Author Archive: George Karidis

November 10, 2011

Being True to Your Roots: SoftLayer Loves Startups

Not too long ago, SoftLayer was just 10 guys with a great idea to re-invent the hosting industry. The "Original 10" as we call them, took a huge chance by leaving the comfort and safety of their collective worlds to do something truly special. Those ten people pooled personal resources, mortgages, "Pay ya' back (someday maybe) friends and family" loans, credit cards and pretty much all they had to make this startup company dream come true: A truly automated system to provide a next-generation Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) platform, the likes of which had never been seen.

So, when I say SoftLayer loves startups, it comes from many personal and collective experiences garnered as the startup we were not so long ago. We are, in my opinion (and at the risk of sounding grandiose), one of the great technology startup stories of the current tech era.

SoftLayer knows that startups are the lifeblood of our industry, no matter where or how they got their start. Facebook began in a dorm room in Boston and we all know how Apple got its start. If it hadn't been for the drive, determination, luck, timing and chutzpa of those startup founders, we wouldn't have the thriving technology economy we have today.

Today, startups have a real leg-up towards success. Incubators and Startup Accelerators are popping up all across the country and around the world. These groups are designed to not only help startups get funded, but to teach them how to be a "real" technology company, create products and services that people what to buy, and polish them up to a high-shine with the hopes that they will be attractive to investors everywhere.

This is where SoftLayer's Community Development team comes into play. This amazing and talented team works closely with startups at famous incubators like YCombinator and TechStars during their three-month formalized programs.

In addition to those formalize programs, we also support newer Incubator and Accelerator concepts like PeopleBrowsr Labs to help startups during the most critical time of their new lives. A startup's first year will usually make it or break it, and SoftLayer wants to help those companies power through by providing free hosting, best- and next-practices, scaling and "big data" advice, marketing and pretty much anything else we can share that could be of value to these young businesses.

PeopleBrowsr

As an example of the relationships we're building with startup accelerators around the world, one need look no further than what we've been doing with PeopleBrowsr Labs (PBL). PBL is a unique concept in the growing world of Startup Accelerators. In the heart of San Francisco's down town SOMA tech district, they provide a collaborative environment dedicated to "accelerating the Social Media Revolution."

I think focusing on Social Media startups is a smart move. Trying to create another Facebook would be a daunting task, and one that I'm not sure would be "worth it." A smarter thing is probably to figure out how to create value on top of that and other social media systems via new engagement platforms, games, and other features and functionalities that take advantage of the massive volume of social data that is created on established mediums every minute of every day. The startups who work in PBL have a huge advantage here. Not only do they get all of the SoftLayer goodness they could ask for, they also are allowed to tap in to PeopleBrowsr's 100+ Terabytes of social media data. PeopleBrowsr has almost every tweet ever tweeted, a data store of Facebook and Blog data and more that are all accessible to startups in the Labs via APIs. In today's "Social Evolution" this data is worth its weight in gold.

Modx

To get an idea of what a startup we're working with look like, you can check out ModX, recently featured in our Tech Partner Marketplace. ModX is a dynamic content management platform that allows users to build highly customizable websites through an easy-to-use template engine. They've added all the requisite tools for CMS and turned it into a fully capable web development platform upon which users can extend functionality, employ custom applications and do just about anything they can dream up.

We gave them advice and the robust infrastructure they needed in order to scale globally and support tens of thousands of users. There are some really big new things coming soon from these guys, so stay tuned...

In the coming weeks and months, we will be starting a new feature here on the InnerLayer Blog. We'll call it our "Startup Series," and it will be a showcase of some of the cool and interesting startups that are building their companies, their technologies and their brands on the SoftLayer Platform. We'll also take a more in-depth look at the Incubators and Accelerators themselves. This is just another way to give back what we've learned and hopefully "pay it forward" where we can. It's great to be at SoftLayer.

SoftLayer Loves Startups!

-@gkdog

October 10, 2011

A Manifesto: Cloud, Dedicated and Hosting Computing

We are witnessing a fundamental shift in the IT industry. It is forever changing the way technology is delivered and consumed. The pay-as-you-go model for everything you need in IT is shattering the old computing paradigms, from software licensing models and hardware refresh cycles to budgeting operating costs. This change is bringing about more control and transparency to users while accelerating the commoditization of IT by making it easily available through a new model.

