Whats in your SLA?

People have been considering and comparing public (hosted) and private (on-premises) cloud solutions for some time in the messaging world, and at increasing rates for database and other application workloads.  I’m often surprised at how many people either don’t know the contents and implication of their service provider service level agreement (SLA), or fail to adjust the architecture of private cloud solution and then directly compare cost. 

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Here are my five lessons for evaluating SAAS, PAAS, and IAAS provider SLAs:

Lesson 1: Make sure that what’s important to you is covered in the SLA

Lesson 2: Make sure that the availability guarantee is what you require of the service

Lesson 3: Evaluate the gap between a service outage’s cost to business and the financial relief from the provider

Lesson 4: Architect public and private clouds to the similar levels of availability for cost estimate purposes

Lesson 5: Layer availability features onto private clouds for business requirement purposes

I’ll use the Office 365 SLA to explore this topic – not because I want to pick on Microsoft,  but because it’s a very typical SLA, and one of the services it offers (email) is so universal that it’s easy to translate the SLA’s components into the business value that you’re purchasing from them.

Defining availability

The math is simple.  It’s a 99% uptime guarantee with a periodicity of one month:


If that number falls below 99, then they have not met their guarantee.  For what it’s worth, during a 30 day month, the limit will be about 44 minutes of downtime before they enter the penalty, or about 8.7 hours per year.

But what does “Downtime” mean?  Well, it’s stated clearly for each service.  This is the definition of downtime for Exchange Online:

“Any period of time when end users are unable to send or receive email with Outlook Web Access.”

Here’s what’s missing:

  • Data:  The mailbox can be completely empty of email the user has previously sent and received.  In fact the email can disappear as soon as they receive it.  As long they can log in via OWA, the service is considered to be “up”.
  • Clients:  Fat outlook, blackberry, and Exchange ActiveSync (iPhone/iPad/Winmopho, and most Android) clients are not covered in any way under the SLA

Lesson 1: Make sure that what’s important to you is covered in the SLA

Lesson 2: Make sure that the availability guarantee is what you require of the service

Balancing SLA penalties with business impact

My Internet service is important to me.  When it’s down, I lose more productivity than the $1/day or so I spend on it.  Likewise, email services are probably worth more than the $8/month/user or so that you might pay your provider for it.  That doesn’t mean that you should spend more than you need for email services.  But it does mean that if you do suffer an extended or widespread outage, there will likely be a large gap between the productivity cost of the downtime and the financial relief you’ll see in the form of free services you’ll see from the provider. 


Callahan Auto Parts also offers a guarantee

I’ll put this in real numbers.  Let’s say I have a 200 person organization.  I might pay $1600/month for email services from a provider.  If my email is down for a day during the month, my organization experiences 96% uptime for that month, and as a result, my organization is entitled to a month of free email from the provider, worth about $800.


The actual cost of my downtime will very likely exceed $800.  To calculate that cost we need the number of employees, the loaded cost per hour for the average employee, and and the productivity cost of the loss of email services.  For our example of 200 employees, let’s imagine a $50/hour average loaded cost to business and a 25% loss of productivity when email is down:

200 employees x $50 cost per hour x .75 productivity rate x 8 hour outage = $60,000 of lost productivity

Subtract the $800 in free services the organization will receive the next month, and the organization’s liability is $59,200 for that outage.

Now how do you fill that gap?  I’m not entirely sure.  It could be just the risk of doing business – after all, the business would just absorb that cost if they were hosting email internally and suffered an outage.  If the risk and impact were large enough, I would probably seek to hedge against it – exploring options to bring services in house quickly, or even looking to an insurance company to defray the cost of outages – if Merv Hughes can insure his mustache for $370,000, then surely you can insure the availability of your IT services.  Regardless, it’s wise not to confuse a “financially backed guarantee” with actual insurance or assurance against outage.

File Photo:  What a $370k mustache may look like.  Strong.

Lesson 3: Evaluate the gap between a service outage’s cost to business and the financial relief from the provider

Comparing Apples to Oranges


See what I did there?

Doing a cost comparison between public cloud designed to deliver 99.9% availability and a private cloud designed to provide 99.99% or 99.999% availability makes little sense, but I see people do it very frequently.  Usually it’s because the internal IT group’s mandate is to “make it as highly available as possible within the budget”.  So I’ll see a private cloud solution with redundancy at every level, capabilities to quickly recover from logical corruption, and automated failover between sites in the event of a regional failure, compared to a public cloud solution that provides nothing but a slim guarantee of 99.9% availability.  In this instance, it’s obvious why the public cloud provider is less expensive, even without factoring in efficiencies of scale.

