Munich Network Management Team
University of Munich, Dept. of CS
Oettingenstr. 67, 80538 Munich, Germany
Phone: +49 89 2178 2165, Fax: +49 89 2178 2262
In the evolving service market there is a good chance for companies to update their IT environment or cut their IT costs by outsourcing some parts of their IT processes. This implies meeting the challenge of service quality. For common services this can be handled by changing the service provider. But this is not valid for enterprises that want to outsource rather complex and individually composed services which are part of their business processes. In this situation it is important to implement a contract that allows to manage the service effectively. It must be possible to monitor the service and to manage any fault situation in a constructive and fast manner. For this reason customers want to declare the necessary quality of service in a service level agreement.
Usually service level agreements for complex services are specified by writing down a set of rules. These rules are based mostly on the experience of the provider. This prevents the service from being customer-centric because the contracts emphasize the service implementation instead of its usage. This inadequate view on the service during contract creation leads to a dissatisfactory situation because there often are disagreements on the exact interpretation of the contract. The reason for the difference of opinion is that the customer is forced to work with the implementation view that he often does not understand and in fact is not even interested in.
This paper presents a customer-oriented approach for specifying service level agreements. Our idea is to combine service level agreements with concepts of workflows used in business process modeling. The knowledge on design and management of workflows can be used to specify a service level agreement actively supporting the operation and usage of complex services. The customer-oriented view is ensured by the use of the business processes of the customer as a base for the contract. The combination of these two concepts allows both, specifying non-ambiguous contracts and constructive instructions for the management of services from the customer's point of view.