The blooming IT industry is conquering the world. As our reliance on technology grows, new tools and practices emerge, ensuring effective implementation of changes where they are needed.
DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering practices trending practices that have significantly grown in popularity in recent years. They are considered both competitors and very similar directions.
Let's figure out what DevOps и Site Reliability Engineering are and how they differ from each other.
A brief definition of DevOps is bringing together development and operations teams in order to reduce time spent on software development and the release of updates. For a long time, these two groups have been separated by expertise boundaries. The development team only dealt with the code, the operations team was responsible for making it work. The separation between these processes has resulted in long quality control cycles and sparse production deployments due to concerns of downtime or breakdown.
The DevOps principle is that an approach where teams share responsibility for both coding and ensuring it stayed running as soon as it goes into production is more efficient. In the DevOps methodology, the boundaries between development and operations are blurring. Two groups may be united into one, where specialists work on the whole life cycle of a product to cultivate skills and knowledge in various aspects, not limited to one area of expertise.
Thus, a distinctive feature of the DevOps specialist consists in their ability to combine a number of specializations: administration, development, testing, managing, etc.
Site Reliability Engineering is a set of measures to increase the reliability of the system. The word "site" is used in a broad sense and includes ensuring the reliability of all logical levels of the system, not a website as we know it. SRE is a mixture of a developer’s and a system administrator’s works with all that it entails. SRE is about providing uptime for high load services, stabilizing the system after a crash, and making the appropriate amendments to the code.
In general, SRE is a kind of offshoot, or rather, the implementation of the DevOps philosophy, inspired by Ben Trainor, current vice president of cloud computing at Google.
SRE teams deal not only with support, but also with design: they are actively looking for areas with potential for improvement, rather than just reacting to problems that have already arisen. An approach that aims to change instead of trying to maintain the status quo allows, along with scaling the service, to introduce sublinear scaling of the support team. The SREs themselves are programmers, that is, they have the same skills as the developers of the system they maintain. Therefore, they can change not only the infrastructure around the application, but also the code itself.
It is no coincidence that these two spheres are compared with each other – they are adjacent, i.e. often duplicate functions of each other. But the question of which is better, SRE or DevOps, is the wrong one.
In a nutshell, DevOps is a philosophy, and SRE is the implementation of this philosophy. If DevOps is an interface in a programming language, then SRE is a specific programming class that implements DevOps. SRE engineers are needed when a company is trying to implement the principles of DevOps and the developers cannot cope with the increased workload.
There is indeed a very fine line between the two practices. SRE is a combination of DevOps and development, i.e. the ability to write code and dive into the depths of development is here combined with work on the server side: administration, scaling, and load. If we compare specifically work, then a DevOps engineer’s work is more operational than creative, say, 70/30, in the case of SRE, this indicator tends to 50/50. Simply put: DevOps is closer to system administration, SRE is closer to development. Yes, devops engineers know how to work with the cloud or write scripts to automate work, but SREs are often much deeper familiar with the principles of organizing the work of distributed systems, their reliability, risks, practical aspects of operating the system, both in development and in production environments. In the case of DevOps, knowledge of networks, protocols, OS internals is required. As a rule, SRE engineers are experienced developers or, less often, administrators with a strong development background.
SRE solves the same problems as DevOps: increases the speed of new features release and improves team processes. But unlike DevOps, SRE puts more emphasis on the stability and reliability of services, so if these indicators are critical for your business, then SRE will be useful. You definitely need to implement SRE if users complain about crashes and often contact the support team.
The difference between SRE and DevOps is easiest to understand by considering the job roles of engineers:
SRE engineers are responsible for:
Coding and configuration management for automation;
Tracking software infrastructure;
Planning a software deployment with an unchanged infrastructure using CI / CD;
Providing that configurations are applicable for integration and deployment across different environments.
DevOps engineers typically:
Simplify the software development process;
Set up, maintain, and document infrastructure components;
Configure and support a variety of virtual environments;
Implement and maintain cluster environments;
Work with platforms like Docker, Jenkins, and so on in order to automate the development, testing, and deployment of the product.
As you see, DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering are not competing practices, but rather collaborative tools aimed at faster development of better software.
Is there a big difference between DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering? Not really. There are some differences in these practices, but they are not significant. Both approaches aim to bring development teams and operators together and share similar responsibilities, with particular attention to automation and reliability.
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