Business Posts

June 16, 2016

Larger Virtual Servers Now Available

You asked. We listened. We’re excited to announce that our clients can now provision virtual servers with more cores and more RAM.

Starting today, you’re now empowered to run high compute and in-memory intensive workloads on a public and private cloud with the same quick deployment and flexibility you’ve come to enjoy from SoftLayer. After all, you shouldn’t have to choose between flexibility and power.

Oh, and did we mention it’s all on demand? Deploy these new, larger sizes rapidly and start innovating—right now.

Whether you require a real-time analytics platform for healthcare, financial, or retail, these larger virtual servers provide the capabilities you need to harness and maximize analytics-driven solutions.

Popular use cases for larger virtual servers include real-time big data analytics solutions requiring millisecond execution as needed by organizations processing massive amounts of data, like weather companies. Given the immense amount of meteorological inputs required for any location, at any time, at millisecond speed, larger virtual server sizes power weather forecast responses in real-time.

With SoftLayer virtual servers, you can segment your data across public, private, and management networks for better reliability and speed. You get unmetered bandwidth across our private and management networks at no additional charge, and unmetered inbound bandwidth on our public network. As real-time data-intensive workloads are developed, SoftLayer ensures that our best-in-class network infrastructure can retrieve and move data with speed.

New Sizes

Drum roll, please! Our newest offerings include:

Public virtual servers

Private virtual servers

Public virtual servers will be customizable, but will have limitations on various core/RAM ratios. Private nodes will provide complete customization.

Cores, RAM, storage

With the introduction of larger virtual servers, SoftLayer will also reconfigure socket/core ratios. The number of cores per socket is reflected below for newly deployed virtual servers:

Core:Socket Ratios

For clients using third-party software on virtual servers, it is recommended that you work with your software vendor to ensure socket-based licensing is properly licensed. 

Data Center Availability

Currently, larger public and private virtual servers will only be available in select data centers, with more coming online in the near future. The following locations will offer public and private virtual server combinations configured with more than 16 cores or more than 64 GB RAM:

Locations of larger public and private virtual servers

For more information on virtual servers and for pricing, read here.

We are always interested to see how you are flying in the cloud and how these larger virtual servers help drive value for your business. Please connect with us on Twitter: @milan3patel and @conradjjohnson.

-Milan Patel

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June 1, 2016

For a Limited Time Only: Free POWER8 Servers

So maybe you’ve heard that POWER8 servers are now available from SoftLayer. But did you know you can try them for free?

Yep. That’s right. For. Free.

Even better: We’re excited to extend this offer to our new and existing customers. For a limited time only, our customers can take up to $2,238 off their entire order.

That’s a nice round number. (Not!)

I bet you’re wondering how  we came up with that number. Well, $2,238 gets you the biggest, baddest POWER8-est machine we offer: POWER8 C812L-SSD, loaded with 10 cores, 3.49GHz, 512GB RAM, and 2x960GB SSDs. Of course, if you don’t need that much POWER (pun intended), we offer three other configs that might fit your lifestyle a little bit better. Check them out here.

 

For a limited time only, our customers can take up to $2,238 off their entire POWER8 order.

 

Oh, and the not-so-fine print (as if I have to say it, but legal told me I had to, so…): This offer is good only on POWER8 servers. (Duh!) The offer expires July 31, 2016. You’re limited to one promo code use per customer only. Customers take up to $2,238 off the first order in the first billing cycle of your POWER8 server (which means order at the beginning of the month to take full advantage of the offer; if you wait till the 20th of the month, you only get it for 10 days—11 depending on whether the month has 30 or 31 days, but I digress). POWER8 is currently only rocking out in DAL09. This offer cannot be combined with any other offers, and SLIC accounts are not eligible.

For more information on this offer, please check out the FAQ or contact a sales representative. POWER up!

May 19, 2016

Bringing the power of GPUs to cloud

The GPU was invented by NVIDIA back in 1999 as a way to quickly render computer graphics by offloading the computational burden from the CPU. A great deal has happened since then—GPUs are now enablers for leading edge deep learning, scientific research, design, and “fast data” querying startups that have ambitions of changing the world.

