Author Archive: Bill Sehmel

November 24, 2008

I'll Never Use This In The Real World When I Get Older

Do you remember sitting back in a high school class saying to yourself: “I am never going to use this in the real world once I grow up!” Well I often felt that, especially when I was in the Student Computing Services program at Henderson Bay High School in Gig Harbor. The year was 1998 and Henderson Bay had just landed a grant from the Intel Corp, which made us a certified Intel refurbishment program.

Intel and the computer teachers worked on a program, which they donated old hardware (Pentium 90’s when Pentiums 120’s where being released) to our school. We then had to develop a streamline operations program of building these computers, using an imaging system to install the OS and applications. Then we had to create an inventory tracking system to track them prior to giving them away to other schools in Washington State. Over the course of 3 years, I think we deployed a few thousand machines throughout the state, while Tigard High school in Oregon was doing the same thing.

I was working a long day at the beginning of this month for our beloved truck day here at SoftLayer, this is when we get all of the servers the SLales team will sell for the month. All local staff is required to be there and work long hours. We streamline the process so well that within hours we have unboxed, sorted all the parts, double checked the inventory, and deployed the 500 or so servers into the rack each month at each location.

The process reminds me of the truck days we used to have when the Intel truck would show up with cases, motherboards, processors, ram, and hard drives. All which had to be put together. We never had a problem building and deploying boxes for the schools ten years ago, and that is because the teachers ran it as a company. We had a staff of students that operated as inventory control managers, project managers, systems administrators, and front line technical support, and hardware technicians supporting each school district that we donated systems too. The process was overseen by two teachers, that ran the SCS program, and it was there fine detail that kept 50 students running this mock company.

It’s the same fine detail that the operations team at SoftLayer has taught us while doing truck days. I first dreaded my first or second truck day – something about working doubles didn’t appeal to me. After one or two of them, I started to like them. It’s a wonderful way to start off the month. Now if you would have asked me during a high school truck day, if I’d be looking forward to doing it again in ten years, I would have told you that you’re out of your mind. Ask me today and I will tell you it was one of the greatest processes that I learned during my high school years (Along with ditching English to hang out in the computer lab).

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November 18, 2008

Twenty Reasons Why Linux Is Great

I often get asked why I started using Linux as my core desktop OS and server OS over 10 years ago. And why I continue to use it today. Linux has come a long way since its early days as a free OS and I am thankful for that. Here are a few reasons that I choose Linux:

  1. It is free - no license fee or maintenance associated with it
  2. Spyware / Viruses are very rare
  3. Requires few reboots
  4. It can read most any file system that has been made
  5. Open source, so you can see what you’re running!
  6. It’ll run on just about anything (WiiLi.org)
  7. Built in virtualization that is also free
  8. The shell environment is much better than any type of DOS
  9. Lack of a registry, most configurations is stored in standard text files
  10. It has more documentation than any other open source O/S
  11. It will still run fine as a proxy on my Pentium II
  12. Most distributions now come bundled with an awesome desktop environment
  13. Saves on bandwidth due to not having to update virus dat files and windows updates every night
  14. The Linux kernel comes shipped with an enormous load of hardware drivers, already installed, making most PNP friendly things available after you plug them into the machine
  15. Easy to build into a home media center
  16. Most server distributions come bundled with a database program, so you don’t need to purchase an expensive database service
  17. It can scale to 1024 processors on a single computer
  18. Easy to setup in a dual boot configuration
  19. Linux is easy to updated, most distributions make it quick and easy to upgrade from on version to the next
  20. The Linux community is very helpful out here on the internet
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June 6, 2008

VFB For Seattle

So it's been about 4 months now since Seattle went live. We have approximately 2000 servers active already! (That’s more than the last DC I worked at has and they’ve been selling servers in Seattle since August of 2005). Server room 1 has lots of cool servers with lots of blinky lights and we’ve been working hard on deploying Server room two around the clock to keep up with the demands of sales around here.

With the “Go-Live Team” back in Dallas loading up the truck to head out to Chantilly, everything is running smoothly up in the great northwest. We no longer have to hear about {insert random person from the Dallas Go-Live team} complain about not having a What-A-Burger for dinner. That’s fine because we have world famous Hot Dogs right up on the corner at Matt’s Famous Chilidogs to cure the hunger that strikes us in the middle of our shift.

