In a previous post, I talked about the comparison between DevOps and Platform Engineer. However, I think it is proper I also talk about what platform engineering is all about. In this post, we will learn about the concept of Platform engineering. We will attempt to answer questions like who is a platform engineer, how to become one, and the skill set you will require to become a platform engineer. We will also discuss comparing a cloud engineer and a platform engineer. And lastly, we will see how in demand a platform engineer is and how much salary you can command as a platform engineer.
However, before we proceed I have a great article covering an in-depth analysis of the DevOps concept, cloud engineering, and how to choose between DevOps and Cloud Engineering. Please check it out too.
what is platform engineering?
We will begin by knowing what Platform Engineering is, and also the core concepts of cloud engineering.
Platform engineering, in simple explanation, is the designing, developing, and managing of infrastructure and tools that support cloud-native applications. This means a platform engineer is responsible for creating an infrastructure that can scale easily to enable developers to build and deploy applications. They also ensure high availability, optimal performance, and security of the application that is deployed.
You remember the Platform as a Service cloud model, where the cloud provider gives a combined already made services to deploy your specific application, well, this is not so different from that concept too. Think of this as having someone dedicated to creating Platform as a Service but then this person is employed by the organization and works directly with the developers to ensure the cloud infrastructure that is deployed meets the specific needs of the application.
who is a platform engineer?
A platform engineer is a skilled professional who specializes in building and maintaining the platform infrastructure that underpins cloud-based applications. These experts possess a deep understanding of cloud technologies, automation, and software development practices. They collaborate with cross-functional teams, including developers, operations personnel, and stakeholders, to design and implement reliable and efficient platforms.
core principles of platform engineer
Platform engineering revolves around several core principles that guide the development and management of platforms:
Establishing a stable and scalable platform infrastructure.
Ensuring reliability, availability, and performance of the platform.
Implementing effective automation and DevOps practices.
Collaborating with cross-functional teams and stakeholders to align platform goals with business objectives.
key responsibilities of platform Engineers
- Platform Design and Architecture: Platform engineers are responsible for designing scalable, reliable, and secure infrastructure platforms. They collaborate with cross-functional teams, including developers and operations personnel, to understand application requirements and design platform architectures that meet the needs of the organization. This involves selecting appropriate technologies, defining infrastructure patterns, and optimizing platform performance.
- Infrastructure Provisioning and Management: Platform engineers are tasked with provisioning, configuring, and managing the underlying infrastructure resources that support applications. They leverage infrastructure-as-code (IaC) tools like Terraform or CloudFormation to automate the provisioning and management of cloud resources, making infrastructure deployment consistent and repeatable. They also ensure proper configuration and monitoring of infrastructure components to maintain high availability and performance.
- Automation and DevOps: Automation is a core aspect of platform engineering. Platform engineers leverage automation tools and practices to streamline infrastructure operations, enforce consistent configurations, and enable rapid deployment of applications. They collaborate closely with DevOps teams to integrate infrastructure automation into continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines, promoting efficiency, reliability, and scalability.
- Platform Security and Compliance: Platform engineers are responsible for ensuring the security and compliance of the infrastructure platforms. They implement robust security measures, such as identity and access management, network security, and encryption protocols. They monitor and respond to security threats and vulnerabilities, perform regular audits and assessments, and enforce compliance with industry standards and regulations.
- Performance Monitoring and Optimization: Platform engineers monitor the performance and health of the infrastructure platforms to proactively identify bottlenecks, optimize resource utilization, and ensure high availability and performance. They leverage monitoring and observability tools to collect metrics, logs, and traces and use this data to analyze and optimize the platform’s performance. They also collaborate with development teams to understand application performance requirements and make necessary infrastructure adjustments.
- Incident Management and Troubleshooting: Platform engineers play a key role in incident management and troubleshooting. They respond to infrastructure-related incidents, diagnose issues, and restore services quickly and efficiently. They collaborate with operations teams, developers, and stakeholders to investigate and resolve incidents, implement preventive measures, and document incident response procedures.
- Collaboration and Communication: Platform engineers collaborate with various teams, including developers, operations personnel, security specialists, and stakeholders. They communicate effectively to gather requirements, provide technical guidance, and ensure alignment between infrastructure platforms and application needs. They participate in cross-functional meetings, share knowledge, and contribute to the overall success of the organization’s technology initiatives.
5 steps to Become a platform engineer
It is a good thing to aspire to a career in Platform Engineering, however, you need to know the right steps to take before you become one. So, in this section, we will briefly discuss the steps to becoming a platform engineer.
- Gain a foundational understanding of cloud computing and infrastructure.
- Develop programming and scripting skills, such as Python, PowerShell, or Bash.
- Acquire knowledge of relevant technologies and tools, such as Kubernetes, Docker, or Terraform.
- Gain practical experience through projects or internships to apply theoretical knowledge.
