Cloud SLAs: Why Clear Customer/Provider Roles are Key

The consumer/provider dance can be seen in its full glory when it comes to cloud Service Level Agreement (SLA) roles and enforcement mechanisms.  SLAs contain customer/provider responsibilities and remedies if SLA requirements are not met, as well as service definitions and metrics.  Cloud SLAs frequently have a bad name, with critics pointing to imprecise terms and provisions, and in many cases the availability of uptime as the only metric.

The idea of a cloud provider and the cloud customer shared responsibility model has a nice ring to it, but much more is needed to make this vision a reality. SLA enforcement was listed in 2016 industry surveys as a top customer concern – although cloud technology still seems to receive the lion’s share of attention. To increase trust and effectiveness between SLA parties, clear customer/provider role definitions and enforcement mechanisms are vital.


Cloud services in large enterprises, for both customers and providers, are associated with diverse roles and responsibilities. Roles have to be specified in concrete terms for the SLA; for example who is responsible for contract oversight, IT, and security. Mission-critical data raises issues of ownership along with the possible participation of a whole contingent of data experts.

Paying attention to provider and customer roles in creating satisfactory SLAs can assure that important issues including enforcement are defined as completely and competently as possible. Customer roles must have decision-making authority based on thorough knowledge of the corporate mission and technology profile. Provider roles must understand their own business objectives and technology architecture.


Teams with defined roles must apply their expertise in developing enforceable consequences, including penalties and remedies that will enable compliance with contract terms. Audit result records and service quality statistics should be available to customers to assist in SLA enforcement.

Compliance with regulations for business domains (e.g. HIPAA  for health care) needs to be thought about, and here team role positions with data standards expertise are essential.

In practice, enforcement mechanisms are still far from optimal for many situations, especially the provision of service credits for what might be considerable damage to businesses caused by service deficiencies.

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