Author Archive: Michalina Kiera

April 26, 2016

Cloud. Ready-to-Wear.

It’s been five years since I started my journey with SoftLayer. And what a journey it has been—from being one of the first few folks in our Amsterdam office, to becoming part of the mega-family of IBMers; from one data center in Europe to six on this side of the pond and 40+ around the globe; from “Who is SoftLayer?” (or my favorite, “SoftPlayer”), to becoming a cloud environment fundamental for some of the biggest and boldest organizations worldwide.

But the most thrilling difference between 2016 and 2011 that I’ve been observing lately is a shift of the market’s perception of cloud, which matters are important to adopters, and the technology itself becoming mainstream.

Organizations of all sizes—small, medium, and large, while still raising valid questions around the level of control and security—are more often talking about challenges regarding managing the combined on-prem and shared environments, readiness of their legacy applications to migrate to cloud, and their staff competency to orchestrate the new architecture.

At Cloud Expo 2016 (the fifth one for the SoftLayer EMEA team), next to two tremendous keynotes given by Sebastian Krause, General Manager IBM Cloud Europe, and by Rashik Parmar, Lead IBM Cloud Advisor/Europe IBM Distinguished Engineer, we held a roundtable to discuss the connection between hybrid cloud and agile business. Moderated by Rashik Parmar, the discussion confirmed the market’s evolution: from recognizing cloud as technology still proving its value, to technology critical in gaining a competitive advantage in today’s dynamic economy.

Rashik’s guests had deep technology backgrounds and came from organizations of all sizes and flavors—banking, supply chain managements, ISV, publishing, manufacturing, MSP, insurance, and digital entertainment, to name a few. Most of them already have live cloud deployments, or they have one ready to go into production this year.

When it came to the core factors underlying a move into the cloud, they unanimously listed gaining business agility and faster time-to-market. For a few minutes, there was a lively conversation among the panelists about the cost and savings. They raised examples citing  poorly planned cloud implementations that were 20-30 percent more costly than keeping the legacy IT setup. Based on an example of a large Australian bank, Rashik urged companies to start the process of moving into cloud with a vigilant map of their own applications landscape before thinking about remodeling the architecture to accommodate cloud.

The next questions the panelists tackled pertained to the drivers behind building hybrid cloud environments, which included:

  • Starting with some workloads and building a business case based on their success; from there, expanding the solution organization-wide
  • Increasing the speed of market entry for new solutions and products
  • Retiring certain legacy applications on-prem, while deploying new ones on cloud
  • Regulatory requirements that demand some workloads or data to remain on-prem.

When asked to define “hybrid cloud,” Rashik addressed the highly ambiguous term by simply stating that it refers to any combination of software-defined environment and automation with traditional IT.

The delegates discussed the types of cloud—local, dedicated, and shared—and found it difficult to define who controls hybrid cloud, and who is accountable for what component when something goes wrong. There was a general agreement that many organizations still put physical security over the digital one, which is not entirely applicable in the world of cloud.

Rashik explored, from his experience, where most cases of migrating into cloud usually originate. He referred to usage patterns and how organizations become agile with hybrid IT. The delegates agreed that gaining an option of immediate burstability and removing the headache of optimal resource management, from hardware to internal talent, are especially important.

Rashik then addressed the inhibitors of moving into cloud—and here’s the part that inspired me to write this post. While mentions of security (data security and job security) and the control over the environment arose, the focus repeatedly shifted toward the challenges of applications being incompatible with cloud architecture, complicated applications landscape, and scarcity of IT professionals skilled in managing complex (hybrid) cloud environments.

This is a visible trend that demonstrates the market has left the cloud department store’s changing room, and ready not only to make the purchase, but “ready to wear” the new technology with a clear plan where, when, and with an aim to achieve specific outcomes.

The conversation ended with energizing insights about API-driven innovation that enables developers to assemble a wide spectrum of functions, as opposed to being “just a coder.” Other topics included cognitive computing that bridges digital business with digital intelligence, and platforms such as blockchain that are gaining momentum.

To think that not so long ago, I had to explain to the average Cloud Expo delegate what “IaaS” stand for. We’ve come a long way.



April 6, 2016

Cloudocracy: Cedato believes in showing the right ad to the right viewer

In the latest edition of our Cloudocracy series—which celebrates SoftLayer customers shaking up their industries—meet Cedato. Have you noticed video ads appearing more often over non-video content online? SoftLayer customer Cedato makes that possible. We sat down with Dvir Doron, Cedato’s CMO, to learn more.

SOFTLAYER: There’s something we’ve always wondered about online video, so perhaps you can help us out. Why are there so many cat videos?

