Of Service Level Agreements and Non-Production environments
(Posted on behalf of Pradeep Kumar Lingamallu)
In one of my earlier engagements, I was asked to review the service level agreement (SLA) of a service provider for a financial organization. Despite the said organization having a large non-production environment, the existing SLA did not have any service levels or priorities listed for this environment. A long round of negotiations ensured that due importance was given to the non-production environment in the SLA.
This is what happens most of the time - When a service level agreement (SLA) is drafted, all the focus is on production support and resolution of the production issues and availability of the production environment. Neither the non-production environment nor support for this environment is documented properly in the SLA. This may be largely due to lack of recognition of the importance of the non- production environment, especially in the case of new application roll-outs and training.
A typical non-production environment consists of a development environment, test environment and a training environment. Each one plays a crucial role during new deployments and rollout of applications. However, incidents in the non-production environments are generally not given the priorities that they deserve. Just as any incident on the development/testing environment will have a critical impact on the release calendar, any incident on the training environment will have a severe impact on the trainings scheduled. Application deployments get affected by both release and training of the personnel. Delays in either one of the environments are bound to have an impact on the release schedule.
I have seen this happen in a number of engagements that I have been part of. In one incident, the test servers were down and testing activities were delayed. As a result the entire release calendar was affected - in this case, it was a major release, so you can imagine the impact on business.
In another case, a downtime in the training environment again resulted in a delay in the release since the personnel could not complete their training on schedule. This may appear to be a small incident from a provider perspective, but for the organization, it is a significant delay.
Any downtime in the non-production environment is bound to affect production as well - but this fact is generally ignored to the buyer's peril. By specifying SLAs for support of non-production environments, organizations have an additional safeguard against any unplanned downtime that could affect the quality of service.
(Pradeep Kumar Lingamallu is a Senior Consultant at Infosys. He has over 18 years of experience in the field of IT service management including certifications in ITIL, CISA, CISM and PMP)