This new model comes in three major "flavors": Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. We incorporate and enable all three by offering a unified, fully automated platform to enable greater customer control over their IT environments. The key tenants of this emerging model for SoftLayer are innovation, empowerment, automation and integration. Here's how we deliver against these four key tenants.

Innovation: We want to lead the industry by offering best of breed and proprietary cloud, dedicated, and managed hosting solutions, based on our own intellectual property. Currently, we have more than 252,000 hours invested and 2.6 million lines of code developed around these solutions. Customers can take charge of every aspect of their IT operations (servers, storage, networking & services) through our fully automated platform. Our Customer Portal and fully featured APIs give customer more control by providing direct access to more than 100 back-end systems and activities — every aspect of IT operations can be managed.

Empowerment: We turn IT operations into a predictable fixed cost. Customers can stay focused on achieving their business goals, not managing IT infrastructure. We offer expert planning and support from a certified, 24/7 support staff. Customers can deploy and scale when they want with one-day and on-demand automated provisioning. They can keep it as long (or short) as needed, with monthly contracts. In addition, customers can choose what they want to manage and what they don't, with the ability to have hybrid IT self-managed and managed environments. This speaks to the flexibility of our platform!

Automation: This is an area that makes SoftLayer stand out from the pack. We automate deployment and management of all services, accelerating provisioning time, streamlining administrative tasks, and making it all on-demand, every day and night. With automation that mitigates the risk for human error, comprehensive security practices and options, and a 24/7 team of certified engineers, we provide greater stability, a 100% Uptime Guarantee, and around the clock support for any issues or service.

Integration: This is the final ingredient to making it ALL work. We seamlessly integrate hardware, software, and networking into a unified service, all conveniently controlled through our easy-to-use Customer Portal and robust APIs. We provide full information, full-time through our Customer Portal and APIs, for every service we provide; there is no data about a system that we keep from our customers, from usage statistics to network performance and beyond. We have complete transparency.

These four key tenets are what set us apart. When SoftLayer started back in 2005, the team's goal was not to be Go Daddy on steroids. We set our sights on being the de facto platform for mainstream businesses to run all their IT operations. This means the complete gamut of applications and workloads with no compromise of performance, security, reliability and access. We are entering into a new IT era, where "connected everything" is the norm. It reminds me of the old phrase "the network is the computer" from Sun Microsystems' slogan. We have the foundation in place, which will make for an unforgettable journey. Let us know what you think.

-@gkdog

October 4, 2011

The Sun Never Sets on SoftLayer

We've always set our sights globally at SoftLayer and this week we've certainly achieved some key milestones. With our data center in Singapore going LIVE, we now have a "digital gateway" for providing our unique cloud, dedicated, and managed hosting solutions to the Asia-Pacific region.

What is even more remarkable is the speed at which we are deploying our new international data centers. In only a few months, all the meticulous planning, logistics and execution were done and customers could place orders. And we're not slowing down. The trajectory path we're on has us expanding faster and farther than we ever thought possible.

Next month we're opening a new data center in Amsterdam, along with network Points of Presence (PoPs) in Amsterdam, London and Frankfurt. Each of these facilities is built and maintained by SoftLayer, and that organic growth is a huge differentiator. We didn't go out and acquire a company to expand our capabilities, and because we're doing the work on the ground, we're able to guarantee the most consistent, best possible service. Every data center - whether it's Singapore or San Jose - is exactly the same. Because of that consistency, our customers don't have to worry about whether the services in the new facilities meet their expectations, and based on the phenomenal provisioning statistics we saw on day one in Singapore, they aren't hesitating to order more.

International Expansion: Currency

Because our global expansion enables us to perform even better for the SoftLayer customers located outside of North America, we wanted to make it easier for those customers to do business with us. As of 8:01 a.m. Central Time today, we support and accept payment in 60+ currencies! This currency support allows our customers to price SoftLayer services in their native currency, and it lets them avoid those pesky exchange fees from their credit card.

