DevOps vs. Platform Engineering

Midjourney: a Soviet style poster with a software developer standing triumpantly on-top of a pile of software developers robots.

Names are magic

I don’t really know what I think about the idea and movement of “platform engineering.” It definitely has the feel of a market and category now. I reference it all the time, as do “us all” in the cloud native world. I suspect over the next year it’s the phrase everyone will be using for whatever it is exactly.

On the one hand, platform engineering an obvious, kind of goofy-rude hijacking of DevOps. In a sort of ideal world, it would all just be called “DevOps,” and we’d all be debating if a “DevOps engineer” includes managing the developer platform.

On the other hand, the overall community feels like it’s up to a lot of good. It’s certainly rallied a lot of new content, stories, concepts, and all the thought-leaders. The notion of pulling in IDPs and other developer tools is, I think, an addition to DevOps. But again: shouldn’t that just be an addition to, an evolution of, DevOps?

We have a good discussion of what exactly a “DevOps platform” is on this week’s Software Defined Talk, related to discussing the recent Gartner 2023 Magic Quadrant for DevOps platforms.

The names you give things are powerful, and accumulate a lot of meaning. Re-naming something is often required to evolve it, to sort of reboot everyone’s collective mindset to try again.

“We have three DevOps teams.”

“Cool, cool. How do developers get a development environment to start coding.”

“They open a ticket, of course. Wait. Was that a trick question?”

I’m beginning to think that platform engineering is a new take on DevOps where the community reverses the old DevOps principle that culture matters far more than tools.

In platform engineering (so far), tools matter a great deal. Practices are important (the community is close to subsuming the platform as a product notion). Culture is either assumed or not really in scope: there’s almost this feel of “oh, that’s DevOps' job…”

That’s kind of how DevOps played out at first. Automation, monitoring, then several years of surveys, PDFs, and conferences, and all the slowly-sudden: it’s all about the culture, tools don’t matter.

Agile software development was always about practices and, eventually, culture. The only tools required were unit testing frameworks and, if you were luxurious, backlog/project management tools like Pivotal Tracker and Rally for the SAFe-set.

Agile’s utter rejection of tools probably came as a reaction to the Rational era where tools were king. Rational tools embodied the process and practices. It was sort of impossible to do RUP without tools, especially the UML generators.

As with DevOps, platform engineering will learn soon enough that the people and processes are part of the platform as well: they’re as much a technology as the actual tools. Everyone knows this, of course, because of DevOps. But giving your tools and “culture” equal footing has proven hard to do over the decades. You tend to go way too far on one or the other.

Anyhow! You should check out my talk at PlatformCon! It’s posted now. I try to cover the evergreen practices and mindsets of doing platforms, whatever you want to call it.

These practices are based on years of experiences of platform teams in large, normal organizations like Mercedes, BT, The Home Depot, UBS, JP Morgan Chase, etc. And, the talk is a compact 15 minutes, which was a rewarding challenge.

There’s two other talks I recommend:

My content

Pan fried tofu recipe from Kenji’s wok book.


Talks I’ll be giving, things I’ll be doing, places I’ll be going.

June 21st Cloud Foundry Day, Heidelberg, speaking. June 21st Making digital transformation stick in government agencies, online. June 22nd to 23rd DevOpsDays Amsterdam June 28th, July 4th, July 11th Cloud Native for Financial Services talk series.August 21st to 24th SpringOne & VMware Explore US, in Las Vegas. Sep 6th to 7th  DevOpsDays Des Moines, speaking. Sep 18th to 19th SHIFT in Zadar.

Relevant to your interests


See y’all next time!,, @cote,,