General

SRE vs. DevOps: What’s the Difference Between Them?

SRE vs DevOps

DevOps is a set of practices where development, IT operations, quality, and security are glued to Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) to deliver a reliable product to end customers. DevOps culture facilitates the collaboration of the Core Development and Operation team, allowing companies to reduce organization silos, expect and handle failure as part of the process, implement gradual changes, leverage automation tools, and at last, measure everything.

Whereas Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) is responsible for implementing the product developed by the Core Development team. The key objective of the SREs is to implement and automate DevOps practices to reduce the level of incidents and improve reliability and scalability. SREs are also responsible for sending swift and constant feedback to the Development team based on performance metrics – availability, latency, efficiency, capacity, and incident.

Differences Between DevOps and SREs

While DevOps is all about what aspect of the matters, SRE talks about the how part of it all. Nevertheless, there are a few other differences between the two. 

  1. Implementing New Features – DevOps is responsible for implementing the new features request to a product, whereas SREs ensure those new changes don’t increase the overall failure rates in production.
  2. Process Flow – A DevOps team has a perspective of the development environment to put changes from development to production. On the other hand, SREs have a perspective of production, so they can make suggestions to the development team to limit the failure rates despite the new changes.
  3. Focus – DevOps’s primary focus is on continuity and speed of product development, whereas SRE’s main focus is on the system’s reliability, scalability, and availability.
  4. Team Structure – A typical DevOps team consists of professionals with dedicated roles and responsibilities such as – Product Owner, Team Lead, Cloud Architect, Software Developer, QA Engineer, Release Manager, System Administrator. In contrast, SREs have a team of engineers with operational and development skills set.

Difference in Job Roles of SRE and DevOps

Although there is some overlap in the job roles of SREs and DevOps, there is wide segregation of functions:

DevOps SREs

Role

 

The main role of the DevOps team is to solve the development problem, build solutions to cater to business requirements.

 

SREs’ main role is to deal with operational problems, for example – production failures, infrastructure issues (disk, memory), security, monitoring.

 

Focus

 

Focus on product development with Continuous Integration/ Continuous Delivery.

 

SREs put more focus on resilience, scaling, reliability, uptime, and robustness.

 

Tools

 

In the DevOps role, the most widely used tools are – Integrated Development Environment (IDEs) for development purposes, Jenkins for Continuous Integration and Development, JIRA for change management, Splunk for log monitoring, SVN, GitHub.

 

In the SRE role, the most widely used tools are Prometheus and Grafana for collecting and visualizing the different metrics (CPU usage, memory, disk space, etc.), incident alert tools (OP5, PageDuty, xMatters, etc.), Ansible, Puppet, or Chef, Kubernetes and Docker for container orchestration, cloud platform AWS, GCP, Azure, JIRA, SVN, GitHub.

 

Bug reporting

 

DevOps team is responsible for debugging the code in case of any bug reported in the end product.

 

The SRE team is responsible for reporting the bug to the Core development team and does not get involved in debugging unless it is a production outage. SRE team is also responsible for debugging and fixing the infrastructure issues.

 

Measurement metrics

 

Typical measurement metrics for the DevOps role are Deployment Frequency and the Deployment Failure rate.

 

Typical measurement metrics for the SRE role are Error Budgets, SLOs (Service Level Objective), SLIs (Service Level Indicator), SLAs (Service Level Agreement).

 

Incident handling

 

DevOps teams work on the incident feedback to mitigate the issue. Conductsthe Post-Incident reviews to identify the root cause and document the findings to provide feedback to the core development team.

Problems DevOps Teams Solve

Implementing the DevOps practices can reduce the friction between Development and Operations teams. It can also help you deliver the end product reliably along with other challenges and problems that the DevOps teams can solve.

1. Reduced Cost of Development and Maintenance

A DevOps team always works towards CI/CD, putting more effort into automated testing rather than manual testing and improving release management by automating it all.

As for the traditional Software Development Life Cycle, there is always toil on the effort (development, testing, release), which increases the overall cost for the product development and production maintenance. Putting DevOps practice in execution can significantly reduce the delivery time, development, and maintenance costs.

