Talking Tech: Simplifying Cloud SLAs

Buying cloud is complicated, but comparing cloud offerings from different vendors is even harder. Terms and definitions are inconsistent. Responsibilities and metrics vary.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) aims to change all that. John Messina, a computer scientist and senior member of NIST’s Cloud Computing Program, is part of a team trying to roll out international  standards for cloud computing service level agreements (SLAs). We caught up with him at the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center (ATARC) Cloud Summit in Washington, where he shared his vision with a large government audience.

By bringing together major cloud vendors and buyers to hammer out consistent terms, they hope to speed the process of buying and comparing cloud services. In this GovTechWorks interview, Messina explains the issues and the work that remains ahead.

“Everybody knew it was a problem, but there wasn’t a whole lot of willingness or movement to work on the solution,” Messina says. Cloud providers had written SLAs to protect their own business needs, while customers felt they had little say in defining terms. But eventually, “pushing at the international standards level, it became recognized that there would be benefits to both the consumers and the providers if we actually got a cloud SLA standard completed.”

The four-part standard is in draft from now, with the first part out for review and subsequent pieces to follow over the next year. To learn more, watch the video.

1 Comment

  1. Jesus Luna

    The importance (and need) of standardisation for cloud SLAs (service level agreements) is evident, but equally important is the need to develop effective guidelines to support cloud customers willing to reap the full benefit of standards. This is particularly true for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which in many cases are neither cloud nor SLA experts. Only then, does every cloud have a silver lining.
    A good example is the Common Reference Model, which we have developed as an EC-funded project under Horizon 2020. The Common Reference Model provides much-needed Cloud SLA guidelines that takes into account real-world SLAs (analysing more than 150 cloud SLAs), standards (including the draft ISO/IEC 19086-1/-2/-3/-4), best practices (e.g., Cloud Standards Customer Council’s), SME use cases, and cloud customers’ feedback.
    Our in-depth analysis on relevant standards revealed a number of really important gaps. Standards such as the upcoming ISO/IEC 19086-1/-4 do not contain any reference related to essential elements that SLA-Ready has identified as significant means to empower/guide SMEs in their transition to the Cloud. For example, the advocated elements such as SLA findability, update/validity period, available languages, are still not addressed by the standards. The same situation occurs with known best practices such as the “Cloud SLA checklist” contained in the SMART EC report. These are just a couple of the shortcomings that emerged from our gap analysis.
    The Common Reference Model sets out to fill these gaps by including “evident” elements that do not usually appear on standards (e.g. the easiness to find a SLA), but which are considered important for cloud customers. Many people are perhaps not aware that many cloud providers do not make their SLA publicly available, and only send it to the customer when it is time to sign the contract – much too late for the customer to plan their move to the cloud with careful consideration, and know what to expect, what to do and what to expect.
    SLA-Ready has made its Common Reference Model publicly available, and will soon be offering free companion tools and repositories of SLAs to empower cloud customers in their journey to the cloud. These new tools complement the SLA-Ready Cloud Service Life Cycle, based on customer needs at different phases of a cloud service and with different levels of expertise, and the Business Hub.

    For more information related to SLA-Ready please visit or contact us at [email protected]


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