Service Level Indicator (SLI)

An SLI is a carefully defined quantitative measure of some aspect of the level of service that is provided.

Most services consider request latency—how long it takes to return a response to a request—as a key SLI. Other common SLIs include the error rate, often expressed as a fraction of all requests received, and system throughput, typically measured in requests per second. The measurements are often aggregated: i.e., raw data is collected over a measurement window and then turned into a rate, average, or percentile.

Service Level Object (SLO)

An SLO is a service level objective: a target value or range of values for a service level that is measured by an SLI. A natural structure for SLOs is thus SLI ≤ target, or lower bound ≤ SLI ≤ upper bound. For example, we might decide that we will return Shakespeare search results “quickly,” adopting an SLO that our average search request latency should be less than 100 milliseconds.

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

SLAs are service level agreements: an explicit or implicit contract with your users that includes consequences of meeting (or missing) the SLOs they contain. An easy way to tell the difference between an SLO and an SLA is to ask “what happens if the SLOs aren’t met?”: if there is no explicit consequence, then you are almost certainly looking at an SLO.