Our BYOC (Cloud) and Dedicated Server order forms have been updated with a currency selection on their first page, so once you select a currency, your order form will reload with all pricing displayed in that currency. Existing customers are also able to pay for their existing servers with one-time or recurring payments in our customer portal.

Currencies Supported

ALL - Albanian lek
ARS - Argentine peso
AUD - Australian dollar
BSD - Bahamian dollar
BDT - Bangladeshi taka
BBD - Barbados dollar
BMD - Bermudian dollar
BOB - Boliviano
BZD - Belize dollar
CAD - Canadian dollar
CNY - Chinese Yuan
COP - Colombian peso
CRC - Costa Rican colon
HRK - Croatian Kuna
CZK - Czech koruna
DKK - Danish krone
DOP - Dominican peso
GTQ - Guatemalan quetzal
HNL - Honduran lempira
HKD - Hong Kong dollar
HUF - Hungarian forint
INR - Indian rupee
ILS - Israeli new sheqel
JMD - Jamaican dollar
JPY - Japanese yen
KES - Kenyan shilling
KRW - South Korean won
LBP - Lebanese pound
LVL - Latvian lats
LRD - Liberian dollar
LTL - Lithuanian litas
MOP - Macanese pataca
MYR - Malaysian ringgit
MXN - Mexican peso
MAD - Moroccan dirham
NZD - New Zealand dollar
NOK - Norwegian krone
PKR - Pakistani rupee
PEN - Peruvian Nuevo sol
PHP - Philippine peso
QAR - Qatari rial
RUB - Russian rouble
SAR - Saudi riyal
SGD - Singapore dollar
ZAR - South African rand
SEK - Swedish krona/kronor
CHF - Swiss franc
THB - Thai baht
TTD - Trinidad and Tobago dollar
AED - United Arab Emirates dirham
EGP - Egyptian pound
GBP - Pound sterling
YER - Yemeni rial
TWD - New Taiwan dollar
RON - Romanian new leu
TRY - Turkish lira
XCD - East Caribbean dollar
EUR - Euro
PLN - Polish złoty
BRL - Brazilian real

It's amazing to say that we are truly a global company operating on three continents. Our success and future growth are tied to these new international capabilities. We will move aggressively and open more data centers, so stay tuned. With our global aspirations taking flight, I'm reminded of the saying that, "the sun never sets on the British Empire."

Speaking of flights, I've got to get to the airport ... My flight to Amsterdam is leaving in a few hours.

-@gkdog

August 19, 2011

SoftLayer at HostingCon 2011

In my "HostingCon, Here We Come!" blog post, I promised that SoftLayer would be Bigger, Better and Badder at HostingCon 2011, and we made some pretty ambitious plans to be sure that was the case: Six conference panels and speaking sessions, SoftLayer's biggest expo hall presence ever, in-booth presentations about everything from Portal 4 to Social Media, our infamous Server Challenge, and the biggest party in HostingCon history ... Heck, we even let PHIL attend to do some "research" for PHIL's DC. We pulled out all the stops.

Now that the dust has settled and the sunburns have started to heal, I can share a glimpse into SoftLayer's HostingCon experience with anyone who wasn't able to make it to San Diego last week.

HostingCon Expo Hall

When you walked onto the conference floor, you saw SoftLayer, and if you managed to miss our 20'x40' two-story booth or the commotion around it, you were probably in the wrong hall. Each person on our team had a chance to speak with hundreds of attendees, and at the end of every conversation, we gave some swag as parting gifts: Switch balls, foam rockets and limited-edition "Robot" T-shirts:

Robot Shirt

Our in-booth theater was the venue where Marc Jones showed off the private beta of our new Flex Images for dedicated servers, Jeff Reinis talked about how customers can take advantage of our international expansion, Stephen Johnson gave a tour of Portal 4, Kevin Hazard shared some tips and tricks to managing social media, and Phil Jackson dove into the API.

Take a virtual stroll around the conference center with us:

And as you can tell from the pictures, the Server Challenge was a big hit.