That’s because GPUs are very efficient at manipulating computer graphics, image processing, and other computationally intensive high performance computing (HPC) applications. Their highly parallel structure makes them more effective than general purpose CPUs for algorithms where the processing of large blocks of data is done in parallel. GPUs, capable of handling multiple calculations at the same time, also have a major performance advantage. This is the reason SoftLayer (now part of IBM Cloud) has brought these capabilities to a broader audience.

We support the NVIDIA Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform, which makes HPC capabilities more accessible to, and affordable for, everyone. Companies like Artomatix and MapD are using our NVIDIA GPU offerings to achieve unprecedented speed and performance, traditionally only achievable by building or renting an HPC lab.

By provisioning SoftLayer bare metal servers with cutting-edge NVIDIA GPU accelerators, any business can harness the processing power needed for HPC. This enables businesses to manage the most complex, compute-intensive workloads—from deep learning and big data analytics to video effects—using affordable, on-demand computing infrastructure.

Take a look at some of the groundbreaking results companies like MapD are experiencing using GPU-enabled technology running on IBM Cloud. They’re making big data exploration visually interactive and insightful by using NVIDIA Tesla K80 GPU accelerators running on SoftLayer bare metal servers.

SoftLayer has also added the NVIDIA Tesla M60 GPU to our arsenal. This GPU technology enables clients to deploy fewer, more powerful servers on our cloud while being able to churn through more jobs. Specifically, running server simulations are cut down from weeks or days to hours when compared to using a CPU-only based server—think of performance running tools and applications like Amber for molecular dynamics, Terachem for quantum chemistry, and Echelon for oil and gas.

The Tesla M60 also speeds up virtualized desktop applications. There is widespread support for running virtualized applications such as AutoCAD to Siemens NX from a GPU server. This allows clients to centralize their infrastructure while providing access to the application, regardless of location. There are endless use cases with GPUs.

With this arsenal, we are one step closer to offering real supercomputing performance on a pay-as-you-go basis, which makes this new approach to tackling big data problems accessible to customers of all sizes. We are at an interesting inflection point in our industry, where GPU technology is opening the door for the next wave of breakthroughs across multiple industries.

-Jerry Gutierrez

May 17, 2016

New routes configured for SoftLayer customers

Customers will see a new route configured on a newly provisioned customer host or on a customer host after a portal-initiated OS reload. This is part of a greater goal to enable new services and offerings for SoftLayer customers. This route will direct traffic addressed to hosts configured out of the 161.26.0.0/16 network block (161.26.0.0 -161.26.255.255) to the back end private gateway IP address configured on customer servers or virtual server instances.

The 161.2.0.0/16 address space is assigned to SoftLayer by IANA and will not be advertised over the front end public network. This space will be used exclusively on SoftLayer’s backend private network, will never conflict with network addresses on the Internet, and should never conflict with address space used by third-party VPN service providers.

This new route is similar to the 10.0.0.0/8 route already located on SoftLayer hosts, in that SoftLayer services are addressed out of both ranges. Also, both the 10.0.0.0/8 route and the 161.26.0.0/16 route will need to be configured on a customer host if it is required to access all SoftLayer services hosted on the back end private network. Unlike the 10.0.0.0/8 range, the 161.26.0.0/16 range will be used exclusively for SoftLayer services. Customers will need to ensure that ACL/firewalls on customer servers, virtual server instances, and gateway appliances are configured to allow connectivity to the 161.26.0.0/16 network block to access these new services.

For more information on this new route, including how to configure existing systems to use them, read more on KnowledgeLayer.

-Curtis

May 5, 2016

Everything you need to know about IBM POWER8 on SoftLayer

SoftLayer provides industry-leading cloud Infrastructure as a Service from a growing number of data centers around the world. To enable clients to draw critical insights and make better decisions faster, now there’s even more good news—customers and partners can use and rely on the secure, flexible, and open platform of IBM POWER Systems, which have just become available in SoftLayer’s DAL09 data center.

