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7 Ways SRE Is Changing IT Ops And How To Prepare For Those Changes
April 29, 2021
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7 Ways SRE Is Changing IT Ops And How To Prepare For Those Changes
April 29, 2021
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SRE best practices are disrupting and catalyzing change in the ways organizations approach IT Operations. In this blog we look at 7 ways SRE is bringing this transition.

Site Reliability Engineering is a new practice that has been growing in popularity among many businesses. Also known as SRE, the new activity puts a premium on monitoring, tracking bugs, and creating systems and automations that solve the problem in the long term.

Nowadays, most companies get fond of deploying band-aid solutions that often leave them with flawed systems that easily fall apart when bugs arise. SRE practice fixes that by putting a premium on proactively monitoring problems and creating long-term solutions. As more companies adopt SRE, they change the way IT departments operate.

SRE vs DevOps

With regards to the SRE vs DevOps, it helps to think of one as the goal and the other as the means of getting to that goal. DevOps intends to bridge development and operations into one. Site reliability engineering makes that intention a possibility. So, DevOps is the goal and SRE is the method from a bird’s eye point of view. DevOps talks about what needs to get done to align the objectives and activities of development and operations. SRE answers the question “how do we make that happen?”

Here are some ways that SRE positively impacts a business’ operations.

1. Software-First Approach

Any company maintaining an SRE team will often hear them talking about automating processes with software. At the heart of site reliability engineering is the goal of automating processes that solve issues once and for all. Most misconceptions around SRE is that its goal is to spot the leaks and patch them up. But SRE is more about creating a system that automatically changes the pipe when leaks happen.

Much of SRE is about developing software and systems that automate incident management. This automation-first mindset puts a premium on system builders in IT and teaches the whole company really to adapt to the same school of thought in everything we do. Why stick with manual tasks when you can automate them?

2. Focus on SLOs and Error budget

One of the first priorities of an SRE team is to determine a Service-Level Objective or a bare minimum goal of availability. The SLO is the minimum requirement a team must need in terms of the availability of a system or software to users. The next thing they would then do is set an error budget, which indicates the margin of error allowed for a system.

What this means is that SRE gives importance to commitment when it comes to providing exceptional customer experience. Even the way SRE teams approach bug tracking should have a user experience approach. This, among many other SRE practices, helps bridge the gap between how people use systems and how developers can design them to meet minimum standards of excellence.

3. Proactive stability assurance

What makes a great site reliability engineer is one’s ability to be proactive. Given that 93% of SREs correlate their work with “monitoring and alerting,” critical problem-solving skills are a must. And with that available skillset in IT operations, it affects the whole department and even the whole company, pushing for a solution-oriented culture as a whole. A proactive culture brings greater stability assurance to systems and operations.

4. Dev and Ops collaboration

For site reliability management to be effective, collaboration and alignment must happen. This is probably why 81% of SREs do most of their work in the office. While incidences of work-from-home setups amongst SREs have increased over the years, the point is that SRE practices really revolve around collaboration.

The SRE culture advocates for business objective alignment and monitoring by means of service level agreements (SLAs) and metrics that help us understand performance and error management. The main job description of SRE teams is to spot errors in systems, find the root problem, and resolve them. By seeking to maintain a healthy system in collaboration with all players and departments, an SRE or SRE team encourages hand-in-hand work and somehow “forces” us to band together to solve system issues.

5. Commoditizing Efficiency and SRE Solutions

SRE roles and responsibilities can be quite extensive and, thus, expensive, especially for smaller organizations. The cost of having your own incident management system, for instance, can be astronomical, which might be justified if you’re a company like Facebook or Google. But what if you’re a tech startup or a small to medium tech company?

In response to the need to commoditize more efficient practices, there has been an increase in the incident management system market over the years.

Adopting the SRE model

Technology is forever changing the way companies operate, and many of the activities that businesses jump into start to become more digitized. SRE is allowing all people from various practices, both tech and non-tech related, to take a software development approach to everything. As teams deploy an SRE maturity model, SRE principles, practices, and skills into the mix, it revolutionizes the way we approach problems and come up with solutions.

Here’s how a team might take on an SRE model or approach in their company.

  • Define a framework
    The first step to deploying an SRE model is defining the framework. Decide on the parameters, tools, and culture that your department or team might take on and resolve to use those systems put in place.
  • Hire skilled engineers
    There’s a debate as to whether SRE teams need developers who are great at operations or operations people who are great at development. Albeit the chicken and egg banter, what matters is that SRE teams must have people who have an understanding of both the engineering and system application and operation side of the game.
  • Implement tools and technologies
    SRE teams use every available tool, including open source projects for SRE to bring greater stability to a company’s systems. A company will also need an incident management system put in place. With solutions like Squadcast, for instance, smaller companies can work on incidents even with on-call or part-time SREs to come in only when necessary. Through Squadcast, companies have improved engineering delivery by 33%, make recovery rates four times faster, and reduce SLO breaches by 40%.
  • Update processes
    With the way that problems adapt, solution-makers need to adapt too. SRE is built on the principle of adaptability--being able to shift, pivot, and change when times change. As the old cliche goes, the only constant in this world is change. And in the uncertain, ambiguous, and volatile nature of the world that we live in where things that could go wrong will most likely go wrong (as Murphy’s law states), adaptability in a team or organization can be extremely helpful.
    One aspect that helps SRE teams pivot much easier is having the right IT management software tools to better monitor, analyze, and implement solutions to fix incidents, bugs, and problems at the operational level. Equipping an SRE or SRE team makes it much easier to create solutions to prevalent problems.
  • Change the culture to support the model
    At the heart of SRE is not a system or software, but a culture. That culture is one that highlights three non-negotiables: proactivity, solution-focus, and user experience. A department dedicated to DevOps and SRE, and the whole company, for that matter, should support that model.

Where SRE is Going

Over the years, SRE adoption has grown from 10% in 2019 to 15% in 2020, and while that trend continues on an upward tick, we will start seeing IT operations in a different way.

To stay competitive in these changing times, you should implement your own too. Check out Squadcast to accelerate the adoption of SRE to your organization.

Squadcast is an incident management tool that’s purpose-built for SRE. Your team can get rid of unwanted alerts, receive relevant notifications, work in collaboration using the virtual incident war rooms, and use automated tools like runbooks to eliminate toil.

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April 29, 2021
April 29, 2021
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