Author Archive: Krishen Loughridge

February 8, 2010

Droid Power!

After purchasing my new Droid phone, I started to dive further into its uses. I initially liked the open source operating system (Google’s Android OS) and the features available. Now I have found that I can do almost anything with this ‘pocket computer’, from work to play.

I’m sure the iPhone fans are saying ‘yeah my phone does that’, but I didn’t buy an iPhone for a reason. I can do all the regular stuff, find a restaurant or movie without even opening Google. I can play games, update facebook, take pictures and post them online or email, etc. etc. etc.

Can you talk to your phone? Let’s say I need to find a product for my home computer:

Me: Droid, locate ‘firewire card Dallas’.

Droid: Micro Warehouse, Phone Number, Address – Would you like to call? Do you need driving directions with GPS tracking?

Me: Dial for me please. ‘Do you guys carry firewire cards for…..blahblah.’

When I get into the store, the guy doesn’t know if the firewire card has windows 7 drivers. Hmm… Droid scans the barcode and takes me to the manufacturer’s product page where I can see that drivers are downloadable. Thanks Droid!

I can connect to a VPN, RDP to my workstation or SSH to my server! I can write text messages with my voice, read emails while talking on the phone, even translate by voice into other languages (never getting lost in Spain again)! I still have so much to learn about the abilities of this device, but it does point to our ‘futuristic’ intentions in having a computer in our palm that allows us to interact with the world.

Oops, did I forget to turn off the coffee pot at home? ‘Droid….?’ I don’t think they are on speaking terms yet. I’ll have to get the coffee maker control application. Droid says no results…

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April 29, 2009

Musician's Mind

One thing I have noticed about my SoftLayer family is the number of musicians here. I spent nine years as a musician, working the bar/festival circuits all over the midwest. When I arrived at SoftLayer, people jokingly asked if I was joining the SoftLayer band due to my previous experience. Just looking at the Operations Management Team, most of us have written/performed and many continue to. The more I thought about it, I think that this is a good thing.

There have been a number of scientific research projects about the academic performance of children and teens who are involved in a music program at school. The mixed left/right brain activity of music lends itself to problem solving and critical thinking as well as creativity which are required by many jobs. A musician's mind is capable of working complex geometric patterns into physical movements in coordination with muscle memory. Once more advanced levels are reached, a musician is capable of not only composing music, but also improvisation. These aspects are similar to many necessary thought processes used in the office.

I'd like to think that these mental processes allow me to think better on my feet, deal with change, and have a global view of the projects that I am involved with. Maybe that's why our Inventory, Hardware, & 2/5 Datacenter Managers are musicians. Not only that, but our Director of Operations is an avid musician. If you count the actual system admins who are musical, then you would be adding another 3 people.

So if all the research is correct, this may have something to do with the quality of operations here at SoftLayer. I wonder if being a musician had anything to do with my interview and its result. I know that it would catch my attention knowing that an applicant had experience with music or any other analytical/creative endeavor, especially if it has been shown to improve overall performance or intelligence.

Maybe I should write a SoftLayer song - an anthem to our Datacenter or a love song about the management network and IPMI?

April 22, 2009

The Tao of the Slayer

In the ever-changing world of IT, there are few times when a technician gets to relax. There are always new issues, new products/services, and long hours of investigation. However, once in awhile you find a moment of Zen in all the commotion: Rack Prep.

Recently, I had assigned myself to Rack Prep to allow my teammates to focus on their other duties. During this time, I was able to complete a large portion of the rack assembly process and release myself from the direct stresses of the IT environment in a busy NOC (network operations center).

The preparation of new racks in the datacenter is an arduous (and sometimes monotonous) task, but gives a technician time to reflect on his accomplishments and direction for his career. There are no distractions, other than the occasional dropped cage nut or screw. This allows the free mind to ponder the inner workings of itself and the body it inhabits.

I thought about the first time I had installed a rack rail. I had only been working in IT for a few months and was assigned to the task due to my lack of knowledge on the other portions of the project. I learned a lot that summer about architecture of hardware, networks, and even business.

I had time to think about how I had arrived at one of the fastest-growing host providers in the world. All the different places I had worked. I remembered the people who shared information – technical or otherwise – which had furthered my ability to solve issues – in servers and myself.

I remembered the managers and supervisors that I looked up to and hope to emulate in my current position in management. I was trying to remember all the wisdom which had been passed to me, leading me to reevaluate my approach and initiatives.

In short, the Rack Prep allowed me to reflect on all the things in my life. I was able to forget the current project while mindlessly pushing in cage nuts and look at my career from a wider perspective. Luckily, I can say that I am proud of how far I have come. Now, I have to install the cables which require much more thought. I better leave the Zen and continue with the task at hand.