POWER8 servers are built with a processor designed and optimized specifically for big data workloads combining compute power, cutting-edge memory bandwidth, and I/O in ways that result in increased levels of performance, resiliency, availability, and security.

IBM POWER systems were designed to run many of the most demanding enterprise applications, industry-specific solutions, relational database management systems, and high performance computing environments. POWER8 servers are an ideal system for Linux and support a vast ecosystem of OpenSource, ISV, and IBM SW Unit products, giving clients a single, industry-leading open architecture (IBM POWER) in which to store, retrieve, and derive value from the “gold mine” of next generation applications.

The new POWER8 servers available from SoftLayer offer an optimal hybrid cloud infrastructure to test new Linux workloads in a secure and isolated cloud environment with reduced risk. As clients explore newer use cases like advanced analytics, machine learning, and cognitive computing against the combination of vast amounts of both structured and unstructured data, POWER8 and SoftLayer are in a unique position to accelerate client value. This new offering will also continue to leverage the rapidly expanding community of developers contributing to the OpenPOWER ecosystem as well as thousands of independent software vendors that support Linux on Power applications.

With the explosive growth of both structured and unstructured data, it requires businesses to derive insights and change faster than ever to keep pace. The cloud enables you to do just that. Our new and unique solution pairs SoftLayer’s Network-Within-a-Network topology for true out-of-band access, an easy-to-use customer portal, and robust APIs for full remote access of all product and service management options—with the unique high performance technology from IBM POWER8 to help accelerate the creation and delivery of the next generation of IT solutions.    

For more details, visit our POWER8 servers page.

 

-Chuck Calio,  IBM Power Systems Growth Solution Specialist

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April 4, 2016

A deeper dive into using VMware on SoftLayer

 

IBM and VMware recently announced an expanded global strategic partnership that enables customers to operate a seamless and consistent cloud, spanning hybrid environments. VMware customers now have the ability to quickly provision new (or scale existing) VMware workloads to IBM Cloud. This helps companies retain the value of their existing VMware-based solutions while leveraging the growing footprint of IBM Cloud data centers worldwide.

IBM customers are now able to purchase VMware software in a flexible, cost-efficient manner to power their deployments on IBM’s bare metal hardware infrastructure service. They’ll also be able to take advantage of their existing skill sets, tools, and technologies versus having to purchase and learn new ones. New customers will have complete control of their VMware environment, allowing them to expand into new markets and reduce startup cost by leveraging SoftLayer’s worldwide network and data centers.

This new offering also allows customers access to the full stack of VMware products to build an end-to-end VMware solution that matches their current on-premises environment or create a new one. Leveraging NSX lets customers manage their SoftLayer network infrastructure and extend their on-premises environment into SoftLayer as well, letting them expand their current capacity while reducing startup capital.

Customers can currently purchase vSphere Enterprise Plus 6.0 from SoftLayer. The VMware software components in Table 1 will be available, for a la carte purchase, for individual SoftLayer bare metal servers by Q2 2016. All products listed will be billed on a per socket basis.

Table 1: VMware software components

Product Name

Version

Charge per

VMware vRealize Operations Enterprise Edition

6.0

CPU

VMware vRealize Operations Advanced Edition

6.0

CPU

VMware vRealize Operations Standard Edition

6.0

CPU

VMware vRealize Log Insight

3.0

CPU

VMware NSX-V

6.2

CPU

VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO)

2.0

CPU

Virtual SAN Standard Tier I (0-20TB)

6.X

CPU

Virtual SAN Standard Tier II (21-64TB)

6.X

CPU

Virtual SAN Standard Tier III (65-124TB)

6.X

CPU

VMware Site Recovery Manager

6.1

CPU

VMware vRealize Automation Enterprise

6.X

CPU

VMware vRealize Automation Advanced

6.X

CPU

 

The following FAQs will help you better understand the IBM and VMware partnership:                                                                                                                                             

Q: What are you offering today? And how much does it cost?

A: Today, IBM offers vSphere Enterprise Plus 6.0, which includes vCenter and vCloud Connector. It’s currently available for $85 per CPU for single CPU, dual CPU, and quad CPU servers. The products listed in Table 1 will be available in Q2 2016.

