Speed is critical in the tech world. Organizations want to ship code quickly to gain a competitive edge. However, developers often need more time for essential infrastructure, environments, and access from Ops teams. These delays waste precious time, and slow down development velocity and productivity.

What if they had a self-service environment that allowed them to independently provision infrastructure, deploy code, and monitor apps without dependency?

That’s where developer self-service platforms come in—they provide developers with automated tools and infrastructure to ship code quickly while managing the underlying complexity.

But why do they matter?  This article will dive into the need for developer self-service platforms—their components, benefits, challenges, and more—to understand their growing relevance in enabling engineering velocity.

By the end, you'll have clarity on how self-service platforms can also transform software delivery at your organization. Let's get started.

What Is Developer Self-Service?

A simple diagram showing how self-service enables empowers developers

"Self-service" refers to giving developers direct access to the tools and environments needed to do their jobs without gatekeepers or bottlenecks.

For example, a developer needing a new testing environment would previously have to open a ticket and potentially wait days for Ops to provision resources. With self-service, that same developer can instantly spin up a new testing environment in minutes with a button with the help of predefined paths.

Self-service eliminates delays by removing humans or processes from repetitive infrastructure tasks. Instead, it automates provisioning, configuration, and management with code and policy guardrails set by Ops teams.

This self-service capability empowers developers with greater autonomy over their workflow. At the same time, it frees up Ops teams from mundane upkeep and allows them to focus on higher-order concerns. Let’s now understand self-service from Ops and developer perspectives.

Why Use Self-Service Platforms for Ops Teams?

Self-service for Ops helps create and set up guardrails, well tested provisioning templates to cater to the infrastructure needs of developers. A self-service platform provides the following to Ops teams:

  • Automated infrastructure provisioning - Ops team can instantly spin up pre-configured environments on demand using self-service channels, eliminating manual work. They may be able to delegate this work to devs for lower environments

  • Reusable Infrastructure-as-code - Ops team distribute reusable IaC templates, enabling consistency, version control, and repeatability.

  • Consistent Environment management - Solutions provide visibility and control across the entire environment lifecycle from creation to decommission, allowing teams to track, monitor, and manage infrastructure – preventing drift.

  • Centralized Role-based access controls - Ops team can grant or delegate access to users from a centralized platform without dealing with complex access configurations of every tool. 

  • Policy enforcement - Ops team uses Guardrails embedded in code to enforce security, compliance, architecture, and governance standards.

  • Centralized Auditing - Centralized event logging and access audit trails improve ability to trace activity back to individual users without configuring or collating audit trails of individual tools.

  • Integrations - Tie-ins with existing developer tools like IDEs, repos, pipelines, etc., enable teams to seamlessly gather all information in a self-service manner from tools they already use.

With these capabilities, developers can obtain the resources needed for local development, testing, staging, and production without bottlenecks within organizational guardrails. Teams reduce delays and manual processes, allowing them to ship software faster.

Meanwhile, Ops retains centralized visibility and guardrails across all environments and acts as an enabler for the larger development team. This improves security while still granting teams autonomy within the platform.

Benefits of a Self-Service Platform for the Ops teams

Conversely, what benefits do self-service platforms offer for Ops teams? How does it help them focus less on tasks and more on higher-level strategy?

1. Allow Ops to Move from Tasks to Strategy

In traditional models, Ops team spends countless hours on manual, repetitive infrastructure tasks like:

  • Provisioning and configuring servers,

  • Setting up networks and load balancers,

  • Tuning databases,

  • Patching vulnerabilities,

  • Tweaking firewall policies.

This endless list of tasks focuses Ops on low-level infrastructure upkeep. Enabling developer self-service lifts this burden through infrastructure automation and policy guardrails.

With self-service, Ops define infrastructure as code (IaC) templates and policy controls and expose them through an internal product. This codifies institutional knowledge into a well-defined platform, over manual processes and adhoc automation. Automation and built-in policy enforcement then handle the grunt work of provisioning and managing infrastructure.

With this setup, Ops can now focus on high-value initiatives like:

  • Improving security posture by defining once and reusing over and over

  • Hardening governance and compliance and enforcing through a platform than documentation alone

  • Build cost optimization and resource utilization strategies

  • Architecting infrastructure for scalability and reliability

  • Building shared tools and services for developers

  • Improving further ways to improve cross-team collaboration

Self-service allows Ops to apply their expertise to strategic engineering challenges rather than repetitive maintenance. This helps unlock innovation velocity across the org.

2. Improve Security and Compliance

Giving developers infra access may improve their autonomy but compromise security and compliance. However, self-service policy controls and guardrails prevent this from happening.

