SRE vs DevOps: Responsibilities, Differences and Salaries

June 15, 2021

There is significant debate around the differences between Site Reliability Engineering(SRE) and DevOps. Given that there are certain similarities between these two approaches to software development and deployment, it isn’t uncommon for people to use these terms interchangeably.

However, SRE and DevOps have distinct identities and processes in place to meet the requisite goals. This article will highlight the differences between the two with regard to fundamentals, associated responsibilities and salary.

Let’s begin with a quick exploration of each term and what it entails in practice.

DevOps

In the conventional software development lifecycle, developers or programmers were responsible for crafting and coding the required features. It was Operations’ task to deploy these features and ensure they run as expected. Naturally, dividing these tasks into silos led to repeated conflict between the two, requiring a solution that let Devs and Ops work together. The solution was DevOps.

Think of DevOps as a structural mindset, a mode of functioning  abstract concept, and a set of principles aimed at reducing the gaps and friction between development and operations personnel.

DevOps involves concepts and practices related to software development and delivery. It works by virtue of  robust collaboration and communication between development and production teams by implementing methods and tools for rapid building, testing, and releasing software.

Site Reliability Engineering

Site reliability engineers are responsible for ensuring availability, latency, performance, capacity, scalability and deployment of software systems.

The term SRE was coined at Google, and one of its best definitions has been offered by the tech giant’s VP of Engineering Ben Taylor:

“So SRE is fundamentally doing work that has historically been done by an operations team, but using engineers with software expertise, and banking on the fact that these engineers are inherently both predisposed to, and have the ability to, substitute automation for human labor.”

Differences between DevOps and SRE

  • Think of DevOps as a more overarching philosophy that espouses some core principles and what they are meant to accomplish. However, the ways in which these principles are to be implemented is not specified. That differs between teams and organizations depending on their nature and needs.

  • SRE enables the implementation of key DevOps principles to achieve reliability, scalability and delivery through tangible, practical steps.

    For example, one of the core tenets of DevOps is that engineers and project managers should measure and quantify everything. SRE achieves this by treating operations as a software problem, and offers specific and concrete ways of measuring availability, uptime, outages and toil.

  • Similarly, companies adapting DevOps tend to focus on reducing organizational silos. Site reliability engineering helps them achieve this goal practically by using the same tools and techniques across the stack.

Difference Between Job Roles of SRE and DevOps

The differences between SRE and DevOps, in terms of job role, is best explained by looking at the daily tasks of individuals actually working in those roles.

Site reliability engineers usually:

  • Have to spend more time programming as compared to DevOps engineers
  • Ensure that binaries and configurations are applicable for integration and deployment in different environments
  • Write code and manage configurations for automation
  • Monitor software infrastructure, track and solve tickets to resolve problems
  • Have to plan software deployments with immutable infrastructure using CI/CD

On the other hand, DevOps engineers usually focus on:

  • Making software development and deployment as easy as possible for the development team
  • Spending time with tools like Jenkins, Kubernetes and Docker to automate software builds, tests and deployments aligned with CI/CD priorities
  • Configuring, supporting and documenting infrastructural components
  • Developing workflows to enable CI/CD for projects
  • Setting up and maintaining various virtual environments (VMs, Containers)
  • Implementing and maintaining cluster environments

SRE Vs. DevOps: Salary Comparison

SREs are usually responsible for a variety of practical activities everyday. They have to monitor, code, attend calls, resolve tickets, ensure availability of systems and plan ahead. Thus, they are usually paid more than DevOps engineers.

According to PayScale, annual salary for DevOps is about $95,000 while site reliability engineering has an average salary of $116,000.

With the basics of SRE vs. DevOps in mind, engineers can make informed decisions about where to take their career, which skill sets to upgrade and what industry advancements to study and follow. This helps them make not just better intellectual decisions, but also create better structure for career progress.


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