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The Backstage logo, which contains a large B followed by the word "backstage", beside of the Spotify logo.
February 7, 2024

Backstage by Spotify and the DevEx Revolution

"Backstage by Spotify and the DevEx Revolution" discusses Liatrio's approach to implementing Backstage for enterprises, focusing on enhancing developer experience and streamlining DevOps processes.

In the dynamic world of software development, efficiency and organization are paramount. That's where Backstage by Spotify comes into play. This powerful Developer Portal is not just a tool; it's a game-changer for developers seeking streamlined workflows and enhanced productivity. Let's dive into what Backstage is, its capabilities, who it benefits, and how it elevates the developer experience.

What is Backstage by Spotify?

Backstage is an open-source developer portal developed by Spotify for building great developer experiences. It acts as a unified interface for all software templates, application starter kits, infrastructure tooling, services, and documentation. By aggregating every software component, service, and tool into a unified interface, Backstage simplifies the developer's daily tasks and accelerates the development and delivery process.

Backstage is designed for developers, DevOps teams, and platform engineers in organizations of any size. It is particularly beneficial for:

  • Large enterprises with complex software ecosystems.
  • Teams looking to standardize tooling and processes.
  • Organizations aiming to improve their developer experience and productivity.

Core Features of Backstage

  1. Service Catalog: Centralizes all software components, making it easier for developers to find and work on various parts of a project.
  2. Standardized Tooling: Offers a consistent development environment, reducing the cognitive load and learning curve for adopting new tools.
  3. Customizable Templates: Provides a foundation for software templates and a radiator for the target engineering standards.
  4. Documentation Hub: Keeps all project documentation in one place, easily accessible, and up to date.

Enhancing Developer Experience with Backstage

Developer Experience (DevX) is the digital playground where creativity meets code, and innovation intertwines with intuition. It's the vibrant ecosystem that envelops developers, inviting them into a world where the journey of crafting software becomes a seamless, delightful adventure.

In this realm, frustration takes a back seat, and friction is a word rarely uttered. It's a space where intuitive interfaces and well-documented APIs act as gentle guides, paving the way for developers to unleash their creativity without the hindrance of cumbersome obstacles. It's an invitation to play, experiment, and tinker—a space that encourages the bold and rewards the curious.

Developer Experience is not merely a set of tools; it's a philosophy that understands the heartbeat of developers. It acknowledges that the journey of creating software should be as satisfying as the destination it leads to. It's a commitment to creating an environment where the act of programming is not a struggle but a dance—a dance that allows developers to move effortlessly from concept to execution.

Streamlined Workflow

Backstage unifies the development workflow in a single interface. Developers no longer need to navigate multiple tools and interfaces, which significantly speeds up the development process and reduces errors.

Improved Collaboration

With a centralized service catalog and documentation hub, team members can easily access and share information, fostering a more collaborative work environment.

Consistency and Standardization

By offering standardized templates and tooling, Backstage ensures that every team member is on the same page, leading to a more cohesive and efficient development process.

Increased Productivity

Backstage enables the automation of many mundane tasks and organizes resources efficiently, allowing developers to focus on coding and problem-solving rather than administrative tasks. An example of this is that by using a templated kickstarter project hosted in Backstage an engineering team can start development on their new solution with all of the needed infrastructure and deployment configuration that is provided via the project kickstarter. This saves them multiple days of time requesting and setting up a new environment and getting their application to deploy. They can be pushing new changes in minutes vs hours.

Backstage is Part of a Larger Platform Engineering Strategy

Platform initiatives often fail because of lack of adoption. In many cases this is due to the initiative not being focused on serving the developer community and ends up adding additional toil and complexity. This approach actually makes the developers' lives more difficult. At Liatrio, we focus on providing the tooling and enablement for teams to be successful using their platforms. This can be immersive, assisted, and self-service enablement onto the platform and Backstage plays a key role in the platform. Backstages’ focus on developer experience ensures that dev teams can perform on their own, on-demand when they need to in a secure and compliant way.

Collaborative Backstage Implementation by Liatrio

Liatrio specializes in guiding enterprises through the implementation and optimization of Backstage, ensuring a seamless integration that aligns with their unique operational needs and enhances the overall developer experience.

At Liatrio, Backstage acts as the primary entry point for our platform. Our developers interact with our internal platform through Backstage by leveraging software templates, plugins, and documentation provided through Backstage. All three work in conjunction to provide a developer with a seamless experience to interact with their internal platform.

Software Template

Backstage defines software templates as the ability to “Quickly spin up new projects and standardize your tooling with your organization’s best practices”. At Liatrio, we have software templates that do exactly that. We have templates that will give a developer skeleton code to deploy a lambda in AWS, an API running in a container, create docsify/mkdocs repositories, and give boilerplate code for creating applications in different languages. In addition, due to the customization possible by Backstage, we expand that definition. We have templates that will create a PR against an existing repository, with everything a developer needs to get started. For example, if a developer wants a new AWS account, we have a template that can make a PR with all the necessary changes. Implementing software templates allows our engineers not to have to focus on creating Service Now tickets and waiting for approval. It allows them to be self-sufficient and more effective.

