What Makes a Good Platform Engineer?

Legacy technology, outdated ways of working, lack of collaboration between teams and departments, and much more are the list of reasons why organizations fail to consistently deliver the expected value when moving to the cloud.

Paul Briscoe, CTO of Hybrid Cloud Transformation UK&I at IBM, builds consulting services to help clients get the most out of their cloud migrations. The new service builds on IBM’s recently acquired hybrid cloud consultancy Nordcloud and his team’s expertise in DevSecOps, automation, and platform engineering.

Briscoe is a prominent IBM engineer and 30-year veteran, including 19 years at Global Technology Services (later spun off as Kyndryl), and is very heavily involved in the consulting side of Big Blue’s business. This, he says, will allow the cloud to take a vendor-agnostic look at platforms and tools and use the most appropriate ones. “The bottom line is enabling clients to accelerate their migration to the cloud.”

Creating common ground

Large organizations often have multiple teams and individuals using the same tools and services in different ways, or doing very similar things with different tools. Such situations are the result of lack of collaboration and can easily lead to wasteful duplication of effort, where small differences quickly solidify into impenetrable silos.

Join the platform team. Their job is to curate a set of common tools and services used by multiple teams and make them available on a self-service basis. The basic idea is that the platform team creates value for the developer and her DevOps engineers, and the developer creates value for the customer.

Platform engineers are in high demand, but what makes a good engineer? First and foremost, according to Briscoe, is broad experience. As such, this role offers opportunities for those with ops backgrounds to flourish.

“I always come back to the T model. I need a generalist. [with a specialism] Who can turn it into something that another team can reuse,” he says.

“For me, it’s the operations team, the people who are usually left behind, who actually add the most value and get the most profit. They’ve already seen the T-shape and We know how to operate 24/7.. If you create a platform that doesn’t have that, you’ll quickly set back.”

UX specialists are another important part of the platform team. Briscoe continues to joke that in his career he created a “platform that is technically brilliant, but unfortunately completely unusable.” Self-service for the masses requires intuitive, engaging, and consistent interfaces.

So far, platform engineering teams have largely been the preserve of large, regulated organizations, including the financial institutions where Briscoe has worked for much of his career. But nothing is magical, he says. As a practical way to establish best practices, the basic principles apply to “mom-and-pop businesses using several AWS services” as they do to global banks.

“I believe certain principles are the same regardless of the size of the organization. We want our developers to be consistent. there is.”

Applications are not islands, he says, and it is imperative that they all fit into the larger ecosystem and be able to maintain this big picture and maintain observability. By adopting a platform approach, organizations can standardize the delivery of common tools and reduce the burden on developers.

“You have to reuse a set of assets. They have to be secure, they have to be resilient.

clean up the mess

The general principles are universal, but the most obvious benefits of platform teams are large and complex organizations.

“We’ve seen certain financial services that have created the same thing in multiple different areas. I wondered. Does it work well with finance? What does it do? How does it fit together?” They could have saved so much money. ”

It’s not just financial. When it comes to moving to the cloud, the practical and organizational issues of teams and departments going their own way become painfully apparent.

“There is no consistency other than endpoints and starting points. ‘We need to move the application to the cloud’ – that’s the only thing they have in common. They have different CI/CD pipelines and different platforms. How they work. , the difference in the way chargebacks are made.”

This technical and organizational baggage is everywhere, he says, and dealing with it before migration is an important part of the job.

“Honestly, that’s a big part of my conversation right now. It’s getting so hard to get value out of the cloud, so how do we clean up a lot of that mess?”

More on Platform Engineering on April 25th DevOps Live 2023.

https://www.computing.co.uk/interview/4111809/makes-platform-engineer What Makes a Good Platform Engineer?

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