One of the major challenges and concerns to the many organisations moving business critical applications onto the cloud, is ensuring reliable delivery and quality performance of the service.
Existing and potential cloud customers have a common fear that if the cloud does not meet the service level requirements promised, there could be a detrimental impact on their business.
This is why cloud service providers, and more specifically those delivering software as a service (SaaS), focus on quality of service as a major market differentiator or competitive advantage.
Service level goals can be established and achieved by focusing on three clear metrics:
1) Availability - Maintain the availability of the service at all times.
2) Capacity - Ensure sufficient capacity to accommodate the need to scale quickly and seamlessly.
3) Response time - Guarantee user requests are completed in an acceptable time.
Lack of service availability, insufficient capacity or slow response times should all be deemed unacceptable by users. This can ultimately translate into slower market adoption at best or even loss of customers at worst. Either way, failure to meet these goals will have a significant impact on provider business and reputation.
Repeatedly, SaaS providers have learned a painful lesson by lacking a focus on their quality of service, as evidenced with recent service outages - ranging from public cases like RIM's outage last autumn, to many private unreported cases - that have left hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of paying customers without access to business critical applications.
These unfortunate experiences shed light on the risk that outages in physical infrastructure services have on quality of service. Outages like the one suffered by RIM resulted in untold lost revenue, high levels of frustration and a loss of customer confidence and brand credibility.
Cloud computing has the potential to be the next platform of enterprise computing that at its core provides a new operational and business model for IT application delivery. With the risk and loss, come many lessons learned.
Customers moving to the cloud should do so with a keen eye on provider quality of service, specifically investing in providers that can demonstrate highly reliable and flexible infrastructures with the ability to respond quickly and smoothly to changing user demand. And for cloud service providers, to realise the promise and full potential of cloud computing will hinge on delivering seamless, uninterrupted, high quality of service to the customer.