What Is the role of a site reliability engineer?

The growing demand for software developers and engineers is likely to drive the need for site reliability engineers in the future years. If you are thinking about changing occupations, now is the perfect time to do so. In this article, we will walk you through the key responsibilities of a site reliability engineer.

An overview of the role of site reliability engineers

So, what is a site reliability engineer? Site reliability engineers, or SREs, are software engineers proficient in various coding languages and software development tools. Given that it is typically a mid-level role, individuals aspiring to become an SRE must possess extensive experience as either a systems administrator or a software developer. Additionally, companies mandate a computer science degree as a prerequisite. Many universities offer online software engineering courses. By enrolling in Baylor University’s online master of science in computer science program, individuals will acquire the essential knowledge and skills to thrive as software engineers and seamlessly transition into the esteemed role of a site reliability engineer.

Baylor’s program is primarily targeted toward individuals who have obtained a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, mathematics, or a related field. Participants have the option of choosing one of three different start dates for each subject offered in the program, which lasts 15 weeks. Students can gain knowledge from professors who are experts in their fields and have received national recognition.

A site reliability engineer’s role is varied. Site reliability engineers dedicate their time to developing software that guarantees the seamless and consistent functioning of apps and websites. It is their responsibility to take on on-call responsibilities, such as fixing issues and preventing them from happening again. Site reliability engineers also focus on making sure customers can use specific platforms and services whenever they want. Their daily tasks include monitoring, coding, resolving tickets, and preparing for future events.

A site reliability engineer’s common roles and responsibilities

The position of site reliability engineers is becoming increasingly important as businesses become more reliant on technological tools and software. Let us look at some of the most typical responsibilities of an SRE:

Ensure system reliability and availability

The main responsibility of SREs is to ensure that systems stay available and reliable through continuous improvement and maintenance. They use a variety of practices and techniques to do this.

For instance, SREs may create service level agreements (SLAs) with their clients or users. This will immediately activate when there is an interruption, ensuring quick recovery and application restoration. This eliminates the need for manual intervention and decreases the danger of human error when switching to a reliable backup system (failover).

Automating routine tasks

The aim of site reliability engineers is to automate as many functions as possible. By automating as many tasks as possible, they are free to devote their attention to more important duties and innovative projects.

Aside from automation, site reliability engineers use infrastructure as code (IaC) to improve the flow of processes and reduce or prevent human error. IaC allows them to write instructions in special codes, which are easily duplicated, tested, and tracked to control changes.

Collaborate with development teams

Working closely with development teams and other professionals is an essential part of a site reliability engineer’s job. By collaborating, exchanging ideas, and providing feedback, they are able to pinpoint any possible problems, carry out effective solutions, and use the right tools and processes to create an efficient digital infrastructure that meets customer requirements.

Manage incidents

The incident response team is usually responsible for responding to security breaches and other possible disastrous incidents. Since these kinds of incidents could compromise the credibility of a company, it is important that team members know their specific roles and responsibilities.

Site reliability engineers work closely with incident response coordinators, security analysts, and security engineers to respond to security incidents. They help identify and fix the root cause of an incident, minimize its impact, restore service availability, and perform post-analysis.

Perform post-incident analyses

Writing a post-incident analysis is not a form of punishment. It is important because it helps site reliability engineers learn from the incident, determine areas to improve, and make sure the same incident does not happen again.

When conducting a post-incident analysis, SREs ensure they cover the following components:

  • Summarizing the incident
  • Providing a detailed timeline of the incident
  • Identifying the underlying cause
  • Identifying contributing factors
  • Evaluating the impact of the incident
  • Deduce key takeaways from the incident
  • Propose solutions and remedial measures
  • Propose action plans
  • Complete incident communications and documentation

Building monitoring and alerting systems

Site reliability engineers have an important duty to closely monitor a company’s digital infrastructure. They use advanced monitoring and alert systems to identify possible issues before they escalate into major problems.

Let us say an e-commerce site experiences a sudden increase in the response time for its product research feature. The SRE team could set up monitoring tools, such as Prometheus, to gather and save real-time metrics in a time series database. In any case of an issue, the team submits an incident report to the software engineering team to fix it.

Consider security and compliance

Site reliability engineers maintain security and compliance by performing frequent vulnerability evaluations, implementing strong security measures, enforcing strict access controls, and complying with industry standards, to name a few. They also work together with security teams to make sure that they are able to cover all the necessary precautions and effectively carry out routine checks.

Site reliability engineer: Is it for you?

Site reliability engineers play a diverse and critical role in ensuring the accessibility and efficiency of complex systems. The role requires expertise, creative thinking, intelligence, and a real interest in large-scale distributed systems. If you are capable of performing this role in a team with shared duties, this career path may be a suitable option for you. 

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