With self-service, Ops defines compliant infrastructure configurations as code in a reusable fashion. This bakes in security best practices and governance by default—taking Ops from by-audit to by-design

The platform enforces these standardized policies on all provisioned resources and prevents misconfiguration and repeated audits.

For example, Ops can define that production databases must be encrypted, replicated, and monitored. The self-service platform would then automatically ensure any database a developer spins up meets these policies.

Centralized policy, implemented in code, helps you increase Ops confidence that governance is baked into the stack, and prevents developers from intentionally or accidentally creating non-compliant resources.

But there’s more. Comprehensive centralized audit logging provides visibility into all user activity for monitoring potential security events, and tracing any provisioned resource back to an individual user improves accountability.

3. Speed up Time from Commit to Deploy

One primary Ops goal is improving code flow from commit to deployment. However, manual infrastructure provisioning and change approval processes often bog down software delivery.  

Self-service platforms allow the acceleration of this pipeline. With self-service, Ops enables one-click environment creation and automated CI/CD pipelines.

Together with cultural changes, self-service gives developers responsibility for owning the deployment process end-to-end. Ops maintains guardrails and oversight but avoids being the release bottleneck.

This speed and autonomy energize developers and allow the business to ship new features faster. At the same time, integration with Ops tools gives visibility over the entire pipeline. This improves reliability as Ops can roll back changes quickly if issues emerge post-deploy.

Now, let’s look at developer self-service and how it impacts the developer workflows.

Why Use Self-Service Platforms for Developers?

Developer self-service focuses specifically on the capabilities aimed at improving developers' workflows. Developer self-service platforms provide developers with direct access to

  • Environments - Instantly spin up/down infrastructure environments on-demand for coding, testing, debugging, etc.

  • Tools - Self-service access to use dev tools, IDE plugins, databases, and more without configuring all on their own.

  • App services - Managed services like databases, queues, caches, storage, etc., available on-demand improving new feature launch.

  • Data - Available on-demand, test data sets, masked data, backups, etc. without a lot of coordination Also getting access to release, monitoring and audit data helps track fast moving changes with ease.

  • Build automation - CI/CD pipelines with pre-built templates requiring zero Ops involvement to automate code integration and delivery.

  • Collaboration - Share projects, code, environments, and tools with other developers to foster teamwork.

The goal is to create an automated and integrated internal dev platform with minimal delays to give engineers everything they need. Developers gain autonomy over their toolchain and can work without being blocked on resource requests.

Benefits of a Self-Service Platform for Developers

Why is self-service so critical for developers? What specific benefits does it provide over traditional models?

1. Give Developers Autonomy Over the Tech Stack

In traditional infrastructure models, developers have little say over their tools and technologies. Ops acts as a gatekeeper because of operational concerns like security, cost, and standardization.

While these are valid concerns, top-down standardization can hamper developer productivity. Developers get stuck using outdated languages, frameworks, and databases dictated by Ops, making them less efficient to meet business needs. With developer self-service, devs now have the autonomy to provision their tech stack. 

For example, a team could instantly spin up a PostgreSQL database rather than going through a two-week process to request it from Ops. Combining automation and policy guardrails gives developers more tech flexibility while meeting governance needs.

2. Free Developers from Infrastructure and Tools Tinkering

Despite access to modern tools, developers can still lose significant time tinkering with underlying infrastructure or tools instead of writing code. Configuring servers, networking, databases, and other Ops tasks distracts from building applications. Developer self-service platforms abstract away backend complexity so engineers can focus on coding. 

For example, a dev on your team could use a single CLI command to instantiate a production-ready container environment for their application but within the allowed budget and an air-gapped controlled environment. This Container-as-a-Service approach allows coders to focus their skills on developing software rather than wrangling infrastructure.

By handling all the underlying infrastructure, self-service platforms let developers spend more time innovating and maximizing the business value they create.

The Internal Platform Model

A fully-featured internal DevOps platform integrates with tools across four major categories. Let’s look at the categories and examples of tools within the same. 

1. Infrastructure Provisioning

Infrastructure-as-a-service solutions allow users to provision virtual machines, containers, serverless functions, and other fundamental computing resources.

For example, using a platform like Facets, developers could leverage an internal "cloud" to spin up transient sandbox environments without waiting on ticket fulfillment from Ops. 

Some standard solutions include:

  • Virtualization - Cloud VMs or on-premise VM managers like OpenStack, Nutanix, oVirt, and VMware allow Ops to pool and allocate compute resources.

  • Container orchestration - Cloud-native container management or Open platforms like Kubernetes, Docker Swarm, and OpenShift containerized infrastructure as portable workloads.

