customer-service

December 4, 2015

New Currency Payment Options Now Available Through PayPal

We are committed to providing SoftLayer customers with the most visibility into and control over their invoice payments. So, to make it even easier for customers to make payments in their preferred non-USD currency, SoftLayer is now accepting more currencies from customers who pay their invoices via PayPal.

By using PayPal, customers can pay their SoftLayer invoices in their preferred currency and only pay the foreign currency exchange rate charged through PayPal, which is often less than direct debit/credit card charges. Customers will see the USD invoice amount and the foreign exchange rate prior to completing the transaction. (Customers who do not have a PayPal account will need to create one.* For help with this, view our PayPal Foreign Currency Acceptance Training Guide.)

SoftLayer now accepts the following 26 currencies for payment via PayPal:

  • Argentine Peso (ARS)
  • Australian Dollar (AUD)
  • Brazilian Real (BRL)
  • Canadian Dollar (CAD)
  • Czech Koruna (CZK)
  • Danish Krone (DKK)
  • European Union Euro (EUR)
  • Hong Kong Dollar (HKD)
  • Hungarian Forint (HUF)
  • Israeli Shekel (ILS)
  • Japanese Yen (JPY)
  • Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
  • Mexican Peso (MXN)
  • New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
  • Norwegian Krone (NOK)
  • Philippine Peso (PHP)
  • Polish Zloty (PLN)
  • Russian Ruble (RUB)
  • Singapore Dollar (SGD)
  • Swedish Krona (SEK)
  • Swiss Franc (CHE)
  • Taiwan New Dollar (TWD)
  • Thai Baht (THB)
  • Turkish Lira (TRY)
  • U.K. Pounds Sterling (GBP)
  • U.S. Dollar (USD)

And for our customers who like to “set it and forget it,” we’ve got auto-pay functionality through PayPal in the works. Stay tuned for updates.

Have questions or need help setting up your SoftLayer account to pay with PayPal? We’ve got answers. Contact a member of our sales team.

-Sarah

*A credit card is required in the SoftLayer account for initial orders for new customers. The payment method can be changed to PayPal prior to the due date of the first invoice.

December 2, 2015

Cloud, Interrupted: The Official SoftLayer Podcast, Episode 2

Remember that one time we put three chatty cloud guys in a tiny room without windows (where no one can hear you scream) to talk cloud way back in September? Yeah, we do, too. Those were the days. In the second episode of our official, esteemed podcast—Cloud, Interrupted, "Cloud security and Daylight Saving Time drive us insane." for those of you following along at home—we have reasons! Reasons why this is only our second episode! Reasons that make sense! Because we owe it to you, our most loyal listeners. Join Kevin Hazard, director of digital content, Phil Jackson, lead technology evangelist, and Teddy Vandenberg, manager of network provisioning, as they wreak havoc interrupting the world of cloud. Again.

If you TL;DR-ed that intro, here’s the meat and potatoes of our latest podcast. Dig in:

  • [00:00:01] WE NOW HAVE THE BLEEP BLOOPS.
  • [00:01:21] The real reason our second podcast is fashionably late.
  • [00:03:16] It’s not that we’re insane when it comes to Internet security; it’s that no one understands us.
  • [00:06:14] Stay out of our bowels, Kevin!
  • [00:07:19] When you move to the cloud, you’re making all the same security mistakes you always make—multiplied by 10.
  • [00:10:30] What are cloud providers obligated to do in terms of security for their customers?
  • [00:13:00] Yes, we interrupted our cloud conversation (insert groan here). We now hate ourselves for it.
  • [00:13:23] Phil attended a tech conference on a ranch in Ireland (Web Summit), where he experienced Segway-less Segway envy and encountered zombies with attached earlobes. (Learn more about Artomatix: Artomatix Customer Story)
  • [00:20:08] You’re the bleep bloop master, Phil.
  • [00:20:48] Teddy rants (and rants) about Daylight Saving Time while we cower in the corner.
  • [00:24:07] If we do Daylight Saving Time in Unix, are we not taking Teddy seriously?
  • [00:25:27] Conclusion: Teddy hates time. (Yes, still ranting.)
  • [00:25:59] It’s over for everyone—not just Kevin.
  • [00:27:01] Oh, and one more thing, Teddy…

And that’s all she wrote, folks. -Fayza

November 23, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 21

The week in review. All the IBM Cloud and SoftLayer headlines in one place.

