Cloud Native Computing Foundation Accepts Backstage as a Sandbox Project

September 24, 2020 Published by Spotify Engineering

If you hear faint whooping in the background of your playlists today, it’s just us celebrating a new milestone for Spotify’s open source efforts: The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) has accepted Backstage, our open source developer portal, as an early stage project in the CNCF Sandbox. It’s just the first step in a longer journey with the CNCF, but it’s an important one for Spotify as it underlines our renewed commitment to open source — and developers everywhere.

Backstage + CNCF = 🎉

For those of you unfamiliar with the CNCF, you may recognize them as the home of such hits as Google’s Kubernetes and Lyft’s Envoy. With such a strong foundation watching over our community’s efforts and such an impressive roster of projects leading the way before us, we have high hopes for the future of Backstage — one of our most ambitious open source projects to date.

You’ve heard us talk about Backstage before on this blog — back in March when we announced the open source project and later when we shared how we use Backstage internally at Spotify. In a nutshell: Backstage is an open platform for building developer portals. Built around a centralized service catalog, it’s designed to streamline your development environment from end to end. We built it to improve the everyday experience and productivity of developers — initially, our own developers, and then when we open sourced it, all developers, everywhere.

Our commitment to improving developer experience

At Spotify, Backstage enables us to scale safely and onboard quickly, helping us build and ship the product that hundreds of millions of people around the world use every day. We believe it has the potential to transform how all engineers work together, whether they’re in a 50-person startup or a Fortune 50. 

Here’s what Backstage can do for companies and tech organizations, and how it improves developer experience:

  • Restore order to software ecosystems. For companies whose infrastructure has become a wilderness of competing technologies and orphaned dependencies hiding in the dark corners of their tech stack, the Backstage Service Catalog brings back discoverability, accountability, and control — not to mention sanity. Instead of being overwhelmed by fragmentation and information sprawl, the Backstage Service Catalog creates a centralized system for tracking all your software — making it easy for teams to manage 10 services and making it possible for a company to manage thousands of them.
  • Jumpstart productivity by standardizing software and tooling. With software templates, engineers can spin up a new software project in minutes instead of hours. Backstage Software Templates are like automated getting started guides. After an engineer chooses a template, Backstage takes care of the rest — automatically setting up the repo, deploying the first build, and providing a Hello World project, all ready to go — with your organization’s best practices built right in, right from the start. By reducing the number of low-variance choices a developer is forced to consider when starting a project, templates remove friction and allow developers to spend more cycles solving problems higher up in the stack. Standards can set engineers free.
  • Get unstuck with great technical documentation made easy. No one can ever find documentation when they need it — and if they do, it might not be that helpful because it hasn’t been kept up to date. Backstage solves both ends of the problem. With our “docs like code” approach, engineers write their technical documentation in Markdown files right alongside their code. Whenever you create a new project in Backstage, a TechDocs site is automatically set up in the same repo — so you can update your code and your documentation with the same pull request. This integrated workflow and centralization makes great documentation easy. Easy to create and maintain. And easy to find and use.
  • Customize and scale your infrastructure with a growing ecosystems of plugins. Every company has their own, homegrown infrastructure — Backstage’s plugin architecture makes it simple to make Backstage a perfect fit for yours. Integrating your custom, proprietary tooling is as simple as building an internal plugin for your installation of Backstage. You can also build open source plugins to share with the community. The open source plugin marketplace for Backstage continues to grow, expanding Backstage’s functionality with each new plugin. It’s like an app store for your infrastructure.

Backstage has already come a long way — and none of these features would be what they are today without contributions from the open source community.

Our commitment to the open source community

We were excited by the reception Backstage received when we first released it. But we’ve been even more gratified by how the community of contributors has grown since then, as they’ve built new plugins and added new functionality to the core product. Over 130 people have contributed to the project, and roughly 40% of pull requests are now coming from external, non-Spotify contributors.

As Principal Product Manager Stefan Ålund writes on the Backstage blog:

We released the open source version of Backstage ‘early’. That was intentional. Because even though we’ve been using Backstage internally for years, we wanted the open source version to be developed with input and contributions from the community. And that’s exactly the product that’s going into the CNCF Sandbox today.

Backstage’s ability to simplify tooling and standardize engineering practices has attracted interest from other major tech companies, as well as airlines, auto manufacturers, investment firms, and global retailers. We know that Backstage solves a problem — infrastructure complexity — that’s common to a lot of large and growing companies today. But different companies work differently, use particular toolsets, and have unique use cases. By making Backstage open source, we can build it with people working inside a variety of engineering organizations all over the world. It makes for a better product that serves a wider group of users (beyond that of Spotify’s) and their needs.

Thank you to everyone who has already contributed to this project, inside and outside of Spotify. And if you’ve been curious about Backstage, now is the perfect time to dive in. Visit Backstage.io to learn more and subscribe to our newsletter for updates. Check out open issues on GitHub or get started building a plugin for your favorite tool or service. We look forward to seeing the community grow, and can’t wait to see where open source takes us all next.

We’ll give Remy DeCausemaker — Head of Spotify’s Open Source Program Office (OSPO) — the last word: 

We’re excited to embark on this journey with the CNCF community. Backstage isn’t the first open source project Spotify has released, but it is the first one we felt was ready to dedicate to an upstream foundation, and we can’t wait to bring what we’ve learned to the next project. There’s so much great tech being built here, and it’s about time we share it to build even greater products, together.