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In DevOps Last updated: June 26, 2023
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Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) is an approach in which the teams apply software engineering practices to the infrastructure and operation processes to create highly scalable and reliable software systems hence improving the services.

Today, organizations are applying the SRE discipline to their DevOps to improve software development and delivery services.

Both SRE and DevOps share some core values as they connect the operations and development teams. This enables them to support the same goal of improving the application release cycle and reliability. However, there are some differences in the way they work.

SRE focuses on the management of the operations lifecycle. On the other hand, DevOps focuses on the application lifecycle.

Before we look at the differences, advantages, and challenges, let us get some basics about SRE and DevOps.

What is Site Reliability Engineering (SRE)?

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SRE is an approach where teams use software to automate operational tasks, manage systems and solve infrastructure issues. Instead of using traditional system admins, the SRE approach uses software and automation to better resolve problems and manage the production environment. It focuses on systems and tools that help companies quickly and frequently deliver reliable software products and features. 

SRE helps coordinate the tools, processes, and resources required to deliver software production services. One of its objectives is to quickly identify and respond to problems or outages. And it does this by finding the root cause of a problem, resolving the issues, and improving the systems to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. 

Ideally, SRE focuses on improving the software development processes. It ensures availability, efficiency, incident response, capacity, performance, and latency. 

Role of SRE in an Organization

The role of site reliability engineering is to ensure that all the production systems are reliable, available, and efficiently deliver services. By fixing problems as quickly as possible, either before or after they occur hence ensuring little or no downtime. 

SRE teams are responsible for the monitoring, performance, availability, efficiency, incident response, capacity planning, and change management of the services.

Benefits of SRE include improving performance and security while reducing risks and downtimes. Others include reducing operational expenses, improving incident response, and reducing time wastage through automation of repetitive tasks, all resulting in huge overall savings.

Outcomes of a Site Reliability Engineering 

The SRE team’s role is to keep the production up and running all the time. Major outcomes include;

  • Reducing the Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR) by rolling back from an unstable system to a previous stable version in case of a bug or other problem arising from a new release.
  • Reducing the Mean Time to Detect ((MTTD)
  • Automating everything along the CI/CD pipeline
  • Automating both functional and non-functional testing during production.
  • Perform on-call support
  • Document and share information about incidents and mitigation steps.

What is DevOps?

Development and Operations (DevOps) is a set of practices that combines the software development and operations disciplines. It uses automation to deploy, configure and maintain software products and features.

Additionally, DevOps promotes the working together of the developer and operations teams by emphasizing collaboration, continuous integration, and continuous development. By working together, the teams reduce the development time and improve production. 

DevOps feedback
DevOps delivery and feedback loops Image

Ideally, the DevOps methods use automation at every step that can be automated to improve efficiency and the product release cycle. Some benefits include reduced risks of bugs and quick delivery within budget.

Generally, DevOps is a flexible approach that applies to small, medium, or large projects in software development, IT operations, web development, IT infrastructure, etc.

It also involves automating various processes along the CI/CD pipeline. This helps to speed up delivering new products and features. However, they require closer monitoring, feedback, and other functions that help improve speed, reliability, and efficiency. The feedback loops help to measure operations while providing an opportunity to identify issues and improve.

Benefits of DevOps include reduced human error and costs, improved quality, and increased efficiency.

Outcomes of DevOps 

Using DevOps practices helps to reduce the conflicts between the development and operations teams. Also, it enables companies to deliver products and features reliably. Some outcomes of DevOps include;

  • Results in shorter software release cycles
  • Reducing the development and maintenance costs
  • Automated and continuous testing of the product along the production pipeline.

Next, we will explore the difference between SRE and DevOps.

Differences Between SRE and DevOps

Companies are increasingly turning to DevOps and SRE practices to build modern applications, add new features, and address different resilience issues. While DevOps focuses on development operations, SRE deals with site reliability.

The two complement each other using different approaches. One of the main distinctions is that DevOps focuses on outcomes while SRE is responsible for the steps required to achieve the goal. Ideally, the SRE looks at the practices or processes that ensure the success of DevOps. 

The table below shows some of the major differences between SRE and DevOps.

ParameterSite Reliability Engineering (SRE)Development and Operations (DevOps)
Focus SRE focuses on supporting the operations side of software product management. It works towards ensuring availability, reliability, scalability, and
eliminating redundancy, improving efficiency, reducing risk, increasing resilience, improving uptime, and building sustainability
DevOps focus more on the speed and continuity of developing and releasing software products and features. This includes:
⚫️ Building software
⚫️ Coding new features
⚫️ Testing software
⚫️ Releasing software
⚫️ Fixing bugs
⚫️ Improving efficiency

Approach Uses software engineering to enhance the IT infrastructure and operations to ensure that the production environment is highly reliable and available 

Streamlines development and deployment processes hence increasing efficiency and shortening the development life-cycle while reducing costs and risks. This allows teams to rapidly release products and new features. 
Skillset Cloud computing
Software engineering system architecture
IT operations
Production automation monitoring systems
Good written and verbal communication
Cloud computing
Agile software development
Monitoring systems
Scripting languages
Production automation
Good written and verbal communication

Integration SRE does not use tools due to various challenges. Instead, it relies on scripting languages such as  Python or Bash
It uses various integration and automation tools such as Chef or Puppet

Scope Dealing with operational problems such as infrastructure issues, production failures monitoring, security, etc. Also, ensure that new features do not cause failuresCreating new products and features    
CollaborationCollaboration is between teams in operations.   Collaboration is between development and operations

How SRE Complements DevOps

In DevOps, the different teams share accountability for a software product. However, each team still owns its code and is responsible for on-call support. Ideally, DevOps supports sharing responsibility for the infrastructure and software products.

