These tools offer a single interface to manage all the aspects of a delivery pipeline while providing interactions with other tools and services to aid infrastructure teams in effectively carrying out their tasks and responsibilities.
Microtica integrates with best-of-breed development and DevOps tools to enable the smoothest ops experience and aide the process of continuous delivery.
In modern software development environments, the platform team faces many challenges with different levels of complexity. The increasing demand of consumers and rapid development cycles can lead to further complexity. As such a platform team increasingly relies on different tools and toolsets. However, this has led to a situation where managing different tools adds to the challenges faced by platform teams. Centralized management tools have become the savior of platform tools by offering a unified platform to manage the complete software development lifecycle.