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Product FAQ

Can we call Backstage something different? So that it fits our company better?

Yes, Backstage is just a platform for building your own developer portal. We happen to call our internal version Backstage, as well, as a reference to our music roots. You can call your version whatever suits your team, company, or brand.

Is Backstage a monitoring platform?

No, but it can be! Backstage is designed to be a developer portal for all your infrastructure tooling, services, and documentation. So, it's not a monitoring platform — but that doesn't mean you can't integrate a monitoring tool into Backstage by writing a plugin.

How is Backstage licensed?

Backstage was released as open source software by Spotify and is licensed under Apache License, Version 2.0.

Why did we open source Backstage?

We hope to see Backstage become the infrastructure standard everywhere. When we saw how much Backstage improved developer experience and productivity internally, we wanted to share those gains. After all, if Backstage can create order in an engineering environment as open and diverse as ours, then we're pretty sure it can create order (and boost productivity) anywhere. To learn more, read our blog post, "What the heck is Backstage anyway?"

Will Spotify's internal plugins be open sourced, too?

Yes, we've already started releasing open source versions of some of the plugins we use here, and we'll continue to do so. Plugins are the building blocks of functionality in Backstage. We have over 120 plugins inside Spotify — many of those are specialized for our use, so will remain internal and proprietary to us. But we estimate that about a third of our existing plugins make good open source candidates. (And we'll probably end up writing some brand new ones, too.)

What's the roadmap for Backstage?

We envision three phases, which you can learn about in our project roadmap. Even though the open source version of Backstage is relatively new compared to our internal version, we have already begun work on various aspects of all three phases. Looking at the milestones for active issues will also give you a sense of our progress.

My company doesn't have thousands of developers or services. Is using Backstage excessive for our needs?

Not at all! A core reason to adopt Backstage is to standardize how software is built at your company. It's easier to decide on those standards as a small company, and grows in importance as the company grows. Backstage sets a foundation, and an early investment in your infrastructure becomes even more valuable as you grow.

Our company has a strong design language system/brand that we want to incorporate. Does Backstage support this?

Yes! The Backstage UI is built using Material UI. With the theming capabilities of Material UI, you are able to adapt the interface to your brand guidelines.

Technical FAQ

What technology does Backstage use?

Backstage is a large scale TypeScript application whose frontend parts use React and Material UI, while the backend parts use Node.js and the Express framework.

Why Material UI?

The short answer is that's what we've been using in Backstage internally.

The original decision was based on Google's Material Design being a thorough, well thought out and complete design system, with many mature and powerful libraries implemented in both the system itself and auxiliary components that we knew that we would like to use.

It strikes a good balance between power, customizability, and ease of use. A core focus of Backstage is to make plugin developers productive with as few hurdles as possible. Material UI lets plugin makers get going easily with both well-known tech and a large flora of components.

What is the end-to-end user flow? The happy path story.

There are three main user profiles for Backstage: the integrator, the contributor, and the software engineer.

The integrator hosts the Backstage app and configures which plugins are available to use in the app.

The contributor adds functionality to the app by writing plugins.

The software engineer uses the app's functionality and interacts with its plugins.

What is a "plugin" in Backstage?

Plugins are what provide the feature functionality in Backstage. They are used to integrate different systems into Backstage's frontend, so that the developer gets a consistent UX, no matter what tool or service is being accessed on the other side.

Each plugin is treated as a self-contained web app and can include almost any type of content. Plugins all use a common set of platform APIs and reusable UI components. Plugins can fetch data either from the backend or an API exposed through the proxy.

Learn more about the different components that make up Backstage.

Why can't I dynamically install plugins without modifications to the app?

This decision is part of the core architecture and development flow of Backstage. Plugins have a lot of freedom in what they provide and how they are integrated into the app, and it would therefore add a lot of complexity to allow plugins to be integrated via configuration the same way as they can be integrated with code.

By bundling all plugins and their dependencies into one app bundle it is also possible to do significant optimizations to the app load time by allowing plugins to share dependencies between each other when possible. This contributes to Backstage being fast, which is an important part of the user and developer experience.

Why are there no published Docker images or helm charts for Backstage?

