Cloud SLAs – what is important?

I’ve been digging around a little to define what is different with Cloud SLAs over a normal outsourced account, and there is quite some controversy. Lydia Leong, a Gartner blogger claims that the type of cloud SLAs used by AWS (Amazon Web Services) and HP Cloud Services are quite useless in helping cloud users (tenants) from mitigating their risks, and getting compensation when services are unavailable.

One example is that the SLA on unplanned downtime (outside of events of force majeure) for AWS is calculated over a year, not a month. Which means if your cloud services are unavailable 4½ hours in a single day during a single year you cannot claim a cent. She also talks about how they are organised around a region availability, not by instance or AZ (physical data-centre) availability. This seems to make sense to us cloud ignorants, after all there is redundancy in the cloud? Or not… according to Lyndia, at least when it comes to cloud SLAs. I’m still trying to get my head around all this 😉

Lyndia did recommend the Dimension Data (OpSource) SLA as it has a simplicity that makes more sense. For example the cloud SLAs are split by Infrastructure and Application availability. ¨Whereas AWS and HP only do SLAs for Infrastructure, or at least at the posting of this article in December 2012. HP has since this posting given a statement in respond to this claim. However Lyndia sticks to her opinion, although states that “arguably the nuances make the HP SLA slightly better than the AWS SLA“.

So what’s my take on this? At the moment nothing strong. Be aware of the risks if you go to the cloud, then you could transfer your risk, take out some insurance. It really depends how much money you are losing for every hour your services are down. According to Lyndia, Amazon has started letting cyber-risk insurers inspect the AWS operations so that they can estimate risk and write policies for AWS customers. I do think that often to take a services approach to your business makes really good sense, and the cloud is a way forward whether you like it or not.