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How Observability Bolsters Site Reliability Engineering

July 16. 2021
Site Reliability Engineering

Are you familiar with the benefits of AIOps (Artificial Intelligence for IT Operation)? Well, artificial intelligence allows businesses to automate IT processes that require fewer human efforts. A key process for automating IT operations is SRE (Site Reliability Engineering). Read on to know about SRE and how it is affected by observability.

What is Site Reliability Engineering?

The IT operations in an organization are performed with the help of various software systems. These software systems are deployed on a large scale and need monitoring. There may be various types of large-scale software systems in an organization like supply-chain management, emergency response, etc. Businesses often hire expert system administrators to oversee the software systems.

To solve the underlying problem, site reliability engineering, a type of software engineering, was introduced. SRE can be termed as a better version of DevOps as it is not divided into multiple teams. SRE aids in building a reliable and scalable software system for an organization. It doesn’t just oversee the software development process but also reduces the friction between the development team and operations team.

Site reliability engineers induce required codes into the software to ensure that it does not need any human intervention The development team constantly wants to launch new updates or software(s). Contrary to that, the operation team only wants to launch an update/software after it is thoroughly tested. SRE removes this conflict between both teams and aids in developing reliable system software.

Understanding Observability in SRE?

How would you work with invisible software? It is difficult to measure the performance of any system software if you are not aware of its internal components that drive the performance. The outputs of system software are analyzed to know about the internal states of system software. High observability allows us to know about the internal states of system software. Observability is the measure of the degree that reflects how well the internal states of system software can be inferred.

Site reliability engineers willingly code their software to provide metrics and logs. These metrics are then used to know about the internal state of the software. Observability may seem similar to monitoring but, it is not. Besides telling about the functioning of the system software, it also provides required data to solve underlying problems in the system.

Due to enhanced observability, site reliability engineers do not have to eliminate a potential risk themselves. They can have access to data insights that contain the possible solution. AIOps with rich observability guide on eliminating a risk/problem in system software. The engineers will only know the external outputs of the system software and can still know about its internal state due to enhanced observability.

Pillars of Observability

The three pillars of observability are as follows:

  • Metrics: Metrics are used by reliability engineers to determine the health of the system. For example, there is a threshold for CPU consumption and, when the consumption goes beyond that number, it is being overused. A metric is defined for CPU consumption and alerts can be triggered when the consumption is more than usual. Site reliability engineers use metrics to find the threshold value and set trigger alerts.
  • Logs: Logs are mostly referred to at the time of any problem with the software system. It is a statement that describes the anomaly that occurred. A log can be generated as plain text or structured texts depending upon the requirements.
  • Traces: A trace helps us in determining the execution of a piece of code. Reliability engineers combine the traces and can find the code execution flow in a distributed software system. One can get to know about the part of code that is being executed in more time as compared to other code blocks.

Knowing about the pillars of observability also highlights its importance. Metrics, logs, and traces can help site reliability engineerto know more about the software system by asking questions from outside. While troubleshooting, reliability engineers do not analyze the pillars of observability separately. The pillars of observability should be analyzed together to gain a better understanding of the system and solve the underlying problems.

Benefits of Observability for Site Reliability Engineers

Some of the main benefits of observability for SRE are as follows:

  • Site reliability engineers study the observability pattern and can easily manage any incidents.
  • It will improve the uptime of software systems in an organization.
  • Observability provides a platform for inspection under SLO (Service -Level Objective).
  • When SLOs are not met and, the system software doesn’t live up to the expectation, observability is used to find the possible solution.
  • An employee has a limit to analyze and understand large chunks of data. With enhanced observability, the cognitive load of the data analysis team is reduced.
  • Observability brings together multiple autonomous teams to work together for a single goal.
  • Observability improves the productivity and innovation standards within an organization.
  • Site reliability engineers do not have to access the internal data of a software system to know about its performance. With enhanced observability, reliability engineers can easily find the performance of the software system by its outputs.

Observability Vs Monitoring

Observability definition may sound similar to monitoring but, it is not. As you delve deeper, you will understand that monitoring only informs us about the underlying problem and not the solution. Contrary to monitoring, observability allows us to find the possible solutions and measure the performance of a system.

The pillars of observability help us in making sure the system software is doing the job it was intended to do. Unlike monitoring, observability can identify and mitigate risks associated with system software(s).

In a Nutshell

For automating business processes and systems, first, you need to know about the underlying problems. Enhanced observability can determine the health of a system and can highlight underlying problems. AI-driven observability is also being preferred by businesses nowadays. Site reliability engineering is strengthened if the systems offer high observability. Go for high observability in your software system(s)!

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