Author Archive: Gary Kinman

January 3, 2011

I'm Dreaming of TV Commercials

With GI Partners' investment into SoftLayer last August and the subsequent merger with The Planet in November, I haven't had a spare moment to write a blog. As I write this, it's just before year end 2010, and now that we are the largest privately held pure-play hosting company in the world, I sort of wonder how soon it will be before SoftLayer TV commercials start popping up. Hey, maybe one day we'll do a Super Bowl commercial! We always dream big.

Thus, I thought I'd try my hand at a script for our first commercial:

INT. IT GUY'S DESK

IT GUY is on phone to SERVER SUPPLIER.

IT GUY

We need another 50 servers as fast as you can get them to us – we are out of capacity and the big guns are demanding better email performance and lower latency for incoming orders and customer service traffic. I wish I could have them tomorrow, but…

SERVER SUPPLIER

Yeah, we can't do tomorrow. Let's see, I think I can squeeze them into next week's production run and then expedite shipping. We can probably have them on your dock in 12-14 days.

IT GUY

Oh boy. I don't know if that will be good enough. I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. I have accounting on my case about minimizing lowly utilized machines while sales, marketing, and operations whine about not keeping enough spare capacity to handle business spikes. I can't win.

SERVER SUPPLIER

Ouch. Wish I could get them there faster, but 12 days is our best-case scenario for you.

IT GUY

OK, thanks for trying. Go ahead and get them here as fast as you can.

SERVER SUPPLIER

You wanna order a few more for a cushion?

IT GUY

Not if I don't want the CFO complaining to my boss about me over ordering – again.

SERVER SUPPLIER

I understand. We'll go with the 50 for now.

IT GUY hangs up the call, still stressed out, talks to himself.

IT GUY

Geez. It'll take the full 14 days to get here. Then we have to rack them, cable them, test them, then provision them. It could be a month before they go live in production. I'm doomed.

Another employee – IT GAL – walks up. She has a cheerful, stress-free demeanor.

IT GAL

So, why do you look so 'doomed'?

IT GUY

The business units I support need 50 new servers by yesterday. I'll be lucky to have them online and in production in a month.

IT GAL

What? Why so long?

IT GUY

Well, that's how long it will take them to be built, and shipped, and racked, and cabled, and tested, and provisioned, and...

IT GAL

[Cuts him off.] You should just use SoftLayer.

IT GUY

What? Who's that?

IT GAL

That's who I use in a pinch. Heck, it's who I use most all the time for infrastructure for the groups I support.

IT GUY

How's that?

IT GAL

Here, let me drive.

IT GUY stands up. IT GAL sits down at his workstation. Move to screen shots of customer portal where applicable.

IT GAL

Here's my account at SoftLayer. Notice that I have servers as my foundation combined with cloud computing capacity that I can adjust on the fly and pay for it by the hour. If I need more power, I ramp up the cloud portion and boost my computing power in 5 minutes – not a month. Here, I'll show you. Click here, Click here and voila! I just added another cloud server. It'll be in production in 5 minutes. It's an hourly machine, so I can release it at the end of the day and it will cost me less than $20.

IT GUY

But how do your groups know that the new cloud server is out there for use?

IT GAL

I use SoftLayer's API connections. To them, it looks like any other server that's available on our corporate network.

IT GUY

It's that easy?

IT GAL

Yep.

IT GUY

So how do you comply with our backup plan guidelines and disaster recovery planning?

IT GAL

Easy. The production data lives in SoftLayer's Dallas facility. I back it all up at their Seattle facility, and the data moves over SoftLayer's private network that isn't exposed to the public internet. And all transit on the private network is free and doesn't count against my public internet bandwidth limits.

IT GUY

Speaking of bandwidth, what if one of those servers goes over its limit? Do you get hit with overage charges?

IT GAL

No. SoftLayer offers bandwidth pooling between servers as well as global load balancing. You can add it on the fly too.

IT GUY

Firewalls?

IT GAL

Also on the fly. No downtime at all.

IT GUY

Wow, I never knew a place like this existed. How do I get started? And how does your department pay for it?

IT GAL

You've got a corporate purchasing card, right?

IT GUY

Yeah.

