Site reliability engineering (SRE) provides a revolutionary approach to IT infrastructure processes, eliminating common issues with system functionality and streamlining product quality. By allowing improved operations and greater system oversight, SRE has geared companies toward a future of cloud-based development. In this article, we examine the foundations of SRE and how its principles have effectively shaped the field of modern software engineering.
SRE Meaning: What Is SRE?
After noticing industry-wide conflicts in operations, an engineer from Google named Ben Treynor Sloss created a system that allows software developers and operations teams to work more efficiently together. SRE practices incorporate software engineering tools to automate IT infrastructure tasks and continuously monitor application data.
Since its inception in 2003, many organizations continue to adopt SRE principles to maintain performance for major scaling systems and leverage balance between dev and ops teams.
As the pioneering company behind site reliability engineering, Google released a book outlining the best practices for executing SRE. This free guide offers a comprehensive insight into the function of SRE and its core disciplines. According to Google’s publication, some of the defining principles of SRE include:
1. Meeting Uptime Requirements
Developers must meet a service-level agreement (SLA) that measures the reliability of a product for end-users before its release. If an application has no budget errors, it can launch immediately. Conversely, an SRE team will halt product release until it achieves 100% uptime.
In this way, SRE provides incentives for developers and SRE teams to work together in order to minimize the number of product errors.
2. Defining Service Level Objectives
Managing a service correctly involves a thorough understanding of its behaviors and how end users will perceive its level of quality. To ensure a standard level of service, site reliability engineers define measurements for service level indicators (SLIs), objectives (SLOs) and agreements (SLAs). Choosing the appropriate metric defined by these measurements helps direct developers with troubleshooting and allows SRE teams to have confidence in the health of that particular service.
3. Eliminating Toil
Google defines operational work with the specific term “toil.” Site reliability engineers should spend only 50% of their time on maintaining service uptime. The rest of the time should go to developing new software and features for applications.
By eliminating toil from infrastructure, SRE allows more time for long-term engineering projects instead of repetitive administration work.
4. Monitoring Distributed Systems
Automated monitoring displays quantified data in real time and sends out an alert if something breaks within the system. Monitoring distributed systems provide useful input for business analytics and facilitate analysis of security breaches. The system only requires human interaction when it encounters errors it can’t automatically.
Acure’s topology-based AIOps observability platform offers automation solutions for businesses to process and collect big data. This cloud-based system lets system administrators and dev ops teams monitor the entire ecosystem, prevent failures, and perform root cause analysis after outages.
5. Release Engineering
Release engineering describes a growing field that helps build and deliver software. Release engineers must have experience with source code management, automated build tools and embody a deep knowledge of configuration management and test integration. Engineers must ensure consistency with releases so that they won’t contribute to system outages.
6. Embracing Simplicity
Software systems remain inherently unstable as they undergo frequent updates and changes to their codebase. Site reliability engineers create tools and procedures to increase system reliability and scale back complexity. When a bug appears during changes in production rollouts, simplicity makes it easier to identify and manage them.
What Does an SRE Do?
Experience and Background
Qualifying for a role as a site reliability engineer requires a background in software development, IT operations or previous experience as a system administrator. Site reliability engineers must have proven system management skills as they continually look for ways to balance workloads between devs and ops teams. They also have the ability to write code, which allows them to work with software development teams.
Motivations for an SRE
As a discipline, site reliability engineering advocates motivation and dedication, giving site reliability engineers a unique role within an organization. According to Google’s recommended best practices for SRE, site reliability engineers should be able to transition between projects as necessary, spending time monitoring automation systems to ensure the health of the service but also working with development teams to design and deploy new features.
Doing the best practices for motivation and well-being benefits IT departments by routinely welcoming new engineers that share refreshed insights and problem-solving skills within their network.
SRE Roles and Responsibilities
With less time spent on operations, site reliability engineers prioritize development tasks such as creating new features and scaling the system. They offer automated solutions for recurring problems and create emergency responses for services in production. SRE teams also configure and deploy code, monitor latency and availability issues that may arise and manage changes to the system as well as capacity.
One of the key roles of site reliability engineers involves launching products based on current performance. SRE teams determine a product’s quality for end-users by creating SLAs that software developers must adhere to prior to release.
Other common roles for site reliability engineers include:
- Building software for dev and ops teams
- Optimizing processes
- Resolving escalation issues
- Documenting team knowledge
Each of these roles and responsibilities make site reliability engineers a vital component of IT sustainability. Their ability to automate solutions and deter time-consuming tasks enables more efficiency with less manual work and has set new standards within the software industry.
Site reliability engineering practices bridge gaps between dev and ops team, fostering team culture, service uptime, and agile development. Faster application life cycles improve both the quality and reliability of services.
With backgrounds in both operations and development, SRE teams effectively enhance communication between the two departments, reducing workflow problems and monitoring the entire IT ecosystem to ensure uptime. By combining the skills of both teams, SRE eliminates overlapping responsibilities.
SREs focus on balance to maintain site reliability and create new features while reducing menial tasks.