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Benefits of Service Level Management

As Alan Greenspan pointed out in the introductory quote, the challenge service providers face is the fact that their products cannot be touched and tested extensively before one buys in. The only thing they can offer beforehand is their reputations, which is directly related to the QoS that is delivered to existing consumers. To manage QoS, an SLM system is crucial.

SLM Provides Customer Focus and Management

Reputation is based entirely on the perception of others. Psychology 1.1 advises us that the first impression is the benchmark for all future experiences in the human mind. It is, therefore, extremely important for Internet service providers (ISPs) to set the proper expectations from the beginning and measure against their ability to deliver on these expectations. An SLM system enables that by continuously monitoring and improving the QoS at all layers.

An SLM system facilitates the focus and direction of internal teams by forcing the different groups (such as the network and system specialists) to prove they conform to the requirements of their internal SLA, which is directly derived from the requirements set forth in the customer's SLA. Both the Help desk team and the network operations team are measured because they affect the customer's perception. Therefore, SLM enables the data center to do what the following sections describe.

SLM Continually Improves RAS

RAS means reliability, availability and serviceability. The ability to show statistics that prove the performance in each of these areas allows the IDC to adjust (and preferably raise) the bar on a regular basis to their ISPs.

By adjusting SLAs to reflect higher standards (that are either made possible due to technology enhancements or are demanded by market dynamics), continuous improvement is driven into the service as a natural progression.

The reports that are generated at the systems, network and applications layers show the responsible vendors or technology teams whether they are meeting their SLOs. This information drives better results by accountability. Better results from vendors and internal teams mean a stronger service offering. These reports drive all parties involved to strive for higher quality standards at lower prices.

SLM is an Early Warning System

The collected information about the infrastructure enables the service provider to see trends and adapt accordingly.

Having this type of information improves the probability of success when introducing new services. By using this information with a modeling tool and combining it with business trends and marketing plans, you can make some predictions around future volumes and load.

The use of a modeling tool is very compelling. However, there are some inherent challenges with this approach. It requires a high level of expertise and knowledge about the modeled technology. It is, therefore, an expensive proposition. Success is not guaranteed because of the number of variables. One mistake can have a great impact on the result. The "garbage-in, garbage-out" paradigm is very applicable here.

Our experience advises us to use a modeling tool with the vendor's guidance to predict what systems should be ordered to accommodate the changes in usage. These systems should be set up in a test laboratory and rigorously tested using known usage patterns. This testing improves the probability of getting appropriately sized systems in the laboratory and minimizes the costs due to corrections of anticipated load.

When security statements are part of an SLA, the process is monitored and measured; therefore, security attacks can be uncovered early.

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