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Service Level Assurance

Udayakumar Nalinasekaren
Dec 23, 2010


Let us start this subject with an example.

The easiest service level example is in Pizza delivery. When we order a Pizza over phone, we like that Pizza to be delivered home within predictable time and still hot from the oven. The service qualities that are important to us are:

  • the taste and flavor of the Pizza
  • how long we need to wait before it gets to us (lead time)
  • how predictable is the service provider on lead time, and
  • the oven freshness of that Pizza.

Some service providers try to provide assurances by advertising "Oven fresh Pizza delivered to your doorstep inside 30 minutes or it is free". That statement demonstrates the service provider's skin in the game in providing us service. The service provider is willing to lose revenue and profits if a promise made is not met.

Service Level Assurance or SLA as it is called is therefore all about

  • identifying qualities or attributes of service that are important to consumers
  • defining acceptable thresholds for those attributes, and
  • attaching a guarantee (making a promise) for achieving those thresholds

Just like water which gravitates towards low lying land, consumers gravitate towards service providers who have a track record of making an attractive promise and consistently keeping that promise. A brand builds up. SLAs therefore are as important to service providers as they are to consumers. Consistent SLA performance helps establish a brand.

What is attractive for different consumers could vary for the same service.

For example, in the same aircraft that does long haul flights, someone who wants to arrive well rested and fresh at the destination will pay premium for a seat that can also become a bed at the flick of a switch (aka business class).

Therefore varying consumer needs and economic affordabilty drive service providers to create different tiers of service levels for the same service.

When consuming a computing service, the attributes that become important are (to name the most common ones)

  1. the speed of the computing service
  2. the speed with which one can transfer data to and from the computer
  3. the amount of data that can be stored on the computer
  4. the guaranteed uptime of the computer and
  5. the level of technical assistance available to the consumer if the consumer is not technically able to understand the service and its usage

Cloud computing SLA tiers are built around these attributes.

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