And the winner is
We are super speedy, but don’t take our word for it. Let us point you to the results of the sponsored cloud benchmark test courtesy of VoltDB. The YCSB benchmark, executed by ACME Benchmarks, was used to compare SoftLayer, an IBM Company, with AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.

So what was the key takeaway? According to John Hugg, “Comparing the SoftLayer bare metal performance and price/performance to the virtualized platforms is interesting. Perhaps it’s not surprising that bare metal does well, but the difference for this benchmark was significant: 50% better absolute performance and 40% more operations per dollar. ”

Hugg also explained the reasoning behind choosing the four aforementioned platforms. In doing so, he noted, “SoftLayer is the odd one here, but it’s really interesting because it offers bare metal hosting on an hourly basis. It’s clear from the results it has performance and price/performance advantages.”

Find out more about results and the YCSB here.

IBM to deliver the ultimate fan experience
Last week, IBM launched the Sports and Entertainment Global Consortium, “which was created to design, build and deliver the ultimate fan experience.” They also presented the new Sports, Entertainment and Fan Experience consulting practice, which will be “led by Jim Rushton, who joins IBM after serving as Chief Revenue Officer of the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium.”

What will the Consortium do? The press release stated that “The consortium brings together IBM's world leading information technology and recognized leaders in such areas as, construction and design, network infrastructure, wireless, and telecommunications.”

Rushton emphasized that “Sports enterprises and venues need to look at ways to get to know their loyal fans as individuals, and convert that fan loyalty into new revenue streams—not just on game days but 365 days a year.” The practice Rushton will head up plans to “deploy more than 100 global specialists in experience design, mobility, marketing and data analytics supported by a global network of 20 digital design studios.”

Wonder how this will convert into the ultimate fan experience? On a personal note, does that mean people will get cell service while at a game? Looking for that one area you get service means less time watching the game, and that is never a good thing. 😃

Read the entire press release here.

-Rachel

Categories: 
November 20, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Catalyst manager Brendan Yell makes startup dreams come true Down Under

We know, we know. We were only back in Texas for a week, but Under the Infrastructure gets restless being at home too long. This week, we went way down south to catch up with someone that does almost as much globetrotting as we do!

Meet Brendan Yell, our Catalyst Startup Program manager for Australia and New Zealand. He’s been a SLayer for a little over a year, and after you get to know him, you’re probably going to want to steal his job.

But he’ll tell you about it himself.

SOFTLAYER: Describe your role at SoftLayer as if the President of the United States asked what you do for work.

BRENDAN YELL: My role is to work with startups and help them succeed. A big part of this is giving them great cloud servers, but it is a lot more than that. I mentor over 50 startups, and a great deal of the time I am not refining their business model or changing their product. Mostly, I connect them to people who can help them out. This can be in the form of investors, customers, and strategic partners.

SL: The Catalyst crew always looks like it’s having the best time. What makes the Catalyst team different?

YELL: I won’t lie; we do have a pretty good time traveling around the world attending cool parties and events. However, this can be pretty exhausting as well. What makes the Catalyst team different is that even though we are scattered around the globe, we are all great friends that are happy to help each other. Recently I had a startup travel to New York, and our person there, Jen Litorja, met with them and made some invaluable introductions for them. This helps the startup and makes us look great to the startup. Jen had no real benefit from spending her time with this startup other than helping them, and helping me.

SL: What’s the most gratifying thing about your job?

