Author Archive: Romeo Rodriguez

October 11, 2011

Working on the SoftLayer Dev Team

This post is somewhat of a continuation of a post I made here a little over three years ago: What It's Like to be a Data Center Technician. My career at SoftLayer has been a great journey. We have gone from four thousand customers at the time of my last post to over twenty five thousand, and it's funny to look back at my previous post where I mentioned how SoftLayer Data Center Technicians can perform the job of three different departments in any given ticket ... Well I managed to find another department where I have to include all of the previous jobs plus one!

Recently I took on a new position on the Development Support team. My job is to make sure our customers' and employees' interaction with development is a good one. As my previous post stated, working at SoftLayer in general can be pretty crazy, and the development team is no exception. We work on and release code frequently to keep up with our customers' and employees' demands, and that is where my team comes in.

We schedule and coordinate all of our portal code updates and perform front-line support for any development issues that can be addressed without the necessity for code changes. Our team will jump on and fix everything from the layout of your portal to why your bandwidth graphs aren't showing.

Our largest project as of late is completely new portal (https://beta.softlayer.com/) for our customers. It is the culmination of everything our customers have requested in their management interface, and we really appreciate the feedback we've gotten in our forums, tickets and when we've met customers in person. If you haven't taken the portal beta for a spin yet, take a few minutes to check it out!

SoftLayer Portal

The transition from exclusively providing customer support to supporting both customers and employees has been phenomenal. I've been able to address a lot of the issues I came across when I was a CSA, and the results have been everything I have expected and more. SoftLayer is a well-oiled machine now, and with our global expansion, solid procedures and execution is absolutely necessary. Our customers expect flawless performance, and we strive to deliver it on a daily basis.

One of the old funny tag lines we used was, "Do it faster, Do it better, Do it in Private," and with our latest developments, we'd be remiss if we didn't add, "Do it Worldwide," in there somewhere. If there's anything I can do to help make your customer experience better from a dev standpoint, please let me know!

-Romeo

December 18, 2009

Peek-a-Boo!

It’s no hidden secret that a lot of older generation individuals are always struggling with technology. From sending an email to signing in to Facebook, most of our parents have struggled keeping up. One reason my parents have struggled with the internet is due to all the horror stories they hear. From viruses, to hackers, to identity theft they’ve almost been scared from logging into the monster that is called the Internet. I honestly never thought I would be able to convince them otherwise until last weekend when my son and I were playing peek-a-boo.

What better way to convince my parents, who live 965 miles away, to give technology and the internet another try then to play peek-a-boo with my son? I immediately gave my Dad a call and asked him to download Skype. He asked me the first question he always seems to ask which was, “How much is it?” To which, I replied free (This got his attention). After a brief argument on how he heard a co-worker’s computer crashed after downloading something on the internet, my Dad reluctantly downloaded Skype and we were on our way (this was about a 45 minute long ordeal, well worth it though).

Nowadays people in my generation thrive on technology, and we crave the latest and greatest gadgets and software we can get our hands on. With the internet becoming more accessible than ever before companies like Softlayer are able to provide the tools for anyone to claim a spot on the web all their own. Companies like Skype for instance have their servers housed somewhere in a datacenter just like Softlayer’s. I will probably never get my Dad to admit technology is his friend, but at least it’s beginning to become less of an enemy in his eyes. Especially since on any given Saturday morning he can login to Skype and within minutes be playing peek-a-boo with his first grandson.

November 13, 2009

Buenos Dias

Growing up I would consider myself an average kid. I played football and basketball outside with my brothers; we’d come home every day from school and turn on cartoons. Depending on the day it may have been power rangers or the animaniacs, rarely would we ever dare tune into PBS for entertainment. I started thinking about this as my son of 17 months is beginning to use single words and overall starting to communicate more with me, and consequently starting to want to repeat everything he hears. We were watching cartoons last Saturday morning and I noticed something strange, every cartoon appeared to be teaching him way more then I remember the cartoons of my time teaching me.

Sure there were a few of the ones I expected, but the vast majority had a lot of learning. Even the commercials had learning games and exercises mixed in. With the amount of information younger generations have these days it makes me wonder just how much my son is picking up. Is it crazy to think by four or five he will know at least one hundred words of Chinese (Ni Hao, Kai Lan), and one hundred words of Spanish (Dora the Explorer), at this rate I don’t think that’s too crazy an accomplishment as he’s learning all of this while having fun in his eyes.

Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if your child came up to you and spoke a sentence in Chinese, and you had to tell him to hold on while you “googled” what he was trying to say. Before I had a child I always said, “I am not letting my child watch cartoons, that stuff will just make him less likely to enjoy learning and other activities.” Now I not only love the idea, but it’s fun and exciting for me too since I get to learn as well. My dad was always breaking and building computers when I was a kid so naturally I picked up on that and made it into what I do today. I’m not sure what effect if any these educational shows will have on him career or otherwise but I think overall shows today are making great progress in spurring children’s hunger to learn , which is great as I will be trying to teach him his ABC’s in the coming months. I just hope he doesn’t expect me to wear a funny hat and dance with stuffed animals in the process.

