What Are the Biggest Challenges of Adopting SRE?

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When it comes to ensuring the quality of code, Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) is a godsend. The framework sets a baseline for performance that keeps developer efforts fully aligned with business priorities while also encouraging collaboration across different teams. Its focus on automation, continuous integration, and continuous delivery also helps companies achieve ROIs with greater speed and efficiency. A site reliability engineer can even act as the bridge between Development and Operations teams, fostering shared understanding and helping them share their workloads.

However, that doesn’t mean that implementing SRE in a company is as easy as flipping a switch. There are a number of challenges to overcome, as well as common pitfalls resulting from bad management.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the biggest challenges that come with adopting SRE and how to get past them!

Follow the Methodology

One advantage that SRE has over alternatives is that it’s prescriptive. In other words, it has a fairly standard approach to doing things.

While SRE does allow a high degree of flexibility depending on a practitioner’s requirements, an organization that really wants to benefit from SRE has to invest time in several common elements. These include:

  • Metrics – SRE involves implementing performance metrics and setting benchmarks. Monitoring these on a regular basis is essential for judging the success of implementation.

  • Documentation – Site reliability engineers create written records of best practices and processes. Prescribing solutions in this way is highly beneficial for the wider team and ensures that common problems can be solved efficiently.

  • Test and alert – In an SRE pipeline, it is important to test code on a regular basis in order to identify potential issues. Following on from this, engineers will immediately alert the appropriate team members so that the problems can be fixed ASAP.

  • Automation – Site reliability engineers need the freedom to automate manual processes in order to eliminate unnecessary workloads. This has a hugely positive impact on efficiency and reliability.

  • Requirements – SRE encourages teams to have a complete understanding of the needs of an application in terms of elements like accessibility, readiness, and testing. This helps them create essential components such as the Service Level Agreement (SLA) and Error Budget.

  • Reliability – Developers are often eager to keep developing new features. SRE stipulates that if an application is not functioning reliably in line with the SLA, other work must cease until the necessary improvements have been made. This keeps projects on track and prevents unnecessary expenditure.

  • Infrastructure – Site reliability engineers must understand the cloud/physical infrastructure of the applications they work on. This also helps them understand elements like future scalability.

  • Debugging – SRE practitioners have a clear picture of how applications are set up for the sake of efficient and comprehensive debugging.

While this might sound like a lot, it’s important to realize that each of these elements is crucial for SRE.

That being said, addressing each of these points in a pipeline can certainly be a challenge, especially if employees are so focused on day-to-day tasks that they do not have time to consider the benefits of SRE. Thankfully, this brings us to our next point.

SRE Training

When adopting a framework like SRE, there can be a strong element of change management involved. After all, SRE is a specific way of working that not everyone will be familiar with. Employees may initially resist the change, so it is important to ease them into the new status quo by educating them on exactly why SRE is being implemented and how it will affect their roles.

An excellent way to handle this is by investing in SRE training. An accredited course provider can quickly upskill employees in how to utilize SRE’s best practices and tools. With an easily accessible online training option, students can even study at their own pace and avoid interrupting work tasks.

Investing in group training can also grant you a shortcut for enjoying the benefits of SRE. When multiple colleagues are familiar with the same syllabus, terminology, and practices, they will be better able to collaborate.

Even staff who will not be acting as ‘site reliability engineers’ can benefit from training, such as DevOps engineers or employees focused on security, products, and so on. This also extends to other groups, such as sales and support staff, who may well benefit from understanding how SRE can be used to improve their own roles.

Get Stakeholders on Your Side

Selling a new framework to employees can be challenging, but getting stakeholders on-side is something else entirely. It’s important to avoid the mistake of getting too excited about stories of Amazon, Google, and other companies using SRE without considering whether and how it will solve issues within your own software pipeline, as high-level executives will only really care about one thing: brass tacks.

What are the benefits of SRE as far as your business is concerned? Enhancing the reliability and quality of end products alongside the efficiency and speed of pipeline processes will seem like a major perk if you have projections to back it up. You can also provide a breakdown of costs for training and implementation alongside the metrics for how you will be tracking the framework’s success.

In short, be prepared to make a serious pitch for the implementation of SRE!

Simulations

One of the perks of SRE is that it encourages users to take as much wisdom from negative incidents as possible. This is for the sake of adapting processes to avoid similar issues moving forwards.

However, there is no need to wait around for problems to threaten your business. Instead, why not aid in implementation by organizing simulation exercises? This can help with team building and encourage students to apply the framework to solve problems. It can also prepare your team to react to potential threats, leaving you with best practices to deal with them as effectively as possible should they ever materialize.

For the sake of catering to your unique business environment, it can also be a good idea to base simulations on past experiences. You can even have staff explore how SRE could have been applied in these instances and use them as case studies for demonstrating the benefits of the framework.

Find Practitioners

When implementing any management framework, it is best not to start from scratch. Having an experienced site reliability engineer on-side can help you bridge the gap between studying SRE and using it in practice.

Another perk of this approach is that putting a site reliability engineer in a senior position can streamline SRE training for other staff members. They will be able to use their experience to upskill others and can even help non-SRE practitioners understand how to interpret the results of the framework.

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