Internal Developer Platform 101: Freeing the Modern Dev

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

Achieving Developer Freedom with the IDP

Our pursuit for convenience and ease is endless. From Tide pods streamlining our laundry process to air fryers speeding up how we cook, convenience is at the forefront of a lot of today’s innovations. Even the most seasoned software companies are finding ways to cut corners and become more efficient, which is extremely prevalent in the uprising of platform engineering.

In our latest blog, we broke down the responsibilities of platform engineering teams, with a critical function of these teams to design and build tools and workflows and populate the internal developer platform (IDP) with said tools. IDPs aid software developers in software delivery by offering easily accessible internal tools that match a developer’s abstraction level and are cohesive with an organization’s current tech stack and infrastructure. IDPs also provide structure and automation operation setups, streamlining a ton of tasks like standardization and environment spinning within development platforms.

But what goes into building a developer portal, and how have DevOps and platform engineering teams optimized the use of IDPs?

The Earth to a Developer’s Sun

In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus discovered that (contrary to popular belief at the time) the Earth actually revolved around the Sun, making the Sun the so-called “center of the universe”. The relationship between a developer and IDPs (or internal platforms in general) is essentially the same; IDPs revolve around the developer and their specific needs. But in order to meet these needs, IDPs should contain 5 unique components. The people at defines these components as:

Application Configuration Management 

Using an IDP, development teams can manage application configuration in a way that meets the standards of the organization, proving to be both dynamic and scalable. Configuration is handled as code rather than the typical script of YAML files, making the standardization and alteration processes extremely easy. This component also removes the need for testing and approval by a DevOps team, something that is traditionally not a part of DevOps practices to begin with.

Infrastructure Orchestration

IDPs give the power back to the engineering team, letting them orchestrate their infrastructures to whatever way makes sense given the context. With its primary function being to pave golden paths for the engineering teams that interact with it, internal developer platforms have the responsibility of being ultra flexible and able to be integrated to practically any point. Typically, IDPs are integrated to continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI CD) pipelines. 

Environment Management

Typically, spinning up a new environment requires a waiting game between developers and an operations team, waiting for the ops team to create the new environment. With an IDPs, all the manual steps are removed, letting developers create environments whenever they need. The self-service aspect also allows teams to remove environments that become obsolete. Developers and stakeholders can rejoice with the more efficient processes and faster time to market!

Deployment Management

IDPs help in establishing CD processes, with deployment automation and management playing central roles. A typical deployment process within an IDP follows a developer git push, moving the code through the CI pipeline and building an image. The image is then pushed to a specific environment, with this entire deployment process being automated. 

Role-Based Access Control

Lastly, IDPs should allow the platform team or DevOps team within an organization to manage platform access, with the ability to limit production and creation of new environments. Like the famous Uncle Ben quote in almost every retelling of the Spiderman story: “With great power comes great responsibility”; developers aren’t the exception.

Practical Uses for an Internal Developer Platform

The benefits of platform engineering and using an IDP within an organization are unparalleled, with many companies using IDPs purely to remove the cognitive load off of their development teams. Like the title of this blog states, IDPs free the modern developer by removing a majority of the friction in their processes (waiting for environment spinning, standardization, etc) and enabling developer self-service. With IDPs, developers no longer have to spend up to 15 hours a week on non-development tasks, such as learning new tools or waiting for assistance from senior developers, and can instead use tools and flows that match their unique abstraction level, increasing the time to market significantly.

Teams using IDPs also find that their DevOps processes within the organization become more cut and dry, providing clarity and definition to many of the roles confusion and communication issues that may occur in a traditional DevOps understanding. IDPs provide tool and workflow standardization, allowing for more maintainable and scalable setups and removing confusion across differing infrastructures. The tools and workflows in IDPs are vetted by DevOps teams before inclusion, ensuring that they meet the organization's standards and can operate well with their current tech stack.

From a business standpoint, the use of IDPs can significantly increase developer productivity and bring updates and products to markets faster than ever. With an estimated $61 billion spent on DevOps, IDPs can help dramatically reduce the cost spent on internal innovations and maintenance, driving down the top dollar for teams on the executive level as well as DevOps and developer teams.

Companies like Google, Netflix, and Spotify do a great job of optimizing their IDPs. Spotify’s Backstage, for example, is an open source framework that helps developers build a platform, is adopted by hundreds of companies, and has been donated to the Cloud Native Cloud Foundation (CNCF). Backstage was created as a way to streamline software development processes, specifically excelling within a microservices architecture. With self-hosting capabilities, little to no required DevOps knowledge for usage, and Kubernetes orchestration, Backstage is one of the many examples of a practical IDP being used for good!

Making the Most of an Internal Developer Platform

In an age where convenience is king, having an IDP in any organization can be paramount to a development cycle’s success, with a DevOps implementation even furthering this success. One of the appeals of IDPs is the ease of access to this technology, though many companies can have a hard time deciding platform engineering best practices, IDP standards, and even deciding their current tech stack. The solution to this is Lyrid.

The Lyrid platform offers beginner-friendly tooling for anyone wanting to build their own IDP, or optimize a current one, offering things like:

  • Seamless login
  • Unified organization and discoverability of services
  • Software development kits (SDKs)
  • Tenant isolation
  • Observability

With Lyrid, companies like Aido Health have reported their costs being driven down upwards of 40%, while increasing their overall efficiency and developer productivity. 

Achieving efficiency without breaking the bank can be a near impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be. Click here to learn more about Lyrid’s platform engineering offerings and how you can get started in the internal developer platform space!

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