Q: Is per-CPU pricing a change from how VMware software was offered before?

A: Yes, the CPU-based pricing is new, and is unique to IBM Cloud. IBM is currently the only cloud provider to offer this type of pricing for VMware software. CPU-based pricing allows customers to more accurately budget how much they spend for VMware software in the cloud.

Q: Can customers bring the licenses they already own and have acquired via an existing VMware license agreement (e.g., ELA)?

A: Customers can take advantage of the new pricing when purchasing the VMware software through the SoftLayer portal. Please contact your VMware sales representative to get approval if you plan on bringing the license you already own to IBM Cloud.

Q: Will you offer migration services?

A: Yes, migration services will be among the portfolio of managed services offerings we will make available. Details will be announced closer to the time of availability, which is later in 2016.

Q: What storage options are available for VMware environments on SoftLayer?

A: Customers can select from a diverse range of SoftLayer storage offerings and custom solutions depending on their requirements and preferences. Use the Select a Storage Option to use with VMware guide to determine the best storage option for your environment.

Q: Where can I find technical resources to learn more about VMware on SoftLayer?

A: There is extensive technical documentation available on KnowledgeLayer, including:

 

-Kerry Staples and Andreas Groth

December 9, 2015

Startups should embrace both diversity and inclusion

During the NewCo Boulder festival, web development agency Quick Left gave a talk about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The panelists shared stories of their experiences around diversity—good and bad—and gave advice on what can be done to make workplaces more inclusive. It was one of the best talks I heard all year.

After much discussion, both philosophical and tactical, an audience member expressed concern about counter-discrimination. Would the time come when he would be overlooked for a job because he was not a diversity candidate?

This is not the first time this has been brought up in diversity discussions, and he was expressing what many (perhaps too many) straight white males think when diversity is discussed. To the credit of Gerry Valentine, one of the panelists, he did not chastise the audience member, and instead commended him for his bravery. The man who asked the question gave voice to a common concern that is often thought, but rarely brought up. The panelists at NewCo Boulder handled it very well, pointing out that no one wants a job just based on their gender, skin color, sexual preference, or anything other than their ability to execute on the job. And, collectively, we want to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to compete for jobs on equal ground.

I was truly moved by the entire session, but found myself upset that even at the close of 2015 we are still answering questions about counter-discrimination. When Gerry commended the question for its bravery, I first wondered if he was being glib. But knowing Gerry, I was certain he was serious about his comment. Upon further reflection, I realized what's interesting about this "pale and male" pushback is that it comes from a place of fear. A fear of discrimination is at the root of the question when someone asks, "As a white male, am I going to get passed over for a job because this company wants to hire for diversity?"

Following Gerry's example, it's OK to acknowledge that fear. It’s OK to point out that white men don’t want to live in a world where they are discriminated against, even subtly. While that is a valid fear, for the straight white male candidate, it is only a fear of a potential future. If they can imagine potential discrimination, can they acknowledge that the reality of our world today: anyone who isn’t a straight white male does experience this as real fear. Imagine walking into a job interview having to first overcome the things about you that you cannot control (gender, skin color, sexual orientation, physical handicap, economic background, country of origin, etc.) just to get to a level playing field with the other candidates. If you don't want this for yourself, you certainly wouldn't want it for anyone else.

In startups, we love to talk about unfair advantage, but when it comes to hiring, the only unfair advantages should be skills and experience. What the movement for inclusion and diversity is about—and what we should be striving for—is a world where we all compete equally. If it is a brave thing to express your fear publicly, it is braver still to acknowledge the reality of the situation and work to rectify it.

One of the things I love about the startup community is that once we identify a problem, we move forward to solve it in as many ways possible. The path to inclusion in the workplace doesn't have to be a pendulum that oscillates between two extremes—discrimination and counter-discrimination—before settling down in the middle. Pendulums are a relic of the industrial era. In the digital era, we can choose our target, set our standards, and move forward as a community to achieve them. As you build your startup, build inclusion in your workplace from day one.