The Server Challenge

If you bring a cabinet of servers to a conference full of server geeks, you're going to get some attention. Challenge them to a hardware competition, and you'll be inundated with attendee traffic. If you aren't familiar with the in-booth activity, Kevin's blog about the Server Challenge at OSCON is a perfect place to get your crash course. If you already know all about it (and if you've competed in it), you'll be even more interested in seeing some of the action from the show floor:

At 3:07 in that video, you can see the eventual winner of the HostingCon Server Challenge complete a run on Day 1. His iPad 2-winning time was 1:01.77, and he beat some pretty stiff competition for the title of Server Challenge Champ.

Geeks Gone Wild

Put SoftLayer, cPanel and Resell.biz in a room, and you have a party. Add free drinks, a thousand of our closest friends, The Dan Band and a legendary venue, and you've got yourself the biggest party in HostingCon history:

If you took part in any or all of the above shenanigans, thank you! We owe a great deal of our success at HostingCon to you. Once everyone finally catches up on the sleep they missed last week, we'll get the wheels turning to figure out a way to go even bigger next year in Boston ... Speaking of which, does anyone know where I can get a boat that was in the Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773?

-@gkdog

July 26, 2011

Globalization and Hosting: The World Wide Web is Flat

Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain, on August 3, 1492, with the goal of reaching the East Indies by traveling West. He fortuitously failed by stumbling across the New World and the discovery that the world was round – a globe. In The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman calls this discovery "Globalization 1.0," or an era of "countries globalizing." As transportation and technology grew and evolved in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, "Globalization 2.0" brought an era of "companies globalizing," and around the year 2000, we moved into "Globalization 3.0":

The dynamic force in Globalization 3.0 – the force that gives it its unique character – is the newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally. And the phenomenon that is enabling, empowering, and enjoining individuals and small groups to go global so easily and so seamlessly is what I call the flat-world platform.

Columbus discovered the world wasn't flat, we learned how to traverse that round world, and we keep making that world more and more accessible. He found out that the world was a lot bigger than everyone thought, and since his discovery, the smartest people on the planet have worked to make that huge world smaller and smaller.

The most traditional measure of globalization is how far "out" political, economical and technological changes extend. Look at the ARPANET network infrastructure in 1971 and a map of the Internet as it is today.

With every step Columbus took away from the Old World, he was one step closer to the New World. If you look at the growth of the Internet through that lens, you see that every additional node and connection added to the Internet brings connectivity closer to end-users who haven't had it before. Those users gain access to the rest of the Internet, and the rest of the Internet gains access to the information and innovation those users will provide.

Globalization in Hosting

As technology and high speed connectivity become more available to users around the world, the hosting industry has new markets to reach and serve. As Lance explained in a keynote session, "50% of the people in the world are not on the Internet today. They will be on the Internet in the next 5-10 years."

Understanding this global shift, SoftLayer can choose from a few different courses of action. Today, 40+% of our customers reside outside the United States of America, and we reach those customers via 2,000+ Gbps of network connectivity from transit and peering relationships with other networks around the world, and we've been successful. If the Internet is flattening the world, a USA-centric infrastructure may be limiting, though.

Before we go any further, let's take a step back and look at a map of the United States with a few important overlays:

US Latency

The three orange circles show the rough equivalents of the areas around our data centers in Seattle, Dallas and Washington, D.C., that have less than 40 milliseconds of latency directly to that facility. The blue circle on the left shows the same 40ms ring around our new San Jose facility (in blue to help avoid a little confusion). If a customer can access their host's data center directly with less than 40ms of latency, that customer will be pretty happy with their experience.

When you consider that each of the stars on the map represents a point of presence (PoP) on the SoftLayer private network, you can draw similar circles around those locations to represent the area within 40ms of the first on-ramp to our private network. While Winnipeg, Manitoba, isn't in one of our data center's 40ms rings, a user there would be covered by the Chicago PoP's coverage, and once the user is on the SoftLayer network, he or she has a direct, dedicated path to all of our data centers, and we're able to provide a stellar network experience.

