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Consortium Addresses SLAs

As part of its efforts to provide insight into key portions of the ASP computing solution, the ASP Industry Consortium today (Nov 14) released a comprehensive white paper on service level agreements (SLAs). The white paper was part of a presentation made by Consortium officials during a press conference at COMDEX Fall 2000.

The Guide to Service Level Agreements is intended to help ASPs develop and implement SLAs with their customers and partners, according to Eduardo Pontoriero of Compaq Computer Corp., who chairs the Service Level Agreement subcommittee for the Consortium's Best Practices Committee.

"While the white paper was primarily developed for those who negotiate contracts with customers and partners, it will also provide consumers of ASP services with valuable information and insight into SLAs," noted Pontoriero. He emphasized that the SLA Guide being introduce is the first step in creating a "living document," which will be updated regularly as new insight into ASP customer and partner relationships are realized.

The 75-page white paper includes an introduction to the ASP industry, and incorporates the input from an ASPIC-sponsored survey targeted at service providers and end users that was designed to gauge the importance of service level agreements. In it, business professionals representing a wide variety of vertical markets verified that SLAs are central to the ASP relationship, Pontoriero noted. "The rise of the ASP model, the evolution of e-commerce and the increasing maturity of the network infrastructure have raised the service expectations of end users," said Pontoriero.

The majority of end-user and vendor respondents to the survey indicated that service level agreements are the best method for ensuring that hosting and e-services outsourcing arrangements work to the satisfaction of all parties, and approximately 70 percent of those surveyed currently have an SLA in place. The SLA Guide addresses the four key elements of the ASP value chain, including: Network, Hosting Application, Customer Care and Help Desk.

While an ASP is typically accountable for providing an end-to-end SLA to its customer base, the inclusion of the four key components addresses the frequent requirement for ASPs to partner in one or more of these areas, Pontoriero said. Each section includes a set of SLA elements and, whenever available, related metrics and typical industry thresholds.

Recognizing, however, that even the most carefully drafted SLA will not always prevent disputes between the parties from arising, the Guide also includes a set of clauses conducive to resolving disputes arising from discrepancies between the provided service and end-user expectation. From the end user's perspective, it also highlights elements that are important in order to have a successful relationship with service provider.

"The source of the largest number of disputes is likely to be the gap between the actual performance by an ASP and the performance expected by the end user based on the terms of the underlying SLA," Pontoriero noted. "Thus, clear, well-negotiated SLAs that are comprehensive and well drafted are fundamental to minimizing the risk of disputes."

The white paper in its entirety is available to ASP Industry Consortium members only; however, an executive summary is available to anyone through the Consortium's website.