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KubeCrash Platform Engineering Recap: From Silo Busting to Thinnest Viable Platforms

The Syntasso team thoroughly enjoyed participating in three sessions at last week’s awesome KubeCrash event, which focused on “Platform Engineering: Building the Ultimate Internal Developer Platform”. The schedule was packed with amazing speakers and talks, and we would like to say a big thank you to all of the organisers, sponsors, speakers, and attendees. 

The session recordings are now available on the event website, and we’ve also added them to our Syntasso YouTube playlist (and you have this playlist bookmarked, right?). 

If you are more of a reader than a video viewer, here is a summary of the takeaways from the KubeCrash panels and presentations we participated in.

Panel Discussion: Essential Keys for Navigating the Path to Platform Engineering Excellence

Our first session of the day, “Essential Keys for Navigating the Path to Platform Engineering Excellence”, involved an amazing panel of Platform Engineering luminaries, featuring the awesome William Rizzo, Abby Bangser, Areti Panou, and Charity Majors, and it was moderated by the fantastic Cortney Nickerson.

Here are our key takeaways from this session:

  • "Platform Engineering is not new, but one thing that is new is bringing the product mindset internally to infrastructure teams", Charity Majors

  • "With internal platforms, you’re generally not starting with greenfield, you’re starting with legacy", Areti Panou

  • "DevOps is not dead, but we have seen the problem of giving too much autonomy to developers. And with autonomy comes responsibility. Teams are getting crushed under the weight of that responsibility", Abby Bangser

  • "Developers cannot be experts in everything, this is where platform engineering is supposed to help to reduce cognitive load for developers", Areti Panou

  • "If you build it, they won’t necessarily come, you need to build the platform that developers need", William Rizzo

  • "Consider interaction modes as outlined in Team Topologies: you may need to start with close collaboration to understand needs, but you should aim to move towards x-as-a-service to be able to serve developers at scale", Abby Bangser

The awesome KubeCrash panel discussed all things platform engineering
The awesome KubeCrash panel discussed all things platform engineering

The panel also shared several “pro tips” for successful platform building:

  • "Build your platform as if you’re building any tool. A tool is used to create or build something else, and your platform should exist to create value; it is not the end goal", William Rizzo

  • "The less code you write, the better. The best code of all is no code! Teams need enough tooling to run services and understand those services", Charity Majors

  • "Be curious before you write any code. Do what you can to see what people are actually doing, not what people say they need", Areti Panou

  • "Consider what your thinnest viable platform is: only deliver what is custom to your business and lean on other tools to leverage commodity", Abby Bangser

If you're building a platform, it is worth watching the recording of this panel!

Customised Internal Platforms without Building from Scratch

The incomparable Abby Bangser was at it again right after the panel! In a solo talk titled “Customised Internal Platforms without Building from Scratch”, Abby shared deep expert knowledge and top tips for building a platform. 

As one of the lead authors on the CNCF TAG App Delivery “Platform Maturity Model” white paper, Abby provided a great overview of aspects organisations must consider regarding platform maturity and development.

I’m obviously biased, but I loved the demo of that showed how we at Syntasso think about solving some of these challenges!

Abby demonstrates the Kratix architecture for building platforms
Abby demonstrates the Kratix architecture for building platforms

Closing Keynote: How NatWest Bank Uses Cloud Native Tools to Deliver Platform as a Product

We heard several participants say that we were saving the best till last with an amazing closing keynote chat, “How NatWest Bank Uses Cloud Native Tools to Deliver Platform as a Product”, between Cat Morris of Syntasso and Chris Plank ☁ of NatWest Group.

If you watched Chris’ and Derik’s talk at the KubeCon Platform Engineering Day, “Unlocking Innovation: How NatWest Bank Uses Cloud Native Tools to Deliver Platform as a Product”, this is the follow-up Q&A that the audience demanded! 

Our key takeaways from this Q&A:

  • An internal developer platform (IDP) can be used as a “silo buster” in a large financial institution in that it helps teams to collaborate more effectively

  • The Natwest "Platform as a Product team" started their platform journey by talking to their internal customers. 

  • The “build it, and they will come” approach might not be recommended, but developers are sceptical. They often want to “see it to believe it”. There needs to be just enough platform to make people aware of what the platform can do and to be able to drive effective input and feedback into the roadmap

  • A contribution-based or “inner sourcing” model is critical for NatWest, as they want to bring internal teams along on the journey and make it possible for the co-creation of capabilities

  • Choosing a framework such as makes this collaboration model possible. Onboarding engineers to the Kratix framework has been relatively fast, and the team haven’t had to throw away all of their old knowledge or tooling

  • Promises can provide a useful API that platform builders can encode organisation requirements, governance, and workflows. These promises can be combined, enabling shareable functionality to be made as a Promise of Promises.

  • When asked about NatWest's future platform plans, Chris believes there will be more internal rollouts, more customers, more feedback, and more (software delivery) value added across the organisation!

Cat and Chris discuss the NatWest bank platform engineering efforts
Cat and Chris discuss all things platform engineering, digital transformation, and whisky

Chris also ended the discussion with a hot take: Apparently, Scotch whisky is better than Irish whiskey! The Syntasso team naturally demanded evidence for this, and so we’re keen to meet up with Chris again soon and run an experiment in the local pub.

Let's Continue the Conversation!

Thanks again to everyone who was involved with KubeCrash. We had a lot of great chats during and after the event, and we are always looking to continue the conversation.

If you want to join the discussions or ask any questions about Kratix or the platform-as-a-product approach to building platforms, please join us in the Kratix Slack!

We're also hosting a webinar next week, "The #1 Platform Engineering Problem You've Never Heard Of: Platform Decay", on May 9th at 3pm BST, with Abby Bangser and Daniel Bryant. We look forward to seeing you there!

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