Platform engineering and Kubernetes go hand-in-hand – but businesses still struggle with implementation

CI/CD software engineering concept image showing DevOps lifecycle on a digital interface.
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As businesses place efficiency front and center, platform engineering can be embraced as a neat solution for simplifying complex digital projects and application deployments.

The practice of platform engineering builds on longstanding DevOps principles and enables organizations to deliver applications in a more efficient manner using self-service platforms. It puts developers and operators in a much closer conversation throughout the software development lifecycle, helping to streamline the process. 

As part of the larger DevOps ecosystem and crossing over significantly with Kubernetes, platform engineering can be easy to adopt for businesses looking to deploy applications. But leaders also have to ensure they have the right teams in place and align their strategies to make the most of the practice.

Murli Thirumale, Portworx co-founder and GM at Pure Storage’s Cloud Native Business Unit, says that the maturation of Kubernetes over the last decade and its growing popularity means the container orchestration system now goes hand in hand with platform engineering. 

“I would characterize the early part of Kubernetes, from 2017 to 2019 or so, largely as experiments,” Thirumale tells ITPro at KubeCon 2024 in Paris.

Over time, Thirumale says that “islands of projects'' became a common theme but that subsequent consolidation has given rise to a more unified version of the Kubernetes landscape. This has not only paved the way for platform engineering but also offered an opportunity to unlock greater efficiency in development lifecycles. 

“We're gonna take these loosely defined DevOps organizations, we'll put them together, and call it platform engineering,” Thirumale says. “Platform engineering essentially gives … as Gartner calls it, a paved road for container projects to be launched on,” he adds. 

The evolution of DevOps toward platform engineering has created a much clearer route to the delivery of projects and, by extension, businesses and enterprises can undertake complex projects with greater ease.

“The advantage for both the industry and for companies is it's now a standardized way of doing things,” Thirumale says. 

But despite the complementary nature of Kubernetes and platform engineering, some firms still struggle to join the dots when it comes to implementing platform engineering.

Businesses still struggle with platform engineering

Though it may seem like a golden ticket for driving efficiency, many businesses don’t utilize platform engineering correctly.

Martin Reynolds, CTO at software delivery platform Harness, tells ITPro that although platform engineering can make delivery processes more efficient, it also creates complexities in some key areas. While many organizations place a sharpened focus on unlocking greater synergy between DevOps teams and platform engineers, other considerations are critical to ensure a successful application deployment.

“You need good infrastructure, governance and management, and DevOps teams alongside those platform engineers to build out those reusable, repeatable pipelines,” Reynolds says. 

The apparent lack of understanding over implementation comes amidst widespread uptake of platform engineering tools. In Puppet’s recent 2024 State of DevOps report, the majority of respondents indicated they have three or more internal self-service platforms, while 9% indicated they have as many as ten. In comparison, the 2023 iteration of the report found the majority of respondents had three platforms or fewer, with none having reported operating more than six.

But it's also clear developers are aware of these pressures. Per Puppet’s report, 52% of developers claim that a product manager is crucial to the success of the platform team. But at many companies, leaders still struggle to put the necessary processes in place, according to Roy Illsley, chief analyst of IT operations at Omdia. 

Illsley tells ITPro that organizations have traditionally not been “structured correctly” for platform engineering, meaning that operations and development teams don’t reap the rewards of cooperating effectively on areas such as budgeting. 

“The politics of organizational hierarchies get in the way,” Illsley says. 

“I think platform engineering is a good term. I think it will help, but people have got to understand what it is, they've got to implement it in the right way,” he adds. 

Platform engineering is about collaboration between different aspects of development processes, Illsley says, so it demands that businesses “go back and understand it” so that they know exactly how to use the technology. 

George Fitzmaurice
Staff Writer

George Fitzmaurice is a staff writer at ITPro, ChannelPro, and CloudPro, with a particular interest in AI regulation, data legislation, and market development. After graduating from the University of Oxford with a degree in English Language and Literature, he undertook an internship at the New Statesman before starting at ITPro. Outside of the office, George is both an aspiring musician and an avid reader.