DVIR DORON: I’ll start with a confession: I’ve never uploaded a video of my pets, my children, or any of my hobbies. At the same time, I know I’m an anomaly. Most people want to share their lives, experiences, and happy moments. Cats capture that. We talk about user generated content, and cat and baby videos drove viewership and content at first. I’m not sure that’s the case today. People have moved on. There are more “fail” videos of people falling over and doing crazy stuff now. They make me laugh. What can I say? I’m weak.

SL: Let’s talk about a strength! How are you shaking up the online advertising business?

DORON: People love video ads and they generate tremendous value, but a few years ago the industry was hitting a roadblock because there wasn’t enough advertising space. Then the market started to embrace what we call “in place” advertising, which enables us to place video ads on non-video content. With the shift to mobile, that created a huge challenge. You have issues with the format, streaming conventions, and standards, and things don’t work very well. On the one hand, there was a huge opportunity to increase the supply of ad space, which was hugely in demand. At the same time, there was a major technical issue to solve.

We were established in the middle of last year to offer a sophisticated software layer that enables publishers to run video ads on video and non-video content. Our platform chooses the ad that will load the fastest, matches the user’s interests, and generates the best value for the advertiser and publisher. As long as you keep everyone happy, they will keep coming back.

SL: There is something of a backlash against advertising now, though, with users increasingly installing ad blockers. How can the advertising industry win them over?

DORON: There are a lot of sites out there that offer a very poor experience, but people don’t realize that slow loading times and buffering are not necessarily because of content delivery issues, poor infrastructure, or site mechanics. It’s a result of poor monetization techniques. Websites are trying to show ads that will maximize their revenue but often the ad behind that is not effective. Sorry for the self-promotion, but I believe that if you show the right ad to the right viewer with the lowest possible latency, everyone wins. If the wait times are low, the experience will be good.

SL: That’s an interesting point. What would you say has been your biggest challenge as a startup in this market?

DORON: We were blessed with very rapid growth, so the challenge for us was to provide a scalable platform. We were soon serving billions of ads per month. We needed someone we could count on to be both scalable and elastic, all over the world. So we’ve partnered with SoftLayer from the very beginning. We were extremely happy with the people and the level of support we were getting. As a startup, we really need that extra bit of support.

SL: And we’ve been pleased to provide it! What are your plans for the future?

DORON: We’re looking at TV advertising. The ability to match an ad to a specific viewer is coming in the next couple of years. Not necessarily to broadcast TV, but it’s coming. We’re trying to find areas where it makes sense to connect the advertisers online with TV audiences.

SL: Your focus is usually on the bits between the TV programs. But if we gave you the chance to edit any film or TV show, what would you change?

DORON: I would change the ending of Lost. It was epic. I watched all seven seasons of it, and this was when there were about 20 episodes per season. No spoilers, but I’d change it to something more original.




March 23, 2016

Cloudocracy: Zumidian has seen the future—and it’s online gaming

Who makes the servers hum in SoftLayer data centers around the world?

The SLayers are the brains and muscle beneath the SoftLayer cloud—and you had a chance to meet some of us in last year’s Under the Infrastructure series. But each firewall has two sides! And those servers would not be humming if not for our brilliant customers.

Welcome to the Cloudocracy.

Whether you prefer to pass the bus journey with a puzzle game, or settle down for a tour of combat with your console, there’s a chance your gaming is managed by Zumidian. This week in our Cloudocracy series, we’d like to introduce you to CEO and President Nicolas Zumbiehl, who enjoys family time, cooking, and, of course, games!

Nicolas Zumbiehl, CEO of ZumidianSOFTLAYER: Are you more Angry Birds or Call of Duty?

NICOLAS ZUMBIEHL: Call of Duty. I prefer to play strategy games, though—like World of Tanks—rather than first-person shooters. It seems strange, because I work in the gaming industry, but I don’t have a single game on my iPhone or iPad. I’m a PC and console player at heart. Until last year, I had both an Xbox and PS3. Now I just have a PS4 at home. Today, I most enjoy playing games with my kids.

SL: How did you become president of Zumidian?

ZUMBIEHL: I founded the company! Previously, I was working for Hypernia, a game hosting company in Florida. Hosting is becoming a commodity business and I wanted to provide more value to gaming companies. I found a niche doing what we call “game management.” Basically, we run the whole game environment for our customers—not only the infrastructure, but the game itself, the payment gateways, the database, everything that makes up the game. We ensure it’s available for players 24/7 around the world.

SL: What does being president involve, day-to-day?

