If you are interested in software development and IT operations, you may have heard of two popular terms: SRE and DevOps. But what do they mean, and how do they differ?
- SRE and DevOps are two approaches that aim to improve the reliability and speed of software development and delivery, but they differ in how they create, implement, and automate software products or services.
- SRE teams work with already-built software to ensure it functions correctly and cooperates with other software and systems, while DevOps teams create software and then refine it.
- SRE and DevOps engineers need different skill sets and use different tools and technologies for their tasks. They also need to collaborate and communicate with each other and other stakeholders to achieve their goals.
While SRE and DevOps share some similarities in their goals, there are some key differences in their approaches. Understanding these distinctions can help you navigate this new frontier and find the right path for your team or organization.
In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between SRE and DevOps, what it takes to work in these roles, and how to get started.
What is SRE?
SRE stands for Site Reliability Engineering. It involves safeguarding systems and ensuring their continuous functionality. SRE teams use automation to ensure that their applications work as expected and avoid any problems that can disrupt the user experience.
The SRE approach began at Google in 2003 as a systematic way to ensure their service remained continuously usable. The approach is guided by measuring service-level indicators (SLIs). SLIs are metrics that show how well the service meets the expectations of its users.
For example, when you enter a product name into a search engine, you expect to get results about the product. However, sometimes errors occur. An SLI tracks how often those errors occur and notifies the SRE team when they happen too often.
SREs are proactive and reactive. They always look to fix known issues and determine ways to prevent future problems. They monitor websites and services to discover errors, such as latency issues and traffic problems, that can threaten the user experience. SREs are also the first call when a service experiences downtime. They handle issues based on their potential for harm, tackling the biggest or most pressing problems first.
When they are not fixing availability and reliability issues, SREs use their programming knowledge to write automated processes to keep things working smoothly. They may also build software to monitor site performance and alert teams when issues arise.
What is DevOps?
DevOps stands for Development and Operations. It is a set of practices that aims to shorten the software development lifecycle and speed the delivery of higher-quality software. It does this by breaking down silos and combining and automating the work of software development teams and IT operations teams.
DevOps is more of a philosophy than a specific role or team. Its fundamental purpose is to break down the barriers that divide development and operations units to facilitate faster development and deployment of high-quality software. DevOps teams use agile methodologies, continuous integration, and continuous delivery (CI/CD) tools, cloud services, and other technologies to collaborate and deliver software products or services.
DevOps engineers are responsible for designing, developing, testing, deploying, and monitoring applications with speed, quality, and control. They are involved in every stage of the software development lifecycle, from planning to maintenance. They also work closely with other teams, such as security, quality assurance, and business analysts, to ensure that the software meets the requirements and expectations of the stakeholders.
Key Differences between SRE and DevOps
Although SRE and DevOps share some common goals and practices, such as automation, collaboration, and continuous improvement, there are some key differences between them.
Development and implementation
DevOps is about core development. DevOps teams are focused on building, testing, deploying, and monitoring applications that solve a problem or provide a service. SRE teams, on the other hand, are focused on ensuring that the applications run smoothly and reliably in production environments. They also provide feedback to the development teams on how to improve the applications.
There are different skill sets between DevOps and SREs. DevOps engineers need to have strong programming skills, as well as knowledge of various tools and technologies for software development and delivery. They also need to have good communication skills because they work with different teams and stakeholders. SREs need to have both programming skills and system administration skills because they deal with both software engineering and IT operations tasks. They also need to have good analytical skills as they troubleshoot issues and find solutions.
Both DevOps and SREs use automation to reduce manual work and increase efficiency. However, they automate different things for different purposes. DevOps engineers automate deployment processes, such as building, testing, releasing, and updating software products or services. SREs automate redundancy processes, such as scaling up or down resources, backing up data, or switching servers in case of failure.
SRE and DevOps Skills Requirements
You will need to have a combination of technical and soft skills to succeed as an SRE or DevOps engineer. Some of the essential skills that you need include:
- Programming languages: You should be proficient in one of these programming languages: Python, Go, Java, Ruby, or C#. You should also be familiar with scripting languages, such as Bash, PowerShell, or Perl.
- Tools and technologies: You should be familiar with tools and technologies used for software development and delivery. Some of these tools include Git, Jenkins, Docker, Kubernetes, Ansible, Terraform, Prometheus, Lens, etc.
- Cloud platforms: You should be familiar with at least one of these three cloud platforms: Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), or IBM Cloud. You should also know how to use cloud services for computing, storage, networking, security, etc.