IT GAL

Give them a call, order your servers, and pay with that card. It's a month-to-month contract. Just give 24 hours notice to cancel. Your first setup will take about 4 hours, but you'll be home at dinner tonight with your 50 new servers online. Not a month from now.

IT GUY

Thanks for the info! Boy, that's a relief.

IT GAL

After calling SoftLayer, don't forget to cancel that order of 50 to come here in a month.

IT GUY

That'll be a pleasure.

Screen fades to black. Graphics appear.

SoftLayer. It's That Easy.

-Gary

Categories: 
September 23, 2010

Movies are Becoming Like Books

One thing that I’ve noticed about our customer behavior at SoftLayer is that as these Internet-centric businesses grow and they add more servers, their bandwidth usage per server also grows. A lot. Why? Their customers are using more bandwidth. I’ll wager that this trend is not unique to SoftLayer customers, but it’s something that’s happening across the board.

Here’s how I’ve been contributing to this end user bandwidth demand. Back in June, I ordered an iPad. Since I was already a Netflix customer, I downloaded their free iPad app. I found that the instant movie streaming is awesome. Every few days now, I look at what’s been newly released for instant streaming, put it in list view and sort by star rating high to low. It’s not only new movies but also old movies just newly set up for instant streaming. Then I pick something I’ve never seen and start watching.

What I really like is that I don’t have to budget the time to watch the whole movie. With my iPad, I can catch 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there, and watch the movie at my leisure over two or three days. Netflix restarts the movie where I left off when I open the app again.

This makes watching a movie much like reading a book. You can mark the spot you left off and pick it up again when you get a chance. You can stop the movie and back up to a particular time stamp to review a plot twist that you didn’t fully understand, or see that action sequence once again, just like my DVR at home. I’m currently working through “Eight Men Out” in this way.

So if I run to the car wash (which provides free wifi) and I know I’ll be waiting 15-20 minutes, I can grab my iPad and I have a choice of reading a book, watching a movie, playing games, or even getting some work done. If I go the movie route, I’m helping to increase the demand for bandwidth.

I’d actually like Netflix to let watching a movie become even more like reading a book. Like allowing “highlighting” to mark a beginning and ending timestamp to a clip you can save for future use. Or the ability to save notes at a particular timestamp. Or even better – allow you to do vocal commentary on a separate audio track. There are a couple of clips in “Eight Men Out” that I’d like to save for future use.

So, get to work on all that Netflix. :-)

June 22, 2010

Fajitas, Chicken Wings, and Cloud Computing

Three of Lance Crosby’s favorite things are fajitas, chicken wings, and cloud computing. Believe it or not, there is a common thread between all three. See if you can figure it out.

First, let’s consider fajitas. What are they? Well, the only true fajita is beef outside skirt steak. Everything else is just grilled meat that you stuff in a tortilla. For many years, the outside skirt steak was a “throwaway” cut often given to vaqueros as part of their pay <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fajita> . I know a man who grew up in a family of migrant farm workers, and in his youth they would visit slaughterhouses to ask for free throwaway cuts. They often got fajitas.

Back in the ‘80s, the retail price of fajitas skyrocketed. Tex-mex restaurants suddenly made that cut of meat popular. Then, in 1988, a treaty with Japan allowed the Japanese to import American outside skirt steak without the usual 200% tariff. Thus, 90% of our outside skirt steak winds up in Japan. Bottom line, a previously unutilized throwaway cut of meat became a gold mine and boosted the utilization of a side of beef. Consequently, when you order fajitas today, you usually get some sort of substitute beef <http://www.dallasobserver.com/2009-06-18/restaurants/so-what-exactly-are-you-eating-when-you-order-fajitas-in-a-tex-mex-restaurant/1> , not true outside skirt steak.

Next, think about the lowly chicken wing. I just saw an ad for a local chicken wing place offering their “boneless” chicken wings for a special low price. These aren’t really wings. They are pure white tender boneless chicken breast strips – what you would think is the premium cut of a chicken. The fine print on the ad says that bone-in wings may NOT be substituted for this promotion. Huh? You can’t sub a worse cut of meat that’s mostly bone for a premium cut that’s all meat and no bone?