As mentioned above, Backstage is not a packaged service that you can use out of the box. In order to get started with Backstage you need to use the @backstage/create-app package to create and customize your own Backstage app.

In order to build a Docker image from your own app, you can use the yarn build-image command which is included out of the box in the app template. By default this image will bundle up both the frontend and the backend into a single image that you can deploy using your favorite tooling.

There are also some examples that can help you deploy Backstage to kubernetes in the contrib folder.

It is possible that example images will be provided in the future, which can be used to quickly try out a small subset of the functionality of Backstage, but these would not be able to provide much more functionality on top of what you can see on a demo site.

Do I have to write plugins in TypeScript?

No, you can use JavaScript if you prefer. We want to keep the Backstage core APIs in TypeScript, but aren't forcing it on individual plugins.

How do I find out if a plugin already exists?

You can browse and search for all available plugins in the Plugin Directory.

If you can't find it in the directory, before you write a plugin search the plugin issues to see if is in the works. If no one's thought of it yet, great! Open a new issue as a plugin suggestion and describe what your plugin will do. This will help coordinate our contributors' efforts and avoid duplicating existing functionality.

Which plugin is used the most at Spotify?

By far, our most-used plugin is our TechDocs plugin, which we use for creating technical documentation. Our philosophy at Spotify is to treat "docs like code", where you write documentation using the same workflow as you write your code. This makes it easier to create, find, and update documentation. TechDocs is now open source. (See also: "Will Spotify's internal plugins be open sourced, too?" above)

Are you planning to have plugins baked into the repo? Or should they be developed in separate repos?

Contributors can add open source plugins to the plugins directory in this monorepo. Integrators can then configure which open source plugins are available to use in their instance of the app. Open source plugins are downloaded as npm packages published in the open source repository. While we encourage using the open source model, we know there are cases where contributors might want to experiment internally or keep their plugins closed source. Contributors writing closed source plugins should develop them in the plugins directory in their own Backstage repository. Integrators also configure closed source plugins locally from the monorepo.

Any plans for integrating with other repository managers, such as GitLab or Bitbucket?

We chose GitHub because it is the tool that we are most familiar with, so that will naturally lead to integrations for GitHub being developed at an early stage. Hosting this project on GitHub does not exclude integrations with alternatives, such as GitLab or Bitbucket. We believe that in time there will be plugins that will provide functionality for these tools as well. Hopefully, contributed by the community! Also note, implementations of Backstage can be hosted wherever you feel suits your needs best.

Who maintains Backstage?

Spotify will maintain the open source core, but we envision different parts of the project being maintained by various companies and contributors. We also envision a large, diverse ecosystem of open source plugins, which would be maintained by their original authors/contributors or by the community. When it comes to deployment, the system integrator (typically, the infrastructure team in your organization) maintains Backstage in your own environment.

For more information, see our Owners and Governance.

Does Spotify provide a managed version of Backstage?

No, this is not a service offering. We build the piece of software, and someone in your infrastructure team is responsible for deploying and maintaining it.

How secure is Backstage?

We take security seriously. When it comes to packages and code we scan our repositories periodically and update our packages to the latest versions. When it comes to deployment of Backstage within an organisation it depends on the deployment and security setup in your organisation. Reach out to us on Discord if you have specific queries.

Please report sensitive security issues via Spotify's bug-bounty program rather than GitHub.

Does Backstage collect any information that is shared with Spotify?

No. Backstage does not collect any telemetry from any third party using the platform. Spotify, and the open source community, do have access to GitHub Insights, which contains information such as contributors, commits, traffic, and dependencies. Backstage is an open platform, but you are in control of your own data. You control who has access to any data you provide to your version of Backstage and who that data is shared with.

Can Backstage be used to build something other than a developer portal?

Yes. The core frontend framework could be used for building any large-scale web application where (1) multiple teams are building separate parts of the app, and (2) you want the overall experience to be consistent. That being said, in Phase 2 of the project we will add features that are needed for developer portals and systems for managing software ecosystems. Our ambition will be to keep Backstage modular.

How can I get involved?

Jump right in! Come help us fix some of the early bugs and good first issues or reach a new milestone. Or write an open source plugin for Backstage, like this Lighthouse plugin. See all the ways you can contribute here. We'd love to have you as part of the community.