-Rich

August 31, 2015

Data Ingestion and Access Using Object Storage

The massive growth in unstructured data (documents, images, videos, and so on) is one of the greatest problems facing today’s IT personnel. The challenge is storing all the data so that it and its storage solution can grow exponentially. Object storage is an ideal, cost-effective, scale-out solution for storing extensive amounts of unstructured data.

SoftLayer offers object storage based on the OpenStack Swift platform. Object storage provides a fully distributed, scalable, API-accessible storage platform that can be integrated directly into applications. It can be used for storing static data, such as virtual machine (VM) images, photos, emails, and so on. Click here for more information on object storage.

There are two important use cases when working with object storage: data ingestion and data access.

Data ingestion use case
A large medical research company needs to upload a large amount of data into their SoftLayer compute instance. The requirement is for a multi-hundred terabyte image repository that contains hundreds of millions of images. Researchers will then upload code to run on bare metal servers with GPUs to process the images in the repository. The images range from 512KB CT images to 30MB to 50 MB mammograms and are logically grouped into 12 million “studies.” The client wants to onboard the data as quickly as possible.

Recommendations

  • Evenly distribute the objects into approximately 1,000 containers for the initial upload. For the amount of objects the client needs to store, our tests have shown that having a much larger number of containers, or too few objects per container, would incur significant performance penalties. The proposed 1,000 containers allow for a good balance for parallelism in object creation and keeps the container sizes manageable.
  • Concurrently add new objects to all containers using 400 worker threads for small objects (e.g., 512KB CT images) and 40 worker threads for large objects (e.g., 30MB to 50MB mammograms). The ideal number of worker threads is dependent on the workload size. Using a minimal amount of threads results in better response but lower throughput. Using significantly more threads may lower both latency and throughput because the threads start competing for resources.

Data access use case
A large technology company has a mix of GET, PUT, and DELETE operations for which it needs object storage capable of holding billions of small objects (15KB or less). They also want consistent latencies for their operation mix (GET 54%, PUT 33%, and DELETE 13%), which requires optimal tuning for consistent performance. The client’s benchmarking calls for 1,400 operations per second.

Recommendations

  • Use multiple containers (at least 40) to improve the latency for PUT and DELETE objects. As long as the objects are distributed over at least 40 containers with a sufficient number of worker threads, the average latencies for PUT and DELETE objects was well below 100ms in our tests. There may be occasional latency spikes, which are not surprising on shared storage systems, but overall, the latencies should be relatively consistent.
    • The read latency for a GET is very fast—less than 20ms on average for small objects.
  • Use multiple containers if very high throughput is needed. In our tests, we could drive more than 6,000 transactions per second on the production cluster with at least 40 containers.

-Naeem Altaf & Khoa Huynh

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June 17, 2015

Through Our Customers’ Eyes

There’s something unique about getting an opinion about a product or service from someone who has actually used that service—it’s part of the reason why the reviews on Amazon and apps like Yelp have become so popular.

We can tell you all day long about all the things the SoftLayer cloud platform is capable of, but wouldn’t it be nice to get real life accounts about real customers who are building real businesses by using it?

The new customer stories page on our website features video and written stories of just that—happy customers who wanted to share their experiences about changing their industries or improving the way they do business by using SoftLayer.

And some of our customers are doing some really, really cool things. Take Sohonet, for example. The company is using the SoftLayer cloud to improve processes in the movie industry. Its private network for processing, storing, and collaborating on media workloads in the cloud has set a new standard for production and post-production work in the media industry. Check it out:

We have many more SoftLayer customers who are also doing cool things. You can read their stories on our new customer stories page.

We think we have some of the most innovative customers in the cloud. If you’re thinking about becoming one of them, take a look around. Then sign up, and maybe you can be our next featured story.

-Rachel

April 27, 2015

Good Documentation: A How-to Guide

As part of my job in Development Support, I write internal technical documentation for employee use only. My department is also the last line of support before a developer is called in for customer support issues, so we manage a lot of the troubleshooting documentation. Some of the documentation I write and use is designed for internal use for my position, but some of it is troubleshooting documents for other job positions within the company. I have a few guidelines that I use to improve the quality of my documentation. These are by no means definitive, but they’re some helpful tips that I’ve picked up over the years.

