Want to take advantage of site reliability engineering, but without having to hire your own site reliability engineers?
SRE as a service — a relatively new type of offering in the outsourced IT services market, may be just what you need. Here's a look at how SRE as a service works, and why you may or may not want to use it.
What Is SRE as a Service?
SRE as a service, which is sometimes also called managed SRE, is a service through which a company delivers site reliability engineering support to another company using a managed services model.
What this means is that, with SRE as a service, you get the core services associated with site reliability engineering, such as the management of applications and infrastructure, in a way that minimizes downtime and performance risks. But instead of hiring your own engineers to do that work, which is the more common way to add SRE to an organization, you rely on a managed services provider to deliver the service for you.
Benefits of SRE as a Service
The main benefits of SRE as a service are the same as those for most managed services, including:
- Fast and easy implementation: Since you don't have to worry about hiring your own SREs or integrating them into your company, you can get started with SRE quickly and easily when you outsource it.
- Scalability: The SRE-as-a-service model makes it easy to scale your SRE resources up or down quickly as your needs change. That's harder to do when you have SREs on staff.
- Low upfront cost: As with most managed services, you typically pay on an ongoing basis for SRE as a service, so there is no major upfront expense to worry about.
- Access to broad expertise: SRE as a service can help a business connect to SREs who offer a broad range of expertise. If you hire your own SREs, it may be more difficult to find ones who have deep experience with a broad range of technologies, especially if your SRE team is relatively small.
In short, then, SRE as a service provides a simpler, lower-risk way to get started with site reliability engineering.
Risks and Disadvantages of Outsourced SREs
That said, there are some important potential downsides to consider before deciding to outsource SRE.
One is that SRE as a service is likely to cost more in the long run than hiring your own SREs. If you can afford to fund full-time, in-house SRE roles, and your business needs those roles, that's likely to be a more cost-effective approach than outsourcing SRE.
Another challenge is that the outsourced SREs may never get to know your systems and reliability requirements in as much detail as an on-staff site reliability engineer would. Nor are they likely to build very close relationships with your developers and IT engineers, which means it could be harder for everyone to collaborate around resolving incidents.
Outsourced SRE firms could also end your contract, leaving you in the lurch as you search to replace the SRE expertise they had provided to you. SRE employees could always leave, too, but if you have more than a few of them, it's unlikely that the departure of one SRE will seriously disrupt your business.
Consider, too, that because SRE as a service remains a pretty new type of service, there aren't a lot of providers at present. It may be difficult to find a company specializing in outsourced SRE, especially if you need a provider who is able to send site reliability engineers to a specific local site — as opposed to delivering services remotely.
So, Who Should Use SRE as a Service?
All in all, outsourcing SRE services makes most sense in situations like the following:
- You're a small organization and don't have the need or budget for full-time SREs, but still want to get an SRE's advice on optimizing reliability.
- You're considering building an in-house SRE team, but you first want to evaluate SRE as a practice and validate that it will truly benefit your business. In this case, SRE as a service offers a means of "trying out" SRE before committing to full-time hires.
- You're unsure how many SREs your business will need, or you think that your reliability management requirements may fluctuate over time.
- You already have some site reliability engineers on staff but you want to supplement them with an outsourced SRE service, which your in-house SREs can draw on when they need extra help.
- You already have in-house SREs, but they don't know certain technologies that you need to support, and outsourced SREs can address those technologies.
Where Can You Get SRE as a Service?
Again, companies that provide SRE as a service are currently limited in number. But some managed services providers (MSPs) offer this type of solution. If you're looking for an outsourced SRE company for your business's industry or domain, start by asking MSPs who focus on those niches if they provide, or would consider providing, outsourced SREs.
You could also look into hiring a freelance SRE, which isn't quite the same thing as SRE as a service but provides a similar level of flexibility.