YELL: What I love is when a quick two-minute email to someone in my network can literally change the fortunes of a struggling young startup. Having done startups myself (like most in the Catalyst team), I understand how hard it is to give up a lucrative job to go start a company. I also understand that money is not the only motivator for this; people want to create something, be their own boss, and make a difference.

SL: What’s the funniest, silliest, or strangest thing that’s happened to you on the job?

YELL: I recently had an idea pitched to me in the queue of the supermarket. But the pitch did not come from someone in the queue; it was from the cashier. How cool is that?

SL: What’s your favorite place in the whole world and why?

YELL: While I love San Francisco and New York, when you travel up to 40 weeks of the year, it has to be home. We are lucky to live on a lake about 90 mins north of Sydney. It’s so quiet and peaceful there, unlike the hustle of the startup world. Without it, I would be burned out.

Got a spare room for us down there, Brendan?

-Fayza

November 19, 2015

SoftLayer and Koding join forces to power a Global Virtual Hackathon


This guest blog post is written by Cole Fox, director of partnerships at Koding.

Koding is excited to partner with SoftLayer on its upcoming Global Virtual Hackathon, happening December 12–13, 2015. The event builds on last year’s Hackathon, where more than 60,000 developers participated from all over the world. The winners took home over $35,000 in prizes! This year, we’ve upped the ante to make the event even larger than the last time: the winner will take home a $100,000 grand prize.

“We are working with Koding for this virtual hackathon as part of our commitment to promote open source technology and support the talented community of developers who are dispersed all over the globe,” said Sandy Carter, general manager of Cloud Ecosystem and Developers at IBM. “Cloud-based open source development platforms like Koding make it easier to get software projects started, and hackathons are a great place to show how these kinds of platforms make software development easier and more fun.”


Why a virtual hackathon?
Hackathons are awesome. They allow developers to solve problems in a very short amount of time. The challenge with traditional hackathons is that they require you to be physically present in a room. With more and more of our lives moving online, why be tied to a physical location to solve problems? Virtual hackathons allow talented individuals from all over the world to participate, collaborate, and showcase their skills, regardless of their physical location. Our Global Virtual Hackathon levels the playing field.

Who won last year?
Educational games, especially those that teach programming, were popular to build—and a few actually won! Want to see what the winners built? Click here to check out a fun yet effective game teaching students to program. Learn more about the team of developers and see their code here. Last year, nine winners across three categories took home a prize. To see a list of last year’s winners, see the blog post here.

Tips to be successful and win this year
Here’s some motivation for you: the grand prize is $100,000. (That’s seed capital for your startup idea!)

So how do you win? First and foremost, apply now! Then talk to some friends and maybe even team up. You can also use Koding to find teammates once you’re accepted. Teammates aren’t a requirement but can definitely make for a fun experience and improve your chances of making something amazing.

Once you’re in, get excited! And be sure to start thinking about what you want to build around this year’s themes.

And the 2015 themes are…
Ready to build something and take home $100,000? Here are this year’s themes:

  • Data Visualization
    Data is everywhere, but how can we make sense of it? Infographics and analytics can bring important information to light that wasn’t previously accessible when stuck in a spreadsheet or database. We challenge you to use some of the tools out there to help articulate some insights.
  • Enterprise Productivity
    The workplace can always be improved and companies are willing to pay a lot of money for great solutions. Build an application that helps employees do their jobs better and you could win big.
  • Educational Games
    Last year’s winning team, WunderBruders, created an educational game. But games aren’t just for children. Studies have shown that games not only improve motor skills, but they are also a great way to learn something new.

Wait a second. What is Koding anyway?
In short, Koding is a developer environment as a service. The Koding platform provides you with what you need to move your software development to the cloud. Koding’s cloud-based software development service provides businesses with the ability to formulate the most productive, collaborative, and efficient development workflows. Businesses, both small and large, face three common challenges: on-boarding new team members, workflow efficiency, and knowledge retention. These pain points impact companies across all industries, but for companies involved in software development, these are often the most expensive and critical problems that continue to remain unresolved. Koding was built to tackle these inefficiencies head on. Learn more about Koding for Teams.

