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Are traditional SLAs on borrowed time?

September 15, 2014

Mike Powell   

Vice President, Global Services and Delivery

Back in the days of convergence, the telecoms industry, with its 99.999 heritage, used to sneer at the blue screen of IT.

Telecoms was solid, dependable and usually backed by significant government funds. IT was wild haired, emotional and flaky. Telecoms purred with maturity and SLAs, while IT promised much yet stumbled often.

Telecoms, ironically – through broadband, Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G – became the disruptive one. Enterprise IT hit middle age surprisingly quickly, while consumer IT (with telecoms’ help) became super slick.

Convergence, finally, is now simply a fact of life. So much so, that the term doesn’t really exist; its place in the technology lexicon has been replaced by another C word; cloud. While the combination of IT and telecoms has driven a technology revolution that has transformed the world, the people and process that surround them are showing their age.

There is a danger that the copper-bottomed SLA promise that telcos used to wave so proudly is becoming as redundant as the networks that enabled them; necessary, momentarily important on occasion, but largely unused.

With IT and telecoms so interdependent, a traditional SLA – with blunt instruments like packet loss and no jitters – can be wholly observed while the overall ecosystem is significantly below par. The telco industry can block its ears and point to uptime, but that’s a reaction that degrades the industry to ‘dumb pipes’.

In a cloud-centric world, our ‘dumb pipes’ are actually a ‘smart infrastructure’. Traditional SLAs need to be supplemented by metrics that actually matter to the customer.

Our work with CIOs, analysts and futurologists points towards the importance of smart infrastructure that can prioritise when there is a problem. Be it software defined networks, principal applications or power users, modern cloud-centric SLAs should reflect an organisation’s real needs – not the point at which the cable plugs into the network.

A ‘pipes and ports’ mentality means little when an organisation that had one device per employee now needs to support five devices per person, a hybrid on-premise, cloud infrastructure, high volume transactional websites and cross-continent replication.

A smart infrastructure approach allows an SLA, for example, to guarantee per user, per application KPIs (something that the analyst community says Tata Communications is the first to deliver). It can specify details such as which individuals in the organisation have guaranteed 24/7 access and which departments can be put on a go slow if required.

The technological advances that the telecoms industry has made over the last 10 years have been remarkable. It’s time we do ourselves more justice on our delivery models.

Do you agree with Mike that it’s time for delivery models to reflect the changing landscape? Leave a comment and let us know your view.