The Value of SRE Practices

Every entrepreneur dreams about creating a perfect product. This superior product has fully automated delivery pipelines, robust hardware/software, running like clockwork and never failing. And to make a dream come true, businesses seek DevOps professionals. But is this story about DevOps?

Indeed, DevOps practices answer what to do, why, and what tech stack to use. The thing is — DevOps gives you recommendations, and their implementation falls under the SRE responsibility.

What Is SRE

Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) is a concept born in the 2000s inside Google. As more and more people adopted SRE, it became a discipline. The value of this concept is not only to make things work but to assure they work reliably.

SRE engineers use software tools and practices related to DevOps, which allow teams to manage systems, solve problems, and automate operations tasks. SRE takes previously done manual tasks and passes them to developers or ops teams.

Moreover, it allows determining whether organizations can launch new features using service-level agreements (SLAs) to define the required reliability of the system through service-level indicators (SLIs) and service-level objectives (SLOs).

Site Reliability Engineers in organizations are often called Deployment Engineers. They are responsible for the release schedule, pre-release audit, code deployment, and configuration. Moreover, SRE is accountable for monitoring, latency, availability, emergency response, and capacity management of services in production.

Besides DevOps, the SRE concept also echoes IT support. Site Reliability Engineering teams neither interact with customers nor receive tasks from them. Features come from indirect business needs or the SRE initiative itself. So, we can call SRE the inner side of IT support with a similar aim — to increase customer service quality.

Site Reliability Engineering is a method working through principles that we will highlight below.

SRE Principles & Practices

The core SRE principles were developed by Google aligning on one ultimate goal: customer satisfaction. Having understood them — you can apply SRE best practices in many areas.

Moreover, DevOps and SRE both operate due to a set of rules. Some of them overlap — however, DevOps principles describe goals while SRE explains how to achieve them. Let’s discover each SRE concept and the ways to implement it.

  • Monitoring

This principle is about watching systems, gathering meaningful data, and making decisions on its basis. The most popular metrics to monitor are latency, error rate, traffic, and saturation.

When adopting monitoring, connect your alerting tools to monitoring data, scan your system for patterns that can be a threat, and build up deeper analytics looking at customer satisfaction and the metrics you gather. Check our previous article to learn more about proper monitoring and alerting.

  • Automation

Automate everything you can and avoid breaches uncovered with code to improve development velocity. Reduce human intervention to enjoy effective and speedy work.

Automation can help in multiple areas, for example, testing, deployment, and incident management. Tools can simulate service usage and find bugs instead of humans. Runbook automation allows teams to react to incidents much faster. And speaking about deployment, new servers creation or swapping over codebases may be easily automated.

  • Release Engineering

Building and deploying software should be stable and consistent. Quality standards include continuous integration, standardized configuration management, process documentation, and automated testing.

To benefit from this SRE principle, teams decide on single release standards, build guidelines, use automation and monitoring. Be ready to collaborate and analyze to get qualitative, stable releases.

  • SLO

Service Level Objectives are based on SLIs — service level indicators, the metrics representing essential things for users. SLOs are stricter than SLAs — service level agreements, and ensure agreements aren’t violated.

Organizations set SLOs to the point where unreliability causes customer pain. SLOs should be monitorable to give maximum efficiency. Review them regularly to ascertain SLOs reflect customers’ happiness.

  • Embracing Risk

It’s wise to correlate the cost of improvements and the impact it has on customers’ satisfaction. Improving reliability requires money, time, and energy. And embracing risks allows you to manage budget and resources accordingly.

Determine a budget for each improvement and an acceptable level of reliability for customers. Weigh and analyze possible risks before changing anything because no service guarantees you 100% reliability.

  • Simplicity

Simplicity and reliability go together when it comes to software engineering. Create simple systems to monitor, fix, or improve them without complications. Evaluate your current environment to understand its complexity on each level and try to model systems to find areas of unnecessary complexity.

  • No Repetitive Work

Reducing the amount of repetitive work is essential for successful SRE. Organizations can use automation to free up resources for other business needs. And teams may create guides for processes or specific tasks.

Look for high toil areas and optimize them. Even if your changes are little or necessary tools cost quite a lot, it’s a great long-term investment worth doing.

DevOps VS SRE

Having studied SRE principles and practices, you may discover many common points with DevOps. Indeed, both DevOps and SRE highlight strong values across the organization, the importance of proper tooling, or encouraging automation. However, these concepts are not the same.

DevOps is a broader philosophy and culture, while SRE is more narrow. For example, SRE is always about a team assigned to a specific project or tech stack, and DevOps professionals work on various projects and technologies. DevOps practices tell you to monitor every single parameter, while SRE focuses only on meaningful ones for your case.

DevOps philosophy claims that failures are inevitable and natural. SRE supports this idea — however, according to SRE, you need to analyze any fail and find the optimal rate between rejects and new releases.

Want to set up a system? Consider DevOps engineers. Need to support it and fix issues? Turn to SRE professionals. In other words, SRE is the DevOps implementation itself.

Summary

SRE is a practical guide to succeed in DevOps implementation. If you respect DevOps concepts, are eager to improve customers’ experience, and look for inner systems reliability — consider SRE practices.

At Corewide, we’ve delineated DevOps and SRE. DevOps is about a wise project or environment setup. SRE means continuous tech support for a ready-made project. Our team is always ready to provide a consultation and to show all benefits of these two equal superior services.

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Corewide

Corewide

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Reliable DevOps service provider for startups and SME software engineering teams.