Whether your a startup or well-established company in the tech field, knowing the difference between what SRE vs DevOps are can be helpful for you to strategize on which way to onboard these types of software engineers. Or maybe you are currently a software engineer looking to level up your skills in one of these directions. If either of these is your current case, please read on as we have broken it down for you.
What is SRE vs DevOps?
The importance of having DevOps Engineers (DevOps) and Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) are sometimes overlooked in the software engineer world. Moreover, many organizations wonder whether you need one or both on your team. Many companies don’t even realize the difference between the two and will use the terms interchangeably when looking to hire someone to fit their specific role on their team. These two positions are sometimes confused with one another. Thus, it's confusing when deciding which one you need for your team, or if you need both.
Certainly, an SRE would not be able to properly perform a DevOps job and vice versa. Each has its roles, responsibilities, and qualifications, and neither should have to handle the other’s responsibilities. But what exactly are these two roles, and what unique responsibilities do each have?
While they have their similarities, such as their contribution toward the improvement of the product release cycle in software development and the use of automation and collaboration, they also have stark differences that set them apart in how they operate.
Both titles are in demand, especially as technology continues to evolve. But, when it comes to DevOps vs. SRE, which one do you need for your team and organizational systems, and do you really need both? What is this gap between development types? Read on to know more.
What Is a Site Reliability Engineer (SRE)?
SREs primarily focus on the operations of a team.
In short, SRE essentially calls for software development and IT operations to be intertwined as a unique approach to an application’s lifecycle and service management. The term site reliability engineer, or SRE, was first used by Ben Sloss, Google’s VP of Engineering, in 2003. Although SRE is related to DevOps, it has fundamental differences that set it apart.
Some of what SRE focuses on include:
- Operations team
- Incident response
- Post mortems
- Monitoring, alerts, and events
- Planning capacity
SREs use their practices to create robust infrastructures and services, offering these to their company and those who typically create and deliver applications, such as software developers and computer programmers. Their primary responsibility is to ensure that systems remain dependable, robust, and accessible.
What is a DevOps?
DevOps teams primarily focus on the development of operations.
DevOps includes certain tools, practices, and a cultural philosophy to integrate and automate tasks between IT and software development teams. The main responsibilities of a DevOps engineer include fostering empowerment for strong teams, communication and collaboration between teams, and automating technology.
Some of what DevOps focuses on include:
- Error budgets
- Automation release, mitigating human error risk
- Building environments
- Config management
- Coding infrastructure
- Delivery speed
SRE Approach to Software Development
The SRE approach to software development differs when compared to DevOps. SRE focuses more on operations and ensuring that everything is functional. What exactly does an SRE do?
Covers the How Part of Programming
Unlike DevOps, which focuses on developing operations and programs, SRE focuses on how something is programmed and ensuring its functionality. For example, SRE might focus on the following:
- Input: Input comes from all sorts of places — keyboards, touchscreens, various programs, and more. Input, or the data that is being worked with, is one of two important factors in the how of programming. For example, when you use an ATM device, you receive input from two different factors: the information you put into the machine and your debit or credit card.
- Output: Output comes after input and is typically the result you’re left with. When writing a program, the programmer typically writes the code to ask a question and receive an answer in return. Output can come in many shapes and sizes, from text and graphics to sounds and other senses. Back to the ATM machine, when the ATM machine processes your request, whether it’s to transfer or withdraw money, the output is granted — either with a beep and a receipt acknowledging your transferred funds, or a beep, the money you withdrew, and a receipt showing your transaction.
- Arithmetic: Computers and math go hand-in-hand. Computers can perform various mathematical functions, from simple subtraction and addition to more complicated mathematics like algebra and calculus. For example, subtraction and addition are used in your banking account when you make withdrawals or deposits, have money wired or transferred to or from your account, or pay bills. Calculus is used to send satellites into orbit and to control what’s happening with them.
Ensures Changes Don't Increase Overall Failure Rates
SREs embrace, manage, and measure risk. Despite their courage when it comes to failure, SREs are still careful when it comes to implementing changes and ensuring that these changes don’t affect the overall failure rate. Typically, when changes are implemented into software development, there’s always a risk that the software will fail. SREs hope to mitigate that risk.
