Author: Sam McLeod

Each year as part of our approach to Tech Vitality DigIO runs a number of Tech Radar workshops with a diverse range of engineers across multiple Mantel Group brands to provide insights from their consulting experiences and research.

If you’d like to learn more about the DigIO Tech Radar and how it fits into our Tech Vitality process then Sangeeta Vishwanath, one of our Principal Engineers, describes it in detail in her article – Tech radar – Discover emerging tech trends.

In this piece, we will review some of the key themes to come out of our most recent Platform Tech Radar.

Key Themes

In general, we find that the Platform space has not moved as substantially in the past year as we have seen in development.

Cloud vendors continue to mature their platform offering for platforms like Kubernetes, event streaming and security but still fall behind when comparing CI/CD tooling compared to Github and GitLab.

The monitoring and APM market is becoming crowded and costly with no clear winners.

Adopting cloud native solutions over third party integrations continues to show value.

Adopt / Assess

The following key areas surfaced as items of interest to adopt or assess during our workshops:

AWS & Terraform CDKs
There is continued interest in AWS CDK with engineers looking to learn and possibly extend CDK using Terraform. Terraform has also released their own CDK with Typescript support.

AWS App Mesh
For workloads running on AWS looking for mTLS support without the need for a complex third party tool such as Istio or LinkerD, AWS App Mesh could be an answer. Assessments and proof of concepts are required to understand its real world limitations and use cases.

Cloud Native Secrets Engines
Solutions such as AWS Secrets Manager should be the first choice for secrets management, and third party products such as Hashicorp Vault avoided unless there is a specific use case and team to properly support its deployment and maintenance which can become significant overheads as complexity and teams grow.

Cloud Native Kubernetes Clusters
Cloud vendor provided Kubernetes solutions such as EKS and GKE should be adopted to replace self-managed cluster deployments.

Dockerless Builds and Container Backends
We’re seeing platforms such as Kubernetes move away from Docker to options such as containerd. There has been increased interest in building container images without using the Docker daemon (using tools such as Buildah or Kaniko). Local container build tooling is shifting from Docker Desktop to solutions such as Podman or Colima (preferably running rootless).

GitHub Actions
We’ve seen significant interest in Github Actions for CI/CD throughout 2021. Historically the offering has not offered the same level of configurability and controls as GitLab however recent product developments are quickly closing the gap. There are a growing number of open source projects and enterprise organisations that have – or are moving from legacy tooling such as Travis, Jenkins and Bamboo to Actions. Additionally Github’s integrated ‘advanced security’ offering is interesting – but comes at a significant cost for private repositories.

Avoid

While it is important to talk about trends, it is just as important for us to talk about things to avoid. The following items were called out to not invest in at present.

AWS Code / Cloud Build
We find that AWS Code / Cloud Build is still not mature enough to invest in, the pipeline experience is poor, has a very simple feature set and doesn’t offer the same level of SCM integration as GitLab or Github.

Azure ARM
Use Terraform or Bicep instead.

Azure DevOps
Github Actions seems to be the path forward from Microsoft. Investing in Azure DevOps now may cause future rework.

Cloudformation
Use Terraform or CDK.

Docker (Desktop)
Docker’s future is uncertain and newly restrictive licensing has become an issue. Where possible it should be replaced with daemonless build tools such as Buildah or Kaniko. For local development and running containers tooling such as Podman or Colima (preferably running rootless) should be adopted.

Hashicorp Vault
We are seeing an increase in engineering teams struggling with the overhead of deploying, maintaining and configuring self-hosted Vault for secrets management. Generally we’ve seen that Cloud Native tooling is easier to use, requires less maintenance and often offers better Cloud specific integration.

Istio
While fundamentally a good technology – bloat and complexity often outweighs Istio’s value while adding considerable maintenance and expertise overhead. Istio frequently makes troubleshooting more difficult and time consuming. Its deployment and configuration requires specialist knowledge. Cloud Native offerings or lighter weight options such as LinkerD should be considered as alternatives.

What’s next?

Tech Radars serve as input to our wider technology strategy that helps us provide informed recommendations to our clients, relevant training for our engineers and opportunities for Solution Accelerators.

Training is typically used for technologies in Assess or Adopt categories where we have small pockets of strong knowledge, but need to broaden this knowledge across the team. We pride ourselves on being a learning organisation and we often leverage the knowledge of experienced team members to develop and deliver our own training material. 

DigIO – A human approach to technology.