Author Archive: Suzy Fulton

October 21, 2011

SoftLayer, The Texas Rangers & The World Series

At the beginning of the baseball season, we gave away tickets for a lucky customer to see a Texas Rangers game, and as a result of that generosity, the Rangers thought it fitting to make it to the World Series. Well ... our little giveaway may not have had anything to do with their success, but we like to think our support helped a little.

Understanding that we have customers and employees who are die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fans, I don't want to turn anyone off with this blog post, but with all of the buzz in the air about the World Series coming back to Arlington this year, I started thinking about the Top 10 Ways SoftLayer is Like the Texas Rangers:

  1. Secret handshakes / fist bumps.
  2. Have a no "I" in "Team" mentality ... In fact, there are no I's in "Texas Rangers" or "SoftLayer."
  3. Teams' leaders (i.e. coach and the CEO) are ... um ... charismatic (to say the least).
  4. Come ready to play on any day that ends in "y."
  5. Strong lineups all the way through.
  6. Texas is home, but both teams do amazing jobs "on the road."
  7. Both have Michaels who like pink.*
  8. Both have Louisville Slugger bats ... The Rangers' bats do great things, while SoftLayer's bats are given to recognize employees that have done great things.
  9. Support is awesome from the customers (fans) to the back office to the team on the field making plays.
  10. Champions of the World, baby!!**

* Apologies to Michael Young, as this statement may not be true as applied to him. Each of my blogs to date has a veiled (or obvious) reference to our CFO, and it was very difficult to think of how to incorporate this reference in a blog dealing with the Texas Rangers, so I may have taken undue liberties for which I apologize.

** The aspirations associated with that last comparison may have strayed me from an unbiased comparison. :-)

-@badvizsla

July 11, 2011

Texas House Bill 1841: Hosting and Taxes

Okay, so you've read the title and passed out already ... but wait – this is good stuff! Well, maybe not "good," but at least it's relevant. The esteemed governor of Texas with the big Texas hair (and aspirations of taking his big hair out of Texas) recently signed House Bill 1841 (HB1841) into law, and that law is significant to many of SoftLayer's customers.

Last year, the Texas Comptroller's Office amended a regulation and stated that the use of a server in Texas was adequate to establish a nexus, so an e-commerce vendor who used a Texas web host was required to collect sales tax from their customers even if the vendor had no other presence in the state of Texas. This amendment immediately created issues for web hosts with data centers in Texas: Why would customers get servers from a host in Texas and have to worry about this tax obligation, when they could do business with another host outside of Texas and not have this obligation?

Well, the Comptroller's Office started to realize the effect of this regulation and began to backpedal and say that they didn't really mean what they said.

HB1841 puts the Texas hosting industry back where it was before the Comptroller made those changes: The use of a server located in Texas without any other presence is not considered a substantial nexus for collecting sales taxes. HB1841 specifically states that "A person whose only activity in this state is conducted as a user of Internet hosting is not engaged in business in this state." Note: You may be wondering if this bill applies to Amazon in Texas, but HB1841 doesn't cover Amazon because they had a physical presence in Texas (albeit one operating under a different affiliate with a different name), requiring them to pay sales taxes.

Our very own Brenk Johnson was involved in the effort to pass HB1841. He attended a couple of committee hearings, and he'll tell you his mere presence got this out of committee and in front of our governor. He is quoted as saying, "I can sit in a meeting with the best of them."

At the risk of making this blog sound like an Academy Awards reception speech, we would like to thank Jeff Clark and the crew over at TechAmerica for helping to get this bill passed. TechAmerica is a technology advocacy group that we recently joined, and they have a cracker-jack lobby group. Our CFO and I were on the verge of hiring a lobbyist for the 2009 Texas session, but we ended up not doing so. Two years later, we decided to go with this industry group, and the verdict is that TechAmerica has been a great investment ... It was also through this group that Lance became a Cloud Commissioner! We also want to thank our competitors over at RackSpace, especially their General Counsel Alan Schoenbaum, for getting us involved and for leading and spearheading the passage of this bill ... What was good for the goose was good for the gander on this one.

