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Significance of Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) in the new IT Infra Ops Model

Significance of Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) in the new IT Infra Ops Model
Significance of Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) in the new IT Infra Ops Model

In the digital world, customers have started expecting effortless experiences. To offer such nuanced experiences, businesses need to be nimble and continuously modernize their IT infra. To cope with this demand, organizations move to the cloud and embrace the DevOps culture, which promises fast, flexible, cost-effective, and reliable services. While most of the efforts go towards such transformation-oriented development, often businesses fail to have a plan in place to manage and maintain dynamic cloud environments. 

Here we discuss an SRE-based effective approach that has helped our customers successfully manage IT infra.

Site Reliability Engineering vs. DevOps

Over a decade DevOps gained traction across major IT organizations. It's a process with an agile approach that reduces the SDLC and increases the software delivery speed by breaking the silos between software development and operation teams. It combines and automates the tasks for IT operation and development teams. 

There are a lot of similarities between DevOps and SRE. Both DevOps and SRE focus on enhancing the release cycle by breaking down the silos between the dev and ops teams through greater visibility and collaboration throughout the application lifecycle. Another similarity between these two practices is their advocacy for automation and monitoring. Also, both of them aim to reduce the time from the developer's commitment to a change to the moment the change is deployed to production. And, while doing this, both of them don't compromise on the software quality. This often makes one wonder why the limelight shifted to SRE adoption to catalyze changes in IT operations when DevOps was serving the purpose.

The main reason is, that SRE utilizes the concept and practices of software engineering for IT operations tasks like production system management, change management, and incident response and is performed by system administrators. Therefore, SRE is more into “How to implement the core?” 

DevOps focused more on core development aiming only at specific outcomes. So, the developers constantly built, tested, and deployed software patches in an application to help solve a problem. But, SRE focused more on implementing the core and continuously giving feedback on this core development to avoid any last-minute risks and costly losses. Another set of differences is the skillset. DevOps are mostly a team of experts who are more into writing codes. SRE, on the other hand, includes a proactive team of developers with great operational skills or IT operations people with great coding skills. Also, automation is one of the major points of difference between DevOps and SRE. DevOps focus on automating deployment whereas SRE aims to automate the redundant processes and manage toil. 

Though SRE differs from DevOps in multiple ways, it embodies the philosophies of DevOps for achieving better system reliability and more scope for innovation. 

What is the SRE model? 

The Service Reliability Engineering (SRE) model is an approach where software engineering concepts are used in IT operations to prioritize software reliability by managing the software systems, resolving the pain points, and automating redundant processes. The SRE model has two important components, standardization, and automation, wherein the team seeks to enhance and automate tasks. The SRE team will use Service-Level Objectives (SLOs) and error budgets to control velocity which will help to maintain the balance between the speed of new feature releases and the reliability of using those features. 

Why is there a need for the SRE model?

The SRE model brings about significant benefits for an organization, which include:

  1. Filling the gaps between  development and operations teams for a frictionless experience 
  2. Ensuring stability through proactive monitoring and continuous improvements.
  3. Increased automation and system improvements with a team of highly skilled Site Reliability Engineers.
  4. Increased operating efficiency and faster issue resolution with automation, collaborative efforts, and tools. 
  5. Increased decision-making capabilities through service and operation transparency. 

How can organizations adopt the SRE model for the new ITOps?

To adopt the SRE model for new-age ITOps, there are five phases:

Phase 1: Discover

The discovery phase helps to identify the organization's current state, the IT process maturity, the current ITOps model, the tools in use, and the team skills to maintain the processes.

Phase 2: Define

This phase is about defining an SRE operations model. Outline a dedicated SRE team structure, collaboration, and integration models with a view of the target state, and roles and responsibilities. Also, focus on service tiering and categorizing Core and Non-core services. 

Phase 3: Implement

Once the model and the roles and responsibilities within are defined, in this phase it becomes a reality. The team starts working on one of the SRE principles (Embrace risk, Utilize Service Level Objectives, Toil Management, Proactive monitoring, and Automation) and SRE backlogs. The team will continuously monitor the Service Level Objectives (SLOs) and the Service Level Indicators (SLIs) to measure system uptime. 

Phase 4: Adopt

This phase is all about how the SRE model is expanded to other business units and development teams. This phase is more about the cultural shift and migration from traditional operations to SRE-based IT operations. 

Phase 5: Scale

Once all the stakeholders across the organization are convinced of the SRE model's performance, it is ready to scale across multiple units and services.  By this point, the teams master interactions for cross-functional collaboration to achieve their targets and work seamlessly.

A Popular Use Case: How Netflix is ‘chill’ about incidents


Intent: Strengthen Resilience

Focus: Netflix aimed to keep its customers happy by ensuring that the app stays up in any condition and its customers can enjoy an uninterrupted streaming experience.

Solution: Netflix owns a service ownership model that focuses on operating services they build. The core team at Netflix practices systemic risk identification, handling the lifecycle of an incident, and reliability consulting for keeping up their website and app. Many times the issues are identified even before they can impact its customers. But, even then incidents happen and impact the customer experience. Enter the core team, which configures, maintains, and responds to the alerts and identifies and assesses the impact of the incident. Then, the Core team involves service owners to assist with the mitigation of the risks.

Get started with SRE model adoption

SRE model adoption is a journey that requires an overall cultural demonstration of commitment and support from all stakeholders. As large enterprises move their IT infrastructure to the cloud, they undergo a significant transformation. This relies heavily on a positive customer experience, faster time-to-market, and flexibility to gel well with the changing IT demands and market scenario. Therefore, SRE models have proved to be an important catalyst in helping organizations fit in this digital age. 

It is time that you too avoid delaying your SRE adoption. Evaluate your current systems to implement the right site reliability engineering tools and you will soon explore what SRE adoption can do for your business. And for all types of SRE support talk to our experts at Srijan!

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