Date: 27/10/2020| Category: FAQ| Tags: ,

You must have heard about site reliability engineering (SRE).
But do you know what it means and what the differences and similarities between ITIL 4, SRE, and DevOps are?

First of all, all these frameworks or ‘Best Practices‘ can add value across your IT value chain. They all answer the need of IT leaders to focus on how to best develop high-performing teams that both enable and accelerate their company’s digital strategy.

These three frameworks share some core points:

  • Culture: they all introduce a collaborative and connected culture
  • Value: the three best practices increase the focus on delivering value with speed and quality for stakeholders
  • Automation: automation is used to reduce waste and errors made by humans.

According to the 2019 survey “Upskilling DevOps” by the DevOps Institute, 66 percent of the respondents are adopting DevOps, 47 percent are applying ITIL as a best-practice framework, and 10 percent use (SRE) practices. And many of the teams surveyed were using all three.


ITIL 4 is the last evolution of the service management framework from Axelos.
It introduces a new Service Value System (SVS) that is supported by 7 guiding principles.
The framework is now more aligned with DevOps and Agile, introducing some DevOps practices such as value streams and continuous delivery.

All members of the IT organization are involved and they work together to facilitate value creation through IT-enabled services.

The key components of the ITIL 4 framework are built upon the service value chain, that delivers value upon demand or opportunity through 7 guiding principles, governance, practices, and continual improvement.


-service functionalities
-non-functional requirements of availability, performance, security, and maintainability.


Emphasizes service quality and consistency and aims for improved stakeholders’ satisfaction through ensuring value from the perspective of the stakeholders.



Site reliability engineering (SRE) is Google’s approach to service management, introduced in a book of the same name.

SRE is a post-production set of practices for operating large systems at scale, with an engineering focus on operations. It introduces the role of the SRE team, which is a defined job role within organizations. The team members are software engineers who are intended to perform operation functions instead of a dedicated operations team.

The reliability of production systems and therefore its users are supported by an engineer who applies SRE site principles to manage availability, latency, performance, efficiency, change management, monitoring, emergency response, and capacity planning.


Non-functional requirements of availability, performance, security, and maintainability.


Emphasizes the development of systems and software that increase the reliability and performance of applications and services. SREs also have on-call responsibilities which means they need to be available to provide a service or support.


DevOps is the creation of multidisciplinary teams of Dev and Ops to replace siloed Development and Operations that work together with shared and efficient practices and tools.

The key members of a DevOps team are members from the development, operations, and security team who all are working on the software lifecycle in conjunction with each other to improve software quality and speed of software development and delivery with the goal to improve customer experience.

DevOps aligns with Lean principles and Agile.


Speed and quality of functional (application features, etc.) and non-functional requirements of availability, performance, security, and maintainability.


Achieve improved quality while managing adequate velocity of software and services for the line of business. 

ITIL 4, SRE, and DevOps: similarities?

  • All three methodologies encourage collaboration among the different stakeholders across IT and with the business and/or product owners.
  • All three address the key topic of change management.
    ITIL 4 using change management governance;
    SRE with the concept of an “error budget” (it allows changes to be made by the SRE team until the error budget is “spent.”);
    DevOps teams are continually managing changes that typically are gradual.
  • They are supported by a vast set of automation tools.
    Some tools claim to focus on DevOps, others automate key processes.
    The automation tool landscape is complex and continually changing.
  • They also focus on continuous learning and experimentation.
    The skills for each methodology might change but basically, they all need a combination of automation and process skills, soft and functional skills, business, and technical skills.


ITIL 4, SRE, and DevOps: differences?

The key differences among the methodologies are in:

  • Team topology
    • ITIL 4 does not require the team members to be on one team.
    • SRE is a defined role with a defined title.
    • DevOps team topologies vary, but most effective DevOps teams are a single team with the same objectives and metrics.


  • Metrics
    • ITIL 4:  meeting of service level objectives.
    • SRE: reliability of applications and services, with a focus on service level objectives and service level indicators.
    • DevOps: deployment frequency and time to restore.


  • Certifications
    • The ITIL framework provides solid governance for IT and enterprise service management process optimization and improvements for medium and large organizations. Certifications are available at foundation, managing professional, strategic leader, and master level.
    • Courses to learn and understand SRE is available from Google and others.
    • DevOps certifications are available at the foundation and additional levels. The governance model is mostly done through self-organization.


When should ITIL 4, SRE, and DevOps be used?

You can adapt ITIL 4 anytime, there are no requirements of previous ITIL versions.

ITIL 4 introduces and governs common best practices and language to improve customer satisfaction, service availability, and financial efficiencies. ITIL 4 also addresses organizations and people, information and technology, partners and suppliers, and value streams and processes.


SRE can be adopted via the introduction of an SRE engineer as a formal team member either within a DevOps team or within a Service Management team. SRE can also be adopted by organizations that don’t have any exposure to ITIL 4 or DevOps.

Key usage is when reliability is a stated goal of the organization, and the system is undergoing any growth in users, complexity, and/or the number of configuration items. A key benefit of SRE teams is the creation of self-service tools and automation scripts to address the reliability and performance of applications and services which eliminates manual work.


DevOps adoption can take place anytime.

Key trigger points are the demands of improved delivery speed and quality of software, products, and/or services to its stakeholders. One key benefit is that it brings cultural transformation, improves speed and quality on how software is developed and delivered.

It builds on Agile software development and service management techniques and encourages the use of automation to reduce manual work of skilled individuals to focus on more value-adding tasks and activities.
DevOps highlights the reliability, maintainability, and operability of software across all its team members.


All three methodologies can co-exist together to align teams, meet stakeholder’s demands, and improve the value delivered.

No matter which framework/s you choose, you need to focus on:

  1. A common vision and a purpose
  2. Infusing and managing a culture of care
  3. Making decisions and making them visible
  4. Defining metrics and measures before you start while continuing to prove the value of your efforts to your stakeholders.

Digital transformation is not achieved immediately across an organization, organizations should start with Best Practices and methodologies that fit their needs by starting small, then learn, build expertise, and scale-up.

Source: Stop the Arguments: ITIL v4 and SRE and DevOps All Are Transformation Aids
by Eveline Oehrlich, DevOps Institute

© 2019 DevOps Institute. All Rights Reserved.

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