Because we are back to where we were a couple of years ago in the definition of nexus with relationship to hosts with data centers in Texas, this was not really a game-changing bill. It was important to clarify and undo the damage caused by the waffling that occurred in the State's Comptroller's Office, so in that sense this was a good bill for the industry. Next session we're going to aim for the game-changer: Margin taxes!

-@badvizsla

July 22, 2010

SLanguages

I was thinking the other day about languages. It came to mind because when The Girl was about 3 ½ or so; she had invented her own language. She would typically use this language when she was "reading" a book in her bed before going to sleep. She would say “words” that had a flow to them, but it was not recognizable as English, or Spanish, or any other language. So one night, The Husband asked The Girl what language she was speaking, and she replied, without hesitating or missing a beat, "Green." If she got into the flow of her language, you could stop her while she was “reading” and ask her what something meant. My all-time favorite from the language of Green was the word "gronka." Gronka means mad, angry. (And no, this was not referring to me – she was talking about something in one of her books). Other words that I remember are "shun sho," which referred to a rash she would get in the winter-time from eczema and "magogle," which refers to an ogre head (don’t ask). Alas, Green appears to be a dead language like Latin, because as The Girl has gotten older, she has resorted exclusively to English.

And of course, we have our own SLanguage here at SoftLayer (in addition to the official, super secret, street cred, gangsta sign). We have SLackers and SLayers (guess we all know which category our pink-clad CFO falls under). And we have the SLadies, as in “The SLadies are going to happy hour, wanna come?” We can also add: SLimey, SLake, SLeer, SLuper, SLervers, SLales, SLOps, and the SList goes on and on and on….. I’m getting SLeepy, just thinking about it. Additionally, thanks to our international customer base, we have also added vernacular from other cultures to our SLanguage. Another all-time favorite: “Please do the needful.” This is used whenever you need someone to help you out or to get something done, as in, "Sean, I need a fully-executed copy of the lease from our Landlord (SLandlord??), please do the needful." Great, isn’t it?? The phrase is descriptive on so many levels. Well, I need to go back to SLaving away on some SLegal stuff….. Until later, and let me know some of your favorite SoftLayer sayings!

July 8, 2010

Scams

So I’m sitting at my desk pondering deep, legal thoughts: “What is more boring to read – a patent or a real property lease?” “Why does our CFO like to wear pink?” “I wonder if we left food on the counter, and if The Dog ate it?” And then I think, “Can a lawyer be scammed?” As in scammed by the Nigerian email scam? (Rest easy - this is a hypothetical as far as your lawyer is concerned. The answer is a resounding “No!” At least, not yet, to date…..) After all, the lawyer is the one to sue people when you fall for the scams. And the lawyer is generally cynical and wary and suspecting.

But, alas – in general, the lawyer can be scammed. One Texas lawyer was approached by a Japanese client to do collections work. He agreed and was in the process of initiating the process when the client indicated that one of the companies that owed it money had paid. So the client sent the check to the law firm to deposit and indicated that the firm should deduct their fee and wire the rest of the money back, and then proceed with the remainder of the collections. The Texas lawyer had his staff check to see if the check cleared, and it was allegedly confirmed by the bank that it had cleared. So the fee was deducted and the rest of the money ($182,500.00) was wired back to the Japanese client. Shortly after the wire transfer took place, it was determined that the check was fraudulent, and they tried to stop the transfer, but it was too late. After realizing he had been scammed, the lawyer declared, “I’m a capital ‘D’ Dumbass.” http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202427717175. Other attorneys have fallen for this, or slight variations, as well. http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202448356229.

Another attempt at scamming that we in-house attorney types see quite often involves a company’s trademarks or domain names. The email typically reads as follows:

Dear Manager

We are a professional intellectual property rights consultant organiz-ation, mainly deal with the global domain name registration and in-ternet intellectual property rights protection. On March. 22th, 2010, we formally received an application from KangShen Technology Lim-ited, they applied to register the internet brand (softlayer) and some in China and Asia's domain name.

During our preliminary investigation, we found that these domain names' keyword is fully identical with your trademark. Therefore, we need to confirm with you, whether you consigned KangShen Techno-logy Limited to register these domain names with us or not? Or, is KangShen Technology Limited your business partner or distributor?

If you have no relationship with this company, we assume that they have other purposes to obtain these domain names.