As it turns out, the demand for the formerly throwaway cut of chicken wings has driven up their price such that boneless breast strips yield a higher profit margin <http://www.abc3340.com/news/stories/0310/711570.html> than the bony wings. Once again, a formerly thrown away item becomes a gold mine and allows for higher utilization of the whole bird.

Finally, let’s add in cloud computing to this puzzle. When dedicated servers are used, they each often perform a single task, whether it’s an email server, a web server, an application server, a database server, etc. Such servers frequently have a resource utilization rate of less than 20%, which means that 80% of the server’s processing power is thrown away.

Enter cloud computing. When done correctly, cloud computing increases the utilization rate of each individual server and turns the formerly thrown away processing power into a gold mine. This allows for more efficient capital investments and a higher return on assets.

So what’s the common thread between fajitas, chicken wings, and cloud computing? You’ve probably already figured it out. All three have taken something that previously was almost worthless and thrown away and turned it into something valuable and highly demanded by boosting utilization.

SoftLayer plans to take this to another level later this year when we release BYOC – Build Your Own CloudTM. You’ll then be able to tailor your processing power to exactly what you need. Just select the amount of RAM, number of processors, storage space, an operating system, select hourly or monthly billing, and go. You don’t pay for resources you don’t need or use, and we have less unused processing capacity in our datacenters. It’s a win-win for our customers, our company, and the environment since power and real estate will be used more efficiently.

April 12, 2010

How Much Is a Trillion?

Since the budget surpluses of the seemingly long ago Clinton administration have vanished, the government as managed by both major political parties has been on a spending spree. These folks have been throwing down trillions like rappers throw down Benjamins!
Speaking of Benjamins, how big is a pile of a trillion dollars made up of Benjamins? Click here for a quick look.
I did something yesterday that gave me a whole new view of how large of a number a trillion really is. I work with some big spreadsheets of data that I query from our database systems here at work. Using Excel 2007, I can analyze worksheets that are a million records long. So I needed to use the VLOOKUP function in Excel to grab a field of data in one worksheet of a million records and move it into another worksheet of a million records. I run these types of jobs on a server (not my desktop machine) and this process brought my server to its knees.
This particular VLOOKUP job involved a trillion comparisons. For each of the million rows in worksheet #1, it had to search a specified range of one million fields in spreadsheet #2, find the exact match, and bring a specific field of data back into spreadsheet #1. A million rows searching a million fields = 1,000,000 x 1,000,000. And a million times a million equals a trillion.
Now, my server is not a wimpy machine. It has Nehalem processors with 16 total processing cores running at 2.93 GHz. It doesn’t have a stupendous amount of RAM because Excel can only use just so much RAM. But many functions in Excel such as VLOOKUP can utilize all the processing cores you can throw at them.
So when I hit the return key at 5:12 PM yesterday to kick off this VLOOKUP, I noticed that it was taking a while. So I went to Task Manager and I saw that all 16 cores were maxed out at 100% utilization. All sixteen cores remained maxed out until 5:47 PM at which time the job finished successfully.
So, for all the techies out there, that’s your representation of how big a trillion really is. It takes 16 processing cores running at 2.93 GHz each maxed out for 35 straight minutes to run a VLOOKUP involving a trillion comparisons.

Categories: 
March 12, 2010

The Taxman Is Here

In my role at SoftLayer, I am asked by a number of people for our financial forecasts. Fortunately, we know our business well enough that our expectations for one year ahead have proven to be on target. For example, in December 2008, we told our bankers to expect 2009 net income (profit) to grow 254% over 2008 – and yes, this was at the worst point of the recession. When we closed out the books for 2009, net income actually grew 255%. Our forecasting error was one-third of one percent, and it was an error to the good side.

I can tell you right now that our profit projections will never, ever again be that accurate. Ever. Why is that? Well, after posting such a profitable year, the Taxman has showed up. You see, when you start a business, you usually post losses, not profits, for a while. SoftLayer was no exception here. After posting losses in 2006 and 2007, we turned the corner to profitability in 2008. So why were we not bothered by taxes in 2009? In a nutshell, the tax laws allow you to roll a portion of historic losses forward against profits before you must begin booking tax expenses. We had a meeting yesterday with our corporate tax advisor, and in 2010, we must begin booking tax expenses. Oh boy.

