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KubeCon EU Paris: The (Re)Emergence of Platform as a Product

The Syntasso team have finally unpacked our bags from an amazing KubeCon EU in Paris, and we’re keen to share our learnings! 

A key theme from the conference was the (re)emergence of the “Platform as a Product” (PaaP) approach to platform engineering. Although we’ve long supported the benefits of having a product focus for building platforms, it was good to see this concept getting a lot of airtime (and love!) at this year’s KubeCon EU and the surrounding colocated events.

Many thanks to everyone for the super interesting conversations that occurred at the inaugural Platform Engineering Day, the CNCF Platform WG coffee mornings, and the vendor parties! We heard many great stories about Kratix in the wild, saw a demo on the main stage, and learned about real world adoption stories from NatWest, too!

Using platform as a product thinking at NatWest

Here are our highlights from a successful week of platforming in Paris.

Platform Engineering Day: A big success!

The KubeCon colocated events were fantastic this year, and Paula from our team was a co-organizer for the very popular inaugural Platform Engineering Day! The event room was huge (holding 900+) and full for most of the day. This serves as another strong proof point of how important the topic of platform engineering is. 

Behind the scenes at PlatEngDay

CNCF TAG App Delivery/Platform WG Coffee Mornings

There’s apparently no stopping some people's desire to talk all things platform, because as much as the evening parties were humming, so were the early morning coffee sessions! Abby and several members of the CNCF Platforms Working Group hosted very successful coffee mornings running from Tuesday to Friday of the event week.

Pictures showing the happy participants of the Platform WG coffee mornings

A frequent topic of discussion was the TAG App Delivery’s “Platform Engineering Maturity Model.” If you like to watch content rather than read, our friend Nicki Watt, CEO and CTO of OpenCredo, presented an excellent session that brought the model to life at PlatEngDay, “To K8S and Beyond – Maturing Your Platform Engineering Initiative.”

Another recurring topic during the coffee discussion was how to avoid the platform “build it, and they will come mentality” (Paula was quoted in this Diginomica KubeCon article). The group recommended focusing on developer “jobs to be done”, conducting relevant user research (from leadership to ops and dev), and regularly surveying your customers (the developers) on whether the platform is delivering the desired outcomes.

If you want to continue the conversations online, please join us in the Kratix Slack, where we have a channel dedicated to discussing “platform as a product” and related topics.

Key takeaways from KubeCon EU Paris

There was so much amazing content presented at KubeCon EU that it is hard to summarise. However, here are our (platform engineering-focused) top five key takeaways from KubeCon EU 2024.

"Platform as a Product" is definitely a thing

As highlighted in our favourite PlatEngDay talks, we saw folks from Spotify to Natwest Bank talk about successes with adopting a "platform as a product" approach to building and scaling their internal developer platforms.

A key takeaway was that the product mindset applies throughout the platform stack: portal, platform orchestrator, and infrastructure layers.

Increasing focus on developer experience

From our conversations with senior technical leaders, it was clear that everyone knows the value of developer experience. However, they often have trouble "selling" this to leadership (particularly post-ZIRP). Focusing on DORA and SPACE metrics and cross-org collaboration can help bootstrap platform initiatives and provide tangible goals to aim for.

As Paula mentioned in the KubeCon analyst briefings (and picked up by Mark O'Neill from Gartner), discovering a platform's “jobs to be done” via user research is essential for building a platform that provides value from day one and beyond.:

Insights from Gartner analyst, Mark O'Neill

Infrastructure is boring

Kubernetes, service mesh, gateways, CI/CD, etc., have evolved well and are largely considered "boring tech" (at least to this audience).

The big challenge is assembling the platform puzzle pieces so that you can move faster (providing “everything as a service”), decrease risk (automating manual processes in reusable components), and scale your platform and resources as a fleet.

AI isn't (yet?) making a big impact with platform engineering. 

Although the topics of AI and LLMs were everywhere in this edition of KubeCon EU, we didn’t see a big impact on platform engineering (yet).

Here, you're mostly orchestrating app, platform, and infra components and managing the lifecycles. The "AI ROI" appears to be higher elsewhere.

Portals are only one part of the solution

A portal like Backstage can provide obvious value through service catalogues and "one-click" infrastructure provisioning. However, at KubeCon, we also heard about challenges in implementing and maintaining portal technology. Advice from presenters and attendees was to identify developer pain points, focus on "jobs to be done", and think about day two operations early.

When justifying the business case for a platform and internal developer portal, consider value, viability, feasibility, and usability (from Marty Cagan's INSPIRED).

Thank you! Chat with us about Kratix or Syntasso

The entire Syntasso team had an amazing time at KubeCon EU Paris. As with every KubeCon, the community truly makes this event special. The conversations with attendees, customers, and fellow vendors were amazing.

You can learn more about Kratix via the project’s website, and if you would like a demo for your team, please get in touch. You can also find us on the Kratix OSS Slack, discussing platform technologies and implementation patterns.

And we are hiring! If you or someone you know is looking for a new role that will help to empower platform engineering teams to excel and thrive, Syntasso is the place for you.

The Syntasso team will attend KubeCon NA in Salt Lake City later in the year (wish us luck for the CFPs!). We also organize the London Platform User Group (LoPUG) meetup. We hope to see you in person again soon!

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