If in the next 5-10 years, the half of the world that isn't on the Internet joins the Internet, we can't rely solely on our peering and transit providers to get those users to the SoftLayer network, so we will need to bring the SoftLayer network closer to them:

Global Network

This map gives you an idea of what the first steps of SoftLayer's international expansion will look like. As you've probably heard, we will have a data center location in Singapore and in Amsterdam by the end of the year, and those locations will be instrumental in helping us build our global network.

Each of the points of presence we add in Asia and Europe effectively wrap our 40ms ring around millions of users that may have previously relied on several hops on several providers to get to the SoftLayer network, and as a result, we're able to power a faster and more consistent network experience for those users. As SoftLayer grows, our goal is to maintain the quality of service our customers expect while we extend the availability of that service quality to users around the globe.

If you're not within 40ms of our network yet, don't worry ... We're globalizing, and we'll be in your neighborhood soon.

-@gkdog

July 8, 2011

HostingCon, Here We Come!

On August 8, the hosting world will converge on the San Diego Convention Center for HostingCon 2011. I'd say that SoftLayer will "be there with bells on," but a better way to put it would be that we'll "be there with megaphones." There are times to blend in and participate, and there are times when you follow Winston Churchill's advice:

"If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time - a tremendous whack."

This year, SoftLayer will be Bigger, Better and Badder in the conference sessions, on the expo hall floor and at the biggest HostingCon party ever.

Conference Sessions
We're honored to have SoftLayer employees speaking in six different sessions at HostingCon 2011:

Social Media/Branding Panel
Kevin Hazard, Social Media Ninja
9:00am – Monday, August 8
Marketing + Sales Track
The Power of Innovation
Nathan Day, Chief Scientist
9:00am – Monday, August 8
Business Development Track
Build vs. Buy: The CTO's Dilemma
Duke Skarda, CTO
10:00am – Monday, August 8
Technology + Operations Track
Small Business & Big Government: Public Policy and the Hosting Industry
Suzy Fulton, General Counsel
10:00am – Monday, August 8
Business Development Track
Clearing Up the Cloud: Hosting Providers Share Strategies for Competing in a Crowded Cloud Market
George Karidis, Chief Strategy Officer
2:00pm – Tuesday, August 9
Emerging Trends Track
How the Big Buyers Look At Acquisitions
Lance Crosby, CEO
3:00pm – Tuesday, August 9
Business Development Track

Over the next few weeks, you can keep an eye on the HostingCon Blog for more information about these sessions. To kick off the fun over there, they posted a preview to my session: "Setting Cloud Expectations Before Creating Cloud Strategy"

Expo
When you're not learning from one of our SLayers in the conference sessions above, we hope you'll swing by Booth #421 in the Expo Hall to chat with our team, get some SoftLayer swag and try your hand at the infamous Server Challenge. We'll have live video coverage of all of the action at our booth, and given the geek credentials of HostingCon attendees, we're expecting record-breaking times ... so start studying and training now to give yourself the best possible chance to win the iPad 2 we're bringing for the Server Challenge Champion!

HostingCon Party
Since you've read so attentively to this point about the 'work' side of HostingCon, it's time for some 'play.' At 9pm on August 9, SoftLayer, cPanel and Resell.biz will hosting the biggest HostingCon Party in history. 1000 lucky attendees will come together at 4th & B for networking, food, drink and THE DAN BAND!

Attendance will be strictly limited, and you watch the tickets dwindle before the event sells out at http://hostingconparty.com. SoftLayer customers, leave a comment on this blog or contact us via Twitter (@SoftLayer) and we'll hook you up with a promo code that comps your registration ... But remember, even if you're our best customer ever, you need a ticket to get in the door, so please register while you can!

Yes, Mr. Churchill, SoftLayer is bringing the pile driver to San Diego.

-@gkdog

May 23, 2011

Behind SoftLayer's Growth

SoftLayer isn't a publicly traded company, but in the interest of transparency, we do our best to share as much information about the business as we can with our customers. Earlier this week, we released our revenue and operations growth for the first quarter of 2011, and while we're happy to reach so many amazing milestones, we can't take any time to rest on our laurels.