ZUMBIEHL: Zumidian is still a small company, with fewer than 20 people, so I mostly handle sales, business development, and relationships with suppliers like SoftLayer. I travel all over the world, visiting gaming trade shows and meeting customers. I like to travel to the US, where we have most of our operations, and I also like Asia. Singapore and Korea are my two favorite places there. Singapore I like for the city and the environment; in Korea, the people are really friendly and I have lots of friends and customers there.

SL: What changes has online gaming brought about?

ZUMBIEHL: In the past, you’d buy a game for $70. With online gaming, the model is free to play but if you want to progress quickly, you need to buy items. The majority of players still play for free, but the ones that really want to succeed pay for it—sometimes big money. There is a Clash of Clans player in Korea who spends $30,000 per month on the game.

SL: What tips would you offer to startups looking to launch their first online game?

ZUMBIEHL: The cost of acquiring customers is increasing more and more. It’s becoming very hard to succeed. Most of the popular games are made by four or five companies. Personally, I’m not sure I would invest in a game now.

Try to offer your game on all available platforms from the very start. In some countries, people prefer to play on smartphones and tablets, and in others they favor consoles.

You need to add content all the time. If you have a simple PC or console game, people will play it through in 20 to 30 hours and get bored. They’ll say it’s cool, but it sucks because after 30 hours, that’s it. To be successful, you need to think about how you’ll generate interest often.

If you want to go global, you have to put your game servers as close to users as possible, while still maintaining your back office servers in one location so you don’t have to duplicate them around the world. One of the reasons we work with SoftLayer is that you can pretty much build a global infrastructure.

SL: What changes do you think online gaming will bring about in the future?

ZUMBIEHL: Virtual reality will become more and more common, enabling you to really immerse yourself in the game. Gaming is increasingly going to be online. It will be more of a rental or service model, where you can play a game from way more devices, on almost anything that has a screen.

Learn more about Zumidian here.


March 11, 2016

Cloudocracy: Exit Games talks friendship, survival, cheating in the gaming world

Who makes the servers hum in SoftLayer data centers around the world?

The SLayers are the brains and muscle beneath the SoftLayer cloud—and you had a chance to meet some of us in last year’s Under the Infrastructure series. But each firewall has two sides! And those servers would not be humming if not for our brilliant customers.

This week in our Cloudocracy series, we’re talking to Chris Wegmann, founder and CTO of Exit Games, the company behind Photon Server and Photon Cloud. The Exit Games mission is to make multiplayer gaming easy. Chris, along with with his team, made that happen for 140,000 developers worldwide, creating the largest live cloud for MOG (multiplayer online games) with 45–70 million active users monthly. This is quite a demanding group, to say the least!

It’s no wonder it took Chris quite some time to find the right cloud infrastructure. Having worked with SoftLayer, he admits that it’s more than just infrastructure—it’s an asset to his users and his users users. (You can read more about Exit Games in the case study here.)

Video gaming began as a battle of humans versus machines (think Space Invaders), but for many players today, gaming is about competing or cooperating with friends. We interviewed Chris to discuss screen addiction, cheating, and more.

Chris Wegmann, founder and CTO of Exit Games

SOFTLAYER: If you were stranded on a desert island, what online multiplayer games would you play to keep you company?

CHRIS: Assuming the desert island has good connectivity I would play 8 Ball Pool, Pixel Gun, and Clash Royale. They are fun to play, and you don’t need to be a super expert. You can start easy and enhance your skills over time. They’re really well done, although only one was built using our Photon technology unfortunately!

SL: How and why did you start Exit Games?

CHRIS: In 2003, I was working at a company that was building next-generation services for the brand new 3G networks. My cofounders and I thought multiplayer games on phones could be great. We were horribly early with that idea! We had a rough time trying to survive. Multiplayer gaming started to become popular when the iPhone launched and Apple launched the App Store [in 2008]. We were able to stick around, turn the company around, and we’re now one of the leaders in synchronous multiplayer real-time gaming.

SL: How did you survive? What was different for you?

CHRIS: We had a razor-sharp focus on one particular function: synchronous real-time multiplayer gaming, and nothing else. It’s all about low latency, so we run data centers in a lot of locations worldwide, in partnership with SoftLayer. Game developers can leverage our network, the stability, the performance, and the low price.

Another factor in our success was that we decided very early to use Unity. Unity was not so popular then, but it now has millions of developers and has brought us thousands of professional and indie developers.

All of our products have a free tier, so they’re easy to try out. Then you pay per use. If your game is successful, you pay more. If not, you don’t pay a lot. It’s a fair business model that gave us market penetration.

SL: We hear a lot about the increase in the amount of screen time young people have today. Should we be concerned about online gaming replacing real-world socializing?

