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What is Site Reliability Engineering, and What Is its Role In DevOps?

what is site reliability engineering

The success of advanced technology depends on its ability to operate seamlessly and without interruptions. As businesses increasingly rely on complex systems and applications, ensuring their reliability and performance has never been more critical. This is where site reliability engineering (SRE) becomes essential. Organizations are incorporating SRE into their IT and DevOps processes to maintain robust and efficient systems.

In this article, we’ll explore what site reliability engineering is and what role SREs play. We’ll dive into their key responsibilities, how they differ from DevOps and platform engineers, and the job outlook for SREs. Additionally, you’ll learn how an industry-recognized DevOps program can help accelerate your career.

Overview of Site Reliability Engineering

SRE refers to using software to make IT operations more reliable and robust. It involves creating scalable codes that help system administrators manage many machines efficiently to monitor IT infrastructure websites and applications’ availability, scalability, and performance, improving the system’s reliability.

SRE has become crucial in today’s globalized era, where organizations have operations spread across multiple locations worldwide. People working in diverse time zones must access and use the organizational IT infrastructure. Hence, ensuring that the systems are always working and reliable is crucial. SRE facilitates putting in place suitable measures that help with this process.

Also Reach: What is Continuous Deployment? Exploring a Critical Component of DevOps

Key Benefits of SRE DevOps

Since its inception at Google in 2003, SRE has proved useful for a wide range of operations and organizations. Here are some key benefits offered by SRE in DevOps.

  • SRE anticipates problems with system performance and takes suitable measures, reducing system downtime significantly and making the system more reliable.
  • SRE captures crucial metrics promptly and provides critical insights that help manage and adjust the systems for a robust operation.
  • Using suitable monitoring measures, SRE enables system optimization and reduces wastage or uneven resource distribution. As a result, organizations can scale their operations and infrastructure as required.
  • SRE identifies issues with the IT infrastructure and flags areas for improvement. This helps embrace suitable security measures and improves the overall security of the systems.
  • By ensuring low downtime, quick recovery, and robust security, SRE improves the user experience. Greater user satisfaction translates to improved brand reputation and the financial bottom line.
  • SRE can detect areas of opportunity for improvement and provide input to facilitate further innovation and upgrades.
  • SRE helps improve cost savings by optimizing resources, automating routine actions, and enhancing system usage time.
  • IT operations can become isolated due to the minimal requirement for collaboration. However, this may lead to duplication of work, mismatched objectives, or inconclusive solutions. SRE encourages cross-functional operations and recommends shared ownership of the objectives, thus enhancing knowledge sharing and streamlined functions.
  • SRE helps find the best balance between software development and reliability integration. This is crucial to addressing the development pace and the implementation of reliability measures.
  • SRE uses metrics such as mean time to failure (MTTF) and mean time to repair (MTTR) to determine the system’s reliability and design an appropriate emergency response.
  • SRE DevOps combines IT operations with machine learning and automation to automatically flag and direct critical incidents to the concerned person.

Who is a Site Reliability Engineer?

A site reliability engineer, also known as an SRE, ensures that complex systems and applications operate seamlessly and efficiently. They combine software engineering practices with IT operations to create highly reliable and scalable systems. By leveraging automation and strategic planning, SREs help organizations maintain the stability and performance of their production environments.

SRE professionals are tasked with developing reliable software and implementing and monitoring measures. Hence, they divide their time between development activities and monitoring tasks. The two are complementary, as monitoring tasks may flag issues requiring further development, and new development requires regular monitoring. Thus, this role is a combination of systems administration and software engineering.

Also Read: What is DevSecOps? Definition, Benefits, Best Practices

What Does a Site Reliability Engineer Do?

A, SRE designs, implements, and manages SRE functions for existing systems. They are mainly involved in code deployment, configuration, monitoring, and management.

Let’s break down their key responsibilities:

  • Designing, developing, implementing, and promoting scalable codes and software to ensure product reliability
  • Reviewing and guiding reliability principles and practices during DevOps processes, including architecture, code, platforms, and frameworks
  • Establishing system reliability using service-level indicators (SLI) and service-level objectives (SLO) from service-level agreements (SLAs) to determine the goals and timing for launching improved features
  • Conducting and optimizing capacity planning and chaos testing
  • Working with the development team to establish the error budget and reliability targets, balancing innovation speed and system stability
  • Implementing change management and emergency incident response
  • Identifying opportunities for improving service health through regular monitoring
  • Collaborating with other teams to achieve system reliability and optimize cost
  • Creating and implementing disaster recovery plans
  • Setting up automation to proactively address routine reliability concerns
  • Integrating security measures and standards into existing and custom applications
  • Training and evaluating IT support personnel on system setup and maintenance

DevOps Engineer vs. Site Reliability Engineer

Although some of the responsibilities may seem similar, the functions of a site reliability engineer are significantly different from those of a DevOps engineer. A DevOps engineer deals with the development and operational tasks of software development, deployment, and delivery. Meanwhile, an SRE works on identifying areas in the development cycle requiring additional reliability measures and implementing them.