Can I use my SoftLayer virtual servers with Koding?
Koding’s technical architecture is very flexible. If you have a SoftLayer virtual server, you can easily connect it to your Koding account. The feature is described in detail here.

Think you can hack it? APPLY NOW!

-Cole Fox

November 17, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 20

The week in review. All the IBM Cloud and SoftLayer headlines in one place.

More to know about big data
Our tech evangelist Justin Halsall sat down with Dataconomy to discuss our Big Data Academy, its benefits, and our partnership with Basho. When asked about the motivations behind BDA, he said, “We decided to create a platform that would address professionals from the big data space that are close to the infrastructure and develops that side of the business—taking them on a journey from beginners, through to enthusiast, and finally a practitioner level when it comes to deploying and implementing big data workloads on cloud.”

How can our Big Data Academy help you? Halsall explains that although everyone agrees using big data is necessary in the digital economy, the question of “How?” still lingers. “Our masterclasses, for example, are for those who seek an answer to how can I take advantage of the vast amount of data my organization aggregates? How to optimize that on the technological level? Why computational infrastructure is so important in turning the unstructured data into accurate decisions?”

Read the rest of Justin’s interview here.

Announcing developerWorks Premium
Last week, IBM introduced a new developerWorks subscription program that gives “an all-access pass to cloud-based offerings and services from IBM, allowing developers to go from prototype to production in minutes.” Another benefit of the new program is that it offers “member-only curated tools and resources for IBM Cloud.”

Why would you be interested in the offering? Sandy Carter, general manager of cloud ecosystem and developers at IBM, explained, “We have created a roadmap of premium resources for developers of all levels to grow their skills, build next-gen apps, and connect with the IBM ecosystem. We want to encourage developers and innovation at IBM.”

Find out what’s included in the offering and more here.

Ready? Set? IBM Relay 2015
At IBM Relay 2015, Forrester introduced new research about the growth of customer-centric workloads and the increase of private enterprise clouds. According to Forrester’s findings, “An average of 88 percent of organizations plan to increase the number of applications and systems in which they build or migrate to cloud platforms over the next two years, with customer-focused technology such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems and asset management services as the key drivers.”

John Rymer, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester said, “Technology and products aren't the problem. Culture, organizational structure, and managing that platform are now the biggest limitations." That is where IBM and Bluemix come in, with a goal “to initiate culture change and cloud migration for businesses, and then help companies manage the hybrid cloud architecture once it's there.”

Last week at IBM Relay, two new Bluemix services, Active Deploy and Event Hub, were announced. “The services also comprise parts of Relay, IBM's mechanism for connecting to cloud systems for pushing upgrades and monitoring applications across public, private, and hybrid clouds as well as middleware, mobile, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.”

Get more details on IBM Relay and Forrester’s new research here.

-Rachel

Categories: 
November 13, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Software engineer Greg Hellings proves that humans are the key to a successful career in tech

After a few wonderful weeks overseas, Under the Infrastructure has triumphantly returned home to our headquarters in Texas (where we left our heart anyway). This time around, we’re talking with Greg Hellings, a software engineer specializing in development automation on the platform services side. He’s been with us in Dallas for three years and we’re confident he’ll smash all your stereotypes when it comes to this job field.

But we’ll let him tell you himself.



“That’s Greg in the air.”

SOFTLAYER: Explain to us what a software engineer focusing on development automation in platform services does.

GREG HELLINGS: We are responsible for the tooling surrounding building and deploying our software. This covers not only the building of our custom, internal software, but also identifying, installing, and configuring any third-party pieces of software that are required for our infrastructure to run. More so than many software engineers, my team needs to communicate with the network engineering teams, the hardware infrastructure teams, the information systems teams, and so forth.

