SRE vs. DevOps: Hire Competent Latam SRE Engineers With Devengine

According to Google’s Ben Treynor, who many accredit as the mastermind behind the conceptualization of site reliability engineering, “SRE is what happens when you treat operations as a software problem and stuff it with a bunch of software engineers.”

As outlined in our previous “Does Your Business Really Need DevOps Engineers?” article, traditional software development projects comprised two separate teams — development and operations. 

Each of these teams had their own goals. As developers focussed on churning new application changes, the operations units focussed on keeping applications stable. To achieve this, operations teams would take months to review codes before they went live, extending the software development cycle and often leaving developers idle in the auditing period.

DevOps emerged in the early 2000s as a solution to the misalignment between development and operations’ teams priorities. It sought to unify both departments, ensure they work with common objectives, and expedit software development cycles. While it achieved these objectives, the increased frequency of software releases came with yet another challenge — site reliability. Also, in most DevOps teams, there was no dedicated role or person focussing full-time on keeping systems reliable.

These two factors prompted the emergence of SRE and the need for site reliability engineers as a separate role with distinct responsibilities.

What Exactly Is Site Reliability Engineering & Why Is It Important?

At its core, site reliability engineering (SRE) is a sub-discipline of DevOps that blends software engineering and operational principles to ensure services are always available, reliable, and easily scalable. It seeks to “programmatically” identify potential failures and avert them ahead of time. To achieve this, site reliability engineers typically use automation to enhance the predictability of development processes, reduce toil, troubleshoot unanticipated tactical problems, and monitor system performance. 

Simply put, SRE bridges the gap between what software engineers want to happen and what actually happens. It focuses more on software’s functionality and efficacy in addressing the end-user’s needs.

If you want to know how a software program is designed to run in an ideal setup, ask the developers who coded it. However, if you want to know how it actually runs in real-life setups, talk to the SRE team.

Why Is SRE So Important?

SRE isn’t just another industry buzzword that organizations are using to sound sophisticated or look trendy. No, it actually comes with several benefits.

1. Ensuring reliability and availability

In today’s interconnected world, where businesses rely heavily on their online presence, even a small outage or performance degradation can have significant consequences. 

Studies show that a minute’s downtime can cost you between $427 to $9,000, depending on your organization’s size. Now imagine if your sites were to go down for an average of 30 minutes daily — that’d cost you almost $300,000 per day. For larger firms with heavy Internet reliance, the losses from downtime can go up to $5,000 per minute.

Besides the direct financial impacts, site reliability is also very crucial for customer experience. Imagine if your site consistently lags or goes down every time a new software update goes live. Customers would quickly lose trust in your organization’s reliability and switch to competitors. That’s why established tech firms like Gmail and Amazon invest heavily in ensuring their sites experience very minimal downtimes.

So, how does site reliability engineering help you prevent such losses?

SRE provides a structured approach to building and maintaining systems that can handle the ever-changing demands of modern technology. It helps organizations minimize downtime through effective incident response, capacity planning, and resilience testing. By building redundancy, failover mechanisms, and automated recovery processes, it ensures that services remain available even in the face of failures or unexpected traffic spikes.

2. Optimizing performance and scalability

Besides reliability and availability, SRE also focuses heavily on site performance and scalability. As your digital services grow in complexity and your user base expands, your sites need to adapt accordingly to handle the increasing loads. Without proper optimization and scalability measures, performance issues will definitely arise, leading to slow response times, poor user experience, and even service outages.

SRE employs various techniques to optimize performance and scalability:

  • Capacity planning: By analyzing usage patterns and forecasting growth, site reliability engineers can provision resources,  such as servers, storage, and network bandwidth accordingly. This ensures that systems always have sufficient resources to handle current and anticipated loads. 
  • Automation: A key aspect of SRE is automating edge case identification and mitigation through real-time monitoring (for proactive prevention) and logging (for root cause analysis in case of an unprecedented failure). Automation also plays a key role in scaling systems dynamically to meet changing demands, ensuring efficient resource utilization without manual intervention.
  • Load testing and performance tuning to identify and address bottlenecks before they impact users: For example, an online streaming service might simulate thousands of concurrent users to gauge the system’s performance under peak load conditions. Based on the results, SREs can make adjustments to improve scalability and ensure smooth user experiences, even during periods of high demand.

3. Minimizing operational overhead

Traditional software development projects often involve repetitive, manual tasks that can be time-consuming and error-prone. Fortunately, with SRE, you can minimize the operational overhead associated with such processes through automation and standardization. By automating routine tasks like deployment, configuration management, and monitoring, site reliability engineering helps organizations free up valuable time and resources for other more strategic initiatives.

