March 19, 2009, 3:11 PM — Cloud computing provider 3Tera announced this week that beginning in April, its Virtual Private Datacenter service will offer a 99.999 percent SLA (service-level agreement).
3Tera stopped short of guaranteeing that level of uptime, saying instead that it is "committed to using all commercially reasonable efforts to achieve at least 99.999 percent availability for each user every month."
In the event that availability drops below 99.999 percent, customers' accounts will be credited on a sliding scale. A 10 percent credit for the month will be provided when availability is between 99.999 percent and 99.9 percent, and if it drops lower than 99.9 percent, the credit jumps to 25 percent, 3Tera said. The credits will be applied automatically to customers' accounts.
All VPDC customers that are subscribers of 3Tera's Assured Success Plan will get the SLA, but initially it will apply to services in the U.S., the vendor said.
With the announcement, 3Tera appears to be a nose ahead of other cloud providers' SLAs. For example, Amazon's SLA for its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) pledges at least 99.95 percent uptime. And although Amazon also offers credits when the SLA isn't met, customers have to submit a request and document the outages.
Still, one observer had a mild reaction to 3Tera's announcement.
"Any loss of mission-critical infrastructure, even if only for a few minutes, can be hugely damaging in certain sectors," consultant and analyst Paul Miller wrote in a blog post Thursday. "The relatively trivial recompense offered by most Cloud SLAs is actually not worth very much, and will rarely come anywhere near covering the potential loss of revenue and credibility to those relying upon the infrastructure of 3Tera and its competitors in this increasingly competitive market."
But SLAs are "part of the process that a company such as 3Tera must be seen to go through in demonstrating their faith in their own core infrastructure, and their contingency planning for the inevitable occasions on which things break," he added.
However, cloud-computing analyst John Willis said that taken at face value, 3Tera's announcement has merit.
"To go out on a limb and say 'We've got five nines' is pretty bold,'" he said.
3Tera's pledge to automatically apply credits, instead of having customers document outages and then seek recompense, is another plus, according to Willis, who said he is a customer of Rackspace's Mosso cloud service.
"I know that I've had outages over the last two years. I've never once gotten an automatic credit," he said. "That's probably the biggest hook here."
Overall, as cloud computing becomes more common among large enterprises, vendors are moving to beef up SLAs. Last week, Microsoft announced that it would provide a 99.9 percent SLA for its CRM Online service, along with a one-month credit for unplanned outages.