The magic behind site reliability engineering


The magic behind site reliability engineering

Andy Morin, Chief Solution Architect - UST Xpanxion

Because agile is more about culture and mindset changes and less about technology, agile businesses have a people-centric culture.

Andy Morin, Chief Solution Architect - UST Xpanxion

Andy Morin, Chief Solution Architect - UST Xpanxion

What is Site Reliability Engineering (SRE)?

A delicate balance between IT operations and software development work occurs, known as site reliability engineering (SRE). SRE is when IT leaders approach operations tasks as software problems. SRE bridges the gap between software development and IT operations by streamlining operations procedures, managing production systems, and solving operations problems.

The SRE approach was introduced by the Google engineering team in 2003 and continues to play an essential role in Google's engineering techniques. As defined by Google, SRE “is a mindset, and a set of practices, metrics, and prescriptive ways to ensure systems reliability.”

SRE is a valuable engineering practice that, when appropriately applied, can create scalable and highly reliable operations systems. Specifically, SRE teams use advanced software code to automate the administration of large IT operations systems and high-volume routine tasks. These tasks would otherwise be executed manually by systems administrators, such as analyzing logs, performance tuning, applying patches, testing production environments, and responding to incidents. With SRE, businesses gain a step change in the scalability, predictability, reliability, and sustainability of their IT operations.

To put SRE into perspective, in the digital world, systems administrators of large IT operations can typically manage thousands or hundreds of thousands of machines. The number of processes needed to run on these systems is exponential to that number. As digitization, digital transformation, and automation take hold and touch every business worldwide, SRE may be the only approach to IT operations in the near future.

The DevOps nature of SRE

Like DevOps, SRE is both a process and a professional talent that requires a unique combination of skill sets that cross-software development with IT operations expertise. SRE aligns closely with DevOps principles—a modern way to deliver high-quality applications faster by automating the software delivery lifecycle. And similar to DevOps, SRE makes a business more agile, gives developers and operations teams more shared responsibilities, and forces cross-team collaboration.

An SRE approach helps the development and operations teams find a balance between releasing new features and ensuring a reliable user experience. In this context, SRE can play a crucial role in DevOps success because it accelerates software delivery while minimizing IT risks.

The nature of SRE can also eliminate much of the everyday discord between development teams who want to continually release new or updated software and operations teams who don't want to remove any software without confidently knowing it won't cause operational issues, downtime or outages.

Organizations can significantly improve their development pipeline and operations with an SRE approach, particularly as these large IT systems continue to extend or migrate to the cloud.

Just like DevOps, SRE drives innovation

In addition to supporting DevOps success, an SRE approach steers profound reliability to systems in production. It also helps IT, support, and development teams reduce the time spent on escalating support issues. By reducing time spent on support escalations, teams can devote more of their focus on building new features and services that add value, innovating, and helping the business compete and prosper.

Both the SRE and DevOps approaches aim to improve the end-to-end lifecycle of an IT ecosystem. While the application lifecycle is handled through the DevOps practice, the operations lifecycle is handled through the SRE approach.

The SRE approach continues to gain interest among IT leaders and digital-first companies. According to the “Upskilling 2021 Enterprise DevOps Skills Report” by DevOps Institute, 47% of respondents (up from 28% in 2020) say SRE is a “must-have” process and framework skillset. This rapid uptake proves that the SRE approach vastly improves the reliability of high-scale operations systems through automation and continuous integration and delivery.

SRE is about leveraging the right metrics (mostly)

Before any organization adopts an SRE approach to IT operations, it's essential to understand some key terms and metrics behind site reliability engineering and how it can impact the performance of your business. These metrics establish benchmarks that define application reliability, serving as the true magic behind site reliability engineering:

Are you leveraging the right metric in your engineering organization? At UST Xpanxion, we combine our deep expertise in SRE with DevOps best practices and methodologies to help our clients prepare for the future of rapid automation in both application development and IT operations. Contact us to learn how we’ve helped organizations (large and small) make the critical shift toward advanced automation so they can remain competitive and flourish in the digital age.