Currently, we have already suspended this company's application temporarily due to the seriousness of this isuue. In order to avoid the vicious domain name grabbing, please let the relevant person make a confirmation with me via email as soon as possible. Thank you for your support to our work!

Best Regards!

Well, that doesn’t seem like a scam. Those nice people are letting us know that some other company is wrongfully trying to register our domain name in China and Asia. How can that be a scam? Here’s what happens:

Dear Nice Chinese Registrar Company:

Thank you for alerting us to this evil deed. No – KangShen Technology Limited is not our business partner or distributor. They are trying to usurp our valuable trademark and domain names in China and Asia. Please do not allow this registration to go forward. Thanks again for being so alert!

Dear SoftLayer:

You are so welcome! We are so glad we prevented them from illicitly using your domain name. In order to protect your rights to these domain names that they tried to register, we will register all of them for you in China and Asia for $3,800.00 USD. Please let us know when to proceed.

So then you wire your money to the Nice Chinese Registrar Company, and you never hear from them again, and your money is long gone. So what seems to be a Registrar trying to help you out, turns out to be a scam.

Lessons: Lawyers can be scammed. Trust no one on the Internets. Do not share any personal information or credit card information with anyone (or any entity) that asks for it in an email. No one is just going to give you money. If you just want to give your money away, play the lottery or give it to me. CFO’s who like pink appear to be inherently evil.

November 20, 2009

The Art of the Apology

I wrote a blog but it got ixnayed by legal. (That should be funny because I am “legal.” At this time I shall choose to remain cryptic, but as God is my witness, I’ll publish that blog someday after X, Y, and Z happens). Now, where was I – ah, yes, a new and different blog.

Today, boys and girls, we shall talk about the art of the apology. Since we were little, we’ve been taught to say “sorry.” (Well, most of us, but maybe not he whose names starts with J and ends in O-N-E-S, but I digress again). “Little Johnny, say sorry to your sister for bonking her on the head.” And Little Johnny will usually say sorry to avoid your wrath, rather than actually being sorry for the head bonking. This is the first lesson in the art of the apology – make sure it is sincere and that you mean it. Otherwise, it is really better if you say nothing at all. Maybe wait until it can become sincere, and if it can never become sincere, go back to step one and don’t say anything at all. The Boy often gets in trouble for head bonkings and other various and sundry misdeeds committed upon The Girl. He gets sent to time-out and then is supposed to apologize to The Girl. More often than not The Boy gets extremely defiant and grunts out a “sor-ry” as belligerently as he can. This only serves to piss The Mommy off and gets The Boy in even more trouble. (Can I use that word?) The takeaway on this is that The Boy needs to say sorry like he means it, or not bother getting out of time-out until he can do so. Another example of an apology that is better left unsaid is the disingenuous-apology-that-is-really-not-an-apology apology. Example: “I’m sorry you are an idiot, but….” Go back to time-out!!

Often a simple, sincere heart-felt apology can go a long way towards diffusing a situation that might otherwise result in hurt feelings, anger, and bitterness or, in my world, lawsuits. Maybe a manager loses his/her cool with an employee in one of the many stressful situations we face on a daily basis. When the manager calms down, an apology may be the cure to a situation that might later spiral out of control and explode. Maybe you have two feuding employees – an apology by one or both parties may be all it takes to turn a situation that may have resulted in a termination or two into one in which the working relationship is restored. This might involve a situation with your co-worker, your friend, your spouse or a client. Many times what happens is that we want to be right, rather than do what’s right. A meaningful apology to a client might save a $30,000/month account, but dad gummit, you are right and the client is wrong and they are an idiot and you are not. All of that may be true, but is it worth it? Is it really, really worth it? Is it worth that account? Is it worth that friendship? Is it worth your job? Is it worth that marriage?

Here, let me practice: “Mike, I am sorry you are mean and that I implied your upbringing was nothing less than stellar…..” Alright, alright – I’ll keep practicing.

*Note: This blog was inspired by the esteemed labor and employment lawyer Michael Maslanka and one of his recent blogs at http://texaslawyer.typepad.com/work_matters/2009/10/rudeness-and-resulting-resentment-can-foster-cheating.html, which I forwarded to our managers for their digestion.

I deeply and sincerely apologize in advance for any copyright infringement or any other legal no-no’s in my blog.

