Five Ways Developers Can Help SREs

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Five Ways Developers Can Help SREs

This article was co-written by Merlyn Shelley.

Reliability is a team game. More the collaboration between Developers and SREs, greater will be the success of the product. In this blog, we have listed down the five best practices that developers can adopt, to make the SRE's life easier.

It is not easy to be a site reliability engineer. Monitoring system infrastructure and aligning them with the key reliability metrics is quite a daunting task. Whereas, a software engineer's job is to deliver high-quality software.

Relationships between software engineers and site reliability engineers can sometimes be tricky. To begin with, developers are generally assigned to write code that goes into production. Then, there are Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) who are responsible for improving the product's reliability and performance.

Ideally, the goal of any world-scale distributed system (product or service) is to operate in harmony from day one. To achieve this, developers and the operations team must team up to create a reliable system. This will help developers build solutions in a faster and transparent way so that SREs can manage applications effectively.

Here's What Developers Can Do To Help SREs

Developers and SREs are two sides of the same coin within a tech company. Developers work towards delivering successful software, and SREs ensure the software's uptime and overall health.

The development of software is a continuous process where its health and performance characteristics must be monitored after delivery. SRE practices ensure product reliability. Site reliability engineers are in charge of making sure the software functions as expected.

SREs and software engineers must work with a wide spectrum of information like response time and MTTR from virtualized deep layers of cloud platforms. In short, developers can help SREs by making the source code easy to understand, access, and modify to optimize the system’s performance.

Following are five ways developers can help SREs

1. Scaling The Platform With The Concept Of A 12-factor App Method

12-factor app is a new way to build modern web applications. By default, it is meant to be stateless and immutable. That means it can be deployed in any cloud environment like Heroku, where we don't entirely control the infrastructure.

The twelve factors of this scalable approach to building applications are codebase, dependencies, config, backing services, (Build, release, run), processes, port binding, concurrency, disposability, Dev/prod parity, logs, and admin processes. And these are suited to polyglot programming.

The goal of the project is runtime independence. In other words, you will be able to run applications in any environment, without facing any difficulty operating in the cloud. It determines an app's packaging, deployment, and run-time.

It is an effective way to establish a resilient architecture that minimizes failure points and runs on a local or cloud back-end. The benefits of this approach are safe for deployment, highly available, auto-scalable, horizontally scalable, stateless, location transparent, and dynamically configurable.

It is also used for structuring an application or system so that it is portable, scalable, and stable when deployed to any cloud provider. So, the workload of an SRE is reduced to a larger extent.

2. Sharing Performance Testing Data Insights

As a software testing practice, performance testing focuses on assessing the software functions under various complex conditions.

SREs need to know the metrics of performance-tested applications in order to understand the thresholds. It enables them to understand what needs to be done to make the application work as intended.

For example in the context of backend applications, developers use tools like Gatling to load test the applications to measure how much load the application could take. This data should be shared with the SRE team as well.

There are some slight overlaps between the 12-factor app method and the following approaches. However, each is effective at creating synergies between development and operations.

3. Significance of Documentation and Configuration files

The success of SRE teams depends on documentation. They should be provided with well-defined bodies of documentation associated with various SRE functions. They need to know which documentation is most relevant for troubleshooting an outage.

Next, config files allow you to change your application configuration without modifying the source code. They store website-specific information like passwords, login details, database connection strings(URLs), username, password, API addresses of dependent/auxiliary services, application-specific parameters, etc. They help you track and control various data related to your web applications.

Configuration variables in code could act like parameters that could change based on external factors, for example, the URL of another web service or database, or queue. Likewise, if we are configuring the “token” module, the config file will tell us what token types are available and how to use each one of them.

It should also tell us about the default values of that token, whether it has any dependencies on another token or not etc. Also, if there are any special cases defined for that particular token, they should be documented in the same configuration file. During incident response operations, SREs use configuration files to restore system infrastructure.

4. AIOps Supported System Admin Functionalities

The site reliability engineer (SRE) needs to reboot and deploy servers constantly, even when there is no downtime. This will require quite a bit of effort when an update is deployed in production.

In this case, the SRE team should be notified of system changes via the configuration files or documentation accessible through the admin dashboard. This can also be done by developing custom Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) solutions.

This process helps SREs in maintaining and operating data centers using AI-powered methods and tools. For example, these AI-based tools can help in root cause analysis for remediation, automated anomaly detection, optimization, and the automatic initiation of self-stabilising activities.

5. Increasing Observability Of The System

Cloud-native systems are becoming increasingly complex, making observability paramount. Making your system easily observable means knowing what is causing problems with it or how systems interact with it. Observability maximizes visibility over the infrastructure.

Observability tools have a great deal of value in the world of DevOps and SRE. These give more data about logs, metrics, error rates, traces, and even network interface information. Whereas, application performance monitoring (APM) is a means to track your application's code performance. These tools help you locate and resolve issues with the performance of your applications.

Developers can help SREs by enabling debug support here. This can be done by allowing the applications to expose relevant metrics like request count, details about successful/failed requests, etc., in the case of a web service. This way, observability helps the SRE determine how the application is performing in production and if it needs to be scaled up/out.

Final Thoughts

With these best practices, developers can make the SRE's life easy and simple. Tell us how these five ways helped an SRE organize their daily chores and enable them to be more productive.

Squadcast is an incident management tool that’s purpose-built for SRE. Your team can get rid of unwanted alerts, receive relevant notifications, work in collaboration using the virtual incident war rooms, and use automated tools like runbooks to eliminate toil.