It’s one thing to look at your business model going a year ahead. We can look at macroeconomic indicators that are meaningful to our business and calculate the coefficient of correlation (R-square for you stat geeks) of our growth rate to those indicators and walk things forward. Then based on our anticipated sales growth, we can extrapolate how much datacenter space and power we will need to add, how many routers, switches, and servers to order, and how many people to hire.

Now, if you think that sounds complicated, just wait until you try to forecast how much tax you will have to pay. The biggest problem is the tax laws themselves. They are always moving and changing. In addition, they are sometimes changed retroactively. For example, in 2009, there was an allowance to take bonus depreciation on equipment purchased. (We purchase a lot of it, by the way.) This means that you are allowed to deduct a higher percentage of the dollars spent on equipment from your taxable income and thus lower your tax expense. Well, so far in 2010, there is no bonus depreciation available. BUT, there is a possibility that Congress will extend bonus depreciation into 2010, and make it retroactive to January 1. You tell me – how are we supposed to forecast that?

This is one of but many examples of the craziness of the tax codes that we encounter. As we open more locations in the future, I may blog a bit about some of the other craziness we find.

March 1, 2010

Don’t Run a Data Center – Run Your Business!

I have a friend who recently took a CTO position with a medium-sized company. The huge company that previously employed him moved their entire IT staff a long way outside of Texas to a rather unpleasant location as a cost cutting move. He and many others declined the relocation offer. I can’t say as I blame them.

The other day, he told me some of the interesting things he’s found at his new company. This company is not a technology company but a professional services company. Up to now, they have opted to be in the IT business by running their own data center. To keep this post to a reasonable length, I’ll just mention a few of the things he’s run into.

Keeping the room powered and cool – trust me, this is harder than it sounds. It involves things like redundant power, UPS devices, generators, CRAC units, dehumidifiers, fire suppression, etc. All this stuff must be tested and maintained constantly.

Ordering new servers – they have to go through an online configurator, and then wait to receive the shipment. Once it arrives, they have to unpack it, rack it, power it up, and install the software. The cycle time from ordering a new server to getting it into production can stretch from days to weeks.

Tracking assets – needless to say, he’s found several holes in the process here. Knowing how much RAM is supposed to be in each server vs. what’s really there is a struggle. Heck, even knowing what servers are supposed to be there is a challenge. It seems that as servers are moved, replaced, or disposed of that the asset tracking system and processes are not as solid as he would like. These loose operations also bring heat from accountants and auditors, especially if a server ‘s value is still on the balance sheet but it has actually been tossed out and they no longer own it.

Maintenance – they pay for a service agreement where a tech is guaranteed to be onsite in 4 hours to do anything up to a complete rip and replace to get them back in production. Once he asked why several servers, each north of $10,000 in value, were just laying around in a parts cage. He was told these were for spare parts in case of an emergency, just in case they couldn’t wait 4 hours.

Bankers and lessors routinely ask us who our biggest competitors are. We routinely tell them that they are not other hosting companies – they are companies like the one described above that insist on being in the data center business even though they are not IT infrastructure companies. Since these companies are our largest competition, let’s look at how SoftLayer beats the competition on the items listed above.

Keeping the room powered and cool – as a customer of SoftLayer, you simply don’t have to worry about all this. Not at all. This is a huge savings of time, effort, and money.

Ordering new servers – Once you either run through the configurator or call your SLales rep with your order, your new servers are immediately provisioned. The cloud products are up in minutes, and you can have a few HUNDRED dedicated servers ready for production in a few hours. Not in days or weeks or months.

Tracking assets – From the accounting side of things, you just don’t have to worry about tracking the assets at all as a SoftLayer customer. They are an operating expense to our customers, not a capital expenditure. As far as knowing what assets you have to work with, you have access to the best customer portal in the business where every detail about every server is kept up in real time, right down to the individual sticks of RAM and drive configurations of each server. If you need tighter integration, SoftLayer provides an API to put all this information seamlessly into your environment. Disposing of a server is a simple cancellation ticket. It couldn’t be easier.

Maintenance – this is also a simple ticket submission, which is resolved in an impressive turnaround time. This service is included in SoftLayer’s monthly fees. There is no need to stockpile parts or entire servers for emergencies.

