In smaller companies, engineers often wear multiple hats, juggling a mix of responsibilities. Large companies have specialized teams with clearly defined roles in DevOps, SRE and Platform Engineering.
Originally, DevOps, SRE, and Platform Engineering were just new ways of thinking: cultures and philosophies. But over time, they became real roles within companies with specific goals and responsibilities. This profile of job titles can create confusion. What exactly are these roles for? How do they interact and differ?
Of course, all these new job titles can be confusing. DevOps Engineer, SRE and Platform Engineer: They’re pretty similar, right? But while they are related in some ways, the work these roles do is also very different.
What is development?
Development refers to engineers who write application code and business logic for a company’s core products or services. This is the only role that directly generates revenue by creating features used by customers. Developers focus on writing and improvement of application source code.
In the early days of technology, developers were content to “throw the code over the wall” to sysadmin teams, hoping it would work in production. With DevOps, developers have gained more control and responsibility over deploy code in real environments.
What is DevOps?
DevOps emerged as a culture and practice aimed at improving collaboration between development and operations teams. The goal was to provide developers with more ownership and control over releasing code to users.
While DevOps can implement practices like automation and CI/CD, the DevOps engineer role focuses on creating and improving developer workflows for faster, more reliable delivery of application changes. Responsibilities may include:
- Creation and maintenance of CI/CD pipelines
- Automating infrastructure provisioning
- Provide self-service deployment capabilities to developers
- Collaborate with other teams to improve the developer experience
The main objective is to allow developers to ship code quickly and confidently. DevOps focuses first and foremost on developer experience and improving developer velocity.
What is SRE?
Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) emerged in companies like Google to maintain service reliability and performance in production environments. SREs don’t write business logic: they focus on making applications work well for customers.
Typical SRE responsibilities include:
- Design and implementation of monitoring, alerts and logs
- Perform capacity planning
- Define SLOs (service level objectives)
- Perform post-mortems and optimize incident response
- Improve system architecture and reliability
While DevOps focuses on the developer experience, SRE’s priority is production environment and customer experience. SREs are responsible for ensuring that users consistently receive a high-quality experience.
What is platform engineering?
Platform engineering teams create shared tools and infrastructure to empower developers, SREs, and other roles. Rather than focusing on business logic, platform engineers focus on creating an ecosystem of reusable services and tools.
Examples of platform engineering responsibilities:
Platform engineering produces actionable solutions that reduce duplicate work within the organization. The goal is to enable all other roles to be more productive.
How do these roles interact?
Although these roles have distinct objectives, they must work closely together:
- Developers rely on DevOps for CI/CD automation and SRE to ensure production health.
- DevOps depends on platform engineering tools and SRE practices for deployment security.
- SREs require visibility into developer code changes and DevOps deployment models.
- Platform Engineering designs solutions for end users such as Devs, DevOps and SRE.
In smaller companies, engineers may wear multiple hats and overlap responsibilities. Larger companies tend to have dedicated teams and a clearer separation between these disciplines.
Regardless of size, strong communication and shared ownership between roles is essential to delivering robust, scalable applications that users love.
DevOps, SRE and Platform Engineering are emerging disciplines with different concerns. Rather than separate titles, it is best to think of them as complementary areas of focus that require close integration:
- Development builds the core product.
- DevOps maximizes developer productivity.
- SRE guarantees the quality of production.
- Platform engineering provides actionable tools and systems.