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Seeking SRE by David N. Blank-Edelman

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Chapter 9. From SysAdmin to SRE in 8,963 Words

If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.

William Thomson, Lord Kelvin

Over the past 10 years, Site Reliability Engineering has become a well-recognized term among many tech companies and the SysAdmins community. In many cases, it stands as a synonym for a new, advanced way of computer systems management tightly coupled with such keywords as distributed systems and containerization, representing a set of practices that allow a variety of companies to run and support systems at large scale efficiently and cost effectively.

The fundamental property that differentiates Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) and traditional System Administrators is the point of view. The conventional approach is to make sure that the system does not produce errors or become overloaded. SRE, on the other hand, defines the desired system state in terms of business needs.

Both approaches use myriad metrics that monitor service from every angle, from individual CPU core temperature to the stack traces of a high-level application. However, the same metrics will lead the two approaches to very different conclusions. From the SysAdmin point of view, latency growth of a couple of milliseconds might not seem significant compared to a large number of errors. An SRE, on the other hand, might be led to an entirely opposite conclusion: an error might happen, but if the end users have not been affected, the service is fine. Of course, ...

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