13 Best Platform Engineering Tools for Software Delivery

Platform engineering has become an essential practice for modern software teams looking to optimize their development workflows. By leveraging the right set of reusable tools and automation, platform teams can remove friction from the software delivery process and enable developers to focus their efforts on writing code rather than resolving infrastructure issues.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the 13 most important platform engineering tools that organizations should consider to accelerate software delivery.

What is Platform Engineering?

Before diving into the tools, let‘s quickly define what platform engineering entails.

Platform engineering refers to the practice of providing integrated tooling and services through a platform layer that abstracts infrastructure complexities from developers. The goal is to standardize and automate common development tasks so that engineers can seamlessly self-serve environments and tooling needed to build, test and deploy applications.

Well-designed platform teams empower developers with faster access to infrastructure, eliminate engineering toil, and promote best practices around security, compliance and reliability.

Key Benefits of Platform Engineering

Investing in a solid platform engineering function and toolchain offers organizations many advantages, including:

  • Improved developer experience and productivity: Developers spend less time managing infrastructure and fixing issues.
  • Faster time-to-market: Automated provisioning and deployment accelerates software delivery.
  • Enhanced stability and reliability: Platform tooling standardizes and codifies processes.
  • Better cost optimization: Platform tooling adds governance and visibility into infrastructure usage.
  • Increased innovation: Engineers have more time to focus on adding business value rather than toil.

Provisioning & Configuration Tools

Provisioning and configuration management tools allow platform engineers to automate the process of managing infrastructure and server configurations. Rather than manually setting up servers and environments, engineers can define them as code and spin them up on demand.

Terraform

Terraform is a popular open source infrastructure as code tool that lets teams provision and manage infrastructure safely and efficiently. Key features include:

  • Supports major cloud providers like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud
  • Defines infrastructure through declarative configuration files
  • Enables version controlled infrastructure
  • Offers change automation to push updates
  • Used by Lyft, GrubHub and Nexmo

Terraform is a great choice for codifying and standardizing provisioning processes across hybrid or multi-cloud environments.

Ansible

Ansible is an automation platform for configuring systems and deploying software. It takes more of an imperative approach:

  • Utilizes playbooks to define configuration procedures step-by-step
  • No agents required on managed nodes
  • Simple YAML templates make it very readable
  • Integrates well with CI/CD pipelines
  • Used by NASA, HP Enterprise and Reddit

If you need to standardize server and application configurations across an estate of machines, Ansible is very handy.

Containerization Tools

Containers have emerged as the leading approach for reliably deploying applications at scale. Platform teams need containerization tools to support modern application architectures.

Docker

Docker kickstarted the container revolution by introducing simple tooling to package apps inside lightweight containers. Key features include:

  • Container runtime and image packaging tools
  • Standardizes build process across environments
  • Layered images optimize storage and transfers
  • Huge ecosystem of public images on DockerHub
  • Used by leading tech giants like Google and Microsoft

If your apps can run on containers, leveraging Docker brings immense portability benefits.

Kubernetes

While Docker offers basic containerization capabilities, Kubernetes is the dominant orchestration platform for actually running containerized apps in production:

  • Open source container orchestration system
  • Automates deployment, scaling and operations of container apps
  • Adds resiliency with self-healing and auto-placement features
  • Cloud native so runs well across private/public cloud
  • Used by Pokemon Go, Goldman Sachs and many more leading companies

For container orchestration at scale, Kubernetes is currently the platform engineering tool of choice.

CI/CD Pipelines

CI/CD pipelines automate the testing and release processes for applications to accelerate software delivery.

Jenkins

The most popular open source automation server, Jenkins has long been the go-to CI/CD engine for development teams. Benefits include:

  • Highly extensible via plugins
  • Easy integration with source control systems & other tools
  • Scales well from single jobs to enterprise grade pipelines
  • Used by eBay, LinkedIn, Paypal, Twitter and many more major engineering shops

For flexible pipelines without vendor lock-in, Jenkins is a safe choice.

CircleCI

As a SaaS alternative, CircleCI also offers a leading CI/CD pipeline product:

  • No need to manage your own Jenkins infrastructure
  • Tight integration with GitHub and AWS
  • Fast parallel jobs powered by containers
  • Automated insights with visibility into build performance
  • Used by Coinbase, Spotify, Algolia and other notable tech brands

For teams wanting cloud convenience, CircleCI is a developer-friendly pipeline option.

Monitoring & Logging Tools

Observability is critical for reliability. Monitoring and logging tools give insight into system health, performance issues and errors needed to keep apps running smoothly.

