DaaS Service Level Agreement Immaturity Can Hamper Technology Adoption

A recent survey by Entelechy Associates indicates that while interest in DaaS is growing, no more than 2% of IT organizations are currently committed to adopting DaaS by 2014. While DaaS technology is rapidly maturing, the same cannot always be said for the service offerings themselves. The problem is not necessarily with individual DaaS products, but with service providers’ interpretations of how these products should be measured.

For DaaS to be meaningful to the business consumer the emphasis has to be on service, not technology. Granted, specific business needs might significantly influence the type of technology that can be used to deliver that service, but that is secondary; what matters is that service is provided. Consumers of DaaS services are only interested in what it can do for them, not in how it is created. DaaS must be the same as any other utility; just as a user does not need to know the complexity of the power grid to understand how to use electricity to heat or light their home, so a DaaS user should not have to understand the technology that is used to provide service. Unfortunately, many DaaS providers have not yet awoken to this fact.

During a recent DaaS provider bake-off, the following SLA shortcomings were noted:

  • Failure to adequately define the service(s) being offered
  • Failure to define how a service was measured
  • Exclusions for scheduled maintenance without defining maintenance frequency, notification, time of maintenance window
  • Failure to distinguish between partial failure (such as slowdowns, reduction in capacity, inability to launch new desktop sessions) and total loss of service and with it all unsaved work
  • Exclusion of equipment dedicated to an individual customer over which the customer had no direct control
  • Exclusive assignment of service monitoring responsibility with customer
  • Failure to account for service provider induced error
  • Failure to account for for infrastructure software failure
  • Failure to account for for data center connectivity failure
  • Failure to document compensation levels for failure to meet service level agreements

The number and breadth of SLA weaknesses suggests that a substantial number of DaaS providers have some way to go before they fully understand the nature of the service that they offer.

Any organizations considering adopting desktop as a service are advised to make note of the following five recommendations when reviewing DaaS SLAs:

  • Ensure that the services being offered are adequately defined, with consideration of both functional and nonfunctional elements
  • Ensure that the point of measurement for any defined services is appropriately documented and fit for purpose–measurement of availability of a hosted desktop within the data center is of no value when the service is being consumed remotely.
  • Ensure that scheduled maintenance provisions are adequately documented–if it is not possible to define in advance when maintenance needs to occur, it is by definition unscheduled.
  • Consider segmentation of SLAs–it is recommended, for example, that data backup and recovery be subject to a separate SLA from desktop delivery
  • Ensure that compensation for failure to meet SLA elements is appropriately documented

At the same time DaaS providers need to ensure that their SLAs are readily understandable and take into account the business value of the service they are providing.

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