Focuses on System Reliability, Scalability, and Availability
SRE emphasizes reliability, scalability, and availability. But what exactly are these factors and why are they important?
System reliability is when a system correctly performs its actions without needing repair, thus creating reliable systems. System scalability means a system’s performance can increase or decrease in response to changes. System availability refers to when a program is operational at a specific time instance.
Uses a Development Team for Each Release Cycle
SRE encourages using development teams for each release cycle. While this may seem redundant, it actually benefits the organization. When code is modified and updated, it’s possible that the code can break. It becomes more possible with each release cycle as the code continues to receive updates.
However, using a team to oversee the release cycles can help catch bugs before the release happens. It’s important to catch bugs and defects and solve them before release because when software is released with defects, your company can lose credibility, time, and money.
The Benefits of SREs
There are several benefits to using an SRE, including:
- Improved metrics reporting: SREs provide appropriate measures about how a program works, including the production, service health, defects, and efficiency, and can translate these into more concise measurements, such as how long the program has been down.
- Customer satisfaction: SREs are focused on improving customer satisfaction, typically through service level indicators (SLIs), service level objectives (SLOs), and service level agreements (SLAs).
- Freeing time for value: Since SREs focus on finding and resolving defects, more time is freed up for the development team, who can then focus their efforts on developing new features and improving pre-existing ones.
DevOps Approach to Software Development
Unlike SRE, which focuses on operations, DevOps culture focuses on development. But what does this entail?
The core principles for DevOps include the following:
Responsible for Implementing New Features
One of the main responsibilities of DevOps is developing and implementing new features. From brainstorming to jotting down ideas onto paper and then turning those ideas into actual functional properties, DevOps covers the entire developmental process from start to finish.
Works From the Perspective of the Development Environment
Development environments are workplaces with the necessary tools to help you develop your ideas and turn them into programs and source code. Any application or program that you use has been deployed through developmental environments, such as Adobe Flex and Microsoft Visual Studio.
DevOps allows developers to formulate their code straight from the development environment, streamlining the coding process and allowing developers to create products and services much more efficiently and effectively.
Focuses on Continuity and Speed of Production
DevOps also calls for a focus on continuity and speed of production, ensuring that programs and services are developed as quickly as possible. Continuity helps software document and store critical information regarding their company, helps developers stay organized, and ensures that their data is accurate.
Speed of production is equally important as it allows more products to be manufactured in a single day, reducing both time and cost for the development team and the organization.
Uses Reliability Engineering for Development and Operations
Finally, DevOps uses reliability engineering to ensure efficient development and operations. What is reliability engineering, exactly? Reliability engineering practices determine the performance of software-based products and if they can meet consumers’ operational needs.
The Benefits of DevOps
Similar to SREs, there are plenty of benefits to implementing DevOps into your team, including:
- Work environment: With DevOps, you can rest assured that your work environment will be a stable one. But why does that matter? The instability of the work environment can add unnecessary stress, reduce your workflow, and limit your productivity. How does a work environment even become unstable? Stress can affect a lot about your work, including the environment. Unfortunately, releasing new features, troubleshooting bugs, and putting out patches and updates can cause stress and tension. Using the DevOps approach and principles can help mitigate any stress or tension. Plus, DevOps typically allows you to deliver faster and more frequent releases and updates, which can increase customer satisfaction and decrease your stress levels. Sounds like a win/win.
- Transparent: Since DevOps allows you to eliminate the need for silos and increases the need for collaboration, you’ll have better luck communicating with your team members. Transparency goes a long way in building good work relationships and allowing your team to focus on their unique skill sets. Additionally, transparency and communication allow for a stronger emphasis on collaboration between operational and developmental teams and allow teams to share feedback and advice, thus improving product quality.
- Automated: Since DevOps has a high focus on automating repetitive tasks, meaning that any defects are consistently tested throughout automation software, developers have more free time to dedicate to being creative and coming up with new ideas for products or updates for existing ones.