CHRIS: It’s a concern to me, especially when I see all the teenagers and kids constantly looking on phones and Facebook, communicating all the time. It seems to be in our nature to communicate all the time.

I remember when I was a kid, my friend and I had Commodore 64s, Game Boys, and whatever later on. Kids are definitely addicted to that stuff, and it’s the parents’ job to restrict it and make sure they are still playing board games and getting social contact.

SL: How big of a problem is cheating in online gaming, through hacking and bots, and what can be done about it?

CHRIS: It's a big topic. The more popular a game gets, the more cheaters and hackers will be attracted to it. Some of our customers’ games are becoming successful quickly and unexpectedly. When a game takes off quickly like that, it’s important that the developer gets up to speed quickly with how cheating could affect their games.

On mobile phones, it’s harder to hack, because you don’t have the tools you have on PCs. On PCs, there are professional companies that build bots and in-memory tools where you can decompile the game and change values in memory, so you need to take countermeasures faster on PC games. You need to be able to track profiles and ban and block users.

Of course, people like to play with friends, but it’s only fun to play if you have opponents with similar skills. Usually your friends are not necessarily good at a game you like to play, so it’s not fun to play with them. You want to play people who have real skill, too, not cheaters. One strategy is to let cheaters play with cheaters. So you need to think about skill-based matchmaking, not just random matchmaking.

We’re partnering with companies to offer anti-cheating chat filters and skills-based matchmaking. We look at what other services developers need and aim to provide a turnkey solution for them—with everything wrapped into a convenient package so it’s easy to use and has a sensible business model and price.

SL: What advice would you give to up-and-coming game developers on crafting an engaging multiplayer experience?

CHRIS: Start by reviewing the most successful multiplayer titles out there and take them as a benchmark. Every half year or so, the bar is rising in what needs to be done. In the past, few companies could afford to build games on a huge scale, but now small teams can build something really good.

Learn more about Exit Games’ Photon Engine here.



February 17, 2016

Cloudocracy: Getting to the art of the matter with Artomatix

Who makes the servers hum in SoftLayer data centers around the world?

The SLayers are the brains and muscle beneath the SoftLayer cloud—and you had a chance to meet some of us in last year’s Under the Infrastructure series. But each firewall has two sides! And those servers would not be humming if not for our brilliant customers.

Today we’re launching a new series that will celebrate individuals and teams building on the SoftLayer cloud: the builders and founders, the creators and the disruptors, the developers and the architects, the dreamers and the visionaries, the inventors and the reformers. The Cloudocracy. 

We’re starting with Neal O’Gorman, co-founder and CTO of Artomatix. O’Gorman calls Artomatix the “artist’s personal slave robot.” The software uses machine learning-based artificial imagination to empower game dev studios that address mundane and dreary art creation tasks. Creating a beach full of pebbles or an army of zombies—with all the elements being unique—now takes minutes, not weeks, which can generate a tenfold increase in productivity. (For more details, read the complete case study here.)

At the GDC Game Developer Conference in San Francisco this spring, Artomatix will launch its inventive approach to generating video game art. We spoke to O’Gorman to find out more.

SOFTLAYER: Thank you for joining us today. Why don’t you start by telling us what Artomatix does?

O’GORMAN: Eric Risser, our co-founder, CTO, and the inventor of our incredible technology, built a game when he was a teenager and he was the artist on the team. He made a house and was delighted with it. Then he realized he had a whole village to create. From then on, he has been looking to solve that problem. Artomatix uses machine learning to quickly make high-quality variants of art assets.

SL: That sounds cool. We hear a lot about machine learning nowadays, but rarely about its use for creative applications. What do you do for Artomatix?

O’GORMAN: Unfortunately, what takes up too much time is funding. You close one funding round and go directly into the next. We’re in the process of closing our seed round. We received EU funding from the Creatify program, which helped us hire SoftLayer. We’ve also received funding from early stage investor NDRC, EU grants, and NVIDIA. We need to get to a point where revenues are coming in, which is the challenge for every startup. In the first year, we worked with companies who sent us art, we generated results, and sent it back. We validated that we were delivering the quality they needed. Then we had to build a product fast enough for them. With SoftLayer, being able to select bare metal servers and identify high-end GPUs gives us the speed we need.

SL: If you were stranded on a desert island, but you could take a few music albums and games with you, what would you bring?

O’GORMAN: Music hasn’t been a huge part of my life, but whatever you listen to in your teenage years ends up sticking. I’d definitely take the greatest Irish band that never made it out of Ireland, The Stunning.

SL: Were you in the band?

O’GORMAN: No! If you haven’t heard of them, and I suspect most people haven’t. Check them out.