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September 4, 2009

First Grade

Some of you know that it is now “back to school” time. Those of you who don’t know are the ones who are still probably able to attend happy hours. (Our esteemed CFO may not know, but only because he’s had lots of birthdays. I’m not saying he’s addled. I’m just saying.) Nearly everyone has heard of, if not read, the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. This blog is kind of a take on that, but since The Boy just started First Grade, these are things of relevance we’ve learned about the rules and such for First Grade and that can be applied to things here at the ‘Layer.

So The Boy has tickets in First Grade, and if he’s bad – he’s got to pull a ticket and put it in a jar. Sounds like, the fewer tickets, the better. Kind of like here at SoftLayer, from our standpoint you don’t want to have to have a bunch of tickets to plow through. From a client standpoint, you certainly don’t want to have a bunch of tickets, especially from abuse, or you might get your server pulled. The lesson to be learned is to do what you can to keep those tickets at a minimum.

This year in First Grade, there are a bunch of boys, including The Boy. At the parent meeting after the second day of school, the two first grade teachers were explaining that because of the more than 2:1 ratio of boys to girls, the restroom breaks could be a potential nightmare. The uniforms have belts and shorts with buttons and zippers. The teachers said it takes forever for them to go, and they wanted the parents to tell their Boy that he needs to be able to, ah, how do we say it? Well, he needs to be able to whip it out, put it away and go. No smacking other bottoms and goofing off and giggling. Here at SoftLayer, we often have crazy deadlines, for example in development, which requires us to whip out some new technology on an expeditious basis. Just like First Grade, whip it out, put it away, and go on to the next project. (Unlike First Grade, there is lots of goofing off here at SoftLayer, such as with 10,000 bouncy balls and such. Since I’m in legal, if there is any smacking of bottoms, neither I nor HR want to hear about it. Lalalalala, Lalalala…)

One of the guys wrote a blog earlier this summer pondering if the things you learned in college are applicable to the “real world.” His conclusion was yes. My blog further confirms that the things you learn in First Grade are applicable to the “real world.” Here’s hoping The Boy can go 15 days without getting his ticket pulled, because if he does he gets some Krispy Kreme “football” donuts. And if The Boy gets some “football” donuts, that means The Mommy gets some, too.

July 6, 2009

The Cure for Irrelevance

I’ve been feeling rather irrelevant lately……yeah, yeah, I know . Watch out, because when lawyers feel irrelevant we sue!

Anyway, just thinking about the things going on in the rest of the world, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have men and women over there who are still dying and losing their sanity on a daily basis, but for those of us who don’t have anyone close to us involved in the wars, it’s become a low hum…car bomb, soldier killed, hum, hum. But then I think of the daily terror that those who have loved ones go through – did she have to go out on patrol today? Did she get hurt? Did she get killed? Every day, every hour spent wondering if that person is safe and will come home again. That soldier is not irrelevant – he is making the greatest sacrifice so we can go on with our safe, secure lives over here.

My thoughts also turn to the people of Iran, and I find myself thinking: “If I lived in a repressive regime, would I be out on the streets in defiance of the government and particularly with the threat of being beaten, jailed or disappearing from the face of the earth?” I like to think I would, but I don’t know the answer, and that feeds my irrelevance. And come on Iran; give your people some credit. Make it at least look like the election wasn’t predetermined. You declare a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad (cut and paste, baby, cut and paste!) mere minutes after the polls close, yet the ballots are supposed to be hand counted. How can that work? I mean, wait an hour or so – pretend you counted. Please! Are the people of Iran irrelevant? No, they are making the greatest sacrifice in a battle for freedom, and in an uprising that may very well change the course of their history. The world is watching.

So how do I become relevant? (Assuming, that is, that a lawyer can ever be relevant). How do SLayers and SLackers become relevant? We go that extra mile. We’ve been dealing with cranky clients all day – keep the smile on the face and in the voice and treat them like they’ve just put in an order for 300+ servers a month. We don’t remain satisfied with the status quo – figure out how to make our system and services better, stronger, faster. We don’t rest on our laurels because we just had a major release, i.e., Cloudlayer instances. We look ahead and figure out or invent the next new thing our customers need or want. We scan the forums to keep a pulse on our clients (and it’s usually good for an eye-roll or two). We keep Lance and Mike out of trouble.

