Author Archive: Mark Quigley

October 13, 2010

The Internets Just Keep Getting Bigger

An interesting piece from GigaOm today. In essence, Telegeography reports that the Internet keeps growing at terrific pace, even in mature markets like Canada and the US (54% in 2010). Things get really interesting when you look elsewhere. Less developed markets are positively booming - India and South Asia clocked in with growth rates of over 100%.

GigaOm makes the point that new capacity in these markets, coupled with the happy marriage of wireless network and cheap handsets will continue to drive growth, pointing to some crazy stats on mobile social networking in India. It is estimated that 72 million Indians (that is only 6% of the estimated population in 2008) will be mobile social network users. What about China? Indonesia? Pretty soon we are considering some big numbers.

GigaOm is correct when talking about low cost devices as the availability of low cost devices has proven a key driver in other markets as well. Think about how traffic patterns have changed in North America in the past ten years given a) the ubiquity of network on the wide area and in the metro (Cable, DSL, FTTH, Fiber to the Node, 3G, 4G etc) and b) the relatively low device cost. At $229, I can get a Netbook from Best Buy for less money that I shelled out for 4 MEG of RAM for my 386 in 1993. For $0 I can get a mobile phone that will put me on the internet. Access to technology drives traffic.

The cool part is that these new users are going to drive an incredible amount of development work across the globe. There will be another Facebook and another Twitter - I think that it just a matter of time. Even cooler is the fact that Softlayer gets to play in the sandbox as well.

-@quigleymar

October 8, 2010

From Zero to Ten in 10

Our second Dallas data center went live 10 days ago and we are already pushing 10 GB of sustainable traffic out the door. I have spent some time in the DC with some of our ops guys, and the place is impressive.

A terrific amount of computing power sits in row after row of server racks, driving a diverse array of business to more than 110 countries. Each rack features powerful processors, lots of RAM and heaps of storage. There is very little that our customers are unable to do over Softlayer’s infrastructure. And if they need more, SoftLayer can add additional servers very quickly to meet this demand. I wish the rest of our business were as simple as this.

Despite the state of the art infrastructure that sits in the DC, it remains a challenge to meet the needs of our customers. Why? Network, that’s why. SoftLayer’s challenge will be to continuously stay ahead of our customers’ demands, primarily in the network. If the network is unable to support the traffic that is pushed across our DC, everything comes tumbling down.

To a degree, we are victims of our own success. As we add servers to racks, we are placing increasing demand on the network. The more successful we are, the more pressure we place on the network.

Consider the following statistics:

  • When SoftLayer went live five years ago, we used two carriers and pushed 20 Gbps out the door.
  • Four years ago, this had gone up to four carriers and eight 10 Gbps links.
  • In January 2009 we pushed about 70 Gbps of sustained traffic. And this doubled for President Obama’s inauguration.
  • Today we use over ten carriers, with over 1000 Gbps of capacity.
  • In addition to the needs that our customers drive, we cannot forget to consider DDOS attacks as DDOS attacks add significant load to the network. We consistently absorb and successfully defend attacks of 5 Gbps, 10 Gbps or more and the peaks have grown by a factor of ten since SoftLayer went live.

The trend revealed is significant – in five years the amount of traffic sustained over our network has increased by more than ten times. And it shows little signs of slowing down.

Suffice to say, we spend a significant amount of time designing our networks to ensure that we are able to handle the traffic loads that are generated – we have to. Aggressively overbuilding the network brings us some short term pain, but if we are going to stay ahead of demand it is simply good business (and it makes sure our customers are happy). The new DC in Dallas is a great example of how we stay ahead of the game.

Each server has 5 NICs – 2 x 1 Gbps (bonded) for the public network, 2 x 1 Gbps (bonded) for the private network and one for management. The net of this is that customers can push 2 Gbps to the internet assuming server processors can handle the load.

-@quigleymar

October 4, 2010

SoftLayer Fire Hose

Hi. My name is Mark Quigley, and I am a new Softlayer employee. In specific, I will be running the company’s analyst relations program. This is my first week with the company, and the fire hose has not yet been turned off. In fact, I think that this has been among the most intense weeks of my working life.

Softlayer moves at a pace that I am not overly familiar with given time I have spent with some very large (and inevitably slow moving) companies. It has been a pleasure to find myself in a group of 'quick-thinking doers' versus 'thinkers that spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing.' I have seen fewer PowerPoint decks and Excel spreadsheets this week than I thought was possible. It makes for a pleasant change, and change is a good thing (My wardrobe has also undergone a SoftLayer transformation. It now features black shirts and some more black shirts).

The week began with the announcement that SoftLayer had launched its second Dallas data center. The data center (DAL05) has capacity for 15,000 servers, delivers 24x7 onsite support, and has multiple security protocols controlling entrance to the facility. The diesel generators that sit outside are massive – think of a locomotive on steroids. DAL05 is fully connected to SoftLayer's data centers at the INFOMART in Dallas, in Seattle, Washington, and in the Washington D.C. area in addition to the company’s network Points of Presence in seven additional U.S. cities.

The reason for the expansion is simple – Softlayer continues to grow. In fact, our new office location would appear to be mostly a home for large generators and server racks in the future than it is for people (there are more of those to come, too). Current plans call for the addition of two more pods to DAL05 to come alive over the next 18 - 24 months. In addition a facility in San Jose is expected to go live early in 2011 and we are in the midst of international expansion plans. There is a lot going on around here.

I think it is interesting to step back for a second and take a look at what is driving this growth. The fact that SoftLayer is ruthlessly efficient, allowing customers to get from 0 to 60 faster than anyone else is certainly one reason. So are the fantastic support processes that are in place. The guys around here are very good at what they do. That being said this is a time when a rising tide is raising all ships. And this is a good thing. I mean, we want to beat our competition with every time we see them across the table, but we are glad that there are enjoying their share of success because it means the marketplace is booming. Even better, it is showing no sign of letting up.

The changes that we have witnessed in the past fifteen years are nothing short of staggering. I remember sending faxes to clients as the primary means of document exchange and then being thrilled at the notion of a single AOL account via dial up being shared by five people in the office. Now I have access to the internet via at least two devices in the office and one when I am not. At home I surf the net and watch content streamed via NetFlix over my iPad. My son plays the PS3 online with his pals, my daughter spends time watching Dora the Explorer on the Nick Jr. website and my wife has reopened countless friendships with high school friends that she has not seen in decades via Facebook. I don't think that I am unusual in my habits either. None of this happened ten years ago.

The most recent wave has come with the arrival of social networking sites (which had a much different definition when I was young!) and associated applications. Companies like Twitter and Facebook has driven a terrific amount of innovation, and continues to do so. So too have companies like Apple – music downloads and application downloads are now in the billions. The net result of this has been in a terrific amount of business for companies like SoftLayer. I mean, who ever thought that on-line farming would drive as much interest, traffic and money as it has? And the really cool part of all of this is that the world my kids will occupy in ten years is going to be richer than mine by at least an order of magnitude. SoftLayer will be there to make it all work. It is going to be a fun ride.

-@quigleymar

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