For my game, the first one is definitely Quake. I got addicted in college and had to stop playing games because I was playing it too much.

For my next game, I’d say Texas Ask’Em Poker. I didn’t play for The Stunning, but I did create Texas Ask’Em Poker. When I lived in Germany, I was a quizmaster in the local Irish pub. I came across a poker company looking for new games and I had a eureka moment with the idea to put a quiz element into poker.

My final game would be Turrican on the Commodore 64 in the late 1980s. You run around, fly around, and just use your flamethrower. A classic!

SL: Pretty much everything on the Commodore is a classic, although some of the artificial intelligence was more artificial than intelligent in those days. I’ve seen a lot of talk recently about computers taking over creative jobs. Should video game artists feel threatened by your technology?

O’GORMAN: If there are Chinese whispers [the game more commonly known as “telephone”], artists might get concerned. But the reality is that we’re here to help artists spend more time being creative. We’re not replacing their creativity. We’re replacing their tedious, mundane tasks. With hybridization, we can take a few different concepts, iterate, and provide different ideas for the artist to choose from. Artomatix is always based on an example, and that needs an artist.

SL: Game developers can sleep easy! What kind of games will we be playing in 10 years, and how will we be playing them?

O’GORMAN: We’ll see a big push on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). AR is much more intriguing because with VR you're closed off to the rest of world—you’re not living in the real world. For AR, one of the keys for success is that new art needs to be created on the fly, and it needs to be in sync with the environment the person is in. Picture you and your family sitting at breakfast. On the screen, there’s an extra chair at the table. It’s not an exact copy of another chair, but it fits in perfectly. Sitting in it is someone who looks like a family member, but not any particular one. And they’re a zombie.

SL: Scary stuff! Good luck with your launch!

O’GORMAN: Thank you!



August 7, 2014

Deploy or Die

“Forget about being a futurist, become a now-ist.” With those words, Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, ends his most recent talk at TED. What thrills me the most is his encouragement to apply agile principles throughout any innovation process, and creating in the moment, building quickly and improving constantly is the story we’ve been advocating at SoftLayer for a long while.

Joi says that this new approach is possible thanks to the Internet. I actually want to take it further. Because the Internet has been around a lot longer than these agile principles, I argue that the real catalyst for the startups and technology disruptors we see nowadays was the widespread, affordable availability of cloud resources. The chance of deploying infrastructure on demand without long-term commitments, anywhere in the world, and with an option to scale it up and down on the fly decreased the cost of innovation dramatically. And fueling that innovation has always been raison d'être of SoftLayer.

Joi compares two innovation models: the before the Internet (I will go ahead and replace “Internet” with “cloud,” which I believe makes the case even stronger) and the new model. The world seemed to be much more structured before the cloud, governed by a certain set of rules and laws. When the cloud happened, it became very complex, low cost, and fast, with Newtonian rules being often defied.

Before, creating something new would cost millions of dollars. The process started with commercial minds, aka MBAs, who’d write a business plan, look for money to support it, and then hire designers and engineers to build the thing. Recently, this MBA-driven model has flipped: first designers and engineers build a thing, then they look for money from VCs or larger organizations, then they write a business plan, and then they move on to hiring MBAs.

A couple of months ago, I started to share this same observation more loudly. In the past, if an organization wanted to bring something new to the market, or just make iteration to the existing offering, it involved a lot of resources, from time, to people, to supporting infrastructure. Only a handful of ideas, after cumbersome fights with processes, budget restrictions, and people (and their egos), got to see the daylight. Change was a luxury.

Nowadays the creators are people who used to be in the shadows, mainly taking instructions from “management” and spinning the hamster wheel they were put on. Now, the “IT crowd” no longer sits in the basements of their offices. They are creating new revenue streams and becoming driving forces within their organizations, or they are rolling out their own businesses as startup founders. There is a whole new breed of technology entrepreneurs thriving on what the cloud offers.

Coming back to the TED talk, Joi brings great examples proving that this new designers/engineers-driven model has pushed innovation to the edges and beyond not only in software development, but also in manufacturing, medicine, and other disciplines. He describes bottom-up innovation as democratic, chaotic, and hard to control, where traditional rules don’t apply anymore. He replaces the demo-or-die motto with a new one: deploy or die, stating that you have to bring something to the real world for it to really count.

