NIST Guidance for Defining Cloud Service Metrics

There are probably hundreds of proposed and in-use cloud metrics floating about. They can come from technical, financial, or customer satisfaction-related perspectives, but may not address all of the relevant requirements, and may be applied haphazardly. In an environment with infamous cloud failures, where major enterprises depend on cloud technology and reliable service implementations, standards-based approaches can help. The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) is a major resource for bringing more precision to the definition of cloud metrics. There may be a chorus of “We can’t take a long time to figure all this out”, but risks can be very high, and NIST documentation is very well done. A lot of thought has gone into making NIST guidance usable and timely.

NIST has an overall objective to guide and speed up the adoption of cloud computing for the federal government. NIST is developing a “US Government Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap”, which incorporates ten high-priority requirements – requirement 10 will address the definition and implementation of cloud service metrics. Another goal is a consistent approach to the incorporation of Cloud Service Units of Measurement in Service-Level Agreements.

A Variety of Stakeholders

NIST takes a wide view. Taking an enterprise-level approach to complex cloud development projects is one of the benefits of an organization like NIST, which is devoted to advancing measurement science, standards, and technology. For example, an important and probably overlooked step is to determine all of those with a role in metrics definition for the cloud. Examples of stakeholder roles listed by NIST appear below to illustrate the comprehensive nature of the information available.

  • Metric creators/developers
  • Auditors
  • SLA manager/auditor/conformance checker
  • Metric/measurement researchers
  • Service developers
  • Measurement tool developers

Cloud Service Metrics Model and More

NIST has sought to create materials that add precision to defining cloud metrics. The NIST “Cloud Service Metrics Model” systematically addresses cloud computing services metrics, including metrics for cloud service selection, for Service Agreements, and for monitoring. At a high level, the model uses standard terminology to depict cloud provider and customer interactions for Decision-making and for Service Objectives Monitoring. The model includes a Cloud Service Metric data model made up of rules and parameters, and how they work in conjunction with abstract and concrete metrics.

The “Cloud Computing Service Metrics Description is a NIST Special Publication that even delves into Metrology – the science of measurement. This document elaborates model elements and gives solid guidance for making metrics requirements definition a key part of development practices.

More Certainty

There is a fair amount of enterprise uncertainty caused by lack of knowledge and experience with the definition and use of cloud metrics. NIST can provide guidance for many projects at some point in their life-cycle.

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