Why You Need Both on a Development Team
The debate between DevOps vs SRE has been around for a while now, and many are still unsure of whether they need one or both, or how having both is beneficial.
SRE and DevOps are two very different methodologies. However, despite their differences, they also possess similarities. With that in mind, it’s important to understand that these two methodologies are not competitors. Instead, SRE can often supplement DevOps and vice versa. Using these two tools together can benefit a business more than just using one or the other.
Ensures Both Operations and Development Are Efficient
One of the main benefits of implementing both SRE and DevOps into your development team is that you’ll be focused on both the operations and development processes, ensuring that both are efficient and effective. But why are they so important, and are they both as important as the other?
Generally, operations come in three steps: you write your software, you test your software, and then you push your software to production. Everything is supposed to work out fine, but it doesn’t, and that’s because you lack sufficient operations, or don’t have someone to focus on them.
The same problem could occur in development. You brainstorm an idea, you put it down on paper, and then you send it off to the team to code. But then they hit a few snags, and it’s sent back to you to troubleshoot and fix.
Defects in development and operations can cause various problems. Overall, these issues can be costly in both time and money, not just for the development team but for the entire organization. Putting an emphasis on both operations and development will be beneficial to most companies and save the business and its employees both time and money.
But how do you focus on both of these simultaneously? It's achieved by implementing both SRE and DevOps methodologies together.
Enables Automation of Repetitive Tasks
Both SRE and DevOps methodologies put focus on automation. When using both methodologies together, automation is taken a step further. Where DevOps is concerned, continuous and automated testing through a CI/CD tool is performed. And with SRE, everything is automated. But automating everything can be a hassle. However, if you use both DevOps and SRE, the automation process becomes less time-consuming, especially since you’ll be using two different methodologies to control the automation process.
Additionally, SRE allows you to use tools and services available through flexible application programming interfaces, or APIs, and DevOps allows you to adopt the use of automation tools.
When you use DevOps and SRE together, you’re able to complement several different factors of programming, including:
- Decreasing organizational silos: DevOps can help your teams from various departments keep in touch with one another and ensures that they all follow a similar goal. SRE adds to this by administering project ownership between teams. Collaboration is supposed through SRE, which uses specific tools, techniques, and codebase to support it.
- Introducing steady change: DevOps implements slow, steady changes in which constant improvements are then made. Following this, SRE enables teams to focus on small and frequent updates that lessen the impact of change on application stability and availability. SRE also helps DevOps with their slow, steady changes by using CI/CD tools to manage any changes and issue tests to ensure that code alterations are installed effectively.
- Learning to accept failure: DevOps and SRE recognize failures as normal incidents. And they are. Failures and errors happen to everyone, and DevOps and SRE both wish to normalize this. DevOps manages errors resulting from runtime and teaches individuals and teams to learn from them. Likewise, SRE works with error management to help maintain failures. Additionally, SREs enable teams to create a risk budget to test failure limits and devise a plan moving forward.
- Measuring everything: As mentioned previously, both these methodologies use and support automation. Because of this, it’s important to monitor all processes to ensure everything runs efficiently. While it may seem like it requires a lot of effort, it can be beneficial to have everything measured in plain sight. DevOps uses a feedback loop to collect metrics, while SRE ensures that certain measurements are performed by implementing measurements through service level indicators SLIs, SLOs, and SLAs.
As you can see, there are many similarities between SRE and DevOps, but many differences, too. No matter what, bringing on both an SRE and a DevOps expert will give you more benefits than if you were to just bring on one or the other. Implementing both methodologies will give your company a better chance at success.
How To Hire for Your SRE or DevOps Project?
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Once you tell us what type of tech talent you’re looking for, we’ll put together a pre-vetted list. So, you can choose your ideal candidate. Once you’ve done that, we handle everything else. From the actual hiring and the administration of benefits to payroll processing, we’ll handle the nitty gritty, allowing you to focus your attention where it matters most: on your company’s success. If you’re ready to meet with us, go ahead and schedule a meeting with one of our representatives.
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