Unfortunately, even with improved collaboration and shorter feedback loops, companies still find themselves frequently releasing faulty or unreliable products or features, leading to performance issues and downtimes. And this is where SRE comes in. 

Ideally, SRE bridges the gap between developers and IT operations. Some of the key responsibilities of the site reliability engineers include;

  • Monitoring the systems and services in the production environment
  • Automating the systems
  • Fixing problems
  • Add Incident response capability to automatically identify and mitigate issues while also finding the root cause and improvement areas.
  • Providing on-call services.

Advantages of Site Reliability Engineering

The SRE analyzes the site operations, processes, and infrastructure to determine the best way to ensure its availability. It also helps identify and address issues, improving performance and minimizing downtimes and security risks. 

Some benefits include:

  • Automating the oversight of the development and delivery systems makes them highly scalable and sustainable compared to manual interventions.
  • Provides useful visibility into the systems by monitoring parameters such as logs, metrics, and others across all the services. This helps to determine the health of the services in addition to identifying improvement areas and finding the root causes of problems.
  • Eliminates the conflicts between the development and operation teams. In practice, the development team wants to release new software or features into production as soon as possible. However, the operations teams do not want to release the product until they are completely sure that it will not cause problems such as outages or performance degradation. Ideally, SRE is critical to the success of DevOps success.
  • Increases the speed of detecting and resolving incidents while also streamlining on-call and alerting processes.
  • Quantifying the cost and impact of an outage. SRE can help the management, development, and operations to understand the impact and costs of an SLA violation. 
  • Eliminating toil allows engineers to dedicate at least 50 percent of their time to engineering tasks. This allows them to focus more on improving the engineering and systems reliability, thereby reducing toil further.

Challenges of SRE

SRE is a relatively new discipline that is still evolving. Despite its benefits, it also has some drawbacks.

  • Lack of qualified staff: Being a new discipline, only a handful of Site reliability engineers are in the market. Lack of qualified engineers due to the need to possess multiple skills. As such, this sets the bar very high for SR engineers. 
  • The SRE approach is a relatively new, unproven concept with a lower adoption rate compared to DevOps. As such, it is not obvious that it can address the many potential issues in the production environment.
  • Another drawback is the requirement for strong and direct management since it requires closer monitoring of the engineers. Unfortunately, this may result in micromanaging the engineers and reduced efficiency.
  •  The engineers must fully understand the system to know how to automate it. Once this is done, the system will be able to find and resolve problems before they cause any outages.
  • Resistance to change to organizational culture issues. As with many new technologies, many employees are often resistant to change, and this can be a challenge initially.

Why You Should Integrate SRE and DevOps

In practice, you cannot prevent problems from occurring. However, you can reduce the impact by providing a faster restoration of the services, learning from the incidents and resolutions, and improving systems to prevent similar issues from recurring. 


Towards this, integrating SRE with DevOps improves the services that ensure successful service delivery. SRE focuses on automating most of the manual and repetitive tasks and processes. And improving service availability and reliability.

Consequently, this reduces the duplication of efforts by the engineers while allowing the developers to concentrate more on delivering new products or features. Also, this allows the operation teams to spend more time managing the infrastructure. 

Automating the production environment provides proactive quality assurance capability that improves the availability and reliability of the software or feature in production. For example, automating tasks removes issues due to human error, fatigue, and repetitive tasks -improving the safety and speed of releasing new products or features.

SRE and DevOps have different goals. For example, the DevOps goal is to improve the software development lifecycle. The practice improves the communication and collaboration between the developers and other teams across the project lifecycle. On the other hand, the SRE goal is to improve the systems by improving reliability and efficiency.

Final Words

The roles and responsibilities of SRE teams are critical in ensuring a continuous improvement of the technologies, processes, people, culture, and practices within an organization. Whether in the process of transitioning to DevOps or already implemented, SRE allows you to improve on the speed, reliability, and other issues that increase efficiency and cost savings. 

Generally, SRE lies between software engineering, IT operations, and support. It strengthens the relationship between IT operations and developers, hence enabling better collaboration, shorter feedback loops, and the ability to release more reliable software faster.

Next, check out the DevOps security best practices guide.

  • Amos Kingatua
    Amos Kingatua is an ICT consultant and technical writer who assists businesses to set up, secure, and efficiently run a wide range of in-house and virtual data centers, IT systems and networks.
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