To illustrate this, I usually refer to Maslow’s hand-dandy Hierarchy of Needs, customized for IT high availability.

image image

Single Site and Multi-site Hierarchies of Need

If I want to make an accurate comparison between a public cloud provider’s service and pricing and what I can do internally, I often have to strip out a lot of the services that are normally delivered internally.  Here’s the steps:

  1. Architect for equivalence.  If I have a public cloud provider just offering 3 9’s and no option for site to site failover, for my database services, I might just do a standalone database server.  Maybe I’d add a cheap rapid recovery solution (like snapshots or clones) to hedge against compete storage failure and cluster at the hypervisor layer to provide some level of hardware redundancy.  If my cloud provider offers disaster recovery, I’d figure out what their target RPO/RTO and insert some solution that matches that capability.
  2. Do a baseline price comparison.  Once I’ve got similar solutions to compare, I can compare price.  We’ll call this the price of entry.
  3. Add capabilities to the private cloud solution after the baseline.  I only start layering features that add availability and flexibility to the solution after I’ve obtained my baseline price.  Only then can I illustrate the true cost of those features, and compare them to the business benefits.

Lesson 4: Architect public and private clouds to the same levels of availability for cost estimate purposes

Lesson 5: Layer availability features onto private clouds for business requirement purposes

EMC’s Microsoft Specialist Annual Summit

Two weeks ago today EMC held our annual EMC Microsoft Specialist (or "MSpecialist") Technical Summit in Santa Clara, CA. This year's event was held over the course of three long days and brought together approximately 100 of EMC's Microsoft Specialists (considering this was the week following Thanksgiving holiday and the start of EMC's last month of our fiscal year - the turnout was amazing!).

During the course of the Summit EMC and Microsoft presented deep technical sessions on topics such as:

  • Windows Server 2012 new features including Hyper-V 2012
  • SQL Server 2012 including EMC best practices and integration
  • System Center 2012 including EMC's System Center support and powershell cmdlets
  • Exchange & Sharepoint 2013
  • EMC technologies for local and remote data protection for Microsoft workloads
  • EMC Storage Integrator (ESI) and building an EMC Microsoft Private Cloud demo center
  • As well as many roadmap discussions for EMC products and solutions supporting and extending Microsoft workloads

One thing we did new this year was to incorporate hands-on labs following key sessions to use EMC's powerful virtual lab demos in which employees, partners or customers can access EMC's online labs to test out a particular product or set of technologies. There are currently many Microsoft related labs with many more being developed that we were able to access to help reinforce the topics being presented.

In total we covered over 30 different sessions across three days with an average day lasting 10 to 12 hours. It was a lot to ask of the MSpecialists but they stepped up to the challenge and participated throughout the entire event! Events like this really show why EMC has the best technical resources and why the bar is often set so high here compared to the rest of the industry! This event was no different with questioning, challenging and proposing ways to make our products and solutions even better!


What was truly incredible about this group and the dedication they made to the Summit is that in total 17 countries were represented with people flying in from Denmark, United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Poland, Italy, China, South Africa, Netherlands, Spain, Australia, France, Israel, Ireland, and Belgium!

One thing missing was EMC partners and possibly even customers. If you fall into that category then stay tuned as this is something we plan to change in 2013! And if you're interested in learning more about EMC and Microsoft? Just ask, there's likely an EMC MSpecialist near you!

Exciting News – Human Face of Big Data Book and iBook Available Now!

The Human Face of Big Data Book is now available!  The 224 page large format hardcover book features stories and pictures of big data in action – stories range from the use of analytics to stop and deter crime to the identity card scheme in India.  There are a range of stories that help to explain how big data is used to help improve the lives of all of us.  You can purchase the book on line at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other book retailers.

In addition, a groundbreaking Human Face of Big Data iPad app will enable users to interact and explore stories from the book, including videos, interactive charts and graphics. The app costs $2.99 and is available for download today.  All proceeds from app downloads will be donated to charity: water, a nonprofit organization bringing clear, safe drinking water to people in developing nations.

Your children (ages 13-17) can become involved in the student component of the project called Data Detectives.  On this website, they will be asked a series of questions, and can compare their answers with other students around the world.  To date, over 2,068 students have taken part in the survey.  This website is a great way for children to understand the impact of data and how we are using data to change the world.

