Site reliability engineering (SRE) comprises a set of principles and practices that are meant to help you incorporate various aspects of software engineering. Not only this, but it also facilitates you to apply them to infrastructure and operations problems, with the goal of creating scalable and highly reliable software systems.
Irrespective of whether you are just adopting SRE or optimizing your current processes, you need to understand these principles and practices first. With this blog, we will explain the 7 key principles of SRE and the best practices to implement them. Let’s get started!
7 Key Principles of Site Reliability Engineering:
1. Embracing Risk
Embracing risk is the first step toward building a solid software engineering infrastructure since it helps you weigh the costs of improving reliability and its impact on customer satisfaction. Your customers won’t be happy if unreliability causes them pain. Hence, you must enhance reliability by embracing risks but don’t overspend on reliability. Here is how you can achieve this:
- Establish an acceptable level of reliability for customers and determine the cost of any improvements to reliability.
- Analyze what would happen if you don’t implement the improvement? Weigh the costs vs. the risk and try setting standards for when your team embraces risk with error budgets.
2. Service Level Objectives
Service level objectives help you translate customer satisfaction into an internal goal by managing risk and budget for error. They are based on service level indicators that represent what is most important to your customers. You can create SLIs that represent reliability more than any single metric by mapping distinct user journeys. Other ways include:
- Building SLIs by analyzing how customers are using your services.
- Setting your SLO at the customer’s pain point.
- Ensuring monitorable SLOs giving you access to all the data you need to keep the SLO up-to-date.
- Setting policies for your error budget on preventing an SLO breach if the budget falls or how to use the spare money for development efforts.
3. Eliminating Toil
It includes cutting down the repetitive tasks to free up energy and time for pressing concerns. Automation is an ideal way to achieve this. But you can also add guides and processes for tasks to eliminate toil. Documenting the SOPs can help you boost your capacity for higher-value work. You can also:
- Create standards and templates for resources having pre-set guidelines for each process.
- Include toil elimination in sprints and plan time for regular improvements.
Look at the meaningful and actionable data produced by your system and try to make effective decisions based on it. You can use monitoring tools to separate signal from noise, i.e., necessary and unnecessary data. It helps you consolidate a lot of information into fewer meaningful metrics, such as latency, traffic, error rate, and saturation. But:
- Ensure that your service produces the metrics you need and consolidate these metrics into statistics.
- Focus on building up deeper metrics and bridge them to what impacts your customers.
- Establish a connection between your alerting tools to monitoring data and incorporate monitoring data into incident retrospectives.
Automation is the practice in which we use machines to increase efficiency and speed by replacing mundane human tasks with technology-driven tools. Automation not only increases the speed of completing many tasks but also improves your development velocity. You can use it in testing to find bugs and test how your system handles the load; deploy or create new servers, reallocate load, and swap over codebases; or communicate to spin up collaboration channels and log key events. For this, you need to:
- Look for even the tiniest scope for automation.
- Invest in automation and must roll out automation with testing.
- Keep optimizing as and when required.
6. Release Engineering
Release engineering helps you build and deploy software in a consistent, stable, repeatable way. It applies SRE principles to releasing software and offers you several benefits. A good release engineering practice helps you create a unified, agreed-upon standard to configure your releases efficiently. It also assists you in implementing a continuous testing process to catch errors quickly. To implement this, you have to:
- Decide on release standards and collaborate to build standards for all releases, including timelines, testing protocols, and available resources.
- Build release guides for releasing code so that it meets release standards.
- Monitor the statistics about your releases and revise them as per the need.
Simplicity is at the core of SRE since it helps you develop the least complex systems with high efficiency. Always try to build a simpler system since it is easier to monitor, repair, and improve a simple system. Here is how you can implement simplicity:
- By developing a shared understanding of complexity, such as how long it takes you to make a change, how many systems it interacts with, etc.
- By modeling systems to find areas of unnecessary complexity and evaluating the risk of removing them versus the time saved.
We just discussed the seven main principles of SRE and the best ways to implement them. That’s not all. You can also follow these practices for the same:
- Work blamelessly and try to find systemic causes together.
- Embrace the failure and celebrate it as an investment in reliability.
- Learn from each failure and create on-call schedules that are empathetic and fair.
- Build a strong SRE team that works various roles from code development to spreading cultural values.
- Earn SRE Certification so you can showcase your expertise in the community.