Why Open Source is the best strategy for platform engineering
November 16, 2023

Platform engineering is an increasingly popular strategy for improving developer experiences and productivity. Organizations would be smart to use Open Source technologies as the backbone of their implementations.

The approach is built around empowering developers with internal developer platforms (IDPs) and flexible, self-service capabilities that accelerate application development and time-to-market. Those capabilities can include cloud infrastructures, tooling, DevOps workflows and more that provide a standardized and repeatable framework to jumpstart developer efforts. Take, for example, an IDP that delivers database technologies preconfigured with availability, security and compliance and disaster recovery features already in place. Such an implementation allows developers to immediately proceed with new projects and focus on developing application features—fast-forwarding past the block-and-tackle work of standing up database capabilities.

By getting this right, development teams supported by platform engineering strategies save countless hours. They can also run circles around competitors still relying on more outdated methods when it comes to introducing and polishing product features that differentiate brands and drive marketplace success.

Why Open Source fits platform engineering like a glove

Implementing a platform engineering strategy requires hiring and retaining a capable platform engineering team and then building out an effective IDP and developer workflows. Open Source software offers end-to-end advantages across this process, for platform engineering teams and developers alike.

Unlike committing to long-term proprietary vendor contracts (or dealing with open-core deception), Open Source allows the freedom to start small and explore. This flexibility is particularly critical considering that most organizations are still at the beginning of their platform engineering journeys. As platform and developer experience shortcomings and needed changes come into focus, organizations committed to Open Source can swiftly identify and test-drive new solutions. For instance, a business that needs a strong scale-out data storage solution could experiment with the fully Open Source version Apache Cassandra, and then expand that deployment within its platform engineering strategy once proven.

Open Source also provides crucial benefits in assembling and maintaining talented platform engineering teams and development teams. With Open Source communities producing professionals with in-demand expertise in cloud-native solutions such as data-layer technologies, Kubernetes, security solutions and more, organizations committed to Open Source-backed IDPs have a magnetic pull on those potential recruits. Many capable professionals prefer working with Open Source and view Open Source experience as better for their careers. At the same time, utilizing an IDP prepared to connect with external Open Source platforms makes it that much simpler to flexibly fulfill needs and leverage available expertise.

Not so ironically, those same developer experience advantages carry over into another key Open Source benefit: portability. With Open Source, it’s far easier for platform engineering teams to deliver an identical developer experience that spans all cloud and infrastructure providers—allowing for more seamless and efficient development across multi-cloud or hybrid environments. But perhaps most importantly, Open Source software provides broad latitude to develop IDPs and code that suits the exact preferences of developers and not the preferences of vendors. Open Source community support then ensures that valuable code is refined and supported going forward.

From a security and compliance perspective, Open Source has long proven itself more secure than proprietary counterparts, especially Open Source projects backed by respected foundations. Considering the key platform engineering goal of enabling products that are secure and compliant by default in order to free developers from the burden of those concerns, Open Source allows IDPs to begin far closer to that goalpost.

Open Source-backed IDPs transform developer efficiency

Developers will explore their own solutions if they aren’t happy with the tools they’ve been provided. An Open Source platform engineering strategy offers developers the experience and freedom they prefer, while inviting them to use the most powerful, secure and cost-effective tooling available today.

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