For as long as we have had service providers, there have been these things called service-level agreements, or SLAs. Although service providers offer SLAs, they rarely factor into a customer's decision-making process. In fact, when I hear SLAs, the first thing that comes to my mind is Ralph Kramden saying, “Har, har, hardy har har!”
The skepticism I have over SLAs is shared by many an IT leader because most are put in place to protect the service provider, not the customer. The agreements are often written in terms of things customers can’t measure, such as core transport times, and the only way one can get credit on a failure is to prove the SLA was breached.
Masergy Announces SD-WAN Aligned SLAs
This week, managed service provider Masergy announced a number of SLAs that aim to change the negativity that this part of the market has with ones that are specifically designed for the SD-WAN era. What Masergy is doing certainly makes sense and is something all service providers and telcos should do, as an SD-WAN is a significantly different type of network than the networks offered in the past, such as MPLS and other IP-based services. Think of it this way: If the service changes, doesn’t it stand to reason that the service-level agreements should as well?
Details of Masergy’s SLAs are as follows:
- 100% availability on both network and cloud connections: No more “five 9s” or other metrics that are hard to prove. Masergy is offering 100% availability for direct connections to top cloud service providers and cloud applications. This is particularly helpful for businesses needing high-performance cloud services that are also globally consistent. Masergy is able to offer this because of the highly resilient backbone it has. The network was initially built for video traffic about 20 years ago, and it’s now leveraging the “always on” architecture for cloud connectivity.
- Proactive credits on availability: This SLA is where Masergy is putting its money where its mouth is. Getting a Verizon or AT&T to actually pony up the money for an SLA violation is a near impossible task as the network services industry has historically put the burden of credit management and collection on the end customer. With this unique SLA, Masergy aims to push the industry into a model that proactively and automatically credits clients after an availability guarantee is not met. This is also a reflection of Masergy’s confidence in its long-standing track record of exceptional network performance. Let’s see if its competitors follow this path.
- <1 millisecond of jitter: Jitter is a critical metric when it comes to real-time apps such as voice and video. The lower the number, the better. In general, anything less than 1 millisecond is great, but over the past year, the jitter on Masergy’s network has averaged between 1/20th and 1/50th of a millisecond. In 2019, it was 0.0198385609850142 millisecond. This SLA assures customers their most critical applications won’t be hampered by the network.
- 100% in-sequence packet delivery (POP-to-POP): This is commonly referred to as packet loss and is the percentage of packets lost during transmission. Packet delivery is measured as a percentage of all packets sent across the network. Packet loss should be well under 1%, and Masergy guarantees perfection with 100% delivery, i.e., 0% loss.
- Five-minute notification: Masergy notifies clients of a service outage within 5 minutes of verification. This is also something that’s an anomaly in the network services industry. Typically, a customer would call in and notify the network provider about an outage. In my experience, this would follow with an argument as to why the outage wasn’t the service provider's fault and a bunch of time would be wasted before the troubleshooting process began. Masergy is taking it upon itself to give its customers a heads up.
COVID-19 Increases the Urgency of SD-WANs
SD-WANs have been growing in importance, but COVID-19 has increased the urgency around WAN evolution. ZK Research recently ran a Work From Home Survey, sponsored by Masergy, that found that 46% of respondents are accelerating their SD-WAN plans because of the pandemic. When looking at what benefits customers expect to get, 81% stated an increase in network reliability and an equal number said improved application performance, while 78% said alignment with the cloud. The new Masergy SLAs are squarely aligned with these expectations.
In the past, the network was used to pass best effort traffic and support non-mission-critical applications. Because of the “good enough” nature of the network, the SLAs could also be good enough. Today, for most companies, the network is the business, and the whole concept of best effort needs to be tossed out the window. Masergy is upping the ante with respect to SLAs to better align them with SD-WANs. I’m hoping other network operators follow in their footsteps.
Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.