The objective of a DevOps engineer is to create, test, and efficiently deliver software, while that of an SRE is to ensure the software works efficiently without any major disruptions and downtime and recovers quickly.

Further, a DevOps engineer works on identifying and remedying software errors. In contrast, an SRE works to identify how detected and undetected errors can affect the software’s performance and how to prevent them from happening.

Also Read: What is DevOps Automation? A Beginner’s Guide

Platform Engineer vs. Site Reliability Engineer

Similar to the DevOps engineer, there are certain distinctions between a platform engineer and a site reliability engineer. A platform engineer focuses on designing, developing, and testing infrastructure to comply with the requirements and the coding standards. They work to improve the application and usability by implementing security integration measures and environment shakedown testing.

This is vastly different from the role of an SRE, whose focus is primarily on ensuring system reliability at every process step. They work on creating reliability measures that maintain a smooth software operation after it has been tested and deployed by the platform engineer.

Further, platform engineers work to identify and remove problems related to the platform used for software development. On the other hand, site reliability engineers aim to remove every issue that may affect the software’s functioning, including the platform. Thus, the SRE works on the infrastructure and software reliability issues.

The Future of Site Reliability Engineering

The need for advanced SRE practices is increasing with technology advancing daily. Further, the spread of digitalization has made it imperative for organizations to invest in systems and personnel who can ensure interrupted IT operations and a streamlined software development cycle. According to the US Labor Department, the job market for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers is expected to increase by 25 percent. As a result, the demand for SREs is poised to rise.

Various options are available in this field, such as Application SRE, Infrastructure SRE, Enterprise SRE, Production SRE, and Cloud SRE. You can choose your path and begin your career as a systems administrator, a software developer, or a junior member of the SRE team. You can build your skills and learn the various ways to develop and troubleshoot. You can progress as a site reliability engineer, lead SRE, and then a site reliability manager before becoming Director of Sire Reliability Engineering. The scope of work and the extent of authority and responsibility increases with each position.

Typically, you’ll be required to be a graduate or postgraduate in Computer Science to enter this field. You must also develop skills to work as an SRE. Here is a quick look at some of them.

  • Expertise in coding
  • Knowledge of operational risk management
  • Conversant with popular cloud infrastructure, such as AWS and Azure
  • Familiar with tools and platforms such as Kubernetes and Docker
  • Experience in administration debugging techniques
  • Conversant with sun operating model, triaging complex architecture service map, and problem management

On average, the annual salary of a site reliability engineer is $141,832, while that of an SRE manager is $150,705. Further, the average annual salary of the Director, SRE, is $176,209. While these figures may vary depending on region, educational qualifications, and experience, the overall outlook for this field is bright. This career is right if you want stable and exciting work with remote and onsite options.

Also Read: Embracing Efficiency and Automation with GitOps: A Comprehensive Guide

Learn SRE and Other Skills for a Stellar DevOps Career

Site reliability engineering is the HAZOP and maintenance branch of DevOps. To become an SRE, you must be relentless about rooting out the undetected issues that can make a system volatile and prone to breakdowns. An earnest wish to ensure that the DevOps functions run smoothly is key to robust SRE. To do this, you must be conversant in every aspect of DevOps.

This DevOps bootcamp is designed to train you in fundamental concepts such as infrastructure as code (IaC), infrastructure provisioning, logging and monitoring, microservices, orchestration, serverless architecture, source control, and version control systems. You will learn how to use a wide range of tools such as Terraform, Maven, ANSIBLE, Jenkins, Kubernetes, Docker, Junit, GitHub, and AWS CodeCommit. Industry experts will guide you through multiple industry-relevant projects so that you get a feel for real-world applications.

You might also like to read:

CI/CD Pipeline: Continuous Integration vs. Continuous Deployment vs. Continuous Delivery

Infrastructure as Code in DevOps: Basics and Best Practices

What is Continuous Integration in DevOps? A Beginner’s Guide

DevOps Metrics: Measuring DevOps Success

A Comprehensive List of Top DevOps Tools for 2024

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