Plugins

We utilize plugins to expose certain information about our software catalog. We want to always keep the end user, our engineers, in mind. Too many plugins and components are too cluttered and confusing to read. However, too few plugins and a developer can be confused on what the purpose of a component is and how to interact with it. We make sure to evaluate every plugin we look at and make sure it provides value to us at Liatrio and possibly at our customers. In addition to ready to install plugins from the Backstage community, Backstage also allows for custom plugin development. Allowing organizations to further customize their developer experience.

Below is a screenshot of our Backstage component. Some example plugins we have installed for components include CI/CD and Code insights. Giving us information on the components pipelines and information about the Backstage repo itself (i.e. contributors, releases etc.).

Documentation

Developers should be able to read and understand most, if not all, of what their platform is and offers. Backstage tech-docs allow us to store all of the documentation associated with the platform, tools, how to use/access, on-board apps etc. within Backstage for our developers to access. Eliminating the need for our devs to waste time digging through repository readmes or reaching out to teams for documentation. Developers can add markdown to their repository, tag it properly, and have their documentation show up in Backstage.

How are Enterprise Clients Using Backstage?

Today we have several clients already using Backstage for the Developer Experience tooling. Engineers have the ability to see all of the available documentation, templates, and information in Backstage. When an engineer submits a request for an execution of a template or an edit to a document the users permissions are validated to ensure they have the appropriate access to run that action, following a zero trust principle. They don’t have to request permission in advance to explore what is available.

In addition to this they have access to onboard their newly built application to ArgoCD. This enables them to start continuous delivery of their application to a given environment from day one. The template interface in Backstage guides the engineer through the process of submitting the required data to onboard their application to ArgoCD and then commits the needed information into the appropriate repository so that ArgoCD can now start monitoring that repository and deploying any application changes to the defined environment.

Another template that is in place with our clients is for a team to provision infrastructure for an EKS cluster for their development and deployment needs. The team is presented with a form that contains only the parameters that they can update for configuring an EKS cluster. Upon submission the automation in the backend of the platform goes into their defined AWS account and provisions all of the necessary components for them to fully run an EKS cluster and application.

We have also implemented usage statistics for Backstage using plugins like Matomo to track and report on how many users are visiting the portal, what they are clicking on, and tracking how many people are using the defined templates.

Understanding the Enterprise's Unique Ecosystem

Liatrio begins by deeply understanding the specific challenges and requirements of each enterprise. This involves analyzing the existing software development lifecycle, the diversity of tools in use, and the unique pain points faced by the development teams. Our approach is not one-size-fits-all; we tailor solutions that respect the nuances of each enterprise’s software ecosystem.

Strategy Development and Customization

Drawing from our expertise, we develop a strategic plan for integrating Backstage into the enterprise’s environment. This includes customizing Backstage to fit within the existing toolchain and align with the organization's workflow. Our team works closely with enterprise stakeholders to ensure the platform is not just implemented, but is also fine-tuned to offer maximum benefit.

Streamlining Adoption with Enablement and Support

A key aspect of our approach is facilitating the adoption of Backstage among all relevant teams within the enterprise. Liatrio provides comprehensive immersive enablement sessions, workshops, and continuous support, ensuring teams are well-equipped to leverage Backstage to its full potential. This includes hands-on sessions for working with the service catalog, creating templates, and effectively using the documentation hub.

Ensuring a Seamless Integration

Liatrio’s experts meticulously oversee the integration of Backstage, ensuring it dovetails seamlessly with the enterprise’s existing systems and workflows. We prioritize a smooth transition, minimizing disruptions to ongoing projects while maximizing the immediate benefits of the new platform.

Ongoing Optimization and Evolution

Our engagement doesn’t end with the initial rollout. Liatrio believes in continuous improvement and evolution. We provide ongoing support and advertisement, ensuring the Backstage platform evolves alongside the enterprise, adapting to new challenges and opportunities in the software development landscape.

Building a Culture of Efficiency and Collaboration

Beyond the technical implementation, Liatrio aims to cultivate a culture where efficiency, collaboration, and innovation are at the forefront. By implementing Backstage, we help enterprises create an environment where developers can thrive, collaborate more effectively, and contribute to the overarching goals of the organization.

Conclusion

Backstage by Spotify is more than just a developer portal; it's a comprehensive solution that addresses many of the pain points in modern software development. By centralizing tools, services, and documentation, Backstage not only streamlines workflows but also fosters a culture of collaboration and efficiency. For any organization looking to enhance its developer experience, Backstage is a powerful ally, aligning perfectly with the ever-evolving needs of the software development world.

In today's competitive landscape, adopting platforms like Backstage could be the key to staying ahead. It's not just about managing resources; it's about empowering developers to excel in their roles, driving innovation and success in the software development journey.

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