Developer Portal

Developer Portal for Beginners

If you've heard the term 'Developer Portal' a few times and wonder what all the fuss is about, this article is for you. Zohar Einy, CEO of Port, is on hand to run through everything you need to know about DevPortals.

What is a Developer Portal?

As DevOps has matured, Developers have needed easy access to an ever-increasing number of moving parts. Microservices, DevTools, CI, CD, Scripts, Saas, Cloud resources, IaC - the list goes on.

It's very easy for this ecosystem to become chaotic for Developers. Simple things like microservice ownership or deploying new versions become a time-draining challenge. This isn't a productive or cost-effective way of working.

The Developer Portal is a unified, self-service view of the Developer's ecosystem. It consolidates everything Developers need so that it's quick and easy to find.

This is a very general answer so let's go a bit deeper into the specific layers that make up a DevPortal and how it all works together.

Components of a Developer Portal

As a holistic platform, DevPortals have many components to take into account.

Software Catalog Layer

The Software Catalog Layer is where Developers go to discover the answer to any software question they might have. It's a unified view of the different software components within the organization. 

Software components you might find in the Software-Catalog layer often include:

  • Microservices
  • Cloud Resources (K8S, Lambda, RDS, etc…)
  • Cloud Providers (AWS, GCP, Azure)
  • Environments (Production, Staging, QA, Security, DevEnvs…)
  • Permissions
  • Secrets
  • Deployments

And that's just the beginning. The many components can also have dependencies between them. For example, managing the Software Catalog layer in a visual representation is essential to answering complex questions. 

Self-Service Layer

Once you have organized your software components, the self-service layer is where Developers can come to perform actions. 

"Deploy this Microservice" or "Add Cloud Resource" are daily tasks for Developers. This is where they can perform actions on the assets you manage within your catalog. This is the front door for everything a developer might need.

Control Layer

With a great DevPortal comes great responsibility. Without proper controls in place, security, compliance, and cost controls become chaos. 

It's possible to implement a number of control measures across the Software Catalog and Self Service layers. 

  • Permissions: manage access to the data shown in the Software Catalog.
  • Actions: allow different self-service actions based on a role within the organization.
  • User Tracking: all actions within the DevPortal are tracked to ensure you stay compliant with current certifications. 
  • Automation: revoke, remediate, revert, and cron-job automations will help set proper processes around DevPortal provisions. 

Product Management Layer

This just might be my favorite layer. When designing a DevPortal, think like a Product Manager. One that actually understands Developers. Here are a few things to include if your DevPortal is going to be successfully adopted:

  1. Wizards and tutorials for new users.
  2. Embedded documentation to explain the DevPortal glossary.
  3. Custom views for different teams depending on their business function.
  4. Chat and support functions are easily accessible at all times.
  5. Analytics dashboards to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the DevPortal.

Stakeholders in a Developer Portal

Developer Portals are unusual in that they are used as internal products. The 'customers' are colleagues of the team that adopt it. 

The team often responsible for the DevPortal could be the:

  • DevEx team
  • Platform team
  • DevOps team

These teams are responsible for the success of the DevPortal. Making it a successful means selling their colleagues on the new platform. Encouraging colleagues to adopt new ways of working can be challenging – they have to see the benefits in the short term and the long term. 

DevPortal' customers' can be:

  • Developers
  • DevOps
  • NOC
  • SRE
  • Data Engineers
  • Customer Success

Each one has a unique set of needs. Therefore, it's essential to design the DevPortal with each group of users in mind to see the platform's immediate benefit.

A recommended book for the Technical Managers reading it is Team Topologies, talking about the NG architecture of R&D teams when thinking about IDP (Internal Developer Portal).

Benefits of a Developer Portal

Hopefully, you can see why Developer Portals are becoming an integral part of an effective tech stack. Forward-looking companies like Spotify and Lyft have already implemented and advocated for DevPortals. They will soon become a standard feature in more and more organizations. 

However, if you need a few short, snappy sentences to sell this concept to your manager - we've got you covered:

Take the Developer Experience to peak performance

R&D is one of the most strategic units within any company. Ensure Developers can easily navigate through the software stack, and you'll allow them to reach peak agility and performance.

Eliminate infrastructure clutter. Deliver faster

Save valuable time spent understanding, communicating, and managing the different assets R&D rely on. Remove the clutter, chaos, and ownership headaches around microservices, cloud resources, and databases. Time-consuming and complex tasks become one-click operations allowing the team to get results faster.

Lower operating costs

Being more organized means lowering costs. A unified, self-service interface allows teams to efficiently classify and manage costs. Break down resource consumption by each team to make better decisions and optimize costs.

Reduce technical debt

Technology is here to change, and it's time to become futureproof. The DevPortal's user interface is decoupled from the underlying infrastructure. This means that the constant updates and changes made 'under the hood' don't impact the user interface - internal customers get a consistent experience. 

Conclusion

The Developer Portal is becoming an essential part of every R&D tech stack. When designing yours, work your way through the various layers, considering how they will work together. Stay agile, don't over-complicate it, and you'll be ok!

At Port, we are passionate about Developer Portals. Our dedicated team of expert DevEx Engineers & Product Managers are on hand to help and advise your DevPortal strategy.

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