How to boost platform engineering efficiency in an uncertain economy

It’s a tough world out there right now, in economic terms. Many individuals are struggling to pay essential bills, while countries are plunging into recession and tackling spiralling inflation. We’re not going to dwell on the global economic gloom – suffice it to say that savvy businesses are doing all they can at the moment to ensure their teams and infrastructures are as efficient as possible. This includes efficiency in engineering, and right now the developer community has a hot new(ish) trend to focus on: platform engineering.

What is platform engineering?

Platform engineering refers to the provision of an internal developer platform within an organisation, which enables dev teams to build applications more easily. At its core, it is about collaboration and efficiency. The internal developer platform enables dev teams to consume each other’s services more easily, so that they can work together on security, automation and more when developing, testing, monitoring services and so on.

The concept of platform engineering has evolved rapidly. Just as DevOps teams grew by combining developers with builders, testers, security experts and more, platform engineering unites organisations’ internal services via a layer of abstraction that supports them to build better together. A couple of years ago, a definition of platform engineering would have been hard to find. Now, platform engineer meetup groups attract membership in the thousands, while the first ever platform engineering conference – PlatformCon, held in summer 2022 – drew in more than 6,000 attendees.

What can you achieve through efficient platform engineering?

Efficiency in all its forms is important right now, given the global economic backdrop. In platform engineering terms, efficiency can save a business time and money by addressing individual teams’ pain points. It does this through shared solutions, tools, components and workflows. What benefits one internal dev team can be shared in order to benefit others. 

Greater efficiency can also facilitate more collaborative working, with operational benefits in terms of time and cost. It can also support standardisation by design. With all dev teams working through the same internal developer platform and sharing tools and components, it’s easier to implement organisational-wide design standards.

Ultimately, efficient platform engineering can support internal developer teams to operate with less friction and to be more productive. 

How to ensure efficiency in platform engineering

Ensuring efficiency in your approach to platform engineering means embracing process and mindset changes and team culture shifts, obtaining stakeholder buy-in and using the best tools to meet your goals, from API management platforms to observability tools. 

Top of the list of requirements is a dedicated platform engineering team that treats internal dev teams as its customers while adopting a product mindset. That means lots of consultation and commitment to the development of the platform, with ongoing work that focuses on its effectiveness as a resource for those using it.

Next you need a clearly defined mission and set of goals for the platform and its engineering team. The team needs to buy into that mission and be accountable for its delivery. This will help to bring clarity to the role and purpose of the team and keep the focus on the internal developer platform as a helpful, highly usable resource for internal dev teams – rather than allowing it to evolve into a silo that creates more problems than it solves.

This is where the mindset shift comes in. Internal teams need to buy into the platform and the process changes that it represents. There will be a learning curve, but with everyone buying into the changes, greater efficiency and productivity should be achieved with minimal friction. 

Efficiency in platform engineering also calls for appropriate processes and structures to be in place to enable internal dev teams to contribute to the growth of the platform. Each team will likely have its own way of working, along with its own tools and solutions. Dev teams that share their tooling and solutions, under the oversight of the platform engineering team, can contribute to overall efficiency via the platform, as well as to greater standardisation. This means that existing solutions can support teams to achieve greater efficiency thanks to the efficient implementation and operation of the internal developer platform.

The final piece of the puzzle is efficient monitoring of the platform’s success, through key performance indicators (KPIs) and regular stakeholder feedback. These should be designed to measure progress against the platform engineering mission and goals, focusing attention on those aims and providing scope for any issues or mission creep to be swiftly identified and addressed.

The role of an API gateway in supporting efficient platform engineering

Where does Tyk fit into all of this? Well, an API gateway can contribute to efficient platform engineering in numerous ways. Firstly, there is the matter of governance. You need governing principles and guardrails in place for anything you’re trying to automate or abstract out. They will define who can access what, who can deploy how and where and so on. An API gateway can take care of all of that swiftly and painlessly.

Ease of deployment and support for CI/CD processes is another area where the Tyk API Gateway shines. Using the gateway ensures that everything is taken into consideration and done right, from security to testing. This means that sufficient checks and balances are in play to ensure the deployment isn’t going to fail. And that means your developers can sleep easier at night.

An API gateway ticks the security box too. With robust security baked in, you can ensure that whatever you build will meet all your security and regulatory compliance obligations.

API gateways also support efficient platform engineering by enabling easy collaboration. And as we’ve discussed above, collaboration and communication are key to ensuring the ongoing efficiency of any internal developer platform.

There are two further areas where Tyk in particular can support efficiency in the platform engineering process. One is that the Tyk Gateway delivers an easier and more interactive approach to documentation, enabling efficiency through self-service. The other relates to integration. Tyk provides an easy way to integrate with other solutions to expand your tool sharing. It is vendor agnostic and supports OpenAPI Specification standard and OpenTelemetry for observability. The fact that you can easily extend the capabilities of the Tyk API Gateway through custom plugins further supports easy integration.