Can I Automate Away SRE Roles?
I’ll start in 1811 England. There was a new invention called a loom, allowing lower skilled laborers to operate and produce lower quality products that ruined the artisans’ reputation for quality. The name Luddites was coined, and this group of people went on to physically smash looms eventually causing Parliament to make frame-breaking a hanging offense.
The word automation brings some strong emotions to the surface for many. It could elicit joy from automating mundane tasks, but it can also create fear and mistrust. There has been extensive history and research on automation being brought into many industries.
The industrial revolution continued in spite of the Luddites and a whole new role was born: the factory worker, which exploded in numbers creating many more jobs than those that were displaced.
Let’s jump ahead to more modern automation. Computers brought amazing automation to just about every industry on the planet. Think of the efficiencies brought to accounting, manufacturing, media and many, many more. Taking a look at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics data (dating back to 1980), employment levels tracked very closely with major events, dipping for things like the housing crisis and climbing during times like the dot-com bubble. They do not seem to coordinate with large shifts in technology. In fact, we are currently experiencing a worldwide labor shortage as new advancements in AI and other technologies “threaten” to take over jobs. The Economic Policy Institute posted in 2017 that there is no evidence that automation leads to joblessness or inequality.
Every industry, every role faces some type of automation “intrusion” at some point. The role of a Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) is no different. Just as an SRE wouldn’t consider the best way to learn of an outage is when customers start complaining, an SRE also wouldn’t want to shy away from automation where it makes sense. Part of an SREs duties are to create automation for cloud-native systems in order to reduce MTTR and create organization wide optimization.
So can we automate all the SRE duties and eliminate the role? Far from it. Google posted a great article on SRE automation, how they thought they were automating themselves out of jobs when in fact it turned out to free up time to focus on things that could help the business instead of constant tedious tasks or firefighting.
Don’t be a Luddite.
Fylamynt has created the world’s first enterprise ready low code platform for building, running and analyzing SRE cloud workflows. With Fylamynt an SRE can automate the parts of the runbook that are the most time consuming, allowing them to make decisions where their expertise is needed.