- Continuously learn and stay updated with industry trends through online courses, workshops, and certifications.
comparison between a cloud engineer and a platform engineer
At this point, it is easy to mix up the role of a cloud engineer and a platform engineer. While both professions share some common ground, they have distinct roles and responsibilities. Cloud engineers focus on designing and managing cloud infrastructure, while platform engineers specialize in building and maintaining platforms that leverage cloud infrastructure. The two roles are complementary, with platform engineering often building on the foundation laid by cloud engineering.
skills and knowledge requirements of a platform Engineer
To excel as a platform engineer, you need to possess a diverse set of technical skills and knowledge. Let’s explore some key areas that are essential for success in this field:
- Infrastructure Management: Platform engineers need a deep understanding of infrastructure management, which includes knowledge of cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, or GCP. Also, familiarity with virtualization, networking, storage, and compute resources is essential to design and optimize the platform infrastructure.
- Automation and DevOps: Automation is a core aspect of platform engineering. You also need proficiency in automation tools like Ansible, Puppet, or Chef. These tools help platform engineers to streamline repetitive tasks, enforce configuration consistency, and ensure scalability. Additionally, a strong grasp of DevOps principles and practices is vital to collaborate effectively with development and operations teams.
- Containerization and Orchestration: Containerization technologies like Docker have revolutionized the software deployment process. Platform engineers should be well-versed in containerization concepts. You also need a good understanding of container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, and others. Also, you need to understand how to work in a container-distributed environment.
- Networking and Security: A comprehensive understanding of networking concepts, protocols, and security principles is fundamental for platform engineers. Knowledge of TCP/IP, DNS, load balancing, firewalls, and secure communication protocols is essential for designing resilient and secure platform architectures.
- Monitoring and Troubleshooting: Platform engineers should be proficient in implementing monitoring and observability solutions to ensure the performance and reliability of the platform. Familiarity with monitoring tools like Prometheus, Grafana, or ELK stack (Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana) enables effective system monitoring, log analysis, and troubleshooting.
- Scripting and Programming: Proficiency in scripting languages like Python, PowerShell, or Bash is invaluable for platform engineers. Scripting skills enable automation, task simplification, and the ability to manipulate infrastructure resources programmatically. Additionally, a solid foundation in programming concepts helps platform engineers collaborate with developers and understand application requirements.
- Soft Skills: Alongside technical expertise, platform engineers should possess strong soft skills. Effective communication, problem-solving abilities, collaboration, and adaptability are vital when working in cross-functional teams and engaging with stakeholders. Strong analytical and critical thinking skills are also valuable for troubleshooting and optimizing platform performance.
Platform engineering offers a wide range of career opportunities in diverse industries that heavily rely on cloud computing and software development. These may include positions such as platform engineer, DevOps engineer, infrastructure architect, or cloud platform specialist. With the growing demand for cloud-native solutions, platform engineers are in high demand and can explore roles in startups, tech companies, and enterprises.
GROWTH PROSPECTS IN PLATFORM ENGINEER
As technology continues to advance, the role of platform engineers is expected to expand. The growing adoption of cloud-native architectures, serverless computing, and microservices paves the way for platform engineers to drive digital transformation initiatives. By staying updated with emerging trends, embracing automation, and sharpening their skill sets, platform engineers can unlock exciting growth prospects and become key contributors in shaping the future of software engineering.
earning potential in platform engineer
The earning potential for platform engineers varies based on factors such as experience, location, industry, and job responsibilities. As organizations increasingly recognize the value of skilled platform engineers, salaries tend to be competitive. The average salary of a platform engineer according to online sources like Glassdoor, Salary.com, and indeed.com states in the United States is $142,225 as of June 2023, but the salary range typically falls between $131,402 and $153,491. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you have spent in your profession. On top of monetary compensation, professionals in this field often enjoy additional benefits, such as flexible work arrangements, professional development opportunities, and bonuses tied to performance and project success.
Where to find platform engineer Jobs
When searching for platform engineer jobs, consider the following resources:
Online platforms and job boards that are specific to platform engineering roles, such as LinkedIn, Indeed, or Stack Overflow Jobs. Others are ZipRecruiter, and WeWorkRemotely.
Networking within relevant communities, such as technology meetups or forums.
Industry events, conferences, and career fairs that provide opportunities for networking and job exploration.
where to start?
To kickstart your platform engineering journey, consider the following steps:
Explore online resources, courses, and certifications focused on cloud computing, automation, and infrastructure management.
Build a personal portfolio or engage in projects that showcase your skills and expertise.
Join online communities, forums, or social media groups to connect with like-minded professionals and seek mentorship opportunities. Practice and read about how to ace technical interviews too.
Platform engineering lies at the heart of cloud computing and offers a rewarding and dynamic career path for those passionate about building scalable and reliable software systems. By understanding the core principles, acquiring the necessary skills, and keeping pace with industry advancements, you can embark on a successful platform engineering journey. Whether you’re starting from scratch or transitioning from a related field, the opportunities are abundant, and your expertise as a platform engineer will contribute to shaping the future of technology.