customer-service

May 23, 2007

Who is SamF?

Since this is my first blog post, I thought I would take the time to introduce myself and explain my role here at SoftLayer. That way, if you wind up reading any future posts, your first question won’t be “who is this guy and why do I care?”

Like many of you, I’ve been in this business for quite some time. My first job in the industry was back in 1992 when I was working with the CIS department at Texas A&M helping to manage the university Gopher system. I remember going around campus to the various departments helping to convince people that putting information online in Gopher was the end-all/be-all for sharing information. Of course, that evangelizing didn't last long. Shortly after going to GopherCon '94 in Minnesota, our attention started to shift to the Mosaic browser and HTTP protocol. From there, things just steamrolled.

After A&M, I went to work for Oracle Corp where we started work on an online learning website. The goal was to take all Oracle related CBT courses and find ways to put them online under one site. This was before such things were designed for the web and it meant working with the various vendors and all the different CBT formats to find ways to get them online.

Next was an ISP / shared hosting company named Catalog.com (now known as Webhero.com). We provided all the typical Internet services including dial up access, DSL, shared hosting, domain name registration, online storefronts as well as hosting for some extremely large enterprise organizations. We did a lot with that company and it still continues on today with a pretty solid product offering and services.

From there, it was into the enterprise datacenter hosting and dedicated server hosting markets. Now it's all about SoftLayer and the services we can provide customers with our latest and greatest infrastructure.

As COO at SoftLayer, I am basically in charge of day to day operations including support, facilities management, internal systems infrastructure and anything else that gets dreamed up on a daily basis. What's the funnest part of my job? Every bit of it! I love the daily challenges in the support group. Facilities planning and forecasting allow me to really dig into the numbers. And, since I originally started out as a developer and system administrator, I love being involved with internal systems. Now at this point, I’ve got to be honest; we've got some really good people here at SoftLayer that do all of the dirty work (the actual fun stuff), but I do get to stay involved in all of it. However, because these guys are so good at what they do, I don't have to lose sleep over any one particular thing – instead, I get to stay involved in every piece of it. Maybe in future posts I’ll explain how we determine the number of chassis fans that go inside each server (over 35,000 chassis fans in production so far) or how many different types of SAS and SATA cables we need with how many different types of connectors (so many of differing types that it eventually became cheaper and more efficient to just have them custom made), where to put all of these servers, etc.

I guess the point of all that was to introduce myself and to let you know - having been in the industry for so long now and having dealt with everything from Gopher to dial up access to enterprise hosting to being in the dedicated server market now for quite a while, I feel I have a pretty decent understanding of what our customers are looking for and what their pain points are. While overall operations are critical for everyone, enterprise customers running CRM apps, file servers and domain controllers view things from a different standpoint than someone running a personal mail server or even a large shared hosting or VPS business. As I read through tickets on a daily basis, I try to put myself back in the customers’ shoes to make sure that the services we provide cover the needs of all the different types of customers we have. Having been a customer or provider at pretty much every level, I certainly understand the challenges many of you face on a regular basis. It’s our job to help you overcome as many of those as possible.

We have a lot of really cool things going on at SoftLayer and I hope to share some of those in future posts. In my next post, I’ll tell you all about Truck Day at SoftLayer.

-SamF

May 21, 2007

Project Funky Trunk

This is probably the single best and worst code name for a project in the history of man.

A little history is in order, so bear with me. When TeamShovel formed SoftLayer, our office consisted of a private residence with lush couches surrounded by card tables and folding chairs (aka executive furniture). During those months, we focused on brainstorming on whiteboards as we began to draft what would eventually become SoftLayer. During periodic breaks, the group would become restless and we needed ways to continue the flow of creative ideas. After our 700th run to Dairy Queen for blizzards, Nathan, our Chief Technology Officer, found a game called Funky Truck and shared it with the group.

Well, twelve propeller heads can’t be in the same room with a dumb little game without someone mastering the game to claim superiority. Then all others need to complete the game so we can rank intelligence and pecking order by how quickly it takes you to master the game. The single greatest obstacle to the creation of Softlayer was Funky Truck. It took several days for the group to complete the game and then of course, high score became an issue, then fastest time, with the final round of "style points" in which the group generated its own scoring procedures (we have charts and graphs if you need them). The game brought levity to our world, allowed the brains to veg and fostered open thinking and innovation when it came to designing SoftLayer.