A typical day could see me discussing web server and load balancer configurations with our IS team, discussing our build and testing process for our internal packages with the QA team, and assisting the application developers in tracking down problems with their code.

Automation is our mainstay. Our eventual goal is to write software that envelops the software other engineers in the company write so that software can be translated directly from our internal development systems, through QA testing, and into our production servers. For those steps of the process where a human is required to interact with our system—such as QA executing manual testing of a release—our goal is to simplify the process so that moving the process into or out of the step requires nothing more than the click of a single button.

SL: What do you do to keep your skill set current and cutting edge?

HELLINGS: If the mind is a weapon, it pays to keep it sharp. And as iron sharpens iron, so one mind sharpens another. My team here is a small group of top-notch engineers, and each of us trades knowledge and tips and tricks with one another. Some of us come from a systems engineering background and others come from a more traditional software engineering background. When we work and play together on our multitude of projects, we generally all have lots to teach one another.

I landed in a job where I get to use far more technology than I ever would have on my own. Working for a cloud provider as large and diverse as SoftLayer gives me the opportunity to operate and craft at a scale at which very few engineers ever get to work, and certainly goes far beyond my own means to own and support. As the world moves towards scale and size, keeping skills sharp requires working on increasingly larger scale and tackling the pitfalls that come with global networks. Most people only get to talk or joke about “cloud scale” applications, but working in the cloud itself, I am afforded chance after chance to work tasks at the scale of the cloud itself.

SL: Why did you become a software engineer?

HELLINGS: It was not by intention! I got my first taste of writing software at the age of seven, when my brother bought an old, used RadioShack TRS-80 and a pair of programming books alongside it. Since we didn’t have any software for the device, I had to start writing my own. From there, it would be another six or seven years before I sat down to write software again, picking up classes at my local community college to supplement my high school curriculum in introductory level programming. But my eyes were set on becoming an astronaut, so I eventually went off to college to study astrophysics. I quickly became disinterested in that avenue and completed a liberal arts undergraduate education, which spanned theology, Koine Greek, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, and music.

But the summer before my senior year of college, I landed an internship working in the field of software engineering and returned to college to work in the IT department as a help desk technician, phone system administrator, and eventually an assistant network administrator. By the time I graduated, it was clear that—through all my detours—the one constant remained my focus on technology, and software in particular. No matter what field I was working in, I always came back to software usage and automation. So when an opportunity for graduate school came up and I was given the opportunity to get a degree in computer science, my choice was clear.

SL: What’s one thing people don’t know about being a software engineer?

HELLINGS: Software engineering is far removed from classroom computer science education. Computer science education makes the issues very complex and addresses a very abstract set of knowledge. But the human aspects of working together in a collaborative team atmosphere comprise being a software engineer even more. The software that actually gets written on a day-to-day basis—especially in the automation sphere—is generally very straightforward and simple. Thus, human collaboration, when we’re talking about software engineering and not just hacking, is one of the most important talents in the field.

SL: When you’re not working, what are your favorite things to do?

HELLINGS: Software engineering! But most of my time is spent working around the house and taking care of my family. AcroYoga also entered my repertoire last year and has opened me up to a whole new world of play and enjoyment outside the computer.

You now have our permission to dismiss all previously held notions of a software engineer.

-Fayza

November 9, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 19

The week in review. All the IBM Cloud and SoftLayer headlines in one place.

Welcome to the IBM family, Gravitant.
Last week, IBM added Gravitant, “a cloud broker that helps companies mix-and-match cloud services from multiple vendors” to its cloud suit. The addition will help IBM increase the options for customers to manage cloud services.

IBM highlighted the plan in its press release, saying, “IBM plans to integrate the Gravitant capabilities into the IBM Global Technology Services unit. Also, IBM Cloud plans to integrate the capabilities into Software-as-a-Service offerings, extending the company’s growing hybrid cloud solutions and capabilities.”

Learn more about the Gravitant acquisition here.

