Is your company running an ever-growing infrastructure that has to support services and products while enabling seamless update processes and new feature releases? Or are you tasked with ensuring uninterrupted operations of a disparate and inhomogeneous infrastructure supporting mission-critical systems?
In any case, Site Reliability Engineering, or SRE, is precisely what you need to gradually improve your infrastructure stability and performance. However, SRE expertise is quite hard to come by, and this is why we’re here to explain in detail how to hire a Site Reliability Engineer. Recommendations on the salary and job requirements are included!
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SRE specialists should not be confused with DevOps engineers, although many sources use these two terms interchangeably.
DevOps is a process of automating all the repetitive IT operations to minimize the human effort (and the risk of human error) while running your infrastructure. DevOps engineers focus on software development, deployment, and operating production environments.
SRE, on the other hand, is a paradigm of continuous analysis of the existing infrastructure from the reliability perspective, centered around removing performance bottlenecks, optimizing the infrastructure, the toolkit, and the workflows involved in running it. Born at Google, SRE is now the leading approach to ensuring long-term sustainability and operational resilience of digital assets.
We’ve already covered various aspects of what Site Reliability Engineering is, so feel free to dive deeper into this topic by reading our article.
While Ops engineers have to run an infrastructure they’re given and put out fires all over it, and DevOps can automate various aspects of IT operations to reduce the number of incidents, SREs have to plan and design resilient infrastructure and workflows (and update them as needed).
The main job responsibilities of an SRE are:
This list is by far not exhaustive and depends significantly on the specifics of your organization. Naturally, the SRE tasks and approaches of a global organization running legacy mainframe systems will differ from the SRE tasks of an actively growing cloud-based app.
SRE tasks can be grouped according to three major phases: design, implementation, and maintenance.
An SRE expert should be involved in all stages of any IT-related project of your organization. This includes discussing the concept of the next project, designing the infrastructure, toolset, and processes needed to deliver it, overseeing their implementation, monitoring the performance of a working system, and adjusting it if necessary. It also involves training your staff to follow the guidelines and procedures that minimize the daily toil for your IT department.
An SRE’s job never really ends; it’s a permanent effort aimed at improving your IT operations and educating your developers and Ops engineers on SRE best practices. This complex and multi-faceted approach requires having a set of important skills.
The core part of SRE responsibilities revolves around monitoring and analyzing the performance of your systems in production. Obviously, the particular set of tools SRE specialists have to use will differ based on the type of product or service your organization provides and the way it is developed, released, and run.
However, there are important non-technical and essential technical skills every Site Reliability Engineer should have.
Non-technical SRE skills:
Fundamental technical SRE skills:
Now, this person might sound like an IT rockstar and cost like one, too (we’ll discuss the SRE salary further), but this leads to a question of the actual necessity of SRE specialists in your organization.
Just like with the cybersecurity of your web or mobile apps, the importance of an SRE might not seem obvious when everything works just fine. But it quickly becomes topical when things start to go awry (and as we all know, when it rains — it pours).
Here are the four most pressing reasons for hiring an SRE:
While you might not be Amazon, who lost $100 during an hour of an outage, every organization with customer-facing online systems can calculate the costs of their outages — and these would be enormous. Thus, hiring an SRE is a vital step for future-proofing your business and ensuring its long-term survival. But this might not be as easy as hiring another Python engineer.
Naturally, this is a very competitive market, as global corporations are ready to pay six-digit salaries to avoid multi-million losses. Additionally, while every DevOps engineer can evolve into an SRE specialist with enough time and experience, the really talented SRE experts are in short supply — and most are employed either by industry leaders or Managed Services Providers (MSPs).
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Why so? Because boredom is a gruesome enemy. When an SRE expert has to cover all the needs of an organization (or establish an in-house SRE team and train it), the scope of the challenge is big and keeps them motivated. However, once the main pain points are dealt with, ongoing monitoring (while definitely needed) requires much less time and effort, and the level of SRE engagement inevitably decreases.
The solution is either working for huge companies, where SRE is an endless journey of transforming extensive infrastructure and workflow or working for a Managed Services Provider that has multiple clients on various stages of SRE implementation. This way, the SRE talent faces a constant influx of challenges and remains motivated to overcome them, gain experience, and grow as a professional. Besides, MSP customers pay for SRE expertise only while they need it and gain an immediate return on their investments by optimizing their IT operations and workflows.
Thus said, partnering with MSPs like Relevant Software is a win-win decision for all, allowing SRE talents to have a variety of projects and startups and SMEs to gain access to SRE expertise they wouldn’t be able to hire otherwise.
Based on Glassdoor, Statista, and other credible open data sources, here are the salary ranges for a Software Reliability Engineer.
You might be thinking, “Why is the cost of hiring an SRE in Eastern Europe two or three times lower compared to hiring them in the US?” The answer lies in two considerable factors: significantly lower cost of living and simplified taxation scheme for the IT industry, greatly decreasing the cost of software engineering. You can still try to hire an SRE in your local area, of course.
Here\s what companies that actively try to hire SRE talent expect them to do:
Below are the job requirements. While these differ a bit from vacancy to vacancy, the general scope of tasks remains mostly the same: monitoring the infrastructure, designing improvements, communicating with peers and managers, etc.
As you can see, actual SRE job requirements and responsibilities largely fall in the frame we displayed above: planning, implementing, and monitoring solutions that improve the resilience and performance of infrastructure based on the logs and metrics gathered in production. But how to define if a candidate you’re interviewing meets these requirements?
The questions you can ask an SRE in the interview can be split into five categories:
Feel free to take a look at the detailed list of SRE interview questions and answers to them. Naturally, the questions depend on the type of your organizational structure, the products and services you provide, and the approach to management, so adjust this list based on your needs.
Site Reliability Engineering is an essential aspect of successful business growth. Employing an SRE expert is vital if you wish to mitigate risks and ensure stable operations. However, hiring an in-house SRE talent can pose a challenge, as the market demand for such specialists is quite high.
Thus said, outsourcing SRE tasks to a reliable MSP can be the best solution for companies and organizations that need results, not names in their employee roster. Finding a reliable MSP can be a challenge, yes, but Relevant Software can prove our professionalism and ensure the successful completion of your projects. Should you need trustworthy and effective DevOps and SRE services, contact us anytime. We’re always ready to help!