SLO vs SLA : SRE Fundamentals with examples


In software services, downtime is not an option and user expectations are sky-high, companies must tread carefully to ensure they not only meet but exceed user standards. Enter two key acronyms that play a pivotal role in this quest for service excellence: SLA (Service Level Agreement) and SLO (Service Level Objective).

AspectSLA (Service Level Agreement)SLO (Service Level Objective)
DefinitionA contractual agreement between a service provider and its users, outlining promises and commitments regarding specific metrics like availability and responsiveness.The specific promise or objective within an SLA, defining measurable metrics such as incident response times or system uptime.
PurposeServes as a binding commitment, providing assurances to users and establishing consequences for non-compliance, often involving financial penalties or service credits.External focus, emphasizes commitments made to users and the consequences for failing to meet those commitments.
ChallengesSLAs can be challenging to measure, report on, and meet, as they may lack granularity and alignment with evolving business priorities.SLOs may face challenges if they are vague, overly complex, or difficult to measure. The key to success is simplicity, clarity, and relevance.
ApplicabilityTypically agreements between vendors and paying customers, with consequences for non-compliance.Applies internally to both paid and free services, providing benchmarks for system reliability and performance improvement.
FocusThe specific promise or objective within an SLA defines measurable metrics such as incident response times or system uptime.Internal focus, setting specific goals and objectives to ensure the service lives up to the promises outlined in the SLA.
UsagePrimarily for services with paying customers, outlining expectations and responsibilities in a formalized agreement.Applicable to a broader range of services, both paid and free, guiding internal teams in achieving and maintaining service reliability.

SLA example

Here is an example of Google’s cloud CDN SLA

SLO example

Also Read: SLO error budget calculator

What is the difference between SLA and SLO software?

SLAs are agreements between a company and its customers. SLOs are internal metrics/goals to achieve process improvements.

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