Bottom line, if your business’s core competency is not IT infrastructure, you are being beaten in the IT infrastructure business by SoftLayer. You are spending way too much time, money, and attention to run something that isn’t a part of your business. Hey, if you can’t beat us, then join us!

By the way, my friend is proposing a major project for his company in 2010. That project is getting out of the business of running a datacenter. He faces a lot of resistance to change “the way we’ve always done it” from the other senior executives. From my point of view, it’s a no brainer. But I’m biased I guess. I’d just tell them, hey, don’t run a data center – run your business!

November 16, 2009

How Many Recovery Plans Do We Need?

Several of our bloggers have written about backups in The InnerLayer. This morning, I had an experience that makes me wonder how many recovery plans we need.

I walked out of the house to the driveway and saw that my left rear tire was flat. An enormous nail had punctured my tire right in the middle of the tread, and the slow leak deflated the tire overnight. To recover from this disaster, I needed to get my vehicle drivable and get to the Discount Tire location near my house so that they could fix the flat. Below is a log of how the recovery plans worked out.

Recovery Plan #1: Call roadside assistance. While waiting on them to change my tire, logon from home and get some work done before going to Discount Tire. I have leased four different brands of vehicles over the past 10 years, and roadside assistance was always included with the lease. So I call the 800 number and they tell me I don’t have roadside assistance. (Note to self: read the fine print on the next lease.) Result: FAIL

Recovery Plan #2: Inflate tire with can of Fix-a-Flat. I retrieved the can from my garage, followed the instructions, and when I depressed the button to fill the tire, the can was defective and the contents spewed from the top of the can rather than filling the tire. Result: FAIL

Recovery Plan #3: Use foot operated bicycle pump to inflate tire and drive to Discount Tire. I have actually done this successfully before with slow leaks like this one. It is third in priority because it is harder and more tiring than the first two options. So I go to my garage and look at where the pump is stored. It isn’t there. I scour the garage to find it. It is gone. Result: FAIL

Recovery Plan #4: Change out of office clothes into junky clothes, drag out the jack and spare and change the tire myself. This is number four in priority because it is the biggest hassle. I will spare you all the slapstick comedy of a finance guy jacking up a vehicle and changing the tire (finding the special key for the locking lug nuts was an interesting sub-plot to the whole story), so I’ll summarize and say RESULT: Success!

As a side note, I must give props to Discount Tire. Having bought tires there before, I was in their database as a customer and they fixed the flat and installed it on my vehicle for no charge. I recommend them!

All this got me to thinking about not only having backups, but having redundant recovery plans. Sure, you’ve got a recent copy of all your data – that’s great! Now, what’s your plan for restoring that data? If you have an experience like my flat tire recovery this morning, it might be a good idea to think through several ways to recover and restore the data. Our EVault offering will certainly be one good strategy.

October 7, 2009

GAHAP Revisited. Otherwise titled “Credit Analysts, Statistics, and Common Sense”

From time to time, I have posted about my frustration with GAAP accounting and traditional credit analysis and how it is not friendly to the hosting business model. For a refresher, click here, here, here, here, and here. By GAHAP, I jokingly mean “generally accepted hosting accounting principles.”

Mike Jones came in my office after a frustrating phone call with a credit analyst. They were trying to talk through collateral possibilities. He told me that the credit analyst has a problem because we carry hardly any accounts receivable. The credit analyst wants something that he can collect in case of default. In GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles), accounts receivable is the total amount that you have billed your customers but have not yet collected from them. Common sense hint: the accounts receivable balance won’t pay your bills – they won’t get paid until you collect the cash.

SoftLayer includes this common sense in its business model. Rather than send out invoices and bug people to pay us later, we choose to have our customers pay us in advance of their use of products and services. Many other hosting companies do the same. There are many advantages to this: we save costs that we would incur collecting the cash, we reduce the amount of abusive accounts that would sign up for a few days of malicious activity and never pay us, and it helps facilitate the on-demand billing side of the cloud computing model.
Again, the disadvantage of this practice comes about when trying to educate a set-in-his-ways credit analyst about our business model. Here is the basic gist of a mythical conversation between a credit analyst and a hosting company:

Credit Analyst: “I see you don’t have any accounts receivable to speak of.”

