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Platform Engineering is a multidimensional role that brings together diverse aspects like DevOps, systems engineering, and software development to deliver a stable, scalable, and efficient platform for applications. In this write-up, I’d like to share some examples of Developer platform projects: successful platform engineering projects, breaking them down to glean insights and lessons that can be replicated across industries.
The transformation of Netflix
Netflix’s journey to the cloud is a great example of platform engineering done right. In 2008, a significant database corruption led to a three-day service outage. Realizing the limitations of their monolithic architecture and in-house data centers, they decided to transition to a cloud-based microservices architecture.
This was a monumental task. To successfully execute it, the platform engineering team embraced Infrastructure as Code (IaC) to manage and provision their cloud-based resources. They also built tools like Chaos Monkey, part of the Simian Army, to randomly terminate instances in production to ensure that engineers implemented their services to be resilient to instance failures.
Netflix’s journey wasn’t smooth sailing – there were hurdles along the way, including concerns about security and cost. However, their commitment to change and investment in platform engineering capabilities paid off. Today, they serve over 200 million users worldwide, with no major service disruptions.
Twitter’s transition to microservices
Back in 2010, Twitter was infamous for its “Fail Whale” – a message users saw whenever the site was overcapacity. Twitter’s platform engineering team took on the challenge of overhauling the platform.
The transition involved moving away from a monolithic Ruby on Rails application to a more scalable microservices architecture running on the JVM. This shift was accompanied by the adoption of Agile and DevOps practices and the creation of several in-house tools for deployment, monitoring, and log management.
Twitter’s transition was a significant engineering feat that required careful planning, execution, and a lot of learning along the way. But it was a resounding success. Today, Twitter handles hundreds of millions of tweets per day with minimal downtime.
Google’s Borg system
Google’s Borg system is an excellent example of a successful platform engineering project. Borg was designed to manage and orchestrate Google’s massive clusters. It paved the way for Kubernetes, an open-source platform built by Google to automate deploying, scaling, and managing containerized applications.
Borg emphasizes efficient resource utilization, high reliability, and scalability. However, it’s also worth noting the complexity and steep learning curve of these tools. The effectiveness of such advanced systems comes with the need for highly skilled engineers and comprehensive training.
Developer platform projects: Conclusion
These examples are but a taste of the potential of platform engineering when approached strategically and with a willingness to innovate. Yet, the path to success often involves navigating a maze of challenges. As a platform engineer, your job is to balance innovation with risk, keeping an eye on the trends and tools that can propel your platform forward while ensuring its robustness and reliability.
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