Readability

I’m sure everyone has met the frustration of reading a long-winded sentence that should have been three separate sentences. Keeping your sentences as short as possible helps ensure that your advice won’t go in one ear and out the other. If you can write things in a simpler way, you should do so. The goal of your documentation is to make your readers smarter.

Avoid phrasing things in a confusing way. A good example of this is how you employ parentheses. Sometimes it is necessary to use them to convey important beneficial tidbits to your readers. If you write something with parentheses in it, and you can’t read it out loud without it sounding confusing, try to re-word it, or run it by someone else.

Good: It should have "limited connectivity" (the computer icon with the exclamation point) or "active" status (the green checkmark) and NOT "retired" (the red X).
Bad: It should have the icon “limited connectivity” (basically the computer icon with the exclamation point that appears in the list) (you can see the “limited connectivity” text if you hover over it) or “active” (the green checkmark) status and NOT the red “retired” X icon.

Ideally, you should use the same formatting for all of your documentation. At the very least, you should make your formatting consistent within your document. All of our transaction troubleshooting documentation at SoftLayer uses a standardized error formatting that is consistent and easy to read. Sometimes it might be necessary to break the convention if readability is improved. For example: Collapsible menus make it hard to search the entire page using ctrl+F, but very often, it makes things more difficult.

And finally, if people continually have a slew of questions, it’s probably time to revise your documentation and make it clearer. If it’s too complex, break it down into simpler terms. Add more examples to help clarify things so that it makes sense to your end reader.

Simplicity

Use bullet points or numbered lists when listing things instead of a paragraph block. I mention this because good formatting saves man-hours. There’s a difference between one person having to search a document for five minutes, versus 100 people having to search a document for five minutes each. That’s over eight man-hours lost. Bullet points are much faster to skim through when you are looking for something specific in the middle of a page somewhere. Avoid the “TL;DR” effect and don’t send your readers a wall of text.

Avoid superfluous information. If you have extra information beyond what is necessary, it can have an adverse effect on your readers. Your document may be the first your readers have read on your topic, so don’t overload them with too much information.

Don’t create duplicate information. If your documentation source is electronic, keep your documentation from repeating information, and just link to it in a central location. If you have the same information in five different places, you’ll have to update it in five different places if something changes.

Break up longer documents into smaller, logical sections. Organize your information first. Figure out headings and main points. If your page seems too long, try to break it down into smaller sections. For example, you might want to separate a troubleshooting section from the product information section. If your troubleshooting section grows too large, consider moving it to its own page.

Thoroughness

Don’t make assumptions about what the users already know. If it wasn’t covered in your basic training when you were hired, consider adding it to the documentation. This is especially important when you are documenting things for your own job position. Don’t leave out important details just because you can remember them offhand. You’re doing yourself a favor as well. Six months from now, you may need to use your documentation and you may not remember those details.

Bad:SSH to the image server and delete the offending RGX folder.
Good:SSH to the image server (imageserver.mycompany.local), and run ls -al /dev/rgx_files/ | grep blah to find the offending RGX folder and then use rm -rf /dev/rgx_files/<folder> to delete it.

Make sure your documentation covers as much ground as possible. Cover every error and every possible scenario that you can think of. Collaborate with other people to identify any areas you may have missed.

Account for errors. Error messages often give very helpful information. The error might be as straightforward as “Error: You have entered an unsupported character: ‘$.’” Make sure to document the cause and fix for it in detail. If there are unsupported characters, it might be a good idea to provide a list of unsupported characters.

If something is confusing, provide a good example. It’s usually pretty easy to identify the pain points—the things you struggle with are probably going to be difficult for your readers as well. Sometimes things can be explained better in an example than they can in a lengthy paragraph. If you were documenting a command, it might be worthwhile to provide a good example first and then break it down and explain it in detail. Images can also be very helpful in getting your point across. In documenting user interfaces, an image can be a much better choice than words. Draw red boxes or arrows to guide the reader on the procedure.

-Mark

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