He walks us through the principles behind the new way of doing things, and for each of those, without any hesitation, I can add, “and that’s exactly what the cloud enables” as an ending to each statement:

  • Principle 1: Pull Over Push is about pulling the resources from the network as you need them, rather than stocking them in the center and controlling everything. And that’s exactly what the cloud enables.
  • Principle 2: Learning Over Education means drawing conclusions and learning on the go—not from static information, but by experimenting, testing things in real life, playing around with your idea, seeing what comes out of it, and applying the lessons moving forward. And that’s exactly what the cloud enables.
  • Principle 3: Compass Over Maps calls out the high cost of writing a plan or mapping the whole project, as it usually turns out not to be very accurate nor useful in the unpredictable world we live in. It’s better not to plan the whole thing with all the details ahead, but to know the direction you’re headed and leave yourself the freedom of flexibility, to adjust as you go, taking into account the changes resulting from each step. And that’s exactly what the cloud enables.

I dare to say that all the above is the true power of cloud without fluff, leaving you with an easy choice when facing the deploy-or-die dilemma.

- Michalina

July 14, 2014

London Just Got Cloudier—LON02 is LIVE!

Summer at SoftLayer is off to a great start. As of today, customers can order SoftLayer servers in our new London data center! This facility is SoftLayer's second data center in Europe (joining Amsterdam in the region), and it's one of the most anticipated facilities we've ever opened.

London is the second SoftLayer data center to go live this year, following last month's data center launch in Hong Kong. In January, IBM committed to investing $1.2 billion to expand our cloud footprint, and it's been humbling and thrilling at the same time to prepare for all of this growth. And this is just the beginning.

When it comes to the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region (EMEA), SoftLayer's largest customer base is in the U.K. For the last two and a half years I’ve been visiting London quite frequently, and I've met hundreds of customers who are ecstatic to finally have a SoftLayer data center in their own backyard. As such, I'm especially excited about this launch. With this data center launch, they get our global platform with a local address.

The SoftLayer Network

Customers with location-sensitive workloads can have their data reside within the U.K. Customers with infrastructure in Amsterdam can use London to add in-region redundancy to their environments. And businesses that target London's hyper-competitive markets can deliver unbelievable performance to their users. LON02 is fully integrated with the entire SoftLayer platform, so bare metal and virtual servers in the new data center are seamlessly connected to servers in every other SoftLayer data center around the world. As an example of what that means in practice, you can replicate or integrate data between servers in London and Amsterdam data centers with stunning transfer speeds. For free. You can run your databases on bare metal in London, keep backups in Amsterdam, spin up virtual servers in Asia and the U.S. And your end users get consistent, reliable performance—as though the servers were in the same rack. Try beating that!

London is a vibrant, dynamic, and invigorating city. It's consistently voted one of the best places for business in the region. It's considered a springboard for Europe, attracting more foreign investors than any other location in the region. A third of world’s largest companies are headquartered in London, and with our new data center, we're able to serve them even more directly. London is also the biggest tech hub in-region and the biggest incubator for technology startups and entrepreneurs in Europe. These cloud-native organizations have been pushing the frontiers of technology, building their businesses on our Internet-scale platform for years, so we're giving them an even bigger sandbox to play in. My colleagues from Catalyst, our startup program, have established solid partnerships with organizations such as Techstars, Seedcamp and Wayra UK, so (as you can imagine) this news is already making waves in the U.K. startup universe.

For me, London will always be the European capitol of marketing and advertising (and a strong contender for the top spot in the global market). In fact, two thirds of international advertising agencies have their European headquarters in London, and the city boasts the highest density of creative firms of any other city or region in the world. Because digital marketing and advertising use cases are some of the most demanding technological workloads, we're focused on meeting the needs of this market. These customers require speed, performance, and global reach, and we deliver. Can you imagine RTB (real-time-bidding) with network lag? An ad pool for multinationals that is accessible in one region, but not so much in another? A live HD digital broadcast to run on shared, low-I/O machines? Or a 3D graphic rendering based on a purely virtualized environment? Just thinking about those scenarios makes me cringe, and it reinforces my excitement for our new data center in London.

MobFox, a customer who happens to be the largest mobile ad platform in Europe and in the top five globally, shares my enthusiasm. MobFox operates more than 150 billion impressions per month for clients including Nike, Heineken, EA, eBay, BMW, Netflix, Expedia, and McDonalds (as a comparison I was told that Twitter does about 7 billion+ a month). Julian Zehetmayr, the brilliant 23-year-old CEO of MobFox, agreed that London is a key location for businesses operating in digital advertising space and expressed his excitement about the opportunity we’re bringing his company.

I could go on and on about why this news is soooo good. But instead, I'll let you experience it yourself. Order bare metal or virtual servers in London, and save $500 on your first month service.

Celebrate a cloudy summer in London!


