When we wrote the original Site Reliability Engineering book, we had a goal: explain the philosophy and the principles of production engineering and operations at Google. The book was our attempt to share our teams’ best practices and lessons with the rest of the computing world. We assumed that the SRE book might appeal to a modest number of engineers working in large, reliability-conscious endeavors, and that both the quantity and the focus of the content would tend to limit the book’s appeal.
As it turned out, we were happily mistaken on both counts.
To our surprise and delight, the SRE book was a best-seller in computing for an exhilarating period after its release, and it was not just being sold or downloaded; it was being read. We received questions from around the world about the book, the team, the practices, and the outcomes. We were asked to speak about chapters, approaches, and incidents. We found ourselves in the unexpected position of having to turn down outside requests because we were out of cycles.
Like most success disasters, the SRE book created an opportunity to respond with human effort (“Hire more people! Do more speaking engagements!”) or with something more scalable. And being SREs, it will surprise few readers that we gravitated toward the latter approach. We decided to write a second SRE book—one that expanded on the content we were most frequently being asked to speak about, and that addressed the most common questions readers had about the first book.
Out of the many different questions, requests, and comments we received about the first SRE book, two themes were particularly interesting to us; if left unaddressed, they were barriers to putting SRE’s lessons to productive use. These themes are colloquially summarized as:
- Principles are interesting, but how do I turn them into practice in my project/team/company?
- SRE’s approach would not work for me; it is feasible only in Google’s culture, and makes sense only at Google’s scale.
The purpose of this second SRE book is (a) to add more implementation detail to the principles outlined in the first volume, and (b) to dispel the idea that SRE is implementable only at “Google scale” or in “Google culture.”
This volume is a companion to the previous work—not a new version. The two books should be taken together as a pair. You will get the most from this book if you’re already familiar with its predecessor. The first SRE book is available online for free.
By design, the structure of this book roughly follows the structure of the first volume. We want you to be able to read the chapters in tandem. Each chapter in this volume assumes you’re familiar with its counterpart from the previous work; our goal is to allow you to jump back and forth between principle and practice as you go. That way, you can use both volumes as ongoing references.
Next, a word about ethos: We heard from some readers that while describing Google’s journey toward better operations we concentrated too much on just us. Some readers suggested that we were too removed from the practicalities of the world outside Google, and failed to address the interaction of our ideas with the principles of DevOps. That’s an entirely fair criticism that we’ve tried to take to heart in this volume.
However, we do think that the highly opinionated nature of SRE contributes to its usefulness as a discipline. To us that’s a feature, not a bug. We do not advocate that SRE is the only way (or even universally the best way) to build and operate highly reliable systems. It’s just the way that has been most successful for us.
We’ll also spend a few words talking about how SRE and DevOps relate to each other. The important point to keep in mind is that they are not in conflict.
We’d like to acknowledge up front that this volume is necessarily incomplete. The SRE discipline is a broad field even inside the confines of Google, and it is evolving even faster now that it’s practiced widely outside of Google. Rather than go broad and superficial, we focused this volume to answer the most requested implementation details from the first volume.
Finally, this volume and its predecessor are not intended to be gospel. Please don’t treat them that way. Even after all these years, we’re still finding conditions and cases that cause us to tweak (or in some cases, replace) previously firmly held beliefs. SRE is a journey as much as it is a discipline.
We hope that you enjoy what you read in these pages and find the book useful. Assembling it has been a labor of love. We’re delighted that there’s a growing and skilled community of SRE professionals with whom we can learn and improve.
As always, your direct feedback is much appreciated. It teaches us something valuable every time you contribute it.
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Using Code Examples
Supplemental material (code examples, exercises, etc.) is available for download at https://g.co/SiteReliabilityWorkbookMaterials.
This book is here to help you get your job done. In general, if example code is offered with this book, you may use it in your programs and documentation. You do not need to contact us for permission unless you’re reproducing a significant portion of the code. For example, writing a program that uses several chunks of code from this book does not require permission. Selling or distributing a CD-ROM of examples from O’Reilly books does require permission. Answering a question by citing this book and quoting example code does not require permission. Incorporating a significant amount of example code from this book into your product’s documentation does require permission.