We’re the power behind Continuity247™.
Our friends at Continuum elaborated on their decision to use SoftLayer to power its BDR Solution, Continuity247™. So what was the reason? From the company’s blog: “We needed a scalable, high-performance public cloud hosting platform with a trusted brand, global data center presence, secure infrastructure and reliable technology that could uphold compliance requirements for partners serving the healthcare and financial verticals. IBM Softlayer checks all of these boxes.” The backup and disaster recovery platform is different from other offerings, because “it’s backup technology that was born in the cloud.”

Get more details about the BDR solution on Continuum’s blog.

Watson, how do you work?
IBM’s Watson has done some amazing things, from winning Jeopardy to helping chefs in the kitchen. But how does it work? If you have ever asked yourself that question, you aren’t alone. How does Watson’s thought processes so closely resemble those of humans? Play the video below to find out.

-Rachel

Categories: 
November 6, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Server build tech Christos Panoudis confirms whether or not Spider-Man hides in our server racks

Shhh, don’t tell Texas, but we’re never going back to the States! Not just yet, anyway. We’re not finished meeting the amazing folks in our offices and data centers across the pond.

This week, Under the Infrastructure takes a short jaunt south from Amsterdam to Frankfurt, where we’re chatting with server build technician shift lead Christos Panoudis. He’s been with us for a bit under a year (which makes sense, considering our Frankfurt data center just opened in December 2014!), and he’s been integral to getting one of our newer data centers up and running.

Say hello.

SOFTLAYER: Why did you decide to become a server build technician?

CHRISTOS PANOUDIS: Having many years of IT experience, I was looking for a job that it would be interesting and would teach me something. I was also interested in working in the Internet sector—I find it pretty exciting, and being raised in the so-called “Internet generation,” it has certainly affected me. What could be more exciting than working in a data center, where you can work with unique equipment and learn new things? Building a PC doesn’t have a high grade of difficulty, but building a server via complex procedures and being faced with obstacles until you deliver it to the customer? That is what I call a challenge. Networking, software installation, collaboration across departments, and socializing with colleagues are all components of the position that I enjoy.

SL: Tell us more about how your love of technology began.

PANOUDIS: Everyone tells me that I took an interest in technology when I was a little kid by repairing my grandpa’s watches. But they’re wrong; my dream then was to become a pilot [laughs].

I believe my true love of technology stems from two events. The first one was when my father took me to a Greek computer (PC) exhibition in 1994. Observing the new technology, I was in awe. The second event was when my uncle’s computer got a virus, and we made a deal that he would let me on his PC if I successfully removed it. He thought that I couldn’t do it, but after three hours, I did. I was so proud. But I never got to play with his computer, because I had just reformatted his hard drive [laughs]! After that, I caught the computer engineering bug and began to study computers.

A big part of the decision to become an IT professional was the fact that IRC and online gaming were making huge strides in the market. I was spending lots and lots of hours in front of a PC—I had my own IRC server and website—and I was working with other users to troubleshoot connection issues.

I was interested in every gadget and new technology that emerged in the market, while at the same time, I was increasing my technical skills in both software and hardware.

SL: Describe a server build technician’s workstation to us.

PANOUDIS: Chaos. That’s the word that someone would use to describe it if he took a look at a server build technician’s (STB) computer monitor. Multiple browser windows, terminals, remote desktops, server status flows, customer tickets, emails. Of course, it’s chaos to someone who isn’t specialized. But for a STB, this is a daily routine and a habit—or I should say a need? He must be ready to start building servers for a new order, to reply to customer tickets (which could be just a simple upgrade or a complicated maintenance issue), or anything in between. It is necessary for us for that “chaos” exists—so we can consistently do our jobs.

At my workstation, I have three monitors. Two are used for information sequences and the third one is for working. On one screen, I keep track of the incoming tickets and email. On another screen, I monitor server statuses and internal chat. On the central screen, I monitor the terminals that I need to connect to the customer's server and to perform whatever maintenance needed. There are also multiple browser windows to access our internal management system.

