Not too long ago, cloud infrastructure was being widely praised for its incredible simplicity and manageability. For companies and teams burdened by complex on-premises infrastructure, it presented an intuitive, scalable, and cost-effective alternative that promised to transform how we approach IT infrastructure as a whole.
But, as offerings from the major public cloud providers have grown and become more sophisticated, that simplicity has fallen by the wayside. Today, cloud infrastructure service portfolios are incredibly large, increasingly complex, and harder than ever for engineering teams to keep pace with.
Today, Amazon Web Services alone offers 175 different cloud infrastructure services across its portfolio. We’re no longer dealing with a short, simple selection of intuitive services that can quickly be provisioned with just a few clicks.
Instead of relieving pressure from businesses and simplifying their infrastructure approach, cloud is now pushing in the opposite direction — creating new management challenges, demanding new (virtual) data center skills, and increasing average time to market.
Why rising cloud complexity is a business problem
When cloud-based infrastructure first emerged, businesses and their IT teams were eager to embrace it and gain the flexibility, scalability, and management simplicity benefits it offered.
It enabled developers and infrastructure teams to provision new services in minutes — dramatically improving time to market, and enabling organizations to gain an all-important competitive edge in crowded markets.
But, as the complexity of cloud infrastructure offerings has increased, those benefits have shrunk for many organizations. More complex services and decisions mean the teams managing cloud infrastructure need greater skills, and developers need deep expertise just to be able to self-serve — pushing the definition of ‘full-stack’ to the point that it becomes disadvantageous.
Put simply, rising cloud complexity is putting many organizations and their infrastructure teams right back to where they were 15 years ago — struggling to keep up with demand for new services and instances, and stay on top of an increasingly unmanageable infrastructure footprint.
The solution? Start viewing and managing infrastructure as a set of internal platform products
Major cloud service providers may have moved away from providing simple and intuitive infrastructure options that anyone can provision themselves. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t create internal platforms and processes to do it yourself.
That’s the essence of a Platform Engineering approach. Rather than having your cloud infrastructure team spend all of their time constantly configuring and deploying new instances, environments, and services as developers need them, instead you have the team create a platform that offers self-service components that developers can easily choose and deploy themselves.
It’s an approach that’s started to see widespread adoption in 2020, featuring significantly in Puppet’s State of DevOps report. According to the report, 63 percent of organizations have at least one internal self service platform in place.
With re-usable, self-service solutions available on a platform that’s easy to understand and engage with, cloud infrastructure teams can spend less time configuring individual solutions, and give the business a rapid path to market for new digital services and capabilities.