Automation can also help you increase efficiency and reduce the risk of human error. For example, unlike manual configuration that comes with the possibility of erroneous omissions and misconfigurations, automation tools like Ansible or Terraform are designed to ensure consistency across environments. This can be particularly useful in preventing configuration drifts when working on large software projects with several contributors.

Standardization is another key aspect of minimizing operational overhead. While site reliability engineers often focus more on the practical functionality of software programs post-production, they can also work with DevOps teams to define development best practices, templates, and procedures. This ensures every team member relies on a common framework for managing systems and handling incidents — making it easier to onboard new members, troubleshoot issues, and maintain systems effectively.

4. Enhancing security and compliance

According to a recent PwC survey, about 58% of CEOs consider cyberattacks a serious threat to businesses operations. Another study by Accenture shows that almost three-quarters (74%) of business leaders believe mitigating cyber threats is key to the survival of their businesses. And reasonably so — cyberattacks have continuously become more severe and costly over the last few years. Today, a single ransomware attack can dent your organization’s finances by over $4.45 million.

SRE & Cybersecurity

Site reliability engineers often collaborate with security teams to identify and mitigate potential vulnerabilities in systems and applications. Although they may not directly deploy security controls, they usually monitor incident patterns during and after software development to offer recommendations on their potential causes and prevention measures. Also, they can conduct regular security audits and assessments to ensure compliance with relevant regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS.

5. Facilitating continuous improvement

As your organization grows and your target market’s needs evolve, you need to ensure that your systems continuously improve to address these changes. Even more importantly, you need to establish a culture where failure is an option that’s proactively monitored and “programmatically” addressed. And that’s what SRE brings to your development processes. 

Here’s how…

  • Blameless postmortems: By encouraging software development teams to openly discuss incidents, identify root causes, and suggest remedial actions without assigning blame, SRE makes it easy to identify areas for improvement and implement changes to prevent similar issues in the future. It also fosters a culture of continuous learning, improvement, and collaboration.
  • Proactive experimentation like chaos engineering: As the name aptly suggests, this is a simulation process that involves intentionally injecting failures into systems and observing how they respond to enable teams to uncover weaknesses and strengthen resilience. For instance, an SRE team can simulate a network partition to test the system’s ability to handle split-brain and identify opportunities for improvement in failover mechanisms and data replication strategies.

What’s the Difference Between SRE & DevOps?

The line between SRE and DevOps isn’t pretty clear, explaining why some people use the two terms interchangeably. However, in reality, the two aren’t one and the same.

For a start, while DevOps manages the end-to-end software lifecycle and primarily seeks to ensure faster releases, SRE manages the availability and reliability of the software programs to the end-user. In other words, as the DevOps team asks “what can we do to ensure we release product updates faster and more frequently” the SRE team will ask “how will the upcoming product releases affect the stability of existing business processes, tools, and methods?”

Another key difference between DevOps and SREs is their responsibilities. While DevOps roles usually ends at creating products that meet customer needs, SREs tasks extend beyond development and production to include the following:

  • Establishing automated processes to calculate and evaluate the availability and reliability of products to end-users
  • Configuring proper monitoring and logging mechanisms for visibility into system performance 
  • Configuring alert systems for detecting unplanned failures
  • Real-time on-call support for product users when things go wrong

For the record, while SRE and DevOps teams may have different focus points, they are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they usually work together and complement each other in various aspects of the development process. For example, when SREs identify recurrent on-call support requests at specific production stages, they can alert DevOps about the issue to ensure it’s proactively averted in future releases.

Are You Looking For Competent Site Reliability Engineers?

In most cases, customers will only realize when your systems are down — they’ll barely notice when everything is working seamlessly. As a result, development teams often strive for perfection, which is virtually impossible. 

SRE does not envision a scenario where mistakes don’t occur. No. Instead, it focuses on embracing the possibility of failures and proactively planning to avert them. To achieve this, you need competent site reliability engineers who not only have the requisite technical skills but also understand the cultural nuances of this approach.

At DevEngine, we can help you augment your in-house team with competent Latin American site reliability engineers at a reasonable upfront cost. When working with us:

  • You’ll get customized hiring personalized to your organization’s unique needs
  • You’re assured of dedicated support because we only work with a few clients at a time
  • Your SREs will work exclusively for your company
  • We can facilitate on-site visits and relocations if you’re based in Canada
  • You’re assured of quality hires because of our vast experience in helping companies like yours hire from LatAm