- System administration: You should be familiar with system administration tasks, such as installing and configuring software, managing servers and networks, troubleshooting issues, performing backups and restores, etc.
- Communication: You should be able to communicate effectively with different teams and stakeholders. You should also be able to document your work and create reports and presentations.
- Collaboration: You should be able to work well with others in a team environment, using agile methodologies and tools. You should also be able to share your knowledge and feedback with others and learn from them.
- Problem-solving: You should be able to analyze complex problems and find creative solutions. You should also be able to test your solutions and implement them in a timely manner.
How to Get into DevOps
If you decide to pursue DevOps, KodeKloud has a perfect guide. Through our DevOps Learning Path, you can learn about infrastructure automation, lean and agile transformation, security, monitoring, and other essential DevOps basics. No prior coding experience is required.
Some of the skills you’ll be trained on in the DevOps Learning Path include Git basics, Linux basics, Docker for beginners, Kubernetes, Jenkins, Terraform, Chef, and Puppet, among others. Click here to view all the courses in the path. The courses in the learning path include video lectures, demos, a lab environment to practice, and interactive exercises.
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To learn more about how to become a DevOps engineer, check out this video:
How to Get into SRE
If you decide to pursue SRE, KodeKloud provides you with a guide for the first steps through our Infrastructure as Code Learning Path. Here you’ll learn how to work with SRE tools like Terraform and Ansible. This path includes both beginner and advanced Terraform and Ansible courses.
DevOps and SRE Certifications
To have a career in DevOps and SRE, you must have certifications that validate your skills and knowledge in SRE or DevOps practices and tools. Many certifications are available from providers, such as Google, Microsoft, AWS, and the Linux Foundation.
Some of the most popular and in-demand certifications include:
- Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA)
- Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD)
- Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist (CKS)
- GCP Cloud Leader Certification
- Microsoft Azure Administrator
- AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional
Don’t know where to start your certification journey, check out the blog CKAD vs. CKA vs. CKS.
To learn more about the Kubernetes certifications, check out our CKA, CKAD, and CKS - Frequently Asked Questions blog.
Challenges of SRE and DevOps
Below are some of the common difficulties that SREs and DevOps engineers face:
- Measuring reliability: Reliability is a key goal for both SRE and DevOps, but it can be hard to measure and quantify. SREs use service-level indicators (SLIs), service-level objectives (SLOs), and error budgets to define and monitor reliability. The problem with these two metrics is that they vary depending on the context and expectations of the service, making it difficult to measure the success of a team.
DevOps engineers use metrics such as deployment frequency, change failure rate, meant time to recovery (MTTR), etc., to measure performance, quality, and customer satisfaction, but these can also be subjective and inconsistent. Both SREs and DevOps engineers need to collaborate with stakeholders to agree on what reliability means and how to measure it.
- Balancing speed and stability: Another challenge for both SRE and DevOps is finding the right balance between speed and stability. On one hand, they want to deliver software products or services as fast as possible to meet customer demands and stay ahead of the competition. On the other hand, they want to ensure that the software products or services are reliable and secure. This creates a trade-off between innovation and risk management. Both SREs and DevOps engineers need to adopt a culture of continuous improvement and learning from failures, as well as embrace the use of automation and testing tools to minimize errors and downtime.
- Managing complexity: As software systems become more complex, distributed, and dynamic, so do the challenges of managing them. SREs and DevOps engineers need to deal with issues such as scalability, availability, latency, performance, security, compliance, etc. They also need to work with multiple tools, technologies, platforms, and teams across the software development lifecycle. This can create a lot of complexity and overhead for SREs and DevOps engineers. They need to adopt a systematic and holistic approach to managing complexity, such as using observability platforms, microservices architectures, cloud services, etc.
- Aligning culture and processes: One of the biggest challenges for both SRE and DevOps is changing the culture and processes of the organization to support its goals. SREs and DevOps engineers need to overcome the silos approach and conflicts that exist between different teams. They also need to foster a culture of collaboration, trust, transparency, accountability, feedback, experimentation, etc. This requires effective communication and training, as well as determination to shift from the old ways of doing things.
SRE and DevOps are two exciting and rewarding career paths for anyone interested in software development and IT operations. They both require a mix of technical and soft skills, as well as a passion for learning and improving. If you want to become an SRE or DevOps engineer, you will need to have the relevant skills, certifications, and experience with tools used in the industry.