Skills Required To Become SRE Engineer

SRE stands for Site Reliability Engineering and incorporates aspects related to software engineering, system engineering, and system administration to build highly reliable software systems.

The concept of Site Reliability Engineering was introduced by Google in 2003 where they decided to adapt to an approach of solving problems with the help of software. Thereby a group of individuals with considerable expertise in software is assigned to solve problems that were traditionally addressed by an operations team.

SRE engineers are mainly a requirement of cloud-native and SaaS companies where traditional software teams have trouble keeping up with faster and more complex developments in software.

Top Technical and Managerial Must-have Skills For All SRE Engineers

In terms of SRE, software engineers are those people who possess enough knowledge of various programming languages, data structures and algorithms, and performance which makes them capable of writing software that is effective and efficient. It is extremely crucial that the software should not only be able to accomplish a task at launch but also it has to be efficient enough at accomplishing that task even when the task grows.

One should be adept at the following skills to become a Site Reliability Engineer:

  • Expertise in coding
  • Understanding of operating systems
  • Building CI/CD pipelines from scratch
  • Use of version control tools
  • Effective use of monitoring tools
  • Possessing an in-depth understanding of databases
  • Expertise in cloud-native applications
  • Expertise in distributed computing
  • Excel at communication skills

Companies like Google, Amazon, Netflix, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent among others usually hire someone who has good software skills along with a little experience in professional development. The candidate should also be an expert in network engineering or system administration to be hired as an SRE.  

Job Description of an SRE Engineer

Site reliability engineers bridge the gap that exists between development and operations by the application of a software engineering mindset to issues associated with system administration. SRE engineers usually split their time between operations or on-call duties and developing systems and software that assist in increasing the site reliability and performance.

Google has a bunch of rules of engagement that determine how their SRE team interacts with the environment. Such rules and work practices help the SRE teams to keep doing primarily engineering work and not engage in operations work. Google also puts a lot of emphasis on SREs not spending more than 50% of their time on operations and consider any violation of this rule a sign of system ill-health.

SREs collaborate closely with product developers regularly to ensure that the designed solution responds effectively to the non-functional requirements of the system such as availability, performance, security, and maintainability. They also work with other release engineers to ensure that the software delivery pipeline works as efficiently as possible.

The main areas of implementation that the SRE engineers deal with are as follows:

  • General systems uptimes
  • Management of incidents and outage
  • Systems and application monitoring
  • Systems performance
  • Latency in system
  • Change management
  • Planning of capacity

Some Concrete Principles of SRE

SRE is a job role or a set of practices that facilitates collaboration between operation and product development as per the broad set principle that constitutes DevOps. In other terms, DevOps is an umbrella term that houses Site Reliability Engineering as one of its implementations.

SRE works on the following few concrete principles as mentioned below:

  • Operations are considered as a software problem
  • Service is managed by Service Level Objectives or SLOs
  • Minimization of time spent on operational tasks and spending more time on doing project work. Project work is the one that makes services more reliable and scalable
  • Automation of 50% of the tasks
  • Saving precious time by reducing the costs of failure
  • Sharing ownership with the developers
  • Use of the same tooling irrespective of the function or the designated job title

Conclusion

 According to Google, an SRE Engineer has the inherent predisposition as well as the ability to substitute human labor with automation. Mainly engineers with software development ability and proclivity are hired as SRE engineers. Therefore, deepening your knowledge in areas of systems engineering or software engineering will help an individual to have a competitive edge and more flexibility for the future of Site Reliability Engineering.

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