Hosting Company: “I know! Isn’t that great?”

Credit Analyst: “But if you default, what can I collect?”

Hosting Company: “You’d simply continue to bill the customers for their continued business. Because our customer agreement is month-to-month, you just collect for their next month of service over the next 30 days and you’ve essentially done the same as collect receivables. In fact, that is far easier than collecting past due receivables. We’d be happy place the anticipated next month billing to our customers on the balance sheet in an accounts receivable type of account, but GAAP does not allow this.”

Credit Analyst: “Oh my…you don’t have long term contracts? So all of your customers could leave at once? Isn’t that risky?”

Hosting Company: “We have several thousand customers who trust us with mission critical needs. They will not all leave at once. Our statistics show only a very low percentage of customers terminate services each month. Even through the depths of the recession, we had more new customers joining us than we had customers leaving.”

Credit Analyst: “But conceptually, they could all leave at once since they have no contracts.”

Hosting Company: “That is statistically impossible. The odds of that event are so low that it’s immeasurable. As I said, we provide mission critical services to our customers. To think that they will all no longer need these services simultaneously is paranoid. And if they did, would a contract keep them paying us? That’s doubtful. Let me ask you – do you lend to the electric company or the phone company?”

Credit Analyst: “Of course.”

Hosting Company: “Do their customers sign long term contracts?”

Credit Analyst: “Some do for special promotions. But for the most part – no.”

Hosting Company: “So why do you lend to them?”

Credit Analyst: “Why, the customers can’t live without electricity or phones. That’s a no brainer.”

Hosting Company: “It is exactly the same with our business. In this information age economy, our customers cannot live without the hosting services that we provide. You should look at us in a similar way that you look at a utility company.”

Credit Analyst: “But we classify your business as a technology company. Can’t you just have your customers sign contracts?”

Hosting Company: “Well, wouldn’t that conflict with the on-demand, measured billing aspects of cloud computing?”

Credit Analyst: “I guess there’s not much hope of you building up a sizeable accounts receivable balance then.”

Hosting Company: “It really makes no sense for us to do that.”

Credit Analyst: “We may not be able to do business with you. Do you have any real estate?”

Conclusion: Most credit analysts are so wrapped up in GAAP that they’ve forgotten the laws of statistics and many have even lost touch with common sense. Is it any wonder we’ve had a big banking crisis over the past couple of years?

September 23, 2009

Who Are Our Customers?

When talking to a wide variety of outsiders about SoftLayer, one question inevitably comes up. “Who are your customers?” It always takes a bit of explaining – it’s a bit like asking the power company the same question. In the power company’s case, the answer is “anyone who needs electricity.” SoftLayer’s customers run the gamut. There is no one particular industry vertical that dominates our customer base. Pretty much anyone who needs dependable, robust, hosted IT services is our customer, or potential customer.

Now, if we look outside of the silos of industry verticals, there is one type of customer that stands out more than others. That is the entrepreneurial small business. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the engine of economic growth, and thus I need to keep up with what is going on with things that affect small businesses.

So I ran across a study worth passing along via a blog post. It is produced by Kauffman: The Foundation of Entrepreneurship and is entitled “The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur: Family Background and Motivation.” It contains some valuable insights into some traits of the majority of our customers. These traits below are taken straight from the report:

Company founders tend to be middle-aged and well-educated, and did better in high school than in college

  • The average and median age of company founders
    in our sample when they started their current
    companies was 40. (This is consistent with our
    previous research, which found the average and
    median age of technology company founders to
    be 39).
  • 95.1 percent of respondents themselves had earned
    bachelor’s degrees, and 47 percent had more
    advanced degrees.

These entrepreneurs tend to come from middle-class or upper-lower-class backgrounds, and were better educated and more entrepreneurial than their parents

  • 71.5 percent of respondents came from middle-class
    backgrounds (34.6 percent upper-middle class and
    36.9 percent lower-middle class). Additionally, 21.8
    percent said they came from upper-lower-class
    families (blue-collar workers in some form of
    manual labor).
  • Less than 1 percent came from extremely rich or
    extremely poor backgrounds

Most entrepreneurs are married and have children

  • 69.9 percent of respondents indicated they were
    married when they launched their first business. An
    additional 5.2 percent were divorced, separated, or
    widowed.
  • 59.7 percent of respondents indicated they had at
    least one child when they launched their first
    business, and 43.5 percent had two or more
    children.

