In October 2022, when we launched the Backstage-Harness integration for our customers - we started talking to customers who were building their Internal Developer Portal on their own. Months into their journey, many of them complained about the struggles a Platform Engineering team goes through when building an IDP ground up which also includes self managing the hosting and operations aspects. While the trend suggests that IDPs will be everywhere, we couldn’t ignore the challenges our customers were facing in this journey. A successful IDP requires an investment of 3-5 engineers to get an early Proof of Concept, even when using a popular open source project like Backstage. It takes significant effort to set up basic enterprise features like service onboarding pipeline, user and group management, access control, secrets management, audit trails, and more. With Harness IDP, these features are a core part of our platform and are shipped out of the box.
Today, we are proud to go Beta with a handful of customers who need an IDP but find it challenging, costly and time consuming to manage it themselves or find a good alternative. Our IDP is powered by Backstage, the de-facto platform for building developer portals. We want to thank the community for building the software and we are committed to upstream contributions as we move forward.
But let’s back up a second, what is an IDP really? What problems does it solve? And what features does Harness IDP have?
Problems companies are facing today
Let’s start with the problems. The pain starts on day 1 with developer onboarding where it takes too much time and too many tickets to have developers commit, build, test code while also learning the process to get their features to production. It doesn’t get any easier even for more experienced engineers. In today’s cloud-based, decentralized, microservices environments, it’s challenging to manually track all software dependencies and things that need to happen every time changes need to be rolled out from dev-to-test-to-prod. Most organizations use a complex collection of infrastructure (cloud VM, Kubernetes, databases and more), frameworks (code, API, serverless and more) and tools (CI/CD, security scanners, monitoring and more) across different layers of the software stack. This internal maze of technologies creates unnecessary overhead, duplicates effort and hurts developer productivity. As a result, developers end up doing nonessential work to manage the cognitive overhead. Developer productivity and happiness requires removing roadblocks, and tool complexity is one of those roadblocks.
Now let’s take a look at how we are planning to solve these problems using Harness IDP.
Streamlining new service onboarding
How much time does it take for a developer in your company to create a new service? We have heard various answers from days, weeks to months. Lack of automation and standards result in fragmentation of technology choices. Inter-team dependencies make it really difficult to innovate fast.
In Harness IDP, as a developer, you can create a new backend service, API, or a website by submitting a few details as configured by your platform engineering. On the other hand, as a platform engineer, you can orchestrate the onboarding of services by creating pipelines in the Harness Pipeline Studio.
Developers focus on what they do best, which is writing features, while platform engineers focus on creating software templates, automating processes, and enforcing standards.
A catalog of all software components
Imagine a world where you wake up in the morning, get to a single page which can tell you everything you need to know about your running software - its builds, deployments, alerts, errors, etc. And if you want to use a service owned by another team, you get to see its dependencies, documentation, API reference, owner information and much more!
Technical Documentation and Search
With Harness IDP, all your technical documentation written in markdown is made available right alongside the software homepage in the catalog. The docs-like-code approach ensures that docs are treated just like code, they live alongside the code and are updated in the same Pull Request by engineers. It also helps other developers find the documentation without going anywhere.
And with the Search functionality available not only on documentation, but across all the software components you have registered, you can quickly find what you need. This is so much better than “rumor-driven-development” isn’t it? Usually that involves asking a question on the #engineering-help channel and waiting for the handful few to notice and answer.
Extensibility through plugins
The number one reason Backstage is the best developer portal platform out there is its plugin architecture. There are hundreds of plugins available in the marketplace which integrate Backstage with third party providers and enhance the portal. We have built our own plugins and integrated with a curated list of Backstage plugins which you can enable and use.
Sign up for Beta
Harness IDP is currently available to a limited set of customers. We want to work closely with our customers and evolve in more use-cases suited for a Developer Portal. To get started, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a demo and we’ll get you started. To learn more, checkout the documentation at developer hub.