The summer and fall of 2005 saw many new hosting ideas as the creative minds began to churn. It was inevitable that this project would become code named "Funky Truck" since it was one of our main obsessions and a point of contention at times because of excessive play (if you ask me). Sometime during our whiteboard brainstorming sessions, someone scribbled it on the board and it became official. Project Funky Truck was born.

SoftLayer went live in January 2006 with a handful of features and huge aspirations to become the newest, most innovative, dedicated hosting company in the industry. Funky Truck was our secret sauce and part of it went live on day one with our deployment of the private network. Those first few months were brutal as the private network was used less than my jogging shoes. How could it be possible that the basis of our Funky Truck idea could be so misunderstood? We anguished over the time, effort and cost expended on the private network – but we pressed on.

I remember the first ticket in reference to the private network. It was pretty simple: "What is it?" After a few discussions in the forums, the momentum began to build. First one user, then two, then three …whoa look – there’s 10 people connected to the private network managing their servers!! I felt like the parent of a newborn baby that just took that first step. Our company was growing up.

2006 saw tremendous growth and project Funky Truck got bigger and more complicated each meeting. At one point, I stopped having meetings just so Funky Truck could catch up to the grandiose ideas that everyone had. Even accounting was dreaming up features for Funky Truck; it was that insane. Our goal was a Funky Truck end of year bash, but that came and went. We continued to install thousands of dedicated servers and the feature list grew.

In February 2007, Funky Truck was dubbed "close," so we planned for an April 1 launch. I took it upon myself to post in the forums to build some excitement and anticipation around Funky Truck and then fat fingered the post. I had actually written Funk Trunk – not Truck – D’oh!! Well, it immediately took off in the forums and I was left feeling a little stupid then came to the realization that Funky Truck had merely evolved into Funky Trunk (yea…that’s it).

Needless to say, April came and went (thanks dev team – Lance missed another date), then May 1 was proclaimed the new date for deployment. Well, May 1 came and went and then finally the project was carved down in scope. Funky Trunk was born May 20, 2007.

What is it? Does it live up to the hype? I am not sure anything can by now, but we are still very excited about the possibilities. In layman’s terms, Funky Trunk is an open API for our backend systems. Any of the features and functionality you see in our portal will be available through a direct connection with the API. We launched today with a handful of features so you can grab them, break them and show us how to improve them. After about 60 days, we will add more features and begin to give you complete control over your IT environment.

You must be asking, "How can I use the API?" The simplest answer: lots of ways. You can integrate features directly into your favorite server control panel like cPanel, Plesk or Helm. You will be able to integrate features into commercial software to control the "physical layer" or you can build your own apps or clients to control stuff from your own desktop. Resellers will build their own portals, enterprise users may integrate features back into their intranet or you may do a combination of all of these. The goal is to give you ultimate control and of course, the SL customer portal is still active if you simply don’t care.

Support is available via the SLDN and over time we anticipate users will build plugins and tools and share them with the group (sharing is good). My guys have built a couple to get you rolling. I have seen your servers; I can only imagine what you are going to do with this type of power. At the end of the day, we believe this opens a new door to dedicated hosting and further differentiates our service from the competition.

So – from TeamShovel to you – here comes Funky Truck/Trunk!!

-@lavosby

March 21, 2007

About

SoftLayer recognizes the importance of connecting with people, customers or not, in every way — especially in social media. We understand that people want to know what we are thinking and how we feel about various aspects of the hosting industry, so we're happy to share those thoughts and feelings. Most of the posts will be about hosting, but every now and then, you'll get a glimpse into the SoftLayer culture or read some outside-the-office expertise from one of our SLayers.

In the hallowed halls of the SoftLayer Blog, you'll find thoughts and opinions of SoftLayer employees from every department of the company, from executives and programmers to sales representatives and data center technicians. This blog also gives you, the reader, an avenue to provide feedback and engage with our team.

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If you don't know who we are or what we do, check out our website: http://www.softlayer.com. If you want to talk business with our all-star sales team, call us at 1-866-398-7638.

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