The Toughest CTO Decision in 2022

For an organization with more than a handful of development teams, the hardest decision in technology right now is to decide where the cutoff between your platform teams and your software teams should be. As with most things in the world today there are loud people making loud claims on both side of the debate but the real answer is somewhere in the middle.

In one camp there are those that are screaming “developers just want to code”. They recognize that every member of the product team is expensive and they don’t want them spending hours selecting and troubleshooting infrastructure that they aren’t expert in. They also recognize the efficiencies possible if the infrastructure team creates standards.

In the other camp there is a really solid argument for self-sufficient product teams. We have all seen software product teams that know more about what infrastructure they need than the infra team trying to work with them. This is how shadow IT starts. Creating true DevSecOps teams that are responsible for everything their app needs also allows the organization to more easily invest in (or divest of) individual product teams.

How much will I sound like a consultant trying to make a few bucks if I say, “the answer is somewhere in the middle and really needs to be determined on a case by case basis”? Let me try to reward you for reading this far by breaking down a few of the things worth considering as you make this decision:

  • Are the products that your software teams are creating infrastructure dependent (e.g. low latency, require GPUs, edge, etc…). In this case, lean toward creating product teams that build their own infrastructure. Avoid the temptation to create single workload platforms.
  • Public cloud (and a willingness to commit to one cloud instead of attempting to maintain the ability to deploy any workload to any cloud) is a short cut in this debate. They allow you to build platforms that product teams can leverage simply through IaC and GUIs that would be cost prohibitive to create on premise.
  • Consider the use of “paved roads”. Make it really easy for app teams to “just code” without taking away the ability to customize the infrastructure if required.
  • If you’re going to try to change your organization’s focus from one side of the continuum to the other, do NOT underestimate the cultural inertia.
  • The absolute worst thing you can do is to not make a decision on this. You’ll end up with platforms that are over specialized and dev teams that don’t know how to use them. You must pick where you want to land on this continuum and make sure both your dev and infra teams are funded and motivated accordingly.