Early interest and propensity to start companies

  • Of the 24.5 percent who indicated that they were
    “extremely interested” in becoming entrepreneurs
    during college, 47.1 percent went on to start more
    than two companies (as compared to 32.9 percent
    of the overall sample).
  • The majority of the entrepreneurs in our sample
    were serial entrepreneurs. The average number of
    businesses launched by respondents was
    approximately 2.3; 41.4 percent were starting their
    first businesses.

Motivations for becoming entrepreneurs: building wealth, owning a company, startup culture, and capitalizing on a business idea

  • 74.8 percent of respondents indicated desire to
    build wealth as an important motivation in
    becoming an entrepreneur. This factor was rated as
    important by 82.1 percent of respondents who
    grew up in “lower-upper-class” families.
  • 68.1 percent of respondents indicated that
    capitalizing on a business idea was an important
    motivation in becoming an entrepreneur.
  • 66.2 percent said the appeal of a startup culture
    was an important motivation.
  • 60.3 percent said that working for others did not
    appeal to them. Responses to this question were
    relatively evenly distributed in a rough bell curve,
    with 16 percent of respondents citing this as an
    extremely important factor and 16.8 percent of
    respondents citing it as not at all a factor.

Not only do the traits above describe a big chunk of SoftLayer’s customers – they also describe the people of SoftLayer.

If you are an entrepreneurial small business and you need a hosted IT service provider who understands your needs, you will find a likeminded partner in SoftLayer. Many of the small businesses who joined with us two or three years ago aren’t so small anymore, and that’s fine! When our customers succeed, we succeed. We get that.

September 7, 2009

Local Phone for (Darn Near Almost) Free

I keep my ears perked for businesses that leverage Internet infrastructure – mainly because such businesses are potential customers for SoftLayer. Occasionally, I become a customer of the businesses that I hear about.

I took the plunge with one such company after loosely watching it for a year. In the summer of 2007, a friend of mine moved his home phone service to Ooma. Basically, it is local phone service with no monthly bill. Zip. Nada. $0.00 per month. To top that off, the quality of service is very high.

Now, it’s not totally free phone service because you have to have a high speed internet connection to run it. I suspect that if you are reading this, you do. By the way, I have fiber going to my house, and I have 20 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload speed. I can get 50 down and 20 up should I ever need that much bandwidth. If I wanted local phone service from my local phone company, they would provide it through this fiber (not copper) at a price of about $45 per month plus taxes and fees. That means the monthly bill would be about $60 when it’s all said and done.

We yanked our landline when the fiber arrived 4 years ago since each family member at that point had a cell phone. Going all cellular has been pretty much fine except for a few minor hiccups. Sometimes, one of us has been unreachable at the house because of either a dead battery, phone set to silent mode, cellular network congestion, or the fact that the ringer just can’t be heard throughout the whole house, even at full volume. None of these, however, was worth an additional $60 per month to solve.

OK, back to Ooma. My friend has had it for a year with no problem. He loves it. It works perfectly with high quality. On top of that, Ooma is now sold at Costco for one-third lower than what he paid for it. You buy the device for a one-time fee up front and never have a phone bill. After three months (usually), you’ve made your money back in savings.

So a month ago, I bought it. It took 20 minutes to set up, and I’m a finance guy. If you’re a techie, I’ll bet you’re running in 10 minutes or less. It has worked flawlessly since. The sound quality is fantastic. There are more features and add-ons than I can mention here – go browse their website for more. The snarky ad video is worth the 45 seconds to watch it. In short, I highly recommend Ooma.

To keep things balanced, the ONLY advantage I see to a copper line is if there is a power outage and your broadband modem/router is down, the local phone is down. But if your home phone is cordless with a powered base unit, the copper line is down in that case too. And if the aliens from District 9 show up, the copper lines will be flooded too I’ll bet.

Ooma is just another example of how the Internet and its supporting infrastructure is not only here to stay, but to keep growing as traditional telecom infrastructure slowly dies. At SoftLayer, we’re here to make sure our innovation supports businesses that grow by leveraging Internet infrastructure.

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