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Cloud SLAs: the dodgy white goods warranties of the tech industry

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Recent media reports have shone the spotlight on a number of high profile public cloud companies for confusing SLAs. Service providers, such as HP and Amazon, have come under fire for using confusing terminology and for placing the responsibility for detecting failures squarely on the customer’s shoulders. While these criticisms are aimed squarely at public cloud providers, I do believe that the private cloud industry is equally as guilty of causing confusion regarding SLAs.

I think that it’s high time that we, as service providers, take the lead in simplifying service agreements and provide our customers with transparent and honest commitments. Some of the SLAs that I’ve come across are incredibly ambiguous. When you drill down into uptimes and penalties it’s common to find that the only commitment made by service providers is to keep the power on rather than keeping the service running. That’s like buying a washing machine and the warranty only committing to keeping the lights working. SLAs should be providing a guarantee to actually wash the clothes.

Let’s be clear about this: some private cloud service providers are doing the industry a disservice. It’s time to ensure that the service bought is the service provided so that the enterprise is able to confidently provide its users with a guaranteed service. Without this, the enterprise will be reluctant to put trust in the cloud to provide business critical services.

While I may be vocal on this topic, I don’t think that the problem is unique to the cloud industry. Look at the utility industry currently, energy providers are coming under pressure from consumers and Ofwat to simplify tariffs and billing. Surely as a relatively new industry the cloud market could learn from this early on.

Simplifying SLAs can be a win-win and beneficial to both parties. By clearing up ambiguity, the customer is confident in the service delivery and is able to develop a proactive plan to deal with any outages, while the provider is confident in being able to deliver the service without being bankrupted if something goes wrong.

Clearing up confusing SLAs must be a priority, or we run the risk of tainting the brand value of ‘cloud’ services and being the cause of faltering adoption rates.

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