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Self-Service: What Benefits Do Developers Gain?

Today, many programmers are spending more time than ever solving the same problems manually. This manual work is both tedious and error-prone. Developer self-service has become a major trend in software development, and there’s no turning back. Many developers would prefer to spend their time doing what they love: coding, rather than spending it on mundane tasks like setting up/maintaining infrastructure, configuration management, and version control.

Over the past two decades, developer self-service solutions have made tremendous headway in the developer community. Some of these tools are quite popular, but there are still a number of developers who have never used them. The article discusses why it is important to provide developers with the ability to manage their own applications delivery on cloud.

What is Developer Self-service?

Self-service is a concept that should be familiar to anyone who has worked in the tech industry. It's the idea that you can solve any problem yourself, without having to wait for customer service to answer your call or send an email. Self-service features are something that most of us use every day, whether it's sending an email or booking a flight online.

If you think about tools like Slack, Zoom, and Canva, what they all have in common is the possibility to get started with the product and basically serve yourself with whatever you need from those platforms. The same applies to developers.

Developer Self-service is a term used to describe the ability of developers to create their own service or application without any need for operations help. This can be done by creating applications that are capable of working on their own, with no requirement for an ops person to maintain them. This makes it easier for developers and teams to take care of themselves, which in turn creates more efficient business processes.

If we go beyond that, a software team these days works with cloud technologies and needs to create the underlying infrastructure, environments, and resources to support their apps and services. This can be done via a self-service platform, usually provided by DevOps experts called a platform team. A self-service platform should enable developers to serve themselves with the technologies, tools, and components to safely create and maintain their apps and most importantly - deliver them to the cloud.

Developers are an integral part of any business, nowadays. Whether they are writing, debugging, or working with customer support, developers play a critical role in the company’s operations. At the same time, creating code that works is only half the battle. Ensuring that your developers are happy to be at work each day is equally important.

Let’s see how self-service functionality can make life easier for your developers.

Why is Developer Self-service of great importance?

The whole DevOps philosophy relies on efficient communication and synchronization between developers and operations teams. With the larger number of applications, technologies, tools, and data today, this sync can be really hard to achieve. Adding project management tools and implementing various processes can at times over-complicate things, instead of help.

At its core, self-service is a model that puts the power in the hands of developers. It’s designed to allow for greater efficiency by enabling developers to focus on code rather than logistics. With self-service, developers are able to take full control over their infrastructure and application configuration, while being shielded from the underlying complexities of the cloud providers and services.

The benefits of self-service development include:

How Does The Developer Self-Service Model Work?

A good self-service platform needs to cover the skill deficit in a team, by providing the necessary means to guide developers through the application development process. The platform should eliminate the need for intervention by professional architects, cloud experts, and engineers, by incorporating “guardrails” and best practices that enforce a standardized approach to cloud-native application deployment.

It usually starts with setting up a cloud environment and automation of the whole infrastructure process. This requires deep DevOps knowledge that is hard to find and really expensive to preserve. So in order to scale the DevOps process, companies use one of two approaches:

  1. create an internal developer platform, where a dedicated team of expert DevOps engineers prepares the necessary tooling and setup of the underlying infrastructure and exposes APIs to the application development team, or
  2. use a SaaS solution that provides self-service capabilities for developers to be able to configure their delivery environments and deploy their apps on the cloud.

In both cases, what usually happens is DevOps engineers create an operating environment with IaC templates (CloudFormation, Terraform, Pulumi). These templates have their own version control lifecycle and go through IaC code reviews to ensure quality code is being delivered to production. They are then ready to be delivered to developers in a self-service manner, through components and service catalogs, or APIs they can consume and implement into their solutions. In some cases, multiple components can be configured together to provide a ready-made infrastructure, like our example - the Strapi template that can be deployed on AWS in minutes.

These practices are what enable developers to serve themselves with infrastructure and service components, allowing them to have a working stack in minutes with pre-configured security. This eliminates bottlenecks, miscommunications, and tickets that pile up, as well as reduces the time to release new features and get feedback significantly.

Closing thoughts

The power of self-service is all around us. We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of what self-service means for developers, and how it helps deliver applications that you use in everyday life. The practices outlined here - automation, code reviews, IaC templates as components, and APIs - are essential for providing self-service delivery of cloud-native solutions.

Companies are increasingly adopting the model of GitOps to build self-service platforms. This is because they find it easier to manage infrastructure in a platform and can take advantage of automation and standardization in the process.

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