May 20, 2014

The Next Next

Last month in Europe, I had a chance to participate is some interesting discussions at The Next Web (TNW) Europe and NEXT Berlin conferences. The discussions centered around where we are on the curve of technology development, what the scene looks like now, and what the future holds. TNW Europe inspired me to share my thoughts here on the topic of inevitable market evolution, in particular which aspects will be instrumental in this progress and the empowering phenomenon of embracing the possibility to fail and change.

Attending NEXT Berlin boosted my confidence about those conclusions and motivated me to write a few words of a follow up. Connected cars, or “new mobility,” Internet of Things, smart houses, e-health, and digitalized personal medicine, application of cloud and big data in various industries from automotive, to home appliances, to army, and to FMCG, all are proof that the world is changing at a stunning pace. And all that is fueled by the evolution of organizations and how they set up their IT, hosting strategies and environments.

The most invigorating talk, in my opinion, at NEXT Berlin was given by Peter Hinssen. His keynote on The New Normal gave the audience a couple solid “ah” and “ha” moments. Here are some of the highlights I took away from the talk:

  • Technology is not only relevant to (almost) every aspect of our lives; it is in fact obvious, if not commoditized. Digital is present everywhere, from grocery shopping, to stopping at traffic lights, to visiting a dentist office, to jogging, to going to the movies, to sharing holidays greetings with our friends, to drinking fresh water from our taps, and so on. Technology we use privately usually surpasses what we use at work. The moment we receive access to something new, we immediately expect that to be working seamlessly and we get irritated if it doesn’t (think: national coverage of LTE, Wi-Fi available on board of aircrafts, streamed HD on-demand television, battery life of smart devices). We take technology for granted, not because we’re arrogant, but because it is omnipresent.
  • Information and technology are becoming equally available to all, leveling the landscape and helping organizations stay ahead and constantly re-invent themselves. Access to data and new tools is no longer a privilege and luxury that only the biggest fish can afford. Nowadays, thanks to an expansive spectrum of as-a-service offerings, every organization can get an insight of their buyers’ attitudes and behaviors and change accordingly to gain competitive advantage. Those who resist to constantly remodel the way they operate and serve the market, will be quickly outrun by dozens of those who understand the value of being agile.
  • Organizations and markets run on two different clocks: one is internal, the other is external, and very often they are unsynchronized. The bigger the gap between the clocks, the less chance for that organizations survival. People learn new technologies very fast and become their users faster in private than professional space. Legacy processes, miscommunication, misperception, and sometimes ignorance overshadow the reality that the progress is on a slower lane when it comes to business. The development is unstoppable and it keeps on becoming more complex and more intense. Not to fall behind, organization need to become ‘fluid’ to respond real-time to those flux conditions.
  • Society and markets are operating as networks. In order to serve them efficiently, businesses need to reorganize their structures to operate as networks. With the dominance of social, the typical organizational hierarchy is detached from buyer’s mentality. In our private lives, we trust more of our peers, we give more credibility to influencers who have solid network of followers, and best ideas are fueled by different, unrelated sources. Applying the same principles to professional environments, restructuring the organizational chart from top-down reporting lines to more of a network topography, hence going beyond traditional divisions, silos, and clusters, will boost the internal creativity and innovation.
  • Information is not a pool with a fixed option to “read” and “write “anymore. It is actually fluid and should be seen more as a river with infinite number of branches and customers sitting at the heart of each cluster. It is not an organization who decides what and when is being said and known. The discretion belongs to users and buyers, who share widely their insights, reviews, likes, and opinions and whose recommendations—either coming from an individual or in an aggregated form—are much more powerful. At the same time that set of information is not static, but dynamic. Organizations should respect, embrace, and adapt actively to that flow.

Peter claims we’re probably not even half way down the S curve of that transformation. Being part of it, seeing those disruptive organizations grow on our platform, having a chance to talk to so many smart people from all over the world who shape the nowadays societies and redefine businesses, is one of the most thrilling aspects of working for SoftLayer. Even if my grandma still associates cloud with weather conditions, I know my kids will be all “no way” once I tell them a story of how we were changing the world.

Wondering what will be the age test for them…

- Michalina

August 19, 2013

The 5 Mortal Sins of Launching a Social Game

Social network games have revolutionized the gaming industry and created an impressive footprint on the Web as a whole. 235 million people play games on Facebook every month, and some estimates say that by 2014, more than one third of Internet population will be playing social games. Given that market, it's no wonder that the vast majority of game studios, small or big, have prioritized games to be played on Facebook, Orkut, StudiVZ, VK and other social networks.

