A challenge that most organizations face these days is that while moving the IT workloads from on-premise IT infrastructure to some off-site cloud data centre, it is tough to ensure that the service levels remain consistent with their business requirements. The metrics that define the service levels for all the elements of the cloud system should ideally comply with those requirements. In addition, the cloud service provider must ensure security, maintain high performance, and meet the compliance standards while providing an affordable option to pull customers. So how is this possible? To be able to meet these goals, companies should comprehend, measure, and assess the service behavior depending on well-defined objectives. In this article, you will gain insight into what are service-level agreements (SLAs) and understand service-level objectives (SLOs) that can help assess measurements of service performance. So, read on to find the definition of SLOs.
What is a Service-Level Objective or SLO?
Service-level objectives or SLOs are elements and guidelines that your customers may need during the development phase of a software system. Most of the software teams make use of SLOs to enable them to design solutions that meet their client’s requirements and perform their operational duties successfully. Especially for people working in the IT field, understanding what SLOs mean could help them better gauge the software requirements and top priorities for their customers. Service-level objectives are typically an agreement mentioned in an SLA regarding a specific metric. For example, uptime or response time. Thus, an SLA is a formal agreement that is done between you and your client, whereas SLOs are the individual assurances that you make to your customer. These Service-level objectives help to set client expectations and inform IT and DevOps teams about their goals or targets they need to achieve and measure against.
What is meant by a Service-Level Agreement or SLA?
Service-level agreements (SLAs) are basically contracts that are signed between a service-provider and an end-customer that assures a specific measurable level of service. SLAs are often created with certain financial consequences in case the service-provider fails to deliver the guaranteed service. SLAs mostly comprise of multiple individual SLOs to help reinforce the details of what all is being assured. For instance, an SLA drawn up between a website hosting service-provider and a client can promise 99.95% uptime for all the web services that the company offers over a year.
What is a Service-Level Indicator or SLI?
An SLI helps to gauge compliance with a service-level objective. Let’s take an example here. In case your SLA states that your systems are going to be available 99.95% of the time, the SLO will be likely 99.95% uptime, and the SLI is the tangible measurement of the uptime. It could be 99.96% to be exact, or maybe it is 99.99%. To remain compliant with the SLA, your SLI must meet or exceed the assurances made in that document.
Why are Service-Level Objectives Important?
Service-level objectives help to ensure reliability and are important for various reasons. Some of the main reasons are as follows:
- Improve quality of software: SLOs enable teams to determine an acceptable degree of downtime for a system or a specific issue. SLOs can also help highlight the issues that maybe have not developed into full-blown incidents, but don’t entirely meet expectations. It is not practical and realistic to always attain 100% reliability; hence, using SLOs can aid in finding the right balance between inventing (which can lead to downtime) and delivering.
- Help with right decision-making: SLOs enable the DevOps and infrastructure teams to utilize the expectations around data and performance to make well-informed decisions. For example, whether to release, and which area should the engineers prioritize and focus their time.
- Foster automation: Balanced, well-calibrated SLOs help the teams to automate more and more processes and keep testing during the software delivery life cycle (SDLC). If your service-level objectives are reliable, you can easily do automations to track and measure SLIs and put some alerts in place if some indicators are highlighting violation. This consistency helps the teams to standardize the performance during the development phase and spot any loopholes before SLOs are violated in reality.
- Avert downtime: Downtime or software not working is something that cannot be avoided completely. However, SLOs enable DevOps teams to forecast such issues before they happen and impact customers negatively. By shifting production-level service-level objectives left into development, you can create apps to comply with the production SLOs to enhance resilience and reliability much ahead of an actual downtime. This makes your team proactive in keeping the software quality high and saves a lot of cost by averting downtime.
Who Requires Service-Level Objectives?
Though SLAs are important only in the case of paying customers, service-level objectives are beneficial for paid and unpaid accounts and both internal and external customers. For example, internal systems like client data repositories, customer relationship management system, and intranet, could be just as vital as external-facing systems. Therefore, having SLOs in place for internal systems is crucial for meeting business or organizational goals and helping the internal teams to meet the customer-facing targets.
