Spotify Backstage Developer Portal: Revolutionizing IDPs

Tyler Au
6 minutes
April 13th, 2023
Tyler Au
6 minutes
April 13th, 2023

What is Spotify Backstage?

Platform Engineering and internal developer platforms (IDP) are sweeping the market, filling tech news headlines, Twitter feeds, and Reddit posts alike! With some of the biggest tech companies around the globe creating their own IDPs, an unlikely creator in this space was Spotify, with Spotify releasing its version of an IDP back in 2020.

Platform teams and DevOps teams have been clamoring over Spotify Backstage (also known as, the music service’s open source platform used for building developer portals. Rather than an IDP itself, Backstage acts as a UX layer on top of an IDP and that actually aids in building a developer portal. Tool organization and standardization, development streamlining, reviving developer autonomy- all within an arm’s reach for Backstage.

Starting as an internal project called “System Z” within Spotify, the initiative set the groundwork for Backstage api management capabilities. Backstage became a mainstream tool in the developer world because it gave developers the answers they were looking for without disrupting the development process. In 2020, Backstage was donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, where it has graduated from the Sandbox and is incubating into a mature project.

Spotify, Unwrapped

Looking to make life easier for development teams, Spotify Backstage hosts a variety of different components upon start up - here’s a look into the inner workings of Backstage:

Backstage Software Catalog

The Backstage Software Catalog is a system that helps in the bookkeeping of ownership and metadata for software across different environments. Not exclusive to microservices, libraries, and pipelines, the Backstage Software Catalog helps in software tagging and discovery. This helps teams maintain the software they own, while helping developers to discover software that they normally wouldn’t have access to. 

Backstage Software Templates

As the name suggests, Backstage Software Templates helps streamline development processes by storing templates of specific software components and allowing for a quick creation process. These projects and environments are spun up under the standards set in place by an organization, aligning with the best DevOps practices and removing the need for late authorization and inaction.

Backstage Tech Docs

Backstage Tech Docs helps Backstage users “create, maintain, find, and use” documentation, making technical documentation easy to understand and find within an organization. The docs like code solution has been used by Spotify engineers and proved to be a huge success within the company. 

Backstage Search Platform

Tired of doing through documentation endlessly to no avail? Backstage’s in-house Search Platform helps users find the information they’re looking for within the Backstage ecosystem. The Backstage Search Platform lets users bring their own search engine and create indexes to search through plugins and other Backstage components with ease.

Community-Backed Open Source Plugins

With flexibility being one of their main selling points, Backstage allows users to use their own tooling, infrastructure, and best of all, plugins. These plugins can be manually created or sourced from the thousands contributed by fellow Backstage users. With the ecosystem of infrastructure tools only growing, Backstage’s customizability shows no signs of slowing down.

One of the biggest Backstage plugins is the Backstage Kubernetes tool. Accompanied by a Backstage frontend and Backstage backend plugin for more accurate cluster communication, Backstage Kubernetes is any developer’s automation dream. As Spotify puts it, Kubernetes capabilities within Backstage are more so created for Backstage microservices owners rather than cluster admins. Backstage Kubernetes is able to fully service any service through monitoring tools, single-view deployment, and cloud-agnostic capabilities, all under a single interface, and within any cloud native apps or multi-cloud organizations. 

The customizability and capabilities of the Backstage developer platform are second to none, to learn more about the components within this portal, please visit the Backstage Github.

The Pros and Cons of Backstage

The Pros

Spotify Backstage hosts a variety of powerful built-in capabilities and also has the room to grow with open source innovations and plugins. With software templates, Backstage is able to streamline development and standardization processes, letting developers spin up environments, software, and even a data pipeline without a formal Backstage DevOps. The software catalog within Backstage makes user and software management and authorization processes simple, with plugins allowing for fast access token generation. Backstage Software Catalog also helps users discover software that would otherwise be forgotten in traditional operations models. Along with reducing team siloes and cognitive load on developers, Backstage is able to remove communication barriers completely with their dedicated search engine, bringing developers closer to the answers they seek.

The Cons

Much of the maintenance, deployment, and configuration of Spotify Backstage becomes the users’ responsibility, requiring some semblance of developer experience to fully thrive (though documentation and installation instructions are provided). With Backstage being moved to the project maturity stage by the CNCF, updates are still being rolled out, leaving many users waiting for innovations that alternatives may already host.

Spotify Backstage Alternatives

Companies like Netflix, Doordash, and American Airlines have hosted Backstage, and for good reason too. The innovative platform by Spotify has proved to be a difference maker within many organizations, with services like Cortex, OpsLevel, and Configure8 offering similar features to Backstage. 

One of the biggest alternatives to Backstage is Lyrid. Lyrid is a cloud agnostic platform that hosts similar features to Backstage but has expanded to offer the best user experience possible. Unlike Backstage, the Lyrid platform is extremely beginner-friendly, offering users observability, management, and deployment capabilities straight out of the box. 

With the use of Kubernetes and a microservice architecture, Lyrid is able to streamline your deployment and development processes, without the initial investment and experience needed to run the Backstage platform. 

To learn more about Lyrid and get started, check out our demo here.

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