Developing and launching a game in general is not an easy task. It takes a lot of time, a lot of people, a lot of planning and a lot of assumptions. On top of those operational challenges, the social gaming market is a jungle where "survival of the fittest" is a very, VERY visible reality: One day everyone is growing tomatoes, the next they are bad guys taking over a city, and the next they are crushing candies. An army of genius developers with the most stunning designs and super-engaging game ideas can find it difficult to navigate the fickle social waters, but in the midst of all of that uncertainty, the most successful gaming studios have all avoided five of the most common mortal sins gaming companies commit when launching a social game.

SoftLayer isn't gaming studio, and we don't have any blockbuster games of our own, but we support some of the most creative and successful gaming companies in the world, so we have a ton of indirect experience and perspective on the market. In fact, leading up to GDC Europe, I was speaking with a few of the brilliant people from KUULUU — an interactive entertainment company that creates social games for leading artists, celebrities and communities — about a new Facebook game they've been working on called LINKIN PARK RECHARGE:

After learning a more about how Kuuluu streamlines the process of developing and launching a new title, I started thinking about the market in general and the common mistakes most game developers make when they release a social game. So without further ado...

The 5 Mortal Sins of Launching a Social Game

1. Infinite Focus

Treat focus as limited resource. If it helps, look at your team's cumulative capacity to focus as though it's a single cube. To dedicate focus to different parts of the game or application, you'll need to slice the cube. The more pieces you create, the thinner the slices will be, and you'll be devoting less focus to the most important pieces (which often results in worse quality). If you're diverting a significant amount of attention from building out the game's story line to perfecting the textures of a character's hair or the grass on the ground, you'll wind up with an aesthetically beautiful game that no one wants to play. Of course that example is an extreme, but it's not uncommon for game developers to fall into a less blatant trap like spending time building and managing hosting infrastructure that could better be spent tweaking and improving in-game performance.

2. Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe – Geographic Targeting

Don't underestimate the power of the Internet and its social and viral drivers. You might believe your game will take off in Germany, but when you're publishing to a global social network, you need to be able to respond if your game becomes hugely popular in Seoul. A few enthusiastic Tweets or wall post from the alpha-players in Korea might be the catalyst that takes your user base in the region from 1000 to 80,000 overnight to 2,000,000 in a week. With that boom in demand, you need to have the flexibility to supply that new market with the best quality service ... And having your entire infrastructure in a single facility in Europe won't make for the best user experience in Asia. Keep an eye on the traction your game has in various regions and geolocate your content closer to the markets where you're seeing the most success.

3. They Love Us, so They'll Forgive Us.

Often, a game's success can lure gaming companies into a false sense of security. Think about it in terms of the point above: 2,000,000 Koreans are trying to play your game a week after a great article is published about you, but you don't make any changes to serve that unexpected audience. What happens? Players time out, latency drags the performance of your game to a crawl, and 2,000,000 users are clicking away to play one of the other 10,000 games on Facebook or 160,000 games in a mobile appstore. Gamers are fickle, and they demand high performance. If they experience anything less than a seamless experience, they're likely to spend their time and money elsewhere. Obviously, there's a unique balance for every game: A handful of players will be understanding to the fact that you underestimated the amount of incoming requests, that you need time to add extra infrastructure or move it elsewhere to decrease latency, but even those players will get impatient when they experience lag and downtime.

KUULUU took on this challenge in an innovative, automated way. They monitor the performance of all of their games and immediately ramp up infrastructure resources to accommodate growth in demand in specific areas. When demand shifts from one of their games to another, they're able to balance their infrastructure accordingly to deliver the best end-user experience at all times.

4. We Will Be Thiiiiiiiiiiis Successful.

Don't count your chickens before the eggs hatch. You never really, REALLY know how a social game will perform when the viral factor influences a game's popularity so dramatically. Your finite plans and expectations wind up being a list of guestimations and wishes. It's great to be optimistic and have faith in your game, but you should never have to over-commit resources "just in case." If your game takes two months to get the significant traction you expect, the infrastructure you built to meet those expectations will be underutilized for two months. On the other hand, if your game attracts four times as many players as you expected, you risk overburdening your resources as you scramble to build out servers. This uncertainty is one of the biggest drivers to cloud computing, and it leads us to the last mortal sin of launching a social game ...

5. Public Cloud Is the Answer to Everything.

To all those bravados who feel they are the master of cloud and see it as an answer to all their problems please, for your fans sake, remember the cloud has more than one flavor. Virtual instances in a public cloud environment can be provisioned within minutes are awesome for your webservers, but they may not perform well for your databases or processor-intensive requirements. KUULUU chose to incorporate bare metal cloud into a hybrid environment where a combination of virtual and dedicated resources work together to provide incredible results:


Avoiding these five mortal sins doesn't guarantee success for your social game, but at the very least, you'll sidestep a few common landmines. For more information on KUULUU's success with SoftLayer, check out this case study.


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