SL: What’s it like working for SoftLayer in Frankfurt?

PANOUDIS: Frankfurt’s data center is one of the newer Softlayer data centers in Europe, with modern equipment and high levels of security. Seeing all those cameras and the high walls with barbed wires on my first day of work, I was a bit surprised. Until then, I’d never thought that a tech building would have such security.

In Frankfurt, we work in three shifts. Each shift has a “shift leader” and five technicians. As a shift leader, the most important thing for me is to make sure that everything works like a well-oiled machine, since tasks flow continuously and there must be perfect communication so we won't miss deadlines. That’s why, at the end of each shift, the shift leaders have “hands-off reports,” where task delivery takes place.

The beginning of each shift starts an hour before the previous shift ends. During that time, tasks and on-going maintenance are assigned.
Of course, nothing would be possible without the fantastic people that we work with. It is truly amazing how people with different nationalities, cultures, and ways of thinking come together as one entity to complete tasks.

SL: People on Twitter think Spider-Man lives in our server racks. For once and for all, does he?

PANOUDIS: I dare him to come and live in such an environment: cold and with more than 90 decibels of continuous sound (jet turbine-like). The network cables are structured this way for organizational purposes and to make it easier for personnel to work among such a high volume of wires.

Each color represents a network. For example, red cables are for public networks, blue cables are for private networks, and green are for management.

Even if Spider-Man were able to cope with the sound, he would not be able to live in our data center, since he wouldn’t be able to get past security [laughs]. So, no, we definitely don't have Spider-Man here—not even small spiders.

-Fayza

November 4, 2015

Shared, scalable, and resilient storage without SAN

Storage area networks (SAN) are used most often in the enterprise world. In many enterprises, you will see racks filled with these large storage arrays. They are mainly used to provide a centralized storage platform with limited scalability. They require special training to operate, are expensive to purchase, support, or expand, and if those devices fail, there is big trouble.

Some people might say SAN devices are a necessary evil. But are they really necessary? Aren’t there alternatives?

Most startups nowadays are running their services on commodity hardware, with smart software to distribute their content across server farms globally. Current, well established, and successful companies that run websites or apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, or LinkedIn continue to operate pretty much the same way they started. They need the ability to scale and perform at unpredictable rates all around the world, so they use commodity hardware combined with smart software. These types of companies need the features that SAN storage offers them—but with more scalable, global resiliency, and without being centralized or having to buy expensive hardware. But how do they provide server access to the same data, and how do they avoid data loss?

The answer is actually quite simple, although its technology is quite sophisticated: distributed storage.

In a world where virtualization has become a standard for most companies, where even applications and networking are being virtualized, virtualization giant VMware answers this question with Virtual SAN. It effectively eliminates the need for SAN hardware in a VMware environment (and it will also be available for purchase from SoftLayer before the end of the year). Other similar distributed products are GlusterFS (also offered in our QuantaStor solution), Ceph, Microsoft Windows DFS, Hadoop HDFS, document-oriented databases like MongoDB, and many more.

Many solutions, however, vary in maturity. Object storage is a great example of a new type of storage that has come to market, which doesn’t require SAN devices. With SoftLayer, you can and may run them all.

When you have bare metal servers set up as hypervisors or application servers, it’s likely you have a lot of drive bays within those servers, mostly unused. Stuffing them with hard drives and allowing the software to distribute your data across multiple servers in multiple locations with two or three replicas will result in a big, safe, fast, and distributed storage platform. For such a platform, scaling it would be just adding more bare metal servers with even more hard drives and letting the software handle the rest.

Nowadays we are seeing more and more hardware solutions like SAN—or even networking—being replaced with smarter software on simpler and more affordable hardware. At SoftLayer, we offer month-to-month and hourly bare metal servers with up to 36 drive bays, potentially providing a lot of room for storage. With 10Gbps global connectivity options, we offer fast, low latency networking for syncing between servers and delivering data to the customer.

-Mathijs

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