Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) vs DevOps: What’s the Difference?

Nov 19, 2019 6:30:00 PM

SRE vs DevOps

Software Reliability Engineering and DevOps are two sought after disciplines, trying to maintain a balance between the software engineering and operations team. Since both approaches seem to sort similar problems, there is confusion if they are similar or can be used interchangeably. 

In this post, we will discuss what Site Reliability Engineering is, how it is different from DevOps, and how both approaches can work hand-in-hand to make software delivery pipeline more efficient and reliable. So, let’s get started. 

Site Reliability Engineering: History and Importance 

One of the major challenges that the development and operations team incur while working on a project is- sharing the same goal. While the development team continuously creates new features and push them to production, the operations teams had to work hard in keeping the production stable. Here, the two teams are pulling in the opposite direction. 

To bridge this gap between the two groups, Google created an SRE team that is responsible to keep the production stable and at the same time creates new features & operational improvements. Thus, half of the SRE team comprises of software engineers and half of it has system engineers. 

Back in the year 2003, when Google introduced the concept of SRE, its aim was to make its large-scale sites more efficient, scalable, and reliable. The practices kept forward were so efficient that some of the tech giants like Netflix, Amazon adopted them and also brought new practices to the table. 

Eventually, Site Reliability Engineering became a separate IT domain, which aims at automating operational aspects of the software development pipeline, such as performance and capacity planning, disaster response management, on-call monitoring, etc. 

Now, the question is- if SRE and DevOps make the development and Operations team work together, then, what’s the difference between the two? Let’s understand. 

Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) vs Devops: Fundamental Differences

Before we start with SRE vs DevOps differences, check out this article explaining how DevOps can bring agility to the software development cycle. 

Unlike SRE, DevOps is not a role but a cultural shift, followed by a team. DevOps involves the usage of tools to automate processes that ensure continuous integration and deployment of the solution. Site Reliability Engineering is a role that’s given to software professionals who adopt the best practices to create and maintain a highly available service. 

DevOps involves raising problems and then dispatch them to the development team for resolution. On the other hand, the SRE approach is about finding problems and trying to solve them themselves.  

While DevOps is all about what needs to be done, SRE emphasizes on how it needs to be done. That is why, both them- DevOps and SRE are known to complement each other, despite having some theoretical and practical differences between them. Here are some pointers illustrating this point.  

1. Reduce Organizational Silos 

Large enterprises, working on scalable projects usually have teams working in silos. All of them are working on a product and keep on pushing the increments. Here, the teams are working in different directions, thus making it difficult to create a big picture as a whole. 

DevOps ensure that teams don’t work in silos and are aligned to work with the rest of the teams. SRE, on the other hand, ascertains that everyone discusses what needs to be done. This is done by using the same tools and techniques across the company, ensuring that everyone’s ownership is shared everywhere. 

2. Accept Failure as Normal 

DevOps aims at handling and coping with issues before they lead to any failure. However, DevOps embraces failure, considering that failure is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Failure makes the team grow and learn. 

SRE, on the other side, has golden signals that identify the cause of the problem and try to balance failures against new releases. These golden signals are the key identifiers of the problem that is categorized as Service Level Indicators (SLI) and Service Level Objectives (SLO). The golden signals in SRE are latency, traffic, error, saturation, duration, etc. 

3. Implement Gradual Change 

With companies and their customers becoming faster than ever, the time-to-market has reduced significantly. There are frequent releases, continuous improvements in the product, expecting teams to stay updated with new tools and technologies to boost the software engineering cycle. While DevOps ensure that changes happen gradually, SRE emphasizes on reducing the cost of failure as a new release occurs. 

4. Leverage Tooling and Automation 

Both DevOps and SRE has its focus on the automaton. Both approaches are in favour of adding new tools to support automation, as long as they offer benefits to the development and operations team by removing manual intervention or effort. 

5. Measure Everything 

No matter what approach is being followed- DevOps or SRE, it is important to measure if they are moving in the right direction. While DevOps do measuring everything at development and operations level, SRE sees operations as the root cause of most of the problems. That is why it believes in prescriptive measuring through factors such as availability, up-time, outages, toil, etc. 

ALSO READ: SAFe vs LeSS vs DaD: Comparing the Three Frameworks to Scale Agile

SRE vs DevOps: What does your Business Need? 

The above section clearly demonstrates that both DevOps and SRE can collaborate to do avoid and manage failures. The approaches are meant to automate crucial processes and while they differ from each other, they work together to complement each other. To know which approach works best for your business, it is important to analyze the data that you have and measure success/failure basis of metrics.

Archna Oberoi

Written by Archna Oberoi

Content strategist by profession and blogger by passion, Archna is avid about updating herself with the freshest dose of technology and sharing them with the readers. Stay tuned here as she brings some trending stories from the tech-territory of mobile and web.