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Introduction to Site Reliability Engineering

Site Reliability Engineering is a revolutionary approach to IT operations. The SRE team is responsible for resolving incidents, automating operational tasks, using the software to manage systems. The most important responsibility is to maintain the reliability of systems, services, or applications. While operating as SRE, the group has to undergo numerous challenges as well. In this document, I will discuss the solutions for some of the common challenges faced by the SRE team.

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What are the Challenges of Managed Site Reliability Engineering?

The main focus of the SRE team is to maintain the reliability of applications and servers and automate the tasks to reduce manual work. The challenges that the SRE team faces while meeting its goals are described below :

  • Monitoring and Alerting: Selecting the right tools for monitoring and configuring the correct metrics to monitor the servers and applications.
  • Reliability: Maintaining the reliability of infrastructure and applications is another challenge that the team needs to overcome to meet the Service Level Expectations.
  • Incident Management:
  1. Detecting incidents and performing root cause analysis (RCA).
  2. Maintaining records of incidents.
  3. Defining policies and procedures for managing incidents inside the organization to be resolved quickly and without violating SLAs.
  • Prioritizing Tickets: Prioritizing tickets based on their impact.
  • Automating Manual Tasks: Stop wasting time with time-consuming and repetitive operations. Use the time you would have spent on repetitive manual tasks to automate because one of a company's most critical criteria is quick delivery with accuracy. For a more efficient workflow, SREs use automation tools to automate repetitive operations and releases.
  • Debugging and Troubleshooting Skills: There must be an aspiration to be a "detective" and figure out why things work – or don't work as they should. Anyone who works with distributed computing systems, especially SREs, needs to be able to troubleshoot.


These are some of the most common issues that need to be addressed for SRE to run smoothly.

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Solutions Offered for the Managed SRE

The below solutions are for the

Monitoring and Alerting

One of the most challenging aspects of becoming a site reliability engineer is determining what to monitor and how to do it efficiently. Monitoring allows you to gain visibility into a system, which is critical for analyzing the health of your service and diagnosing problems. Monitoring tools help SRE generate essential metrics and insights about an application and assist SREs with everything from benchmarking to diagnosing outages.

Implementing Google's four golden signals is a significant step to begin when developing a monitoring solution. Latency, traffic, errors, and saturation are the golden signals. The golden signals must be implemented correctly for observability to be achieved.

  1. Latency: The time it takes to service a request. It is a significant measure of the application's degeneration. Keep an eye on the latency of errors as well.
  2. Traffic: A measure of how much demand is being placed on your system.
  3. Errors: Errors are the rate of requests that are failing. Other metrics, such as delay and saturation, might be influenced by error rates.
  4. Saturation: Saturation is how "full" your service is. To assess saturation, you'll need utilization measurements and the maximum flexibility possible.

The golden signals are ideal for monitoring cloud-based and on-premises applications that are delivered continually. The approach applies to any application. The team should have complete knowledge of the server or application they need to monitor, and based on this, and they should define required alerting policies based on Service Level Objectives. The alerts configured should be meaningful. The team should prioritize the alerts based on their impact on services.

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Incident Management

  • Understanding of Logs: When there is a lack of information about an incident, it can be challenging to determine the cause, which takes a long time to resolve. To eliminate this problem, you can set up proper monitoring and alerting to generate meaningful logs, and corresponding metrics will provide the relevant information.
  • Communication: Regular updates of internal staff allow for constant sharing of the truth about the incident. Suppose you do not establish a reliable source of truth about what happened and how it responded. In that case, people will tend to draw their conclusions, which creates confusion. Keeping external clients up to date is essential because it helps build trust. While they may be affected, at least they will know that the team is fixing it. You can use slack channels, status pages, or other tools as communication and alerting tools.
  • Aware of Incident severity: If you were not aware of incident priorities, you would be wasting time on low priority incidents instead of high priority and major incidents. To resolve these conflicts, you can set priority levels for incidents based on their severity level, impact on other teams or applications, or client-side impact. You can automate this task of assigning high-priority problems that demand immediate attention while separating the low-priority incidents that can wait.
  • Defined Process and Policies: Not having any plans or policies defined for managing incidents can lead to delayed response time due to lack of contact information for stakeholders and employees and inappropriate escalation or the creation of new issues.
    To overcome these kinds of issues, plan and create a process for managing incidents and ensuring that every stakeholder is aware of this process. There should be a proper workflow setup from detecting an incident to resolving them. Every stakeholder or incident manager should have clarity about their roles and responsibilities. The team should have an adequate communication medium.
  • Documentation: Documenting the entire process for resolving major incidents helps the organization to prepare for similar incidents in the future. With proper documentation of previous incidents, an organization can quickly deploy a tried-and-true solution in the case of a similar severe incident, minimizing the effect. You can create a postmortem report of the same, including every detail of the event or incident.

Enabling Team 

  1. The team member should have the ability to troubleshoot and solve the problems.
  2. The team should know to automate the manual tasks.
  3. The team should possess good communication skills.
  4. The team should be trained to understand the logs and identify the root cause of any incident.
  5. Enable teams to understand, manage and improve performance.

Automate Manual Tasks

There is a great importance of automation in SRE. SRE can reduce toil by replacing manual tasks with automation. Automating the manual tasks saves time as automated workflows are quicker than manual responses. It streamlines the workflow to ensure that the code is deployed on time and within the error budget.

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Tools Recommended

The best SRE tools with their purposes are highlighted below:

For Monitoring and Observability

The SRE team works very closely with monitoring and observability tools. Metrics and logs play a very important role in maintaining the services and systems’ health. Based on these metrics and logs, the SRE team can configure alerts. We recommend below some most popular and useful tools for the same. Some of them are open-source, while some are paid. You can choose anyone amongst them that meets your requirements.

  1. Prometheus and grafana
  2. ELF/EFK Stack
  3. Solarwind
  4. Appdynamics
  5. New Relic
  6. DataDog
  7. Zabbix
  8. PRTG Network Monitoring tools
  9. Nagios

On-Call Management tools

The on-call management tools assist you in evenly and fairly distributing on-call responsibilities among team members. Some popular and recommended tools for on-call management are :

  1. Atlassian’s Opsgenie
  2. PagerDuty

Communication Tools

Communication tools also play an essential role for SRE. The use of communication systems boosts response readiness significantly. Here are some recommendations for communication tools :

  1. Slack
  2. Microsoft Teams
  3. Google Meet
  4. Zoom

Incident Tracking tools

  1. Atlassian's Jira tool
  2. Trello
  3. Asana
  4. Zoho Sprints

Tickets Management Tools

  1. Service Now
  2. Jira Service Desk
  3. Fresh service
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Conclusion

Building an SRE team and implementing Site Reliability Engineering concepts and values within an organization is not easy. It's more about taking responsibility for production operations when you're in charge of SRE. It's a method that focuses on IT operations. As mentioned above, during building the SRE, the team will face a myriad of challenges. We've covered most of the main obstacles that SRE teams experience in this document, and we've tried to present the best solutions that will help you avoid those problems and develop a successful SRE team. Train your team, address challenges, and trust the process to implement SRE culture in your project or organization.

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