With Server room two going live this last week we had another Seattle truck day (this was the first truck day that we completed with 100% staff from Seattle). We didn’t need those experts from Dallas to baby us through. No Brad Lewis’s to answer questions when we have them. :-)

I must say that everything this last week went great and to continue a new SoftLayer tradition, everyone in Seattle deserves a VFB!

So here is MY Seattle VFB to everyone!

- III!

Something cool is the guys from Operations decided to drop by late last Friday. They were more than pleased and impressed with everyone and the performance that we showed them with our preparation of SR02 this last week.

We’ve set sail guys, and are doing a great job, and we like being noticed by the guys down in Dallas and from what our customers have to say. We will keep up the great work.

It really rocks! I must say that we have it good at SL, but that must be because we got the best C.E.O. ever! (Wonder’s if I’ll see a extra $50 now.. hey Little Jones got it right!?! )

- III! to the guys in Seattle..

-Bill

March 11, 2008

How I Got to SoftLayer as Fast as I Could

When I was 14 I got my first tech job as a tech support guy for a local "mom and pop" internet service provider, from there on out I have been in many data centers in the North West working with multiple companies of all caliber. From National Dial-up Internet Service Providers to small webhosting companies that have had their stuff collocated in many of the area's datacenters.

When I was about 20 I decided I was burnt out on the internet and wanted to try Central Office build outs for a national telecommunications company installing their fiber and DSL network in Washington and Oregon. The one thing that I learned in the Telco industry is to do nice and neat work. Work that you could trace a single cable in a bundle and follow it from point A to point B.

After a few years of doing the same thing over and over, I figured it was time for me to get back into the Internet as it was way more challenging for my ever-thinking mind.

So I took my nice and neat skills and worked on a contract for Microsoft building out a data center in a top secret location in the Puget Sound. This was by far one of the nicest and cleanest datacenters I had ever seen. After that I went to work for some other area datacenters doing systems administration work. I helped them do a migration of two datacenters into one. I helped build out a datacenter, and I helped by trying to make the datacenter as nice as Microsoft's along with as neat as the Telephone companies COs.

During this time I really noticed SoftLayer Technologies was Ahead of the Rest when it came to the internet utility hosting Industry. I quickly wanted to learn everything about this company, and being the nerd that I am, figured I should buy a server from this company. I Bought one and went to lunch thinking I might have a call or e-mail saying that my server will be done here within the day. Wow! 45 minutes later? "These guys are on top of it", I thought.

Then one day I was browsing Webhostingtalk.com (this is my equivalent to your teenager's myspace.com addiction) and noticed that SoftLayer just released a P.R. about signing a deal with InterNAP for a 10,000 server datacenter in Tukwila so I figured this company's features are so freaking amazing and cool. "I just need to try to get a job at this location with this really cool company", I said to myself. I sent off a Resume and a little info about myself. I did not hear back from them for a while. I figured my quick-witted humor may have rubbed the HR department the wrong way, or maybe I wasn't qualified, or too qualified.

SoftLayer finally called me back. I was as happy as a 10 year old getting a dirt bike for his birthday -- they wanted an interview.

So I go in and tour the facility and do my interview with the interviewing committee, I have to say it was one of the most intense interviews I have ever had with the technical questions that was asked along with just a hard interview process, though I left that day knowing I would be getting a call from SoftLayer as I felt I sold myself to them on my skillset.

I have to say it is really relaxing and challenging working for a world-class company in a world-class datacenter. There is a great deal of stress that comes with our job in this industry, and when the datacenter and management have everything in order from the get go and it hasn't been patched together it makes your job as a Systems Administrator a little less stressful. I do my daily walks of the datacenter in Seattle looking at thousands and thousands of racked servers that are set to standards which is weird when I've worked for places that use motorcycle tie-downs and zip ties to secure your rack to make them ‘Earthquake' ready.

I now sleep at night knowing if there is an earthquake we will be prepared and your data and machines will be safe in SoftLayer's Seattle N+1 datacenter. We have a wonderful team of build engineers and systems administrators that work around the clock to keep your virtual datacenter up and running. I wouldn't want to be at any other place for 40+ hours a week!

3 bars for life!

-Bill

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