The Platform Engineer of the Future

I’m quite a regular presenter at VMUGs around EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), often presenting on the Automation part of VMware’s Cloud Management Platform.  One of the perceived outcomes of Automation is it is taking away tasks regularly associated with IT Admin.  I often get asked ‘so, what next for my role – what should I be looking at?’

So, I recently did a series of 3x VMUGs in South Africa, presenting ‘The Platform Engineer of the Future’.  This blog is a summary of that presentation!

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(To any VMUG leaders out there, if you would like my presentation or would like me to present, or find someone to present to your VMUG Chapter please get in touch!)

Platform Engineer of the Past/Present

One constant in my IT career, in the space that I have worked in, has been that workloads have tended to live on servers (first physical, later virtual), with an OS plus an application.  That is, until the last year or two when Containers, Kuberneteses, PaaSes and FaaSes became ‘things’ – more on that later…

The Platform Engineer evolved during this shift from Physical to Virtual, now often seen as a role that plumbs together compute, network and storage to create a highly available Virtual Infrastructure where workloads can land.  There are plenty of best practices that can be followed, and most organisations now have superb platform engineers who have built and now manage some highly capable virtual infrastructure platforms.

What Changed

Everything!  It’s actually a number of things that are playing out:

Digital Transformation – OK, a bit of a buzz word, but ultimately, every organisation I meet is undergoing this.  The main path they follow, is to pursue innovation through providing new high-value applications and services to the consumer.

To you and I, this is typically the app or website we use to engage with a company and spend money with them – the airline with an app that lets us pick our seat, buy a meal or upgrade, the gaming companies that let us place bets at a football match, the retailers that make it easy for us to by their products through an app, the car manufacturer bringing self-driving or driving assist to their cars etc etc….

Containers, Kuberneteses, PaaSes, FaaSes etc – at the same time, many of these new capabilities are being built using new constructs to consume the compute, storage and networks provided by the underlying infrastructure.  Virtual Machines are by no means history, but alongside them, developers are increasingly using these other constructs to speed up and simplify their development effort.

Clouds – the public mega-clouds (currently Amazon, Azure and GCP) are now mainstream – a lot of these workloads, or parts of these workloads, are now often landing in these clouds.

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Private Cloud Infrastructure is solved (!) – OK, I get a hard time sometimes when I refer to on-premises Virtual Infrastructure as a ‘solved problem’.  Maybe I should describe it as ‘mostly solved’!

What has happened here, is that best practices for Virtual Infrastructure are now very mature and well known.  VMware have got VMware Validated Designs (VVDs) which step you through building the best Virtual Infrastructure you can.  Take that a stage further and you can deploy VMware Cloud Foundation hyper-converged systems to your environment – these pre-engineered solutions have the goodness of VVD built into them.   So, perhaps where the platform engineer was spending 80% of their time in this space, maybe that is now 20-40%.

In the Public Cloud Infrastructure is completely solved by the Public Cloud provider.

A word on Services

Before coming to the ‘big reveal’ of the ‘Platform Engineer of the Future’, it’s worth highlighting the real value of a Cloud, be it a Private Cloud or a Public Cloud:

It is SERVICES

The main things that define a Cloud, are the Services it is running.  We can talk about the characteristics of Clouds (elasticity, pooled resources, self service, API, infinite scale etc etc) but the reason people are consuming Public Clouds are principally down to the Services these Clouds are providing (examples…..).

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I think this is the next big area of Private Cloud – as opposed to the IaaS centric Private Clouds, we are going to see an increased number of services provided by Private Cloud – CaaS, PaaS, MySQLaaS, K8aaS, Cloud Foundry, OpenShift etc etc

The Platform Engineer of the Future

It is the Platform Engineer of the Future who is going to be the master of these Services.  Now that the Platform Engineer is no longer spending 80% of their time working on the (nearly) solved problem of Infrastructure, they can spend more time Creating and Curating the Services demanded by the Application development/deployment motions.

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In my next blog on this subject I will look at how VMware’s Cloud Automation Services can play a central part of the new Platform Engineer’s toolkit to Create and Curate Services.

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