What Is an SRE and How Does it Relate to DevOps?


By RevDeBug

Site reliability engineering (SRE) has played a significant role in large organizations for some time, and it’s now beginning to trickle down to smaller businesses—but not without the help of DevOps.

DevOps and SRE have their differences. However, they go hand-in-hand as they both have the same goal: To bridge the gap between operations teams and development teams to further enhance the deployment of software with few errors and compromises.

In this article, we’re going to talk about site reliability engineering, including what it is and how it ties into DevOps. Keep reading to learn more.

Site Reliability Engineering: What Exactly Is it?

Site reliability engineering is a concept that came directly from Google’s engineering team. More specifically, it is largely credited to Ben Treynor Sloss, and it aims to support teams that are gearing up to move from traditional approaches to IT operations to cloud-native approaches in delivering scalable and high reliable software systems.

In essence, site reliability engineering is applying software engineering methods for IT operations. The method involves SRE teams using the same tools as developers to manage certain systems, solve their problems, and automate operational tasks. You can think of it as an infrastructure of guidelines for application building, to an extent.

With SRE, the tasks that have traditionally been done manually by operations teams are handed over to site reliability engineers (or DevOps teams) that typically involve the use of software and automation to solve problems and manage production systems. 

Site reliability engineering is very valuable when it comes to creating scalability and more efficient and reliable software systems. Using code, which is much more scalable and sustainable for systems administration (sysadmins), SRE also helps to manage large systems or hundreds of thousands of machines.

SRE allows teams to come together and strike a balance between releasing new software features as well as making sure that they’re successful and reliable for users post-deployment. 

Two of the primary components of the SRE model include standardization and automation. Therefore, site reliability engineers are always looking out for ways to not only automate operational tasks but also ways to enhance them.  

Overall, SRE works to improve the reliability and efficiency of today’s digital systems, improving them over time by measuring their success and efficiency using various metrics.

What Does an SRE Have to Do with DevOps?

We can’t talk about the involvement of DevOps with SRE without first outlining the differences between the two. Of course, outlining their differences also brings to light how they work together

DevOps is a philosophy that aligned technical, business and IT teams to deliver high-quality software by automating manual tasks and implementing continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD pipeline).

SRE (as defined in the Google SRE handbook) is a specific implementation of DevOps with a technical twist. Both DevOps and site reliability engineering is built on the same pillars:

  • Reduce organizational silos
  • Accept failure as normal
  • Implement gradual changes
  • Leverage tooling and automation
  • Measure everything

The difference is that the SREs by definition are using engineering skills and approach to solve operations problems and spend at least 50% of their time on development tasks such as new features, scaling, or automation that should improve scalability and reliability of managed systems and rest of the time to do the Ops tasks.

In essence, you technically can’t have DevOps without SRE. They both have their own set of expectations in terms of execution, however, they also share the same goal and work together to ensure an application’s success. SRE provides for a more engineering structure to work within, ensuring a positive outcome while DevOps aims to rid the process of any variants among the two teams.

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