Two of the biggest drivers of exceptional digital user experiences are, arguably, reliability and innovation. You need your system to run as intended, but it also shouldn’t be stagnant. You should constantly look for ways to enhance its performance, security, online services, and resources to stay ahead of your users’ expectations.
The pursuit of reliability and innovation is not a zero-sum game. In fact, ensuring your system’s reliability gives your team the space and bandwidth to design and test new functions. But it does require the right approach that balances these two goals.
What is Reliability Engineering?
Reliability engineering is built on the core idea that, at some point, things will go wrong. Errors will occur, and something will stop working, posing a serious risk to the overarching operation. The idea isn’t to engineer a system entirely immune to these risks, it’s to build one that can weather a barrage of issues and still function accordingly.
What is Site Reliability Engineering?
Site reliability engineering (SRE) builds on this premise to make IT infrastructure and operations more resilient. The idea of SRE was first developed by Google, which explains it as “treating operations as if it’s a software problem,” employing principles and best practices around automation, usability, and observability.
Attempting to develop and maintain an enterprise that never sees a single error is a fool’s errand. But building one that keeps going with little-to-no manual intervention when a problem does arise? That’s something worth pursuing.
This idea applies to companies both large and small. Take a simple application, for example. Its design and function could be straightforward, but if it’s relying on a major cloud infrastructure, what do you do if it goes down? SRE builds resiliency into the overall system and infrastructure.
SRE establishes key metrics such as service-level indicators (SLIs) and service-level agreements (SLAs) to monitor a system’s availability and performance among its users. The benefits of SRE are pronounced, to say the least.
Some of the goals our site reliability engineers routinely help clients with include:
- Monitoring critical systems
- Utilizing business logic and application metrics to predict trends
- Leveraging performance data to accelerate software delivery
- Tying KPIs to desired business outcomes
- Enabling testing, security, compliance, and automation
- Providing higher efficiency and reducing time to market
- Ensuring optimal system performance
- Managing issue escalation, support services, and answering questions from stakeholders
- Enjoying higher platform adoption rates
Building Modular and Reliable Architectures
Traditionally, most IT systems and software have followed a monolithic architecture model, meaning they function as a single entity with different components and functions tightly connected. As these systems grow in complexity, however, managing and updating specific services can prove to be an immense challenge. Because of how interconnected everything is, updating one component can impact the function and stability of others.
One effective solution is to develop microservice patterns.
What are microservice patterns and microservice design?
The idea behind microservice patterns is to separate a system or application into different modules that are all independent of one another. Each business function is its own autonomous structure. This allows them to be deployed and updated without adversely affecting other modules.
This model has become increasingly popular for larger, more complex systems.
What’s the connection between microservice patterns and site reliability?
There are different ways to design a microservice pattern based on the overarching system’s goal or core need. One way to design a microservice pattern is for resiliency, so again, when (not if) failures occur, your system continues to function as it should.
Some resiliency-oriented microservice patterns that Terazo commonly utilizes include:
- Queue-based load leveling: Queueing is an incredibly effective design pattern for systems that routinely receive spikes in service requests that would otherwise overload and disrupt operations. A queue microservice receives all the requests, separate from the subsequent service, and sends those requests through at a rate that won’t overload the system.
- Bulkhead: Bulkhead patterns isolate different system components so that if one experiences a problem and becomes inoperable, others won’t be impacted.
- Retry: Retry patterns automate a follow-up request should the first fail. For systems that see occasional, rare issues, retry patterns can be quite successful in fulfilling a request without the user needing to try again manually.
- Circuit breaker: While retry patterns are used when issues can quickly resolve on their own, circuit breaker design patterns turn off a particular module should it encounter a specific number of errors, rerouting requests to another module while it is repaired.
- Health endpoint monitoring: It’s important to ensure all system endpoints function correctly, which can be challenging for cloud-based applications. Health endpoint monitoring routinely sends service requests to different endpoints, ensuring they’re operational and reporting back on the status of each.
How does modular architecture enhance reliability to drive insights and innovation?
Modular architecture increases an organization’s velocity around its ability to test and deploy new features. The approaches outlined here allow organizations to experiment with new ideas, confidently roll them out, and get faster feedback loops to inform future business decisions.
But knowing which microservice patterns to utilize, not to mention developing and maintaining them, requires both expertise in site reliability engineering and how your network is intended to support your organization’s overarching goals. At Terazo, our team of site reliability engineers works with our clients to develop a holistic approach to enhance the resiliency of their systems, infrastructure, and cloud products and services, all to drive insights, automation, and user experience.
Ready to learn more about how site reliability engineering can support your operations? Let’s get started.