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November 9, 2009

Outstanding Tech Recognition: Destroyer Droid

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… our hero Romeo R., SoftLayer CSA was battling an endless sea of support tickets…

Ok so maybe it’s not that dramatic, but I was recently rewarded the Destroyer Droid award from our management team! In case you didn’t see the original post here it is:

http://theinnerlayer.softlayer.com/2009/outstanding-tech-recognition-droid-awards/

I’ve written two other blogs on TheInnerLayer but there was one in particular that I think brings me to where I am today, it was entitled “What it’s like to be a Datacenter Technician”. Today I am a shift lead for our Dallas Support Staff. In my previous blog I mentioned how DC techs wore several different hats (Hardware Engineer, Network Support, and System Admin) at any given time and we have to always be on our toes. Now being a Shift Lead of course, I still get to do all the fun stuff a Datacenter Tech gets to do, but now I have more focus on how to get all of the above working together and more efficiently.

Enter Destroyer Droid:

Getting more into the management side of things is an entirely different monster; you have all of your previous duties plus the duties of setting up the flow of work for the day. It’s given me an entirely different mindset on how SoftLayer works and what it takes to be successful. It can be quite the handful on some occasions, but I enjoy coming to work every day because of the challenge and the people I get to work with. I think whenever someone in a Shift Lead type of position receives an award it is a direct reflection of how the team as a whole is performing, and it wouldn’t be possible unless every single tech was on their game. If you’re reading this and your boss/manager does something similar to our recognition awards let me know in the comments!

Now if I could only get the guys to stop calling me the destroyer…

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September 10, 2008

Help! My Server Blocked Me!

Ok, the title of this blog may sound funny but you would be surprised how many phone calls I get about that very subject. Sure it’s not that specific case every time, sometimes it’s a software issue, other times hardware. But in the end not being able to access your server is the worst feeling in the world.

Enter KVM over IP. (Also known as Keyboard-Video-Mouse)

Yes boys and girls, this wonderful feature provided on all mid to high-performance multi-core servers can be your best friend in a time of need. While on a routine support call, a customer of mine stated the server was blocking not only himself but a lot of his customers. I kept a level head and told him it was no problem. He paused for a moment then let me know just how big a deal it was, while he was explaining I promptly used the KVM to login to his server and shutdown the firewall. All of a sudden he stopped talking and said “It’s working!”, “What did you do?” I explained to him how KVM works just as if you were hooking up a console to your server, and can be used even if your public Ethernet cable is unplugged. I went on to show him where it was in his home portal and how all of this was given to him for free. Also I explained the issue had been fixed from my desk without ever having access to either the public or private ports on his server. The customer had never heard of such a feature and was amazed at how easy it was to use.

The beauty of KVM over IP is it removes the one thing many server owners dread, not being able to be in the data center when issues arise with their standard connection methods (RDP, SSH). With KVM over IP we are giving the customer a solution to that problem. Via KVM you can login to the management interface card, which in most cases resides on an entirely different network, and within seconds you will have access to your terminal as if you were standing right there in the datacenter!!! Not only can you connect to your server, you can manually power it on/off and also reboot your server all within the same management screen. Beyond server access you can monitor temperature readings as well as fan speeds in the server. The KVM card is a HUGE tool in any Softlayer customers’ toolbox and one that we in the Operations Team use often.

Here at Softlayer we are always thinking about how to make your business easier to run, whether it be implementing global services such as CDN, or making sure our customers have basic access to their server in the event of a crisis. Since starting my career here at Softlayer and learning of the KVM feature I’ve made it a point to inform the customer of the KVM interface along with all features that are offered to them (and believe me they never stop coming!) so be sure and check our announcements page because you never know what we will come out with next!

-Romeo

February 21, 2008

What It's Like to be a Data Center Technician

As you may have guessed SoftLayer isn't just sales team members, data center managers and development team members. There is also a pretty important group of people who hideaway in their cubicles and can be seen running around our state of the art server rooms from time to time. I am of course talking about us DC Techs; you might know us from our ticket signature "SoftLayer CSA."

I had a question brought up for the first time while on a phone call with a customer, his question was,

"What is it like to be a data center technician?"

I could only laugh just a little bit as I looked around the office and saw several of my co-workers engaging in the organized chaos we call Datacenter Operations. You see, with datacenter operations there is no "daily routine" to follow, there isn't a "what to expect" sheet posted somewhere to prepare us for the day. We have to rely on experience and each other to keep our beloved customers happy. So would you like to know my answer to this customer?

"It depends on the ticket I'm working!"

I say that because this particular customer was calling about a networking issue. In this instance I was his "network engineer", helping him resolve an issue with secondary IP addresses. As I said before, not every issue is the same from one minute to the next so it keeps us on top of our game. One second I am a networking engineer, the next a hardware technician, the next a Systems Administrator. On some occasions we DC techs can be all three at once! It's because of this fact that I enjoy coming to work each and every day. I never know what problem will arise or what I will learn in the coming hours.

I decided to write this after a very long shift, because I think a lot of our customers and people who read this blog would like to know what exactly it's like. Of course there are good days and bad days, sometimes we make mistakes or take a little longer to reply to a ticket than we should. But for the vast majority of the time, our phone calls are ending with "Thanks so much!", and our tickets are ending with "Great Job, You guys are awesome!", and our customers are going to sleep knowing their server is in good hands.

Now what question do all of us DC Techs have? That's simple:

What is it like being a SoftLayer customer?

Judging by everything I have seen recently, with our company expanding to Seattle, building new datacenters, and shattering several of our own sales records, I think we're doing a pretty good job of putting everything you want from a dedicated hosting provider at your fingertips. There is always work to be done, and I speak for everyone here in the office when I say the most important thing to a DC Tech and the company as a whole are our bosses, and we currently have around 4,500 of you around the world and growing!

I’ll see you in the tickets soon!

-Romeo

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