The concept of platform engineering has been around for a long time. It means you are building an infrastructure that people can use to develop their applications instead of just providing them with one use case for all users. Regardless of product offerings to customers, platform engineering is the bedrock that they depend on, most notably in enterprise-scale organizations.
The advent of platforms has allowed for the development of complex solutions that teams can use to solve difficult problems.
These platforms abstract away a lot of the timely and complex workstreams, making it easier for developers to focus on work that produces business value. This saves both time and money and reduces risk. In addition, as the business needs grow, the platform can mature and provide even more benefits.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the details of platform engineering, why it’s crucial for enterprises, and how you can get started with platform engineering in your organization.
What is a Platform?
Platforms are a way to abstract away complexity.
They allow multiple people to use the same resource without reinventing it.
The primary example of this concept comes from Amazon Web Services (AWS), which gives developers access to its cloud computing resources so they can build and host their applications on AWS infrastructure instead of buying servers themselves or setting up their own data center.
By accessing other companies’ platforms like AWS, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud—and many others—you have the choice in where you run your applications, with confidence that they’ll work well together when deployed in your environment.
This is why companies like Amazon Web Services (AWS) exist: they provide SaaS (Software as a Service) products that hide all the complexities necessary to run an application so that developers can focus on creating fantastic new experiences instead of wasting time on infrastructure issues.
The Evolution of Platform Engineering
Platform engineering is a natural evolution of infrastructure engineering.
It has been around for decades and is necessary to build a tech business. However, creating a successful platform people love and use often requires new thinking and skills.
In the early days of software development, building an application meant writing code on your laptop or desktop machine—and only then did you test and deploy it in production with real users. This was known as monolithic architecture because all components were bundled into one big piece of software that ran everything from end-to-end: client (browser), through database/hardware, to back-end processing and analytics.
With this approach, developers were responsible for everything from writing the code to deploying it in production. This worked well for a while: engineers built some amazing monolithic applications that became household names.
But over time, as software development matured and grew into an industry, problems emerged. Monolithic architecture created high barriers to entry for new developers joining a team because all the knowledge was locked up within one person’s head (typically the lead developer).
Platform engineering has become more prevalent, as it involves the creation of technology platforms that enable other people to build software applications without having to start from scratch.
Why is Platform Engineering Needed?
Platform engineering, sometimes called infrastructure engineering, could be considered an enterprise’s plumbing. It is subtle but vital to any organization operating at scale.
Consider the following scenario; when you build a house, you don’t want to worry about who will take care of your plumbing, gas, or electrical systems. You want them to work reliably and efficiently without thinking about it. If the pipes burst or something stops working, there should be a team that deals with those things on an ongoing basis—because if they’re not taken care of, nothing else can work efficiently either.
This is infrastructure engineering in a nutshell; making sure that everything works as expected all the time. And like any “plumbing”, things break; it’s part of life for any system that gets used heavily over time (and almost every technology does).
At a certain point in enterprise history, however, the plumbing professionals started being called upon to do more. So they began building parking lots and moving walls around.
Their creations became platforms for other people to use.
Some platforms were built from scratch, while others were restructured from existing systems. Still, either way, the platform engineers took over roles once held by developers (or perhaps even managers).
They changed how companies operate to be more agile and adaptable in their environments while continuing to deliver great products or services at scale.
Three Approaches to Platform Engineering
Platform engineering can be approached in three ways.
1. The “Inside-out” Approach
There is an “inside-out” approach where engineers build in-house platforms that meet their needs. Various open-source software and frameworks are available to help with this, such as Node.js, Ruby on Rails, or Zend Framework.
2. The “Outside-in” Approach
There is an “outside-in” approach, where engineers test out several different platforms before settling on one that works best for them.
Platforms like AWS and Azure provide self-service access to technology services such as virtual servers or databases; they also make it easy for developers to build applications without worrying about building out their infrastructure (the physical hardware). Some platforms work better than others and have better support teams or community forums.