So am I like a U.S. soldier or the Iranian people? Not so much, but I can do things to stay relevant in my own little world.

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February 11, 2009

Road Trip to Austin (or D.C.) Anyone?

Other than following our CFO around with the metaphorical shovel (just kidding, Mr. Jones, just kidding), some of you may wonder what your legal counsel does in her office all day. (Actually, I often wonder that myself). Well, here’s a little matter that has been sucking an inordinate amount of time out of my day – SoftLayer received a letter from a solicitor in England accusing us of defamation related to a consumer protection website hosted by one of our U.S. clients. Apparently, some posters were indicating something to the effect that a certain company in England was made up of a bunch of con artists, blah, blah, blah.

In the U.S., we as the host are not liable for defamatory postings by third parties pursuant to the Communications Decency Act (the CDA, if you will, since we know lawyers and techies love their acronyms). But in the U.K., they have their own laws and they have no CDA immunity law. There, it is claimed, service providers may be liable if they are provided with notice of the alleged defamatory statement and fail to take it down or remove it. Arrrgh, what to do? U.K. company wants to sue us, client does not want to take it down (understandably so), because it is not violating any U.S. laws or regulations or our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). “Free speech, free speech,” the client cries. What is SL going to do? Throw another Boston tea party. We are going to let the British company either sue us or not in England and then dare them to try and enforce a judgment here in the U.S. A nice attorney, Mr. Paul Levy, at Public Citizen Litigation Group (www.citizen.org/litigation) has agreed to represent us here pro bono if that happens. Here’s his letter to the English solicitor on our behalf: http://www.citizen.org/documents/SoftLayerLetter.pdf

It turns out that the U.K. company’s strategy of trying to snag and sue us there has a name – “libel tourism.” This term refers to a plaintiff who “tours” or shops around for the most convenient forum to bring a libel or defamation claim. As you can see above, the U.K. is much more defamation friendly and free speech unfriendly than the U.S. So rather than bring an action in the U.S. where we and our client are located, let’s just sue in Britain.

To combat this unfairness New York State has passed a law called the “Libel Terrorism Protection Act” (not sure if the term “tourism” got lost in that bill somewhere, or if because it was based on an action brought by a Saudi businessman that it turned into “terrorism”). Basically this Act says that a foreign judgment related to defamation won’t be honored unless a New York court first determines that that country’s freedom of speech and press rights are at least as expansive as those allowed by the U.S. and NY state constitutions. Get it – New York would never allow a defamation action brought in the U.K. to be enforced. Victory for the service provider, victory for free speech and the American way of life!!!!

So why a road trip to Austin and/or D.C.? My students are so sharp today! Let’s get some state and national legislation that protects us from the harshness of other countries’ laws related to defamation which expose us to litigation or at least protects us from that proverbial rock and the hard place. Everyone asleep yet?

No. of times acronyms used: 19
No. of attorneys referenced: 3

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October 27, 2008

Happy Hosting to All!

‘Twas the month of Halloween, and all thru the halls,
Tech support and sales took all of the calls.
The servers were sitting safe in their racks,
Knowing that Hardware had their backs.

The developers were all snug at their desks,
Struggling with code that was behaving like pesks.
The workers were all decked out in SL black,
Just daring competitors to give them some flack.

When all of a sudden, there was a great THUD!
And everyone thought, “Uh-oh, we landed a dud.”
But alas, it was only another attorney,
To help and to aid in Softlayer’s journey.

“Now Trademark! And Patents!
And Copyrights, too!
Don’t worry, I’ll let you know
Just what to do!
Let’s litigate and obfuscate,
And watch Jonesie count beans!
Just kidding! I’m kidding-that’s not what I mean!”

With the economy diving, sputtering and tanking
She’ll help figure how to give competitors a spanking.
With caffeine in the morning, she’s happy as can be,
Ask her about “Dance, Dance Revolution” on the Wii.

As with all good things, this poem must end.
“Thank God!” you say, “It’s setting a bad trend.
So off to my contracts I will git.
But I’ll leave you with this last little bit:

“Happy hosting to all and to all a good day!”

-Suzy

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