In the first quarter of 2011, SoftLayer presented in, exhibited at or sponsored at least thirty different conferences and events. We've globe-trotted to places like Orlando, San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas and Europa Park, Germany, to spread the word about who SoftLayer is and what we do. We've talked about data center pods over beers in Boston and showed some server skin at SxSW in Austin, and in the process, we got to share the SoftLayer story with literally thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people.
It turns out, there might be a few billion people on the planet that haven't heard of SoftLayer (yet), so every event we attend give us an opportunity to meet more people and explain the value SoftLayer can bring to their business. Take this week's Web 2.0 Expo for example: More than 500 people came by the our booth to learn more about us, get some cool swag or grab a beer during the booth crawl, and a hundred of them lined up to try their hand at the Server Challenge.
Of the attendees who made it to the front of the pack to chat with one of us, it's remarkable to note how consistent some of the conversations were. Since we haven't really done a refresh to catch everyone up on what it is SoftLayer does (and since this blog is being presented in the sponsor section of Techmeme), a reintroduction may be in order.
Since the conversations I had at Web 2.0 Expo are so fresh in my mind, I thought I'd frame this little post around the most common questions we were asked by attendees learning about us for the first time (Warning: The responses to these general questions are SoftLayer's value statements, so they'll come off as very salesy ... Leading you to believe we'd answer any other way would be disingenuous, though):
"What does SoftLayer do?"
Simply put, SoftLayer is a hosting provider. That generalization doesn't do our business justice, though. We have ten data center facilities in Houston, Dallas, Washington D.C. and Seattle, and we host more than 80,000 servers for more than 25,000 customers worldwide. We offer cloud, dedicated and hybrid environments and resources that allow businesses to outsource their IT, so they can focus on their core competencies and give their hosting infrastructure to the experts.
"How are you different from <Hosting Competitor>?"
SoftLayer was built with a focus on a few core values: Innovation, Empowerment, Integration and Automation. Our hosting platform offers a true hybrid experience - dedicated and cloud services are seamlessly integrated - that can be accessed and controlled by customers in a number of ways. Each SoftLayer server supports three different kinds of network traffic (public, private and out-of-band management), and customers have complete access to their server via free KVM over IP included with every server. Everything you can do in our portal can be done with our API, and we're an industry leader in product innovation.
Oh, and you can also spin up a cloud server on our platform in under 15 minutes and a dedicated server with your specs and operating system in 2-4 hours.
"Do you support <XYZ Technology>?"
If <XYZ Technology> is current, legal and useful, you can probably use it on our platform. If we don't directly offer software or services you need, we have droves of customers and partners who probably do, and we're happy to refer you to them. Given the unparalleled access you get to your SoftLayer hosting environment, the world is your oyster.
"Impressive sales pitch, but how do I know it's more than just a pitch?"
Our business is designed around making our customers happy. Our services are offered on month-to-month contracts, so we have to continue to provide great service to you or we lose your business. We can share customer success stories until we're blue in the face, but what really matters is what your experience is when you try us out.
Somewhere in there, you might have written me off as just some public relations guy, but I believe every word in those responses (as I'm sure my 550+ coworkers do). I'm not trying to claim that if you host with SoftLayer you'll never have another problem or that people don't make mistakes on our end, but as a company, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more devoted group of people focused on providing the best experience in the business.