We appreciate, but do not require, attribution. An attribution usually includes the title, author, publisher, and ISBN. For example: “The Site Reliability Workbook, edited by Betsy Beyer, Niall Richard Murphy, David K. Rensin, Kent Kawahara, and Stephen Thorne (O’Reilly). Copyright 2018 Google LLC, 978-1-492-02950-2.”
If you feel your use of code examples falls outside fair use or the permission given above, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This book is the product of the enthusiastic and generous contributions of more than 100 people, including authors, tech writers, and reviewers. Each chapter has a byline for the individual authors and tech writers. We’d also like to take a moment to thank everyone not listed there.
We would like to thank the following reviewers for providing valuable (and sometimes pointed) feedback: Abe Hassan, Alex Perry, Cara Donnelly, Chris Jones, Cody Smith, Dermot Duffy, Jarrod Todd, Jay Judkowitz, John T. Reese, Liz Fong-Jones, Mike Danese, Murali Suriar, Narayan Desai, Niccolò Cascarano, Ralph Pearson, Salim Virji, Todd Underwood, Vivek Rau, and Zoltan Egyed.
We would like to express our deepest appreciation to the following people for serving as our overall quality bar for this volume. They made substantial contributions throughout the entire volume: Alex Matey, Max Luebbe, Matt Brown, and JC van Winkel.
As the leaders of Google SRE, Benjamin Treynor Sloss and Ben Lutch were this book’s primary executive sponsors within Google; their strong and unwavering belief in a follow-up project that was a worthy companion of the first SRE book was essential to making this book happen.
While the authors and technical writers are specifically acknowledged in each chapter, we’d like to recognize those that contributed to each chapter by providing thoughtful input, discussion, and review. In chapter order, they are:
- Implementing SLOs: Javier Kohen, Patrick Eaton, Richard Bondi, Yaniv Aknin
- Monitoring: Alex Matey, Clint Pauline, Cody Smith, JC van Winkel, Ola Kłapcińska, Štěpán Davidovič
- Alerting on SLOs: Alex Matey, Clint Pauline, Cody Smith, Iain Cooke, JC van Winkel, Štěpán Davidovič
- Eliminating Toil: Dermot Duffy, James O'Keeffe, Stephen Thorne
- Simplicity: Mark Brody
- On-Call: Alex Perry, Alex Hidalgo, David Huska, Sebastian Kirsch, Sabrina Farmer, Steven Carstensen, Liz Fong-Jones, Nandu Shah (Evernote), Robert Holley (Evernote)
- Incident Response: Alex Hidalgo, Alex Matey, Alex Perry, Dave Rensin, Matt Brown, Tor Gunnar Houeland, Trevor Strohman
- Postmortem Culture: Learning from Failure: John T. Reese
- Managing Load: Daniel E. Eisenbud, Dave Rensin, Dmitry Nefedkin, Dževad Trumić, Edward Wu (Niantic), JC van Winkel, Lucas Pereira, Luke Stone, Matt Brown, Natalia Sakowska, Niall Richard Murphy, Phil Keslin (Niantic), Rita Sodt, Scott Devoid, Simon Donovan, Tomasz Kulczyński
- Introducing Non-Abstract Large System Design: Ivo Krka, Matt Brown, Nicky Nicolosi, Tanya Reilly
- Data Processing Pipelines: Bartosz Janota (Spotify), Cara Donnelly, Chris Farrar, Johannes Rußek (Spotify), Max Charas, Max Luebbe, Michelle Duffy, Nelson Arapé (Spotify), Riccardo Petrocco (Spotify), Rickard Zwahlen (Spotify), Robert Stephenson (Spotify), Steven Thurgood
- Configuration Design and Best Practices: Charlene Perez, Dave Cunningham, Dave Rensin, JC van Winkel, John Reese, Stephen Thorne
- Configuration Specifics: Alex Matey, Bo Shi, Charlene Perez, Dave Rensin, Eric Johnson, Juliette Benton, Lars Wander, Mike Danese, Narayan Desai, Niall Richard Murphy, Štěpán Davidovič, Stephen Thorne
- Canarying Releases: Alex Matey, Liz Fong-Jones, Max Luebbe
- Identifying and Recovering from Overload: Andrew Harvey, Aleksander Szymanek, Brad Kratochvil, Ed Wehrwein, Duncan Sargeant, Jessika Reissland, Matt Brown, Piotr Sieklucki and Thomas Adamcik
