If you have a business or enterprise-class network or internet connection, how are you sure? What is it that makes your network better than something that you just threw together with the cheapest consumer parts or the slowest ISP you could find? The tipping point between consumer and enterprise-grade involves a lot of factors around equipment quality and support. The biggest one for connectivity is the reliability of the service.
Enterprise connections and services are almost always wrapped in a service level agreement (SLA). SLAs are promises made by the company providing the service that there will be a specific amount of reliability and service availability for a given period. If the service doesn’t meet these minimum guidelines, there is some form of compensation, either with free or reduced costs on the service or payout of money or resources in other cases.
SLAs are the magic that keep your services performing at a high level. Except there is nothing magical about an SLA. It’s just a piece of paper that makes a promise. It’s like a network IOU. If your network doesn’t meet those specs, you should get your compensation, right? How are you supposed to prove that it didn’t meet those expectations? This is the dangerous trap of SLAs. You have an agreement that you’re going to have certain expectations, but how can you prove when that’s not the case?
A Broad View of Performance
To prove your SLA meets the expectations, you need to get data about how it’s performing. You need to have information that proves your case or exonerates the provider. Guessing about uptime or performance isn’t going to prove anything in either direction.
One of the companies that have increased their ability to provide these kinds of metrics is Broadcom. As one of the largest suppliers of chips for networking equipment, Broadcom is in a unique position to see the types of data that would be a perfect addition to these SLA discussions. In years past, you wouldn’t have been able to see it because network data lived in a black hole. With the advent of software-driven solutions like software-defined networking (SDN), more and more of this data is being exposed to networking professionals.
The platform that Broadcom is using to help deliver this is BroadView+. Broadcom recently showed off some of the capabilities of BroadView+ at Networking Field Day 23. The platform capabilities in the area of SLA monitoring can be seen in this video from the event:
BroadView+ gives you the capabilities of monitoring connections to meet SLAs and service level objectives (SLOs) and gives you the ability to see things that haven’t been visible before. With the advent of faster and faster networking equipment transmitting more and more data, the possibility of having massive output occur in a fraction of a second is becoming more and more likely.
These ‘microbursts’ are traffic spikes that can push networking equipment to the limit in a matter of milliseconds. On a connection where hundreds of gigabits of data are flowing per second, even a few milliseconds of drops or congestion can lead to a lot of missing information. Traditional network monitoring tools look at the performance from the outside, so the tool may not notice these drops at all if it polls every five seconds or even once a second. To figure out what’s happening, you need a tool that’s closer to the data. That’s where BroadView+ comes in to play.
Making Good On Those Promises
BroadView+ gives you the visibility you need for the kinds of SLAs and SLOs that run hyperscale networks. But the data in and of itself isn’t any good unless you’re ready to use it to your advantage. Armed with the data from BroadView+, you need to do the legwork to make those SLAs stick.
With the mountain of info gained from Broadcom, you can go back to your service provider to discuss how their services aren’t meeting expectations.
You then have to negotiate how to make it right. Do you want free or reduced-cost service from the same company already not meeting their expectations? Do you want the ability to drop your contract and move to a better performer? Do you want the company to pay you back for your lost income until they can make it right? The ball is in your court, and you have the data to back up your requests.
Remember that you need to be sure that you’re not getting what you paid for when you start the negotiations. You need to monitor as much as possible to head off avenues that involve weaseling about ‘up’ services but not meeting expectations. Companies in danger of losing revenue over SLA will do what they can to keep from paying out. If the SLA isn’t specific about what needs to happen when the metrics aren’t met, your first step is to renegotiate it before asking for compensation. The good news is that BroadView+ gives you the quality of information you need to make the SLA terms extremely specific and easy to measure. Service providers will love to set those benchmarks because there is less room to wiggle and negotiate. Just make sure you’re checking those numbers regularly to ensure they’re being met.
Bringing It All Together
Broadcom is building a platform for hyperscale networking that will eventually flow down into the enterprise. Tools like BroadView+ give the kind of visibility that we’ve been asking for repeatedly for years. With the types of information you get from Broadcom, you can make service providers own up to their agreements in various ways. Those empty promises are suddenly very full. And with the power of a company like Broadcom behind you, you can keep everyone honest.
For more information about Broadcom and BroadView+, make sure you visit their website at http://Broadcom.com.