What is Site Reliability Engineering? A Definitive Guide

Site Reliability Engineering

What is Site Reliability Engineering? A Definitive Guide

As the world is rapidly moving towards digital services and more organizations are adopting cloud-based services, site reliability engineering practices have become essential. The reason is that IT experts and engineering teams operating software have changed drastically. These practices let organizations meet the service level agreements for performance, availability, business KPIs, and user experience.

In this article, we’ll learn about site reliability engineering, key practices, benefits, roles, and responsibilities of a site reliability engineer, and tools used for SRE. Let’s get started with the basics of site reliability engineering.

What is Site Reliability Engineering (SRE)?

Site reliability engineering or SRE is applying software engineering principles to infrastructure processes and operations to help companies create highly scalable and reliable software systems. As a discipline, site reliability engineering focuses on optimizing software systems’ reliability across categories, such as performance, availability, capacity, latency efficiency, and incident response. And those who perform these operations are known as site reliability engineers.

Google was the first who task its software engineers with making large-scale sites more efficient, scalable, and reliable by implementing automated solutions. SRE is a way to bridge gaps between IT operations and developers, even in a DevOps culture. The primary purpose of SRE is to develop automated solutions and software systems for operational aspects.

What does a site reliability engineer do?

A site reliability engineer generally has a background in software development and business analytics and substantial operations experience. They monitor systems in production and analyze performance to detect areas that need improvement. This observation helps them calculate potential outages cost and plan for contingency.

Software reliability engineers split their time between software or system development and operations. Their on-call responsibilities include updating tools, software, and documentation to prepare IT teams for future incidents. Moreover, they build and deploy services to optimize the workflow for the IT and support departments.

Key Practices in Site Reliability Engineering

Site Reliability Engineering small

Here are the key practices to implement software reliability engineering in your organization.

  • Availability_ The SRE team is responsible for maintaining system and service availability once they are in production, initiated by service-level agreements (SLAs), service-level objectives (SLOs), and service-level indicators (SLIs) for the underlying services.
  • Performance_ After stabilizing availability, the SRE team can focus on optimizing service performance. They assist development teams, fix bugs, and identify performance issues across the system.
  • Monitoring_ SRE teams have to monitor operations and implement appropriate solutions based on how respective services measure performance and uptime.
  • Incident response_ Site reliability engineering is critical for incident response. The SRE team should be available to respond, review, and explain incidents occurring within the system. It includes auditing processes, production workflows, alert criteria, and other factors.
  • Preparation_ The integration of SREs into IT and development allows developers to learn more about the production environment and help IT and DevOps teams get involved earlier in the development lifecycle.

Roles and Responsibilities of an SRE

Here are the leading roles and responsibilities of a software reliability engineer.

1. Monitoring

Software reliable engineers ensure that underlying infrastructure is running smoothly and that tools and systems are working as desired. Moreover, they monitor critical services and applications to reduce downtime and ensure availability.

2. Automation

Software reliability engineers build automation tools to manage IT operations. Therefore, rather than performing these tasks manually, they aim to automate them. These functions include

  • Incident response
  • Continuous integration
  • Continuous delivery
  • Monitoring
  • Alerts

3.Cross-team collaboration

Software reliable engineers work across different teams, particularly development and operations. By developing a reliable system and offering support to these teams, they give their teams more time to focus on building new features and get these out faster to consumers.

4. Issue resolution

Software reliable engineers work closely with the development team, especially when problems arise. They collaborate with the developers to help with troubleshooting and offer consultation when alerts are issued. Following the incident resolution, SRE will revisit the situation and determine the cause to ensure it does not happen again.

Benefits of Site Reliability Engineering

Site reliability engineering aims to enhance high-scale systems’ reliability through automation. The main goal of SRE is to fill the gap between the infrastructure and development teams. Incorporating aspects of software engineering into infrastructure and operation functions has several benefits, the most notable being more service resiliency and constant uptime. Here are some other benefits of SRE.

  • Filling the gap between infrastructure and development teams
  • Automate processes
  • Planning and maintaining operational tasks
  • Continuously analyzing and monitoring application performance
  • Managing emergency and on-call support
  • Contribute to the overall product roadmap
  • Ensure that software has proper logging and diagnostics

Common Tools used by SREs

Here are some of the most common tools used by software reliability engineers.

1. DataDog

Datadog is a monitoring and analytics tool used by system reliability engineers and DevOps teams. It can determine performance metrics and event monitoring for cloud and infrastructure services. You can see across systems, services, and applications, get complete visibility into advanced applications, analyze and explore log data in context, and proactively monitor your user experience. Moreover, Datadog lets you visualize traffic flow in cloud-native environments and get alerted on critical issues.

2. AppD

AppDynamics puts your IT teams at the center of business success. It’s a tool that provides a common view across server and database infrastructure, providing real-time actionable insights. SREs can track numerous metrics for their SLI. However, its core APM product gives valuable metrics. AppD includes many additional tools delivering deep insights, such as End User Monitoring and Browser Synthetic Monitoring. Site reliability engineers can measure SLI, SLA, SLO, and error budgeting to tie them to their business objectives. It lets them prioritize the most critical business aspects and take action in real-time.

3. DynaTrace

Dynatrace software intelligence platform empowers DevOps teams and site reliability engineers to detect issues before they occur by providing intelligent and automatic observability for the most complex distributed cloud environment. Moreover, continuous automation delivers precise root-cause answers to site reliability problems at all software development lifecycle (SDLC) steps. Dynatrace helps software reliability engineers improve availability, reliability, and latency and mitigate the impact of service outages and downtimes.

Conclusion

Site reliability engineering requires strong skills to succeed. There should be a sense of trust between the teams, and being responsible for SRE is more about taking ownership of production operations. It’s a specific approach focusing on IT operations, and if you want to adopt an SRE culture in your organization, go ahead and train your IT team by following the best practices. However, it’s a myth that you can achieve 100 percent perfection, but you can make things better using suitable tools and best practices based on your organization’s requirements.

With a team of experienced engineers from Protected Harbor, you can rest assured that your site is in good hands. We provide a range of site reliability services including monitoring, capacity planning, incident management, and security. Protected Harbor’s engineers are experts in Ruby on Rails, Python, Node.js, and other popular open-source technologies. They have experience with many enterprise-level technologies, including Apache, Nginx, Kafka, etc. We are giving free IT audits to the companies and site reliability consultation. Contact us today!