Platform Engineering vs DevOps: 4 Key Differences

What Is DevOps? 

DevOps is a combination of the terms ‘development’ and ‘operations’. It signifies a cultural shift in the technology sector that aims to bridge the gap between development and operations teams. The primary goal of DevOps is to shorten the system development life cycle while delivering features, fixes, and updates frequently in close alignment with business objectives.

The concept of DevOps originated from the need for faster, more efficient development and deployment of software. Traditionally, the development and operations teams worked in silos, causing delays and miscommunication. DevOps encourages these teams to work together, fostering a culture of shared responsibility, seamless communication, and rapid feedback.

While it started as a cultural approach, DevOps has now grown into a significant practice adopted by many organizations worldwide. It involves the use of various tools and technologies to automate and streamline processes, leading to higher efficiency and productivity. In a DevOps environment, every stage of the software development lifecycle is optimized, from coding and building to testing and deployment.

What Is Platform Engineering? 

Platform engineering is a relatively new concept that revolves around creating and managing platforms that developers use to run their applications. The primary goal of platform engineering is to provide a stable, reliable, and efficient platform that enables developers to focus on coding without worrying about the underlying infrastructure.

Platform engineering is often considered a subset of DevOps, but it has its unique characteristics and responsibilities. While DevOps focuses on the entire software development lifecycle, platform engineering is primarily concerned with the platform that hosts the applications.

Platform engineering involves creating and maintaining the platform, ensuring its scalability and reliability. It also involves setting up the necessary tools and technologies that developers will need to build, test, and deploy their applications. This includes everything from databases and servers to containers and orchestration tools.

Platform engineers work closely with developers to understand their needs and provide the best possible environment for their applications. They have a deep understanding of both software development and IT operations, allowing them to create a platform that effectively bridges the gap between the two.

This is part of a series of articles about CI/CD

Benefits of DevOps 

One of the most significant benefits of DevOps is increased deployment frequency. Since the development and operations teams work closely together, they can quickly identify and resolve issues, leading to faster deployments.

Another major benefit of DevOps is improved collaboration and communication. By breaking down the silos between the development and operations teams, DevOps fosters a culture of transparency and shared responsibility. This not only improves productivity but also enhances the overall quality of the software.

DevOps also contributes to reduced time to market. With faster development cycles and efficient processes, organizations can deliver their products to the market quicker than before. This gives them a competitive edge and helps them respond to the changing market dynamics more effectively.

Benefits of Platform Engineering 

The most notable benefit of platform engineering is the reduction of operational complexity. By providing a standardized platform for deployment, platform engineering significantly reduces the complexity involved in managing multiple environments.

Another significant benefit of platform engineering is improved developer productivity. With a stable, reliable platform at their disposal, developers can focus solely on coding without worrying about the underlying infrastructure. This leads to faster development cycles and higher quality code.

Finally, platform engineering leads to better resource utilization. By standardizing the platform, organizations can make better use of their resources, leading to cost savings and improved efficiency.

Platform Engineering vs DevOps: Key Differences 

1. Primary Focus

The primary focus of platform engineering is to create a stable, scalable platform that can host various applications. Platform engineers aim to ensure that the development platform is reliable, resilient, and can handle the numerous applications deployed on it. They focus on creating a standardized environment, reducing the variability between development and production, and facilitating the work of developers.

DevOps is about collaboration and integration between development and operations teams. DevOps engineers mainly focus on bridging the gap between these two traditionally siloed teams, fostering better communication and collaboration. They strive to automate processes, implement continuous integration and deployment, and monitor system performance to ensure a smooth, streamlined software development lifecycle.

2. Requirements

Platform engineering requires a deep understanding of systems architecture, cloud computing, and software development. It’s crucial to have a solid grasp of programming languages, database management, and networking. Moreover, understanding the principles of reliability, scalability, and security is paramount in this role.

DevOps requires a unique blend of skills. It demands expertise in coding, scripting, and automation tools, as well as a comprehensive understanding of IT operations. A DevOps engineer should be able to code, test, and deploy applications, manage infrastructure and operations, and collaborate effectively with different teams.

3. Tools

Platform engineers frequently use tools like Kubernetes, Docker, ArgoCD, and OpenShift for container orchestration, Terraform for infrastructure as code, and Grafana, Prometheus or similar tools for monitoring and observability. These tools help build, manage, and operate the platform. Developers get a friendly overview of the whole platform with a developer portal such as Port, Backstage, Cortex etc.

DevOps, on the other hand, leverages a wide array of tools across the entire software development lifecycle. From coding tools like Git and Codefresh for CI/CD, to Puppet, Ansible, and Chef for configuration management, to Nagios and Splunk for monitoring and logging, DevOps tools aim to automate and streamline every aspect of the development and operations processes.

4. Teams

In platform engineering, the team is generally composed of platform engineers, solution architects, and developer experience engineers. Platform engineers work closely with developers, providing them with a stable, standardized environment where they can deploy their applications without worrying about the underlying infrastructure.

DevOps teams are a blend of development and operations professionals. The team includes developers, operations engineers, QA testers, and security experts. The goal of a DevOps team is to foster collaboration and streamline the entire software development lifecycle, breaking down the traditional silos between development and operations.

Platform Engineering vs. DevOps: How to Choose? 

Typically, organizations implementing platform engineering will already have a DevOps organization in place. Thus, these are often complementary, not alternatives.

If you’re dealing with multiple, complex applications that need a standardized environment, platform engineering might be the way to go. It allows you to create a robust, reliable platform that can handle the demands of different applications, reducing the variability between development and production.

If your development pipeline has relatively low complexity and the main challenges are cultural or organizational and not technical, you might be well served by operating in a DevOps work method but without setting up a platform engineering team.

Related content: Read our guide to CI/CD vs DevOps

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You can use Codefresh for your platform engineering initiative either as a developer portal or as the machinery that takes care of everything that happens in the developer portal. Your choice depends on how far your organization has adopted Kubernetes and micro-services.

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