What is an Internal Developer Portal?

Senna Semakula-Buuza
3 min readMar 7, 2024

Introduction

An Internal Developer Portal (IDP) is a central hub for tracking, improving, and building high-quality software. From services and APIs to Kubernetes clusters and data pipelines — IDPs abstract away the complexities of ensuring software security, maturity, production readiness, and more — all using data from your existing tools. Indeed, engineering leaders face new complexities introduced in the last five years of technological innovation. Microservices, containerization, and multi-monolith initiatives have become extremely popular amongst organisations aiming to improve the speed and scalability of software development.

In parallel, the explosion of new SDLC tooling to cater to these new environments has left development teams weighed down by process, alert fatigue, and data inconsistency. These two changes mean engineering teams now need to:

  • Reduce the cognitive load while improving developer productivity
  • Increase software quality and observability
  • Speed time to market in an increasingly competitive atmosphere

Internal Developer Portals emerged to address all three. While adoption in organisations with platform engineering teams was estimated at an impressive 45% in 2023, Gartner projects a staggering 75% penetration by 2026, according to their latest Market Guide on Internal Developer Portals. This statistic is even more impressive given the fact that IDPs (or, more accurately, service catalogs at the time) only made their debut around 2018. Even the most popular open-source Internal Developer Portal, Backstage, has just shy of three years on the shelf!

Benefits

Developers use IDPs to quickly understand the software they own or have access to, reduce time to respond by understanding documentation, changes, and dependencies in one place, prioritize tasks to close gaps in software health or respond to changes needed, and leverage templates to bootstrap new software according to best practice. Here are the benefits:

User-Friendly Design

Internal developer portals are planned with developers in mind, characteristic intuitive interfaces and guidance systems that make it effortless to find the content and tools they need. By modify access to beginning and streamlining workflows, these portals assist developers save time and focusing on their core project.

Documentation and Resources

One of the central features of internal developer portals is the comprehensive certification and resources they supply. From API certification to coding guidelines, libraries, and best practices, these portals offer an information wealth to assist developers throughout the improvement in lifecycle. Accession to up-to-date documentation assist to reduce mistake, improve the quality of code, and development cycles acceleration.

Examples

Backstage

Backstage is an internal platform created by Spotify to streamline various aspects of its development processes. It operates as a central hub where Spotify’s engineering teams can obtain the necessary tools, resources, and documentation. By centralizing these resources, Spotify increases the productivity and efficiency of developers.

Atlassian Compass

Atlassian Compass unifies all tools and services into a single portal to streamline project management. Its strong emphasis on collaboration and compatibility with other Atlassian products, such as Jira, makes it an appealing option for teams already using the Atlassian ecosystem.

Cycloid

Cycloid provides a unique combination of features designed for configuration management and infrastructure as code (IaC). The portal’s simple design and streamlined workflows enable teams to complete tasks more quickly. It’s a comprehensive solution because it integrates with version control systems like Git.

Conclusion

In short, internal developer portals play an important role in encouraging coordinated effort, communication, and productivity within the development team. By providing easy access to documentation, resources, and collaboration tools, IDPs engage engineers to work more productively and effectively, eventually driving innovation and success within organisations.

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