Follow the project on Twitter @FaceofBigData


Introduction to EMC´s ESIPSTOOLKIT, the hidden Weapon for your Private Cloud Deployment – By Karsten Bott, EMC Germany


Introduction to EMC´s ESIPSTOOLKIT, the hidden Weapon for your Private Cloud Deployment


By Karsten Bott, EMC Germany



One of a more hidden secret to many of our Users / Customers is the Power of EMC´s ESI PowerShell Toolkit.


For those of you who do not know ESI, here is a Brief Overview of ESI:


ESI for Windows provides capabilities for viewing and provisioning storage. ESI helps IT Administrators by Simplifying Storage Provisioning by


-          Displaying Storage Mapping of Windows disk resources.


-          simplifying the various steps involved in creating and preparing a LUN, including the steps of partitioning, formatting, and creating a drive letter


-          creating a file share and mount that file share as a network-attached drive in a Windows environment


-          Create Virtual Disks ( VHD´s, VMDK´s )


-          Map raw Devices into VM´s


You can find an ESI Overview Video on YouTube



But ESI comes with much more Power.
ESI includes a set of PowerShell cmdlets known as ESIPSToolKit to provision storage from the command line. The cmdlets are written for the PowerShell 2.0 Platform.  They are implemented on according Microsoft´s verb/noun Convention and always start with EMC in the noun. So you will find all cmdlets form various Modules by simply typing Get-Command -Noun EMC*.
Important to mention, we work Agentless, utilizing Windows Standards like WMI and PowerShell Remoting


The PowerShell toolkit provides cmdlets to manage:


-          Connections to host and storage systems and to provision Block storage.


-          Disk devices in hypervisor environments, such as VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix XenServer.


-          Block device snapshots for EMC Symmetrix VMAX® storage family, EMC VNX® Series, EMC VNXe® series, and EMC CLARiiON®CX4 series of storage systems.


These cmdlets are Helping Customers in their Windows Management Automation on the Way to the Private Cloud.


The Toolkit has a Broad List of Commands and is still growing from Version to Version





A Basic Provisioning Process might look like


Provisioning Task Traditional Step ESIPSToolKit Example
Identify   Storage System Use   Element Manager / Storage CLI Tool $MyStorage = Get-EmcStorageSystem VNXe
Identify   Pool Use   Element Manager / Storage CLI Tool $MyPool = Get-EmcStoragePool performance -StorageSystem   $MyStorage -PoolType Block
Identify   Cluster System Cluster.Exe   / MMC $MyClus =   Get-EmcClusterSystem W2K*
Create Lun   in Pool Use   Element Manager / Storage CLI Tool ( Multiple Steps ) $MyLun = New-EmcLun -Pool $MyPool -Name mylun_test_1   -Capacity 10GB -Silent –Thin
Unmask   Luns to Cluster Hosts Use   Element Manager / Storage CLI Tool ( Multiple Steps ) Set-EmcLunAccess   -Lun $MyLun -ClusterSystem $MyClus -Available
Find Drive   on Host Diskpart,   Array Commandline Tools, INQ Command $MyDrive =   Find-EmcHostDisk -ClusterSystem $MyClus -Lun $MyLun
Initialize   Drive Diskpart,   Diskmgmt or other Host Tool Initialize-EmcHostDisk -HostDisk $MyDrive -ClusterSystem   $MyClus -PartitionStyle gpt
Create and   Format Volume Diskpart,   Diskmgmt or other Host Tool New-EmcVolume -ClusterSystem  $MyClus -HostDisk   $MyDrive -Label CluDis1
Add   Volume to Cluster Group Cluster.exe,   Cluster MMC $MyCluDisk = Add-EmcHostDiskToCluster -ClusterSystem $MyClus -HostDisk $MyDrive -ClusterGroupName AvailableStorage





You Might want to use our Toolkit in your Orchestrating Tools (aka SCO, VMO) to Automate most of your Provisioning Tasks in your Private Cloud Deployment


You will find some Examples of what you can do with ESIPSToolKit on ECN.
If you find that helpful, you may want to follow me on https://twitter.com/ESIPSToolKit  for frequent updates


You also can Contact me on ECN   https://community.emc.com/people/bottkars .




Thanks to Giri, Sanjay, Ataa and everyone in the ESI Team !