How do IT leaders such as Amazon, Google, or Apple run their cloud-native platform these days? Much has changed over the last ten years. We have powerful concepts such as containers in place, which control the health of their services. These enhancements come with a price in terms of monitoring and control. Times are gone when a single server was used to host all the services provided to our customers. Service fabrics are the new normal. Managing all of these enhancements require full attention from: a mix of developers, automation experts, and operational engineers, who can also be addressed as site reliability engineers. The site reliability engineers are playing a crucial role because they keep complex services up and running.
What are the main tasks of site reliability engineers?
Keeping highly distributed applications alive is not a cakewalk. Our latest concepts in virtualization, data storage, or application server space require a holistic approach. It's no longer true that high system resource utilization is an early warning indicator for major application problems. Modern concepts make use of applied resources. Outdated correlation-based monitoring concepts result in too many false positives, as they do not take the entire application into a picture.
Coming back to the main tasks of such Site Reliability Engineers, we've learned that a holistic approach is essential, but how can we embed it into our engineer's DNA? First of all, think about what is causing your services to suffer? Is it the functionality provided to your customers, or is it because of your application's behaviour under real or spike conditions that is causing trouble? All the excellent features in your applications are worthless if the involved IT services are not reliable. If your systems fail to deal with the real-world load, unavailable when needed, load slow, erratic, or do not work as expected by your users, you will have massive cuts in your business.
Cutting a long story short, Site Reliability Engineers focus mainly on these five things:
V: Volume: Current number of requests, drops, spikes
A: Availability: Are all services up and running?
L: Latency: Are service response times within the expected range?
E: Errors: What errors are occurring, and why?
T: Tickets: What are the complaints of the users?
Why should every company adopt this powerful concept?
"Throwing applications over the wall and hoping that operational engineers will able to deal with all the challenges involved" is a terrible approach. Customers will stop using such problematic services, and your business will suffer. Millions invested in new products and infrastructure might go waste within a few days. Don't fall into this trap and engage Site Reliability Engineers as early as possible. Make them part of your DevOps teams. Their focus is entirely on smooth operations and happy end-users. Reliable IT-Services is not achievable without continuous improvement, automation, problem detection, and resolution.
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Keep doing the great work! Happy Performance Engineering!