A Site Reliability Engineer maintains and improves the reliability and performance of a company's software systems.
Still a relatively new field, the concept of a SiteReliability Engineer was started by Google in 2003. According to Benjamin Traynor Sloss, the founder of Google’s first SRE team, the concept was to treat operations as a software problem, and staff with engineers.”
A Site Reliability Engineer often has a background in computer science, and may have several years of experience in software engineer roles with progressing responsibility before transitioning to Site Reliability Engineering.
1. Operations and process-oriented: To be able to document processes and workflows, a successful Site Reliability Engineer will need to have strong skills in technical writing, in addition to being able to explain the long term, bigger-picture impact of their projects.
2. Cloud-based experience: As more and more organizations develop cloud-based products, a Site Reliability Engineer will need to understand how products function in the cloud - and develop site infrastructure that supports cloud products.
3. Passion for detail: Site Reliability Engineers should be detail-oriented, and will need to make sure they understand the full scope and details of a project.
4. Well-versed in Python: Experience with Python, among other coding languages like Java and Ruby, may be important for a DevOps Engineer.
5. A dislike for the tedious: Love building automations, and hate doing the same tasks, over and over, at work? An appreciation of automation and saving however much time as possible, can be a great indicator of a Site Reliability Engineer.
There are several coding languages that can be beneficial to learn as Site Reliability Engineer, including:
Python: Python is widely used in the SRE domain due to its versatility, readability, and extensive ecosystem of libraries and frameworks. It's commonly used for scripting, automation, data processing, and building tools for system monitoring and management.
Go: Go (Golang) is a language created by Google that emphasizes simplicity, efficiency, and concurrency. Go is commonly used for building scalable and performant applications, including infrastructure tools and micro services.
Java: Java is a widely adopted language known for its platform independence and robustness. Java is used in many enterprise environments and can be valuable for developing larger-scale systems and tools.
Ruby: Ruby is a dynamic, object-oriented scripting language that is highly readable and expressive. It is often used in automation, web development, and configuration management frameworks like Chef and Puppet.
1. To design and support site infrastructure: A Site Reliability Engineer provides design and architecture support to engineering organizations, coming up with solutions to make IT systems as robust as possible - before any disaster occurs.
2. To monitor performance: Site Reliability Engineers will need to have a pulse on performance of their projects, and where potential areas for improvement exist.
3. To document processes and responses: A Site Reliability Engineer will need to work with cross-functional teams, from IT to other business stakeholders, to plan crisis responses and troubleshoot critical issues.
4. To develop automations and systems: How does an action within a site or product trigger a specific response, or chain of responses? A Site Reliability Engineer should have experience in developing automations that help ensure security and reliability.
Here are a few suggested interview questions to ask an Site Reliability Engineering candidate:
1. Describe your experience in incident management. How do you approach incident response, and what steps do you take to identify and resolve issues efficiently?
2. Explain your understanding of Service Level Objectives (SLOs) and Error Budgets. How do you define SLOs, and how do you manage error budgets effectively to balance reliability and innovation?
3. Tell me about a time when you implemented an automation solution that significantly improved system reliability or operational efficiency. What tools and technologies did you use, and what was the outcome?
4. Describe your experience with incident postmortems or retrospective analysis. How do you conduct post-incident reviews, and what steps do you take to identify root causes and implement preventive measures?
5. How do you approach collaborating with development teams in an SRE role? How do you ensure that SRE requirements are incorporated into the software development lifecycle and that deployments are reliable and scalable?
6. Describe a challenging situation where you faced a critical incident or major system outage. How did you handle the pressure, communicate with stakeholders, and work towards resolving the issue?
Site Reliability Engineers and DevOps roles are related disciplines that aim to improve the reliability, scalability, and efficiency of systems and applications. While there are overlapping principles and practices between Site Reliability Engineers and DevOps, there are some key differences in their focus and scope.
Site Reliability Engineers primarily focus on ensuring the reliability and availability of systems, emphasizing service-level objectives (SLOs) and error budgets. Site Reliability Engineers work to reduce the impact of failures, minimize downtime, and improve system performance. DevOps, on the other hand, focuses on streamlining the software delivery process, fostering collaboration between development and operations teams, and promoting automation and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) practices.
Site Reliability Engineers typically have a narrower focus on the reliability and performance of systems. They work closely with development teams to ensure that applications and services are designed and operated in a reliable and scalable manner. DevOps however, has a broader scope that encompasses the entire software delivery lifecycle, including development, testing, deployment, and operations. DevOps aims to break down barriers between teams and foster a culture of shared responsibility for the end-to-end delivery and maintenance of software.
We’ve recruited for many different Site Reliability Engineering roles, including job titles like: