In the age of digital services, system reliability is essential. Conglomerates such as Google, Microsoft and Apple risk losing millions of dollars if their systems are down, so they need contingencies to ensure the highest fault tolerance and a seamless customer experience.
This requires a site reliability engineer (SRE). A site reliability engineer keeps the organization focused on ensuring that services are accessible whenever customers need them. In this article, we will dive deeper into this role, discussing the importance of SREs for business operations.
The history of site reliability engineering
The concept of site reliability engineering has not been around forever. It is only recently that the term gained popularity. The first SRE team originated at Google in 2003. It was spearheaded by Ben Treynor Sloss, a brilliant software engineer who had worked at several other companies, including Oracle, before joining Google.
Later on, other tech giants such as Facebook adopted the concept. Subsequently, companies of all types — even those without huge server farms to manage — began hiring SREs. This adoption can be attributed to the fact that users have incredibly high expectations of both websites and mobile applications. Let’s look at the role of SREs in businesses of all levels.
Ensuring system reliability and availability
The core principles of SRE revolve around automation, monitoring and proactive management. These professionals play a crucial role in ensuring reliability and availability. They do so by using data to make decisions. They track metrics such as uptime, error rates and response time.
They track these metrics in real-time, enabling them to detect and respond to issues before they escalate. In addition to real time tracking, SREs uphold reliability and availability through automation. That goes a long way toward reducing human error and ensuring consistency across the system. Additionally, SREs strive to identify potential problems before they even occur.
Balancing development and operations
Site reliability engineers act as the bridge between the development side and the operations side of a business. Traditionally, the two sides have very little in common, so it takes a professional to align the two teams’ goals.
SREs promote cross-functional collaboration and break down any barriers that might make it hard for the two teams to cooperate. They also facilitate a feedback loop between development and operations teams. This loop reduces the likelihood of recurring issues, which helps in enhancing system resilience.
SREs also promote automation, which makes it possible for developers to have more time on their hands. They can use this time to develop new features, making the systems even more enjoyable for users.
While the main agenda for any business is adding value for its customers, there still has to be a profit margin. That means employing strategies that cut costs in the long run. Site reliability engineers play an active role in reducing costs. They do so by preventing downtime, which can cost businesses an arm and a leg.
They set and adhere to service-level objectives, which ensure that a system meets acceptable levels of reliability. In the event of an incident, SREs ensure that normalcy is restored within the shortest time, saving the business from potential financial losses and a tainted reputation due to prolonged service disruptions.
In addition, SREs are involved in resource allocation. They can identify inefficiencies in a system and find ways to maximize the utilization of infrastructure.
That also means they can help make data-driven decisions to prioritize investments that will pay off in the long run. Most importantly, SREs put robust disaster recovery plans in place, which reduce potential financial losses in the event of a significant outage.
SRE and DevOps synergy
If you check the site reliability engineer description, you will see that these professionals have technical knowledge. They are software developers with IT operations experience. By enrolling in a software engineering program at a reputable institution such as Baylor
University, students have the opportunity to gain skills in software verification and validation, distributed systems, advanced object-oriented development and advanced software engineering.
Baylor’s online Master’s in Computer Science helps to prepare students to excel in the role of a site reliability engineer while providing the flexibility necessary to allow them to continue meeting existing obligations.
Thanks to this background in software engineering, they have an easy time working in synergy with the DevOps team — a relationship that goes a long way in ‘keeping the lights on’.
These two teams have shared values, such as reliability and resilience. When they come together, they create an operations ecosystem based on harmony, which leads to faster delivery, reduced downtime and a flawless customer experience.
The future of site reliability engineering
Site reliability engineering is a profession known for its constant evolution. That raises the question of what the future holds. If trends are anything to go by, the demand for site reliability engineers will continue to increase.
The current global economic situation is not pretty, so businesses must focus on building stability and resilience in the face of turmoil. These are objectives best achieved with the help of an SRE.
Additionally, businesses are experimenting with new technologies like artificial intelligence and Web3 decentralization. Experimenting comes with its fair share of obstacles, so businesses need to have someone in charge to meet customer needs even during the transition.
While site reliability engineering is associated with software development, we can expect the role to evolve into other fields as well. Think of customer-facing departments like sales. As businesses take in new clients, they will need continuity in engagement to ensure no deal falls through the cracks. Managing unplanned work calls for a reliability mindset.
Pursuing a career in site reliability engineering
Site reliability engineering can be a gratifying career, especially if you are interested in improving the performance of critical systems. To become one, you will need a technical background and you must be proficient in at least one coding language.
You must also be familiar with continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) pipelines. It is worth noting that most businesses today are leaning towards distributed systems. This means that as an SRE, you need to be well-versed in distributed systems to optimize them.
In addition to technical skills, you also need a wide range of soft skills. One of the most essential soft skills for SREs is communication.
You need to ensure that everyone on the team knows what is expected of them to ensure system reliability. You also need skills such as report writing, critical thinking and empathy.