Datadog

Datadog has emerged as a leader in cloud monitoring by offering:

  • Over 400 out-of-the-box integrations
  • Dashboards for metrics, logs and tracing data
  • Anomaly detection powered by AI algorithms
  • Robust alerting capabilities
  • Used by EA Sports, Dow Jones, Fender and other enterprises

For versatility collecting metrics across infrastructure, Datadog is hard to beat.

Elastic Stack

On the open source side, the Elastic Stack is a top choice for logging:

  • Centralized logging pipeline built on Elasticsearch
  • Real-time search and analytics in Kibana
  • Scales easily as data volumes grow
  • Available entirely for free to use
  • Used by Adobe, NASA, Wikipedia and other major institutions

When it comes to collecting, storing and analyzing log data, the Elastic Stack ticks all the boxes.

Testing Tools

Test automation ensures code changes do not introduce regressions. Platform teams should provide devs with self-service access to testing tools.

Selenium

The king of browser test automation tools, Selenium supports:

  • Open source library compatible with many languages
  • Automates web browser interactions
  • Cross-browser testing capabilities
  • Plug-in architecture to extend functionality
  • Used by Netflix, eBay, Slack and other tech unicorns

For reliable front-end testing, Selenium remains the tool of choice after 15+ years.

Jest

On the unit testing front, Jest has emerged as a leading JavaScript testing framework:

  • Created by Facebook for front-end testing
  • Snapshot testing quickly catches UI changes
  • Fast and interactive mode speeds up test runs
  • Easy to add to projects with zero config needed
  • Used by Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and other major web apps

For painless JavaScript unit testing, Jest delivers on its promise.

Security Tools

Security is non-negotiable. Platform teams must incorporate leading security tools to protect applications and data.

Snyk

Snyk takes an intelligent approach to application security testing:

  • Scans container images and application dependencies for vulnerabilities
  • Continuous monitoring spots new threats
  • Automatic PR remediation fixes issues
  • Highly extensible to enhance workflows
  • Used by Google, Salesforce and leading startups

For baked-in security scanning, Snyk is proving very popular.

Twistlock

On the runtime protection side, Twistlock (now Prisma Cloud) locks down production environments:

  • Hardens container hosts and serverless environments
  • Prevents malicious attacks at runtime
  • Detects suspicious activity with machine learning
  • Integrates well with CI/CD pipelines
  • Used by Verizon, ADP and other security-conscious enterprises

When it comes to fortifying cloud native applications, Twistlock brings welcome peace of mind.

Emerging Platform Engineering Trends

Beyond the essential categories above, platform engineering continues to rapidly evolve. Some key trends to watch include:

Low Code/No Code Tools: Solutions like HashiCorp Waypoint and Amazon Honeycode allow teams to assemble platforms with minimal coding. This opens up platform engineering to non-developers.

IaC Frameworks: Major cloud vendors have all introduced their own Infrastructure as Code tools like AWS CloudFormation and Azure Bicep. These build on Terraform‘s success while offering tighter cloud integration.

Platform Ops: With the platform layer growing ever more complex, dedicated tools for managing platforms themselves will grow in importance. Think platform observability, chaos testing and policy controls.

Platform Self-Service: The drive towards fully autonomous platform consumption continues. Expect more intelligent provisioning, progressive delivery features and smart decision-making capabilities.

Best Practices for Adoption

Approaching platform engineering effectively requires getting several things right:

Incremental Delivery: Introduce foundational tools first like Terraform for IaC. Then iteratively expand scope while solidifying governance standards.

Developer Focus: Tools should abstract complexity and empower devs with self-service access. Make productivity the north star.

Loose Coupling: Prefer composable tools that avoid vendor lock-in. Prioritize open standards like Kubernetes over proprietary tech.

Observability: Instrument platform tooling to gain visibility into consumption patterns, failures, costs and performance.

Collaboration: Platform teams need tight feedback loops with application developers. Solicit constant feedback and measure satisfaction levels.

The Future of Platform Engineering

Platform engineering as a discipline still has much room for growth. As more organizations recognize the power of aligned tools and automation to accelerate delivery while reducing costs, investment in platform capabilities will continue intensifying.

Expect ongoing innovation leading to more self-operating platforms. The ultimate goal is fully autonomous infrastructure capable of intelligently adapting to dynamic business requirements while remaining always performant, resilient and secure.

Conclusion

Platform engineering represents the cutting edge of development infrastructure. Organizations that cultivate world-class platform teams are destined to ship better software faster.

This guide covered the 13 most indispensable categories of platform engineering tools currently empowering modern delivery. For architecting resilient, compliant and developer-friendly software factories, these solutions provide an excellent starting point.

Each organization will have unique needs and constraints. Use this overview to jumpstart conversations on assembling your own custom platform toolkit. Reach out if any questions bubble up along the journey!