Cloud Capacity Planning for the Future & Navigating Cloud Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

cloud-service-level-agreementIt’s not surprising to see the business world embrace cloud computing, although a significant number of companies remain reluctant to take advantage of cloud services.

The emergence of the private cloud has allowed companies to benefit from it while keeping information security, regulations and company objectives in consideration.

Of the concerns faced by upper-level IT management, cloud capacity and service level agreements represent two significant issues that must be mitigated for future success.

Planning for Future Growth

Building with growth in mind is always an issue for IT administrators. Maintaining a favourable ROI (return-on-investment) involves balancing the need for future cloud capacity with efficient asset management and having an understanding of upcoming trends and growth forecasts.

According to virtualization and cloud expert Bill Kleyman, cloud administrators have a definite advantage in regards to capacity management. Unlike physical data centers that offer finite resources, cloud administrators in a virtualized environment can quickly deploy additional resources and create more capacity to satisfy elastic demand.

With the elastic cloud model, you can order new workloads only when needed, resulting in a positive ROI while eliminating the prospect of excess capacity being left unutilized. It’s important to remember that despite the flexibility offered by virtualized environments, resources always remain finite.

It’s important for you to take user count, delivery methodologies, workload types and environment connectivity into consideration as you create a workable strategy map for elastic cloud capacity.

Doing otherwise often results in reactive movements that represent a net loss to the bottom line. As far as factoring in future growth goes, it’s nearly impossible to make exact predictions.

Nevertheless, studying current trends can help you arrive at a sensible plan of action that balances availability with cost efficiency and ROI. Kleyman mentions the “N+1 mentality,” where just enough resources are allocated for your current environment, with just enough extra for unexpected moments.

Scrutinizing Cloud SLAs

As cloud services make their way into the technological mainstream, they bring about new opportunities for cost savings and the capacity to accommodate new demands on infrastructure as quickly as they appear. Nevertheless, the need for beneficial service level agreements continues to factor heavily into the business decisions of cloud consumers.

When it comes to SLAs, the details matter. What lies in the fine print of a typical cloud SLA often acts as a stumbling block for businesses. For instance, customer reimbursement is one area where SLA definitions can become a sore point for customers.

A company that expects reimbursement for lost services may instead come away dissatisfied when it receives a credit for future services. Signing an SLA without doing your homework could mean being tangled up in one or more “gotchas” you didn’t see in the fine print.

Ten Key Points for Evaluating SLAs

1. Refrain from getting bogged down in the details. Avoid getting into the technical details early on and focus on objectives, metrics and liability needs.

2.  Learn how your provider deals with unique requests, since most SLA considerations are geared towards common scenarios rather than one-off requests.

3.  Insure that “Quality of Service” (QoS) is clearly defined alongside service availability. Some companies may guarantee some level of availability at the expense of QoS.

4. Study your provider’s protocols for handling disaster recovery and compare them to your company’s internal recovery objectives.

5. Compare your provider’s policies on data retention and hard deletion with your company’s security and data retention goals.

6. Learn what special fees, if any, your provider may level for certain operations such as legacy data migration.

7. Avoid clauses that can potentially dilute private cloud SLAs by introducing other cloud services.

8. Look for potential gaps in respect to responsibilities and ownership when it comes to third-party involvement.

9. Make sure that the cloud provider SLA is flexible enough to accommodate future changes in cloud standards.

10. Examine how a potential cloud provider SLA addresses transaction latency, refunds and SLA evolution without compromising scalability, cost advantage or flexibility.

Conclusion

Matt Smith suggests as a cloud consumer, it’s important to identify your company’s business requirements, how SLA terms can potentially impact your company’s operations and how to insure SLAs match up with your objectives and expectations.

Matt Smith is a Dell employee who writes to help raise awareness on the topic of cloud computing and other network management subjects.

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