It's no secret that we've gotten to where we are today because our 26,000+ customers trust us with their businesses. We can quantify success with revenue numbers and server counts, but at the end of the day, our business will be successful when we provide a platform for our customers to be successful. The growth of our customer base is a testament to the hard work the team has put in behind the scenes, and it also presents an interesting challenge: We need to continue to meet the needs of 26,000+ different businesses in 140+ countries around the world.

Given the amount of hair-pulling you might encounter by something as simple as setting up dinner with a group of friends, it's a pretty daunting task to incorporate thousands of disparate perspectives in our road map as we move forward, but with that challenge comes great opportunity to build SoftLayer into an even better business. Whether the request is for something as straightforward as a hardware product or as complex as geographic expansion into specific international markets, the feedback we get from our customers shapes our internal conversations (and ultimately our long-term plans).

Understanding that need for constant feedback, we're doing our best to listen to what our customers have to say. We're listening to conversations on our forums, watching updates from our customers on various social media platforms, and monitoring our sales and support customer experiences to ensure we're moving in the right direction. Recently, we incorporated a Get Satisfaction widget on our site to give our customers a platform to share their ideas, questions, problems and praises. Additionally, users can vote on existing suggestions to give us a sense of our customer base's priorities.

To all of our customers, thank you for trusting SoftLayer with your business. In response to your past requests, we've opened a new data center in San Jose, christened new pods in Dallas and Washington, D.C., launched our managed hosting service and released servers powered by the latest and greatest Intel Xeon "Sandy Bridge" and "Westmere EX" processors ... And all of those accomplishments have come since we closed the books on the success we shared from Q1.

As we continue to improve our feedback loops, you're going to see even more impressive numbers from SoftLayer, and that success will fuel our ability to continue growing the business to meet more of our customers' requests. Because we officially completed our integration with The Planet in Q1, we're able to shift our focus completely to maintaining and growing the combined business. By the end of the year, you'll see SoftLayer data centers in Europe and Asia, and as new products and technologies are released, you'll see them first from SoftLayer.

What else can we do for you? (And no, that's not a rhetorical question.)

-@gkdog

March 25, 2011

WorldHostingDays 2011

This week, Lance and I hopped over the pond to attend WorldHostingDays 2011 at Europa-Park in Rust, Germany. If you haven't heard of WorldHostingDays, you may be a little more familiar with WebhostingDays, its more narrowly focused predecessor. Because many of the sessions and discussions at the event have evolved and grown significantly from the pure-play "web hosting" market, the name change was a good one ... And it didn't even require tweaking the WHD abbreviation.

Given the ambitious scope of WorldHostingDays, we weren't sure what to expect from the sessions, but we were excited to hear fresh perspectives on the European-centric hosting market. We walked away from the sessions with a few new ideas to implement into SoftLayer's business, and it was interesting to hear the (regionally accented) conversations focus on the same problems and questions the US hosting industry is tackling: Public and private clouds, IPv6, scalability, stability and security.

Many European companies that are relatively new to the hosting scene are experiencing some phenomenal growth (similar to what we've seen at SoftLayer), and the opportunity is growing exponentially beyond their growth as new markets turn up with fresh needs for quality infrastructure. In these developing markets, local events in Europe like WHD will be invaluable to educate and relate how this relatively new industry might change the face of the local business environment ... And when those efforts carry into Asia, the sky is the limit on the opportunity.

We have some pretty huge global plans on the horizon, and we're excited to position ourselves for worldwide recognition. When WorldHostingDays 2012 rolls around, you're going to see an even bigger, badder and better SoftLayer.

-@gkdog

December 1, 2010

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Last week, Netflix made headlines when the company announced that it was moving most of its operations to Amazon Web Services' Elastic Compute Cloud. The news was greeted with enthusiasm and was seen as further justification of the public cloud. Rightly so: the fact that Netflix generates up to 20% of US traffic during peak times, and that this traffic is moving to the public cloud would seem justification to me. This is a great piece of advertising for the cloud (much better than Microsoft's "to the cloud" campaign), and by proxy a great piece of advertising for SoftLayer.

