Companies that rely on or create software often want to move quickly and avoid breaking things. However, how can larger teams allow developers to continue developing new features and correcting issues without operations teams slowing them down with complicated and time-consuming processes?

How can operations teams empower developers to self-serve environments and infrastructure while implementing guardrails, precautions, and constraints to avoid downtime, security problems, and SLA violations?

Consider creating a developer platform for internal use (IDP). When it comes to setting up your IDP, there are a few crucial procedures to take and technical issues to consider.

Don’t rush or needlessly reinvent

Yes, the first point is self-evident. The transition to a self-serve setup is a multi-step process, and you should implement each stage when you are ready, assessing its applicability and efficacy along the way.

You will create and contribute to your internal platform as you move through these processes. Always check out current commercial and open-source tools to assist you before coming up with your own solutions. From industry standards like version control and Kubernetes to specialized open-source and commercial solutions, there are plenty to choose from.

For starters, you gain from the ecosystem as a whole, as well as from the experiences of other users of these products. Second, you’re not reliant on individual team members to keep track of bespoke tools and risk losing that information.

Consider the creation of an internal developer platform to be a product in and of itself.

Identify your pain points

It’s difficult to determine what will address difficulties if you don’t fully comprehend the issues at hand. Speak with team members or see how they function on a regular basis. Where do they get frustrated and stuck, or waste time on a regular basis?

Are these issues caused by technologies like brittle custom scripts that fail frequently, ineffective secret management, or slow testing environments? Or are they linked to people and processes such as time-consuming approval processes, information silos, or team fiefdoms that are difficult to access from the outside?

Concerns with tools are relatively simple to identify and resolve, but a patch or change will be meaningless if the people and process issues remain unsolved. People are generally hesitant to modify their ways of doing things.

Rather than telling employees, they must change; make sure the new processes and technologies you propose satisfy their concerns and requirements. For example, due to a fear of a security breach, and operations team may impose lengthy and tight approval processes.

Define boundaries

When you have one or more development teams working on different areas of one or more interconnected apps, you’re probably considering building an internal developer platform. This means that separate development teams should be able to work on their own components without interfering with the work of others, and operations and environments should be able to support this goal.

The shift to microservices-based systems has aided in the development of tools and methods that are appropriate for this workflow. Distinct repositories can be used to handle different application components, each of which has its own rights and workflows.

Namespaces in Kubernetes allow you to create virtual clusters for each team or component, each with its own policies and resource allocations.

Automate trust

How do you ensure that code running in environments satisfies requirements when guardrails and limits are in place? Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines are the answer, which you most likely already have in place.

One of the most important aspects of the self-serve journey is ensuring that you can trust these pipelines to function properly and provide useful feedback. Many development teams have shaky CI/CD pipelines with flaky tests and stages that they repeatedly override or ignore. If you have any concerns regarding the thoroughness or effectiveness of your continuous processes, address them before moving on.

Spend time securing your external dependencies and examining their impact on your apps from a security and productivity standpoint as you progress through this procedure.

Fully provision environments on demand

There are a few components that teams frequently overlook while transitioning to infrastructure as code (IaC). Among these are longer-running external services that your application relies on but that are difficult to represent as code for a variety of reasons. DNS routing, object storage, and persistent data stores are examples of this.

Spend effort working out how to allow developers to provision instances of these services or, at the very least, connect to them without needing to speak to an ops team if you want to totally free ops personnel of environment provisioning obligations. With frail legacy systems and applications, this may be more difficult.

There are ways to integrate these tools into an IaC system, such as via the open-source Terraform coding tool, but development teams must first learn how to utilize them correctly.

Create new responsibilities

Many operations teams are apprehensive about implementing self-serve settings because they believe it will jeopardize their careers. This typical argument against automating monotonous jobs is, in most cases, incorrect.

It pays to think in a different way. What matters to customers versus what matters to internal teams? Performance, uptime, stability, security, and new functional features are all important to customers. They are unconcerned about internal delivery routines and pipelines.

Assume that instead of accepting requests from development teams, operations teams may devote more effort to addressing these demands and meeting SLAs. In that situation, not only the developer’s but also the customer’s experience is enhanced.

Towards a good developer experience

If you want a team structure that allows members to focus on duties that are important and relevant to them, go for an internal self-serve configuration. In the long term, this will also assist you in working toward self-serving accounts and environments for external users, such as customers, if applicable. This is one of the most important principles of good developer experience.

Taking your internal procedures seriously and realizing the benefits leads to a wider rethinking of how to handle all developer interactions with your product, which can only be a good thing.

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