As Cloud Arrives On Main Street, We Need A New Set Of Metrics For Cloud SLAs


Image Credits: American Sprit (opens in a new window) / Shutterstock (opens in a new window)

Sharon Wagner


Editor’s note: Sharon Wagner is the founder and CEO of Cloudyn, a leading provider of cloud analytics and optimization tools for multi-cloud deployments. He is a leading expert and key patent holder in SLA technologies and previously worked at CA Technologies within its cloud-connected enterprise business unit.

A lot can happen in a year, and in the world of cloud computing, 2014 was a breakout one. Cloud adoption finally experienced a tornado of demand that swept up large enterprises en masse. Yet as businesses move services to the cloud and increasingly depend on third-party vendors, important questions should be answered around who is responsible for managing these services and how service quality should be measured.

The main objective of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) is to clearly define relationships and set expectations for adequate service levels between the buyer and the seller. In the case of the cloud, this would be the cloud provider and the cloud consumer. A traditional SLA is a rigid and custom contract with complicated legalese focused around operational metrics provided by IT and using IT internal resources.

A cloud SLA is a different animal mainly because cloud customers leverage the cloud as an extension of their internal IT: They don’t own the infrastructure, they don’t maintain it, and they can’t control its provisioning or maintenance procedures. The cloud’s shared responsibility model splits the responsibility between the cloud provider and the cloud customer: The customer is responsible for the application SLA and the provider is responsible for the infrastructure SLA. 

Four 9s or five 9s — does it really matter?

Cloud providers and customers typically zero in on availability that is measured as the time a system is accessible and is expressed as a ratio between actual uptime and expected uptime presented in a percentage. Note that expected uptime is subject for discussion: expected uptime may or may not include scheduled maintenance hours, reduction of “force major” hours, and more.

Assuming no “force major” situations or scheduled maintenance hours, in a 365 x 24 year, five nines (99.999 percent) represent five minutes of downtime and four 9s (99.99 percent) represent about 50 minutes. Does it really matter?

Given availability as an indicator for quality of service, rest assured that cloud vendors continue to invest in additional infrastructure to support a growing number of customers and enterprises. Therefore, perhaps a better way to measure cloud availability would be to apply qualitative metrics, such as mean time to repair (MTTR) and the mean time between failures (MTBF).

Redefined metrics for the cloud

Undeniably, availability is an important metric. However, good service in the cloud goes far beyond availability. For enterprise-level companies seeking to monitor or enforce the transit of their workload from on-premise to the public cloud, we believe that a new standard is needed that measures a group of categories.

While most cloud vendors focus on availability and provide credits based on availability, a cloud SLA should reflect multiple service level objectives (SLO) and various aspects of the provided service. SLOs should be categorized and measured as follows:

  • Availability: Metrics such as uptime, MTTR and MTBF
  • Performance: Response time, number of simultaneous requests and service throughput
  • Support: Response time, resolution time, resolution rates and service escalation rates
  • Authentication and identity assurance and vulnerability remediation — MTTR
  • Data management: Data mirroring latency, backup retention time and transfer rates

Since no standard SLA is used across cloud providers, those providers redefining and building these new set of SLO standards will be the ones to help enterprises accelerate the onboarding of their critical applications to the cloud.

End-to-end: The right SLA for the shared responsibility model

Many businesses blindly take for granted that they will be protected by an SLA. While the SLA is used to settle any dispute between a provider and a customer, in the case of infrastructure failure, the SLA cannot be considered as “protection.” Customers who provide their users with service based on a public cloud infrastructure should define SLAs end-to-end.

Let’s take the example of a cloud customer who provides a CRM platform to their users and uses services of one of the public cloud providers. While the cloud provider is responsible for the infrastructure, the platform availability is managed by the client. The end-to-end CRM SLA will include metrics such as service availability. This will be a combined business metric that includes the cloud infrastructure availability SLO and the CRM application availability SLO. After all, the end user is not interested in the shared responsibility model; they just want to ensure service availability. 

Standardization: Is it coming?

Until now, SLAs have been unregulated in what has been a sellers’ market, with the cloud service providers calling all the shots. However, the pendulum has started shifting slowly in favor of the buyers, ultimately making it better for businesses.

The evolution of these new standards will mirror what happened in the IT market. In the IT world, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library became the best-known standard after organizations started independently creating their own IT management practices. As enterprises demand metrics from cloud providers, they will eventually become mandatory requirements with credits and penalties for violations. We expect such a shift to occur over the next 12 months.

Since the Edward Snowden disclosures of 2013, there has been increasing pressure on governments and technology companies to provide more transparency. Europe has been one of the strongest supporters for change. In June of last year, Europe took a leap forward and began establishing cloud SLA standardization. NIST (National Institute of Standard and Technology, US Department of Commerce) provides further SLA guidelines for vendors.

Cloud SLAs will be standardized, one way or the other. It’s really just a function of time. After all, the cloud is ubiquitous and doesn’t have borders.

More TechCrunch

Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…

Zen Educate raises $37M and acquires Aquinas Education as it tries to address the teacher shortage

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

Aurora and Volvo unveil self-driving truck designed for a driverless future

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €284M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

2 days ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’