As a developer who has worked on multiple projects and teams, I'm often asked - what are IDPs, and why should organizations invest in building them? I'll try to answer those key questions and more by providing an overview of IDPs, their capabilities, benefits, and best practices for implementation.
IDPs centralize tools and workflows for developer efficiency.
Benefits include visibility, standardization, and faster releases.
Best practices involve incremental rollout and user feedback.
My goal is to give engineering and product leaders a comprehensive look at how IDPs are transforming software development. This article explores why IDPs are vital for productivity, collaboration, and paved pathways to production.
What are Internal Developer Platforms?
Internal developer platforms (IDPs) have become mission-critical hubs empowering modern software teams. IDPs provide developers self-service access to environments, tools, and knowledge needed to build applications efficiently.
IDPs are centralized platforms tailored to internal engineering team needs. They streamline development by integrating tools into cohesive workflows spanning inner loop coding to outer loop deployment. IDPs provide the foundation and guardrails for developers to innovate rapidly on paved paths to production. This way, engineering orgs can move fast without compromising governance.
It is crucial to distinguish between an internal developer portal and an internal developer platform, as the former is an interface through which developers can discover and access the platform's capabilities. At the same time, the latter is the comprehensive integration of tech, tools, and processes that standardizes and streamlines the development workflow for developers.
Unified access portals - Discover environments, services, documentation
Identity and access management - RBAC, authentication, SSO
Standardized tooling - Configured IDEs, containers, CI/CD integrations
Environment provisioning - On-demand dev sandboxes and stacks
Infrastructure management - Cluster, network, cost visibility
Deployment automation - Pipelines, GitOps, canary releases
Monitoring and observability - Logs, metrics, tracing for apps and infra
IDPs seamlessly combine these capabilities into a frictionless developer experience. Ideally, IDPs should also provide robust Development Environment Management (DEM) to provision and orchestrate standardized dev environments - spanning tools, infrastructure, and the entire inner loop. DEM can thus be seen as a crucial enabler of IDP goals related to consistency and productivity.
Seeing how much time developers without DEM spend simply configuring local environments made me appreciate Daytona's automated environment provisioning and unified workflow capabilities.
The Benefits of Streamlined Workflows
For Engineering Leaders:
IDPs give leaders visibility into team workflows and help enforce organizational standards. Consistent environments and automated pipelines improve quality while accelerating release velocity. Guardrails provide oversight while empowering developer autonomy.
For Platform Teams:
IDPs enable self-service workflows by simplifying provisioning. Integration of disjointed systems also reduces drift. Platform teams spend less time on repetitive tasks and more on innovation.
IDPs eliminate wasted time configuring tools and environments. Paved pathways guide developers to focus on creating value, not overcoming operational hurdles. IDPs enhance collaboration through standards that connect previously siloed teams.
Examples of Internal Developer Platforms
IDPs are becoming ubiquitous at leading software companies to solve challenges at scale.
Several key players in the Internal Developer Platform (IDP) market offer unique solutions to enhance software development workflows. Notable providers include Spotify's Backstage, Port, Cortex, Rely, Configure8, Humanitec, Atlassian's Compass, Cycloid, OpsLevel, and Harness, each bringing distinct strengths to the table. There are also opinionated versions built on Backstage from Red Hat called Developer Hub and from VMware called Tanzu. Roadie also has their version of Backstage, stating that theirs comes with "batteries". The diversity in this space highlights the growing importance and potential of IDPs.
As noted by Kaspar Von Grunberg, CEO of Humanitec, for The New Stack, many platform engineering teams initiated their journey by building developer portals but found that other platforming initiatives could have delivered more significant enhancements in developer productivity and return on investment.
For example, Backstage from Spotify has been widely adopted by over 175 diverse organizations, including giants like IKEA, Netflix, and VMware along with major companies across finance, retail, automotive, healthcare, and other industries. This broad adoption demonstrates Backstage's versatility as an internal developer portal and inner source solution for standardizing tooling and documentation and improving engineering efficiency and collaboration at scale.
Best Practices for IDP Adoption
Launching an IDP is a complex undertaking, but following a methodical approach can ensure success:
Incrementally roll out capabilities starting with developer pain points.
Involve users early and gather continuous feedback.
Incentivize usage by highlighting productivity gains.
Integrate with existing systems to avoid disruptive migration.
Build internal champions at all levels to promote adoption.
Plan for scale and high availability as the platform matures.
By taking an intentional approach, organizations can transform fragmented systems into cohesive IDPs that supercharge developer productivity. Developers gain autonomy and flexibility while keeping alignment with organizational objectives.
The Road Ahead
As software delivery grows more complex, IDPs will only increase in strategic value. But looking ahead, I see massive potential for IDPs to become even more intelligent and integrated into engineering workflows. IDPs that continuously adapt and improve based on monitoring usage patterns and feedback.
Echoing a previous blog post, enhancing productivity involves automating processes and reducing complexities via a streamlined platform. James Governor's recent Red Monk video supports this, emphasizing the role of opinionated infrastructure and golden paths in productivity. Platforms like Daytona provide a guided path, balancing a structured yet flexible development framework that respects security needs while fostering innovation.
Leading DEMs like Daytona will continue evolving capabilities like intelligent environment configuration and granular policy management. The future is frictionless platforms with IDPs tightly coupled with DEMs to unlock developers' innovation potential. IDPs provide the foundation for engineering orgs to achieve unprecedented productivity, scale, and reliability.