So why did Netflix make the move? Economics - plain and simple. It is less expensive to move to the cloud than it is to continue supporting everything via internal Netflix DCs. In a cloud model, peak traffic loads dictate Netflix's economics - they pay for peaks, but only when they occur. When traffic drops off, Netflix enjoys the resultant cost savings, plus they relieve themselves of a considerable management burden. The argument is straightforward.

All of this has brought me back to consideration of the "private" cloud (which is arguably not the cloud at all, but I digress) and the value that it offers. The industry definition of a private cloud is a cloud implementation that is internal to (still owned and operated by) a single enterprise. SoftLayer defines a private cloud a little differently: SoftLayer remains the IAAS provider, but we ensure that a customer is on a single node (i.e. server). This conversation will stick with the industry definition.

So, what are the impacts of the private cloud across an enterprise?

In theory, a private cloud would give individual departments or discrete project teams the ability to better manage cost. As with a public cloud, a project team would be able to take advantage of the cost savings that come with paying only for what they use. However, this means that change is necessary in corporate accounting functions given that systems now need to be managed based on a "pay as you go model" versus a cost center model. This means a fundamental change in IT philosophy, as they now need to bill departments working on a variable use model - all of a sudden they have to think more like a business unit with a P&L to manage.

The cloud provides the ability to quickly spin up and scale. In the SoftLayer world, this translates to availability in anywhere from 2-4 hours. This should mean an increase in operational efficiency across departments using the cloud. Projects can start and end quickly without concern for lengthy implementation or teardown windows. That said I am not sure this increase in efficiency is meaningful when balanced against an IT department that must build and support a cloud infrastructure that has to account for the operation across the entire enterprise. The impact is potentially great at a micro level, but wanes when you consider the larger picture.

From a planning point of view, IT must now consider what a variable use model means in practical terms. Different departments will experience different peaks and valleys based on different workloads. In all likelihood, these peaks will not align on the calendar, nor will they be consistent month over month. In addition, my assumption is that deployment of a cloud will engender unanticipated usage patterns given the supposed cost and operational flexibility that the cloud delivers within the enterprise. The challenge will be to balance these needs against the delivery of a service that will adhere to QoS promises and associated internal service level agreements. ( And I think they will have to exist. If IT moves beyond a cost center, and internal organizations are trying to budget based upon forecasted compute use, it only makes sense that IT will be held up against external providers. Indeed, I would expect some rogue departments to go off the reservation to external providers based on cost considerations alone.)

My guess is that the IT response to planning will be predictable - over-engineer the private cloud to make sure that it is bullet proof. This might work, but it will be expensive and will paradoxically lead to underutilization of what is an over planned resource - something the cloud is supposed to mitigate. This approach is also likely to lead to IT bloat as capable internal resources are likely to be thin, driving a round of hiring to ensure expertise is on hand to manage the cloud.

In addition, I would assume that some applications will continue to be supported (for a variety of reasons - security, I/O challenges), thus adding more cost to the equation.

The arguments against the private cloud are numerous and ought to give the enterprise pause for thought. Regardless, I am willing to bet that private cloud implementations will accelerate in the enterprise. Many companies are supported by IT organizations that are strong and well entrenched within the corporate culture. Part of the fight will be based around losing budget, headcount and perceived power if the decision is made to go to an external IAAS provider. All of the usual rubrics will be used: security, quality of service, performance and on the list goes. In essence, these are the same arguments that have been made in the past when a decision to outsource anything has come to the fore. Does it make sense to outsource everything? The answer is a resounding no, but the argument for looking to the public cloud, or SoftLayer's private cloud is strong.

-@gkdog

October 1, 2008

An Investor. A Mentor. A Friend.

In the passing of Rick Gardner, SoftLayer has lost all in one man.
He breathed life into our company and shared in our dream.
He saw opportunity where others assumed failure.
He brought clarity when we couldn’t see past ourselves.
He brought wisdom, experience and humor to the SoftLayer family.
With his wit, charm and intelligence he was an inspiration to us all.

Even in the short time that I knew him, he invoked in me a sense of passion and drive that few have been able to create.

Rick, we are devastated by your passing. But we will never lose your presence. You continue to guide us, as we fulfill every promise we made.

-@gkdog

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