- SRE Engagement Model: Brian Balser (New York Times), Deep Kapadia (New York Times), Michelle Duffy, Xavier Llorà
- SRE: Reaching Beyond Your Walls: Matt Brown
- SRE Team Lifecycles: Brian Balser (New York Times), Christophe Kalt, Daniel Rogers, Max Luebbe, Niall Richard Murphy, Ramón Medrano Llamas, Richard Bondi, Steven Carstensen, Stephen Thorne, Steven Thurgood, Thomas Wright
- Organizational Change Management in SRE: Dave Rensin, JC Van Winkel, Max Luebbe, Ronen Louvton, Stephen Thorne, Tom Feiner, Tsiki Rosenman
We are also grateful to the following contributors, who supplied significant expertise or resources, or had some otherwise excellent effect on this work: Caleb Donaldson, Charlene Perez, Evan Leonard, Jennifer Petoff, Juliette Benton, and Lea Miller.
We very much appreciate the thoughtful and in-depth feedback that we received from industry reviewers: Mark Burgess, David Blank-Edelman, John Looney, Jennifer Davis, Björn Rabenstein, Susan Fowler, Thomas A. Limoncelli, James Meickle, Theo Schlossangle, Jez Humble, Alice Goldfuss, Arup Chakrabarti, John Allspaw, Angus Lees, Eric Liang, Brendan Gregg, and Bryan Liles.
We would like to extend a special thanks to Shylaja Nukala, who generously committed the time and skills of the SRE Technical Writing Team. She enthusiastically supported their necessary and valued efforts.
Thanks also to the O’Reilly Media team—Virginia Wilson, Kristen Brown, Rachel Monaghan, Nikki McDonald, Melanie Yarbrough, and Gloria Lukos—for their help and support making the book a reality in our ambitious timeline.
And an extra special thanks to Niall Richard Murphy: despite the fact that he moved on from Google before this book hit the shelves, his continual insights and dedication were crucial for getting a goodly portion of meaningful content over the finish line. His leadership, thoughtfulness, tenacity, and wit are nothing short of inspirational!
Finally, the editors would also like to personally thank the following people:
- Betsy Beyer: To Grandmother, my go-to source for encouragement, inspiration, popcorn, pep, and puzzling. You made both this book and my everyday life better! To Duzzie, Hammer, Joan, Kiki, and Mini (note the alphabetical order—ha!) who helped shape me into the obsessive writer slash person I am today. And of course, Riba, for providing the DMD and other provisions necessary to fuel this effort.
- Niall Richard Murphy: To Léan, Oisín, Fiachra, and Kay, north stars. To someone whose protestations of self-interest are entirely out of odds with how he acts. To Sharon, more influential than she knows. To Alex, in a light-filled sitting room, with a cup of tea, a book, a box of dice, and thou.
- Stephen Thorne: To my mum and dad, who have always encouraged me to push myself. To my wife, Elspeth. To my colleagues who have given me more respect and encouragement than I think I deserve: Ola, Štěpán, Perry, and David.
- Dave Rensin: After I wrote my first book, I swore I’d never write another. That was six books ago and I say exactly the same thing each time. To my wife, Lia, who gives me the space to do it and never says “I told you so.” (Even though she tells me so.) To my colleagues at Google—and particularly to the family of SRE—who have taught me more these last few years about production engineering at scale than I had learned in the previous 20. Finally, to Benjamin Treynor Sloss, who interviewed me and convinced me to come to Google in the first place.
- Kent Kawahara: To my parents, Denby and Setsuko, and my Aunt Asako for helping me get to where I am. To my siblings, Randy and Patti, for their support over the years. To my wife, Angela, and my sons, Ryan, Ethan, and Brady, for their love and support. Finally, to the core team of Dave, Betsy, Niall, Juliette, and Stephen, I feel honored to have worked with you on this project.