Next up in public cloud: Tiered SLAs

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Source: atalou, via Flickr

I’ve talked to two executives recently about an idea that isn’t firmly on roadmaps yet but seems to be on the radar of public cloud service providers.

Margaret Dawson, HP’s new cloud evangelist and vice president of product marketing, first suggested to me that public cloud providers might start offering different level SLA.

“We are going to see and we’re already starting to see among enterprises a willingness to pay different levels of premiums or costs for different levels of SLAs,” she said. “Not every app needs to have 99.95 uptime. For workloads where maybe 99 percent or even 98 percent is ok, you get to go to this low cost bucket.”

She wouldn’t say if HP plans to move in this direction. “For HP, we have published a 99.95 SLA that’s across every customer and workload we provide,” she said. “It’s something we could look at but right now our commitment” is to the existing SLA.

Rackspace told me that, in essence, it already has different level SLAs. “If you’re willing to pay us more, we’ll manage your environment and give you a better SLA,” said John Engates, CTO of Rackspace.

In Rackspace’s initial cloud offering, it had three service levels it called managed, intensive and critical. They were “low, medium and high-touch,” in terms of how much users pay and the type of service guarantees users get, he said.

In Rackspace’s newest cloud, the one built on OpenStack, it offers just two levels: managed and unmanaged. He said the company has been thinking about ways it might be able to offer more services for its bigger customers but has nothing solid in the works.

“Would we have a cloud for the masses and a cloud for the few? I don’t know. We haven’t thought that far ahead,” he said.

He figures that at some point if you want the “cloud for the few, you’ll get a cloud for one, which is your private cloud,” he said. But there might be room for more tiers than Rackspace already offers.

SLAs have been a sticking point in cloud computing. Gartner’s Lydia Leong drew attention to cloud SLAs in a couple of blog posts late last year in which she called most cloud SLAs useless.

Different kinds of SLAs could be one way that service providers differentiate their services, particularly in the OpenStack community where many service providers may end up using the same base of technology to compete for customers.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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