How Service-Level Objectives Work?
Though the end-goal to define effective service-level objectives is to be able to deliver consistent and top-quality services to end-customers, the cost and difficulty of coming close to 100% reliability goes up in a big way. Each element of the cloud service has a different impact on the service performance as observed by the customers. For example, an app could need responsiveness at a particular performance level. After that level, the customers would not be able to feel any difference. You can define the measure of responsiveness or app performance through numeric indicators like request latency, failures per seconds, batch throughput, and some other metrics. These indicators explain what the service level at any moment is. If you wish to comprehend the overall performance in terms of the agreed SLA contract, you must analyse these metrics over a longer period of time. However, talking mathematically, the service-level objectives analysis involves:
- Combining the service level indicator performance spread over a long time.
- Comparing the result against a numerical target determined for system availability.
SLO Best Practices to Remember
In layman terms, service-level objectives define the effectiveness of the service reliability during a certain time duration, depending on the measurements of particular service-level indicators. There are some recommended best practices that can help you reach these goals.
- Decide the key user journeys
A user journey is basically the interactions that a consumer has with your service to attain an end result. Let’s take an example. A consumer may browse your website to check your products, add something to their cart, and finally, complete the payment or checkout process. Now, all of these steps are a user journey. So, one best practice is to consider yourself as a user and then list down all the key user journeys that you can think of.
- Find the suitable metrics and indicators
The next step it to identify the suitable metrics and indicators to be able to precisely define the system reliability as observed, expected, and needed by your organization and end-customers.
- Opt for your SLIs
Determine the metrics that are required to be tracked to gauge the user experience. It’s important to note here that SLIs are measurable and quantify if your service is working or not. These measurements help in indicating if you have achieved your service-level objectives or not.
- In terms of SLOs, less is more
It’s also important to remember that not all the metrics are significant to client success. This means that every metric should not be a service-level objective. It’s better to agree to as few as possible service-level objectives and aim on those that are the most important to customers.
- Ensure that the relevant people understand the SLOs
It is important that the SLO should be clearly comprehended by the technical team and business leaders. Organizations need to create SLOs depending on the business requirements and the technical capacity and know-how in the organization.
- Don’t over-promise
It’s always advisable to under-promise and finally, overdeliver. Particularly in case of agile teams who wish to deliver or launch early and require an error budget to maintain that quick pace.
- Align the technical team and your stakeholders on SLO targets
If your technical team is not able to deliver on the established SLO targets, the organization will face the risk of not complying with its SLAs to the end-customers. Hence, it’s important to align your technical team, engineers, and organizational stakeholders on your service-level objective targets.
- Employ an independent SLO for all rational components of the system
Each system component could have an impact on the overall system in a different way. Hence, it’s imperative that you define optimal service-level objectives for all the system components depending on the cost, difficulty, and other business and technical issues.
- Measure numerous SLIs collectively to assess a single SLO target
Let’s take an example here. QoS metrics such as latency, errors, etc. may be needed to assess a complete system performance in terms of some specific objectives.
- Document and communicate the service-level objectives to all stakeholders
Doing this is very critical for both technical teams or organizational leaders so that relevant and well-informed decisions can be made.
- Consider service-level objectives as an ongoing commitment
You should consider service-level objectives as a regular commitment rather than a one-time activity to deliver optimal system performance across several service-level indicators. The SLOs may change over time but you cannot consider them as static targets. A service-level objective created for the workload requirements may later not be for its future performance needs.
Manage SLOs in resource management with eResource Scheduler
Creating measurable service-level objectives is becoming more crucial for organizations so that they can deliver reliable, robust, and responsive solutions that comply with agreed service levels. eResource Scheduler is a top-rated resource management tool that makes it easy for you to create and manage your SLOs in resource management with various templates, along with AI-powered analytics. You can explore how this leading resource management tool, eResource Scheduler can enable you to design and track your service-level objectives, forecast any challenges, so that you can do risk mitigation and prevent downtime. What’s more? You can easily integrate this award-winning resource management software with any other software that your organization is using currently. To see how eResource Scheduler can help, click the free trial link and manage your SLOs seamlessly.