Guest: Helen Altshuler (LinkedIn)
Company: EngFlow (Twitter)

EngFlow is a SaaS company aiming to redefine how companies build software and ship well-tested products. Its remote execution service speeds up software builds by a factor of at least 10, while its observability platform provides insights to optimize builds and tests. In this episode of TFiR: T3M, Swapnil Bhartiya sits down with Helen Altshuler, co-founder & CEO of EngFlow to discuss Platform Engineering: Is DevOps Dead?

Defining platform engineering:

  • Platform engineering is a central team, responsible for core engineering workflow and the associated tools, frameworks, and practices that help the organization implement consistent and productive workflow for their software developers. 

How did the emergence of platform engineering come about?

  • The shift left movement may have been the inspiration since it aims to define the type of skill set that is necessary. For SMEs whose focus is operating stability, managing production at scale, and influencing development practices, the shift left happens with the formation of the DevOps function. 
  • Platform engineering is a further shift to the left, where this is now an engineering organization that typically sits in your engineering with their main focus not just on bringing and building tools, and building developer workflows but they are also responsible for developer platform quality.

Platform engineering vs SREs vs DevOps:

  • All three are related to the shift left model with DevOps primarily focusing on the pipeline and developing a workflow by considering the different tools needed and how to accelerate the process. 
  • Developer experience also plays a key role in qualified platform engineering, as well as, DevOps. 
  • Smaller companies are more likely to operate an SRE and DevOps model whereas larger companies will often look at creating a centralized platform engineering team responsible for managing the environment and integrating, as well as, changing the underlying tools and technologies that affect how developers build software. 

Is DevOps dead?:

  • DevOps is changing shape but it is certainly not dead. It is dependent on various factors such as company size, the industry, and the developer workflow. 
  • Elements of what DevOps does are covered in SRE and platform engineering. Altshuler feels that DevOps has morphed into the SRE platform support and scalability, understanding how to build platforms that will run at scale reliably. 
  • Platform engineering teams work at implementing those workflows and the very foundational elements like switching the build system, leading to a smoother developer experience. 

What is developer experience and why should companies care?

  • Developer experience is not just ensuring that your developers and SREs are happy but also the product managers and customers. 
  • Google has been active in the developer experience space and along with numerous other companies created the Four Keys project. It looked at four key metrics that can help you assess your company’s state of developer experience: how often an organization is deploying code to production, lead time for changes, change failure rate, and how long it takes to recover from a failure in production. 
  • Looking at tools to help measure the success of an organization is important since it helps put best practices in place and provide good developer experience, as well as ensuring the path from code to production is as efficient and as happy as possible. 

Advice for companies:

  • Every company is different and the first step is to listen to your engineers with user interviews to gather metrics. Try to establish if they are happy with the tools they have or if there is a particular team experiencing the worst problems. Try to understand when they are happy and not happy, categorizing them into areas. 
  • Companies need to be able to measure things when implementing some of the tools, looking at failing fast and designing experiments that validate if you are addressing the problem you uncovered through the developer user research so that you can assess if it is the right solution for the problem. 

This summary was written by Emily Nicholls.

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