A while back, Eric Westerkamp over at eCloudM asked a simple question that got me thinking. Eric wondered aloud (in print?) whether "using the Term Service Level Automation (SLA) causes confusion when presenting the ideas and topics into the business community. I have most often seen SLA refer to Service Level Agreements. While similar in concept, they are very different in implementation."
So, to keep things clear in my blog, I will now use the acronym SLAuto for Service Level Automation, and retain the SLA moniker for Service Level Agreements. I hope this eliminates confusion and allows the market to talk more freely about Service Level Automation.
Speaking of SLA, though, Steve Jones posted a great example of symbiotic relationship between the customer and the service provider in the SLA equation. To put it in the context of an enterprise data center, you could offer 100% up time, .1 sec response time and a 5 minute turnaround time, but it wouldn't be of any value if the customer's application was buggy, they were on a dial-up network and it took them six weeks to get the requirements right for a build-out.
Now, let's look at that in the context of SLAuto. To my eye, the service provider in an SLAuto environment is the infrastructure. The customer is any component or person that accesses or depends on any piece of that infrastructure. Thus, any SOA service can be a service provider in one context, and a customer in another. Even the policy engine(s) that automate the infrastructure can be thought of as a customer in the context of monitoring and management, and a service provider in terms of an interface for other customers to define service level parameters.
Steve's example hints that I could buy the "bestest", fastest, coolest high tech servers, switches and storage on the planet and it wouldn't increase my service levels if I couldn't deliver that infrastructure to the applications that required it quickly, efficiently and (most importantly) reliably. Or, for that matter, if those applications couldn't take advantage of it. So, if you're going to automate, your policy engine should be (you guessed it) quick, efficient and reliable. If it isn't, then your SLAs are limited by your SLAuto capabilities.
Not what you intended, I would think...