What on earth is an SRE?

SRE’s have been around for a long time, predominantly at the largest Tech companies in the world ensuring that we (the users) have a fantastic experience. All while we’re completely unaware of the work that goes on behind the scenes ensuring that a simple web page loads faster than ever.

So what is an SRE?

The S in SRE can stand for Site, Service or System with the RE standing for Reliability Engineer. As self-explanatory as Site Reliability Engineer sounds they do have a very technical role and play a crucial part in contributing towards the success of their company’s reputation.

The majority of global SRE’s currently work for Google, in fact I would go as far as to say over half of all SRE’s in the world work at Google. You could ask yourself how so many people can be responsible for Google which is fronted by a search box and 2 buttons. What you really need to contemplate though is the scale……

Google receives over 40,000 search requests per SECOND. As I write this over 4 billion searches have been done today alone, from users all over the globe. We simply can’t contemplate the traffic and required bandwidth to deal with such volume of requests, this is where SRE’s come in.

An SRE can be seen as a man, or woman, who can! Simply, someone who is versatile and flexible to adapt to any situation not only when fixing a problem but when analysing existing services also. On top of this they are looking to predict what will be and pre-empt any foreseeable issues before they happen!

As you can imagine this requires experienced and/or bright engineers that can step into these shoes. Some of the main responsibilities will consist of monitoring performance of certain systems & load balancing and load testing to really understand the capabilities of the systems. In addition an SRE should have the capability and knowhow to assess developers code to ensure the quality is there before being deployed – you can’t contemplate scaling if the foundations aren’t solid….. Therefore SRE’s work closely with both operations and developers & even DevOps to fill in the gaps, patch where needed, optimise performance and advise the team & business as a whole.

At such large scale with Google as you can imagine their Engineers will focus onto more of a niche area or service within the business, but when it comes to smaller companies on boarding an SRE (and rightly so) to add value to their consumer offerings, they will need to be prepared to dive into their toolbox and use a plethora of technologies & languages on a daily basis to get the job done.

I genuinely see, as a consultant now specialising in working with the best SRE talent in Europe, a trend similar to that of the emerging DevOps methodology over the past few years. More and more companies go from Zero to Hero in a very short period of time. With the power of social media and the easy exposure you can gain from a combination of luck and or genuinely providing a unique and desirable product, an application/site or service can become the next big thing in a matter of days.

Start-ups around the world are pinning their hopes on their ground-breaking creation being the next big thing and therefore need to be able to manage that wave of success if indeed it comes to fruition. This is where I see the market going, cool little start-ups & SME’s preparing themselves for future success or even ones that are on the route to success needing an experienced Engineer to help advise and ensure that they are up for the challenge or what possible success they just might achieve.