2. Shorter Release Cycle

One of the most effective changes a DevOps team brings is to deliver faster with a shorter release cycle. The reason why the DevOps team advocates a shorter release cycle is that it is easy to manage and roll back to the stable version in case there are any issues. 

As opposed to the traditional release cycles, where the focus is on getting everything delivered in one release, which increases the risk of failure in production and is much harder to roll back. If DevOps practices are followed strictly, the organization will always have a proper release version system with release versions and minimal manual interventions with the release artifacts.

Here are the gains of a shorter release cycle:

  1. Deliver the new change request more frequently;
  2. Pushing the upgrades (bug fixes, security patches, version upgrades) to production is much easier.

3. Automated and Continuous Testing

In contrast to the traditional development cycle, where the testing team has to wait for the delivery of the product in the test environment to begin the testing DevOps, testing is injected from the beginning of the development lifecycle.

DevOps facilitates continuous and automated testing with the help of the CI/CD tool (Jenkins) and version control (Git, BitBucket). Adequate coverage of functional, nonfunctional, and interaction tests running in the pipelines can significantly improve the testing automation aspects of the project.

To learn more about DevOps, see our article on Who is DevOps?

Problems SREs Teams Solve

1. Reduced Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR)

SRE team is responsible for keeping the production up and running. In the event of a bug or production failure, SRE teams can roll back to the previous stable version of a product so that Mean Time to Recovery (MTTR) is reduced.

2. Reduced Mean Time to Detect (MTTD)

The other problem that the SRE team is trying to solve is to reduce the Mean Time to Detect(MTTD) using the Canary Rollouts so that the new release is made available to a small group of users before doing full rollouts. Canary rollouts help the SRE team find the issues in the early stage with a limited number of affected users.

3. Automated Everything

Automation is one of the biggest challenges the SRE team has to face. It is often observed that rollouts and supporting tasks are carried out manually, leading to inconsistency and increasing the probability of human error. 

A good practice for managing the infrastructure is to use Infrastructure as Code (IaC) with the help of Terraform, Pulumi, and the automation tools such as Ansible, Puppet, Chef. SRE team can leverage those tools to solve the problem of automation.

4. Automated Functional and Non Functional Testing in Production

The Core Development team can automate functional and non-functional testing in the test and stage environments but not in production.

Reliability engineers can help implement automation testing on Production environments without affecting the end-user.

5. On-Calls and Incident Documentation

Often reliability engineers have to take the on-call duties for managing unforeseen incidents, but they also have to prepare the documentation of the incidents and the troubleshooting steps so that it can help others perform the on-call duties. 

The SRE team can build up a valuable knowledge base on incidents to improve the incident troubleshooting time.

6. Shared Knowledge

Gaining exposure and building the knowledge base of the product development ecosystem (dev, test, stage, prod) is always beneficial for reliability engineers to foresee the issues in the production environment. 

But the main problem arises when the knowledge base is outdated, automation playbooks have irrelevant comments. Regular knowledge base updates by SREs in collaboration with DevOps can fill the knowledge gap between the teams.

DevOps and SRE Tools

When we talk about the tools of DevOps and SRE, it is often observed that most of the tools are being used commonly by both DevOps and SREs.

Common Tools

Planning

  • Jira Software
  • Confluence
  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams

Configuration Management Tools

Version Management

  • GitHub
  • BitBucket
  • GitLab

Log Monitoring

  • Splunk

DevOps Tools

Continuous Integration Continuous Delivery

  • Jenkins
  • AWS CodePipeline

Integrated Development Environment

  • Intellij 
  • Visual Studio
  • Sublime

Automated and Security Testing

  • Jmeter
  • Robot Framework
  • Burp
  • Wireshark

SRE Tools

Monitoring

  • Kibana
  • Prometheus
  • Grafana
  • New Relic
  • Istio

Incident Reporting System

  • PagerDuty
  • OP5
  • Opsgenie
  • VictorOps

Key Points

While the two share some core values, the focus of their work is different – the application lifecycle through DevOps and operations lifecycle management through SRE. Nevertheless, they both connect the Development and Operation teams while sharing similar responsibilities. And they are both working towards the same goal – enhancing the release cycle and achieving better product reliability.

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