.IIIi

January 7, 2009

Give A Man A Fish...

We have a saying around the NOC here at Softlayer. You can give a man a fish to eat today, but if you don’t tell him how you caught it, he will go hungry tomorrow. Well, maybe that’s not how it goes… let me explain.

Every day, I tout the greatest things about my job to my ‘techie’ buddies. However, some of them don’t even know about the technologies I mention.

The IPMI/KVM console is probably the greatest tool I have for investigating and fixing issues other than my brain/eyes/hands. Using IPMI, I am able to interact with the KVM (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) input/output of a server. I can reboot, check bios settings, reconfigure a raid, or even watch a ‘task manager’ or ‘top’ output in real time.

The best part about IPMI is that it is integrated into the majority of our SLystems and allows the technician/customer to investigate connectivity issues (and more) via a network connection that is independent of the public network interface. Many times, I find that even our most savvy customers have never had the opportunity to ‘test drive’ IPMI/KVM.

Here is a great example:

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CSA: Softlayer Technologies. How may I help you?

USR: My server is down and I have created a ticket #xxxxx. Can you help?

CSA: Of course. I can see that the server is not pinging.

USR: We adjusted the firewall rules and now we cannot connect to the server. I believe we have locked ourselves out!

CSA: I am connecting via the IPMI/KVM to verify that the interfaces are up. May I disable the firewall temporarily?

USR: No! We cannot have the firewall down for any period of time. What is IPMI/KVM?

CSA: It is a handy remote interface to use the server as if you were standing in front of it with keyboard, video and mouse. Have you used this feature before?

USR: No. I have seen the IPMI section in the portal before, but didn’t know what it was for.

CSA: Here - let me help you use the tutorials listed in the portal. Once you are connected, you can edit the firewall rules without losing connection.

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This is why IPMI is valuable and should be a part of any administrator’s toolset. As in the example above, the information in the portal was enough to get the user acclimated and connected. He resolved the issue without my direct interaction and updated the ticket with appreciation.

Have you used your IPMI today?

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August 22, 2008

Thoughts from the "New Guy"

Being the 'new guy' in any situation has its ups and downs. However, being the new guy at a dedicated host provider was a challenge that I embraced with open arms. My expertise is certainly wide-ranging but somewhat random so I expected quite a learning curve to supporting an environment of thousands of servers. The next 6 months would prove to be a trial by fire movie script with the best supporting cast I've ever seen.

While a jack of all trades is great when you're an Administrator/Consultant for a number of companies across a wide geographical area, it does not necessarily offer a quick route to success. I had been searching for an upgraded position with more opportunity to learn and progress. That opportunnity came on Christmas weekend in the form of an e-mail from SoftLayer Technologies.

Who are these guys? I had not been active in the dedicated host provider market, as I had always run my own servers in the past. Upon visiting the website, I soon realized that I was not dealing with a newcomer or underbudgeted attempt at market domination. The site is well organized and aesthetically pleasing, while retaining a playful obedience. I decided to take the opportunity to see what this place was all about.

Upon my arrival, I realized that the culture and policy was remarkably similar to the key aspects I had learned in my less-than-10-year IT career. Offer an industry-leading twist on a product while focusing on the customer experience. Provide every possible service and never skimp on the important things like STAFF. I found a company that had learned how to do the above, while maintaining a well-organized (almost to the point of OCD), clean (OCD reference here) and documented datacenter that I have ever visited (I've seen a few.)

The culture is one of "clock-punchers need not apply" and nerds will rule the world. The atmosphere is almost like we all own the company. Employees take personal interest in support issues and customer satisfaction. The level of knowledge around here is far-reaching and as varied as the personalities they share. I have to mention that this is the first company I have visited which values its employees enough to pay them adequately, too. They appear to hate turnover and spend a lot of time to choose the correct individuals and train them with the skills necessary to provide the best service - time and time again. I knew many of these market-dominating aspects before, but have had a snowball's chance of convincing upper management of it in the past (I won't mention company names). But with SoftLayer, they already had it all in place after a couple of years! Upper level management keeps in contact with employees on a regular basis. You can call the CEO right now and ask him what the temperature is in SR04 in Dallas, if the trash is full in SR03, or how many new racks were built in SR02 in Seattle and he could tell you. How many CEO's do you know that could tell you what is going on in 'the trenches'? That's why this company is so amazing to me.

I've been here 6 months to date, and my experience continues to expand. I share my nights (yes, I am graveyard shift) with some of the most friendly, determined, and knowledgeable people in the business and I know it. I'm just glad I was lucky enough that they found my resume, and not some other kid with a thirst for IT knowledge. Thanks SL!

-Krishen

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