  • Serverless/FaaS - Cloud serverless solutions or open Solutions like OpenFaaS and Kubeless provision auto-scaling function workflows.

  • Resource allocation - Cloud management platforms like VMware vRealize automate, and govern provisioning.

  • Infrastructure-as-Code - Terraform, Ansible, and Puppet define infrastructure in declarative configuration files.

Additionally, robust API/CLI access allows these tools to integrate into Facets so users can deploy pre-approved configurations with a single click or API call.

2. Environment Management

Environment management solutions track all resources across their lifecycle from creation to decommission. They offer visibility, access controls, cost reporting, and quota management to help Ops govern resources. 

Here are some commonly used tools:

  • Infrastructure monitoring - Platforms like Datadog, Prometheus, and Grafana provide utilization, uptime, and performance metrics.

  • Release Management - Solutions like ArgoCD, Harness, and Octopus Deploy manage changes to k environments.

  • Service catalogs - Catalogs like backstage publish infrastructure offerings.

  • Access governance - Tools like HashiCorp Vault and CyberArk manage secrets and control access.

  • Cost management - Cloudability, ParkMyCloud, and Kubecost report spending across resources.

  • Quota enforcement - Throttles prevent teams from over-provisioning resources like CloudCheckr and vRealize Automation.

Robust lifecycle management ensures compliance while granting developers the freedom to self-service resources.

3. Developer Acceleration

Developer acceleration tools increase engineer productivity with self-service access to data, collaboration, and dev tools. 

Common solutions include:

  • Data plane - Offers test data sets, reference data, and masked data for developers. Tools like Delphix, and Cloud Data Services allow self-service data access.

  • IDE Plugins - Access environments, collaborate, and deploy apps directly from IDEs like VS Code, IntelliJ, and Eclipse via plugins.

  • Collaboration - Solutions like Slack, GitHub, and GitLab foster communication and code sharing.

  • Tool distribution - Package and image registries like JFrog Artifactory and Sonatype Nexus proxy-approved developer tools and dependencies.

  • CI/CD - Pre-built pipelines in tools like Jenkins, CircleCI, and TravisCI automate code integration and delivery.

Developer acceleration technologies maximize productivity while ensuring compliance via policy guardrails.

4. Managed Services

Managed services provide commonly needed capabilities like databases, messaging, storage, and caching. Teams can self-provision these shared services instead of running their own. 

Some options include:

  • Storage - Shared object/block/file storage like MinIO, Ceph, and GlusterFS.

  • Databases - Managed PostgreSQL, MySQL, SQLite, Redis, MongoDB, and more.

  • Messaging - Queues and streaming like Kafka, RabbitMQ, and ActiveMQ.

  • Caching - In-memory caches like Memcached and Redis to boost performance.

  • Services - Common app needs search, logging, notifications, and AI.

Service catalogs allow developers to consume these managed capabilities on-demand without an Ops burden. Built-in redundancy and failover improve resiliency versus DIY options.

Developer Self-Service: With vs. Without Self-Service

To understand the benefits of self-service in action, let's walk through some examples comparing experiences with and without self-service. Here’s a glance before we dive deeper into each scenario. 


Without Self-Service

With Self-Service

Provisioning a New Test Environment

Developers submit a ticket and wait days for Ops to provision infrastructure.

Developers use a web console or CLI to spin up pre-configured environments instantly on demand.

Deploying a New Microservice

Devs wait for Ops to manually configure networks, load balancers, and firewalls to deploy the service.

Devs use a pipeline template to automatically build, test, and promote the service into prod with configured dependencies.

Installing a New Developer Toolchain

Developers submit a request to Ops to install new tools like IDEs and compilers, which get backlogged.

Devs automatically instantiate a workflow template to provision a standardized dev environment with preferred tools.

Take Charge And Empower Your Teams With Self-Service

Traditionally, developers were constrained by rigid systems—waiting weeks for access, stuck using legacy tech, and bogged down in tickets. 

It gets in the way of innovation. But you have a chance to transform this. 

With self-service, you can empower your team to build the future autonomously and liberate them from bottlenecks while enabling oversight. And the promise of self-service is easily achievable with solutions like Facets.Cloud

Facets provides extensible infrastructure provisioning, environment management, developer acceleration, and application services—a self-service platform that adjusts to your workflows and becomes your own. 

So take that first step—whether through a pilot project or even a proof of concept. There will be challenges to work through, but this is how organizations evolve—through expanding what’s possible. 

The future of Ops is self-service. Are you ready to transform how your teams work and innovate?