Importance of SLA in implementing Cloud

Cloud technology brought another dimension to organisations in order to deploy vast computing resources to its disposal. Key benefits are to add more capacity at peak demand or reduce capacity, and experiment with new services or software. Effective cost models provided by cloud service providers have prepared organisations to rethink IT strategies. For example, moving IT infrastructure or systems over to cloud, or implementing cloud variants such as IAAS, PAAS or SAAS that suit the company’s business model.

Commercialisation of the cloud computing services have made organisations choose and select specific services to meet their computing requirements, for example, use of computing infra, middleware or software without worrying about maintenance of the underlying components, for instance, software upgrades, patches or availability of the hardware. Organisations now have to concentrate on producing specifications to meet their requirements and buying those resources from chosen cloud service providers. The key to successful and cost effective implementation of the computing resources (that probably save cost in the longer term) is the well thought and planned SLA agreement to ensure that the cloud service provider understands what they are expected or required to deliver.

In summary some of the KPIs for a contract are as below:

    • Quality of services
    • Volume of demand for workloads at different times of the day
    • Penalties, if service provider fails to meet service requirements
    • How to report SLA results
    • Exit process if decided to terminate contract with Cloud service provider

SLAs for internal IT systems.

There has been a lot of debate about cloud computing that it should be treated like other utility services such as Power supply, gas or water. Why not? Computing infrastructure should be commoditized and it is going that way as more and more companies move to the cloud. However, data is one that differentiates from other utilities. Data is private and equally important to the company. Most companies rely on data as we are moving to the digital technology. Therefore data cannot be treated in the same way as water supply. Added to further complications, data privacy and meeting regularity requirements are mandatory. There is no compromise; data needs to be secured, protected, available and accessible for a business to function. This raises concerns while moving to the cloud; how can a company protect itself while on the shared infrastructure and guarantee the level of services they will receive from the cloud service provider. This is where well thought and planned SLAs will help in order to set the blueprint of where the client knows what to expect and the service provider understands what to deliver.

It can be argued that most of the companies have SLAs for internal IT systems so why should this differ? Well, internal IT systems are run by dedicated permanent or temporary hired staff by the company. They have business knowledge, direct contact with clients and have been involved in setting IT systems. This valuable knowledge, client relationship and skills accumulated over the period by the dedicated staff has benefited companies in many ways, for instance, a company’s dedicated staff many times far exceed expectations that may not be covered by the SLA. On the other hand, cloud service providers have many clients on their book to provide services and cannot be expected to be 100 % dedicated to one company. They also have no knowledge of each company’s business and level of expectations unless it is clearly defined.

Therefore, I believe clearly defined requirements and expectations via SLAs are key to establish an effective relationship with CSPs in order to get quality of services in par with in house IT systems supported by a company’s internal staff.

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