The importance of application SLAs

* NetForecast champions business-centric application service-level agreements

It's easy to talk about aligning IT initiatives with business objectives. But without application-specific service-level agreements, it can be hard to deliver. To help IT teams get the job done, market research firm NetForecast has published a new report explaining what business-centric application performance SLAs are, and how to implement them.

“Traditional SLAs focus on narrow aspects of infrastructure rather than the comprehensive application experience. Because businesses run on applications, new SLAs must be defined at the application level to properly support the business,” writes Peter Sevcik, president of NetForecast, in the report (available online here). 

For starters, Sevcik tackles why it’s important to implement an SLA program. Many enterprises think about application SLAs only when they’re rolling out something new, or making a major IT change. But it makes more sense to put an SLA program in place ahead of time, so that a company can start accumulating historic performance data, for example, he says.

“Enterprises need SLA systems now,” Sevcik writes. “Although such systems help manage future change, you should not wait until change is imminent to begin. Change is certain, so the prudent way to manage performance given change is to deploy an SLA program today.”

Central to Sevcik’s report is a standard called the Application Performance Index, or Apdex. Sevcik is a founding member of the alliance that created Apdex, which uses a formula to measure how satisfied end users are with the performance of applications, based on multiple response time measurements.

Among the elements of a successful application performance SLA are: formal thresholds or service objectives; a “score,” or means to measure how a system performance relative to the objective; service goals for the service provider; conditions when an SLA isn’t in effect, such as for system maintenance; and consequences for falling below goals. The Apdex standard can help companies define and assign value to such elements.

In the big picture, WAN optimization and application acceleration products often play a key role in meeting application performance goals. But Sevcik cautions enterprises not to rely on pure speed metrics.

“Accelerating select applications 10 times or even 100 times some of the time may lead you to think you are experiencing great results - but these results may actually be unnecessary or even counterproductive when evaluated within the context of a business-centric SLA,” he writes. “Furthermore, voice and video applications cannot be judged by a simple “10X” or “100X” improvement metric. Quality perceived by the user is much more complex than a mere ratio can convey.”

Check out the full report for insight into how to identify key business applications, define response time targets and measure application performance on an ongoing basis.

To learn more about what Sevcik and fellow NetForecast analyst Rebecca Wetzel have to say about application performance management and related trends, check out their new blog, App Performance View, on

Learn more about this topic

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)