In addition to testing new platforms, you should also ask other companies what they use and how they like it.
3. The “Hybrid” Approach
Finally, a hybrid approach can be used where engineers do both simultaneously, depending on what works in each scenario.
Hybrid approaches involve outside integrations and traditional application development within an enterprise or organization.
While enterprises can use a single approach across all projects, hybrid systems are more effective because they allow teams to select the right direction for each project based on its technical needs and goals.
It can provide the best of both worlds by having an engineer’s eye for quality code while getting fast feedback from your end users. However, it requires a lot of communication between different teams and flexibility on all sides.
This is how Blockdaemon approaches, for the most part, evolving our platform. Taking an evolutionary approach, we have successfully been able to continually shape our platform and underlying infrastructure as the business has changed and scaled its needs.
The Role of Web3 Platform Engineering
Platform engineering is an essential foundation for building reliable blockchain infrastructure.
The Ethereum platform, for example, was designed to be decentralized and autonomous. This means that no one person or organization has control over it. Instead, it runs on thousands of computers (known as nodes) worldwide at any given time, all of which are equally capable of making changes to the blockchain.
Blockdaemon, a blockchain infrastructure platform, gives customers the tools to seamlessly and confidently interact between the various parties involved in the blockchain lifecycle. These interactions include payments, staking, and super-secure key management.
Our node platform, an essential sub-system of Blockdaemon’s ecosystem, is built to service the protocols that govern these interactions, along with a set of tools for implementing them.
With Blockdaemon’s platform, if you want to build something on top of a blockchain, you don’t have to invent or reinvent everything from scratch yourself; you can use pre-existing tools that already work quickly and securely.
The Need for Reliable Blockchain Platform Engineering
The rise of platform engineering has changed how we think about digital systems.
The rise of blockchain has changed the requirements of platform engineering. With blockchain, the same technology can be used for various purposes, and different participants may have other interests.
For example, in the case of Ethereum, developers can build applications on the platform using their programming language called Solidity. These applications can then be deployed by anyone who wants to use them.
However, as blockchain technology has evolved and become more sophisticated, so too have the types of transactions people want to make with one another—and these transactions are becoming more complex. Unfortunately, the complexity creates an opportunity for fraudsters who take advantage of their victim’s lack of knowledge about how blockchain-based systems work (or don’t).
Blockchain operations are simply those which involve performing some form of transaction. These transactions can be anything from paying for a product or service using cryptocurrency to retrieving blockchain data or staking.
With a blockchain world that depends increasingly on interoperability, there are more places than ever for security to fail and a greater need for ever-increasing reliability and speed.
This is why it’s essential for businesses looking to incorporate Web3 to partner with experts who understand what makes up these systems and what steps need to be taken to ensure safety when dealing with them.
Today, infrastructure engineering is more important than ever—and it’s also undergoing a significant transformation with the dawn of Web3, making it more complex than ever.
Initially, infrastructure engineering was all about managing servers, storage, and networks.
Platform engineers are all about building platforms for other people to use.
This shift from manual provisioning of resources through automation means that there are new demands on platform engineers who must ensure that these systems continue operating reliably at scale while meeting customer expectations for performance and reliability.
The importance of platform engineering in Web3 is that it helps businesses to build and maintain blockchain applications. The benefit of doing this is that multiple teams can use it simultaneously without slowing development or causing errors.
Blockdaemon is your single platform for industry-leading, a high-assurance blockchain infrastructure and 99.9% uptime.
We support your blockchain lifecycle, from network inception to customer conversion.
Blockdaemon’s complete node stack supports the flow of data and value for millions of users. Our customers include top-tier financial institutions, crypto native companies, exchanges, and many more.
With the Blockdaemon stack, you get access to an end-to-end blockchain technology suite, from high-quality nodes to easily-accessible payments infrastructure, MPC tech, and beyond.