Cloud native technologies—with their malleable, modular microservice architectures—quickly generate transformative digital innovations that deliver high-demand customer capabilities and operational value breakthroughs. 

But wait, how many Kubernetes experts do we have? We’ve got an industry-wide shortage of skilled software development and operations talent—and the complexity of cloud native development is exacerbating the problem. We’re not going to hire our way out of this mess!

Skill shortages stymie cloud native innovation

Even non-technical executives now understand the basic benefits of cloud native software. They know it has something to do with Kubernetes pushing out containers, so the resulting applications are more modular and take advantage of elastic cloud infrastructures.

There’s way more to it than that. The cloud native landscape is a beehive of open-source projects for configuration, networking, security, data handling, service mesh – at various maturity stages. There are also hundreds of vendors offering their development, management and support tools atop this ever-moving CN raft.

A developer’s learning curve is steep and continuous, since this year’s stack might no longer be relevant next year. Outsourcing is tough too, when the few consultants with a real knack for cloud native development are busy and expensive.

The only way to sustainably grow is through building cloud native development talent and capabilities from within, following the introduction and maturation of the space, as well as keeping tabs on the vendor and end user community at large.

While the market demand for digital offerings keeps doubling every couple years, IT budgets often get a budget belt-tightening as a reward for managing and scaling so much technology.

Smaller and leaner teams are expected to deliver twice the output with half the people. The need for specialized skill positions only increases as concepts like event-driven architecture, data lakehouses, real-time analytics, and zero-trust security policies turn into production-grade requirements. 

Why platform engineering matters

No matter what target environment they are contributing to, developers still spend most of their time coding within an IDE. Over the years, vendors have tried everything from low-code tools to process toolkits to lower the skills bar, but the pipelines don’t translate into easy wizards. 

Complex open-source tooling, third party service APIs, and code that is being mixed and matched from GitOps-style repos are driving cloud native development teams toward a new platform engineering approach.

Platform engineering practices seek to create shared resources for development environments–encouraging code, component, and configuration reuse. 

Common platform engineering environments can be represented within a self-service internal development portal or an external partner marketplace, often accompanied by concierge-style support or advisory services from an expert team that curates and reviews all elements in the platform.

It’s critical to govern the platform’s self-service policies for access permissions, code, logic, data, and automation at just the right level of control for the business it supports. 

Too much flexibility ends up creating overhead, as diverse stakeholders fail to distinguish between the relative value or usefulness of so many unvalidated and poorly categorized components of the platform.

Too much rigidity in policy design can create the opposite problem, where centralized governance and approval cycles for every element slow down solution delivery and take away the innovative freedom developers crave.

A modern approach to cloud native platform engineering can finally bring the principles of governance, consistency and reuse to the table.

Speedy innovation through infrastructure abstraction

Refreshingly—or maddeningly—there’s no single right way to ‘do’ cloud native. Even Kubernetes is by itself just an abstraction of container orchestration and only one option for going cloud native.

As an open-source movement, the CNCF purposely leaves the future approach open to interpretation by the community. It doesn’t dictate a particular language, or even a specific piece of infrastructure. 

That’s excellent, but it also leaves short-handed dev teams managing complex plumbing and experimenting with integration options, rather than building better functionality. That’s where platform engineering practices can save the day.

The decision to create a platform is a commitment to help developers of varying skill levels abstract away the complexity of underlying cloud native architectures with interfaces and tools atop readily configured environments.

A platform engineering approach must offer ease of use, elimination of toil, and reduced cognitive load for development teams—helping orgs attract and retain the best talent.

The Intellyx Take

Truly innovative ideas that impact customers represent a core competitive differentiator, and should grow from within the enterprise. That’s difficult when the supply of skilled cloud native development resources is constrained.

Fortunately, platform engineering organizations and technology stacks can automate some of the most difficult work of delivering on the needs of API-driven microservices environments.