executive-blog

February 9, 2015

Eradicating Ebola with Grid Computing Linked by the SoftLayer Network

On September 30, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first case of Ebola in the U.S. Although not uncommon to hear of outbreaks in other parts of the world, this first case in the U.S. just happened to be in our own headquarters’ backyard—Dallas.

IBM jumped at the opportunity to help find a cure or at least a treatment for the virus, not necessarily because SoftLayer happened to be in the “storm’s eye,” but as Stanley S. Litow, IBM’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship and president of the IBM International Foundation said, “It is a privilege to partner with The Scripps Research Institute to advance the process of identifying an Ebola cure.”

But finding a cure is difficult. The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), an independent, not-for-profit organization has been researching Ebola for the past 11 years. Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire, says, “We’ve solved the structures that explain what the surface of Ebola virus looks like, how it attaches to and drives itself into cells, and how it behaves like a wolf in sheep’s clothing in hiding itself from an immune response.” [Read more on the research.] Finding a cure could take hundreds of years of computing time—not manpower. And now that more people are more mobile, it is vital to find a cure since the disease can easily spread over vast distances and quickly escalate into an epidemic.

The Technology Behind The Science

IBM’s philanthropic division, Corporate Citizenship, created World Community Grid in 2004 as a way for individuals to donate their spare processing power from their personal computers, tablets, and mobile phones when not in use. The World Community Grid is utilizing grid computing for researchers, like TSRI, to accelerate their research by breaking the research into millions of little tasks. When a device is not in use, it downloads one of these tasks, calculates, and then sends it back to the researchers when complete. Instead of utilizing one super computer, researchers harness the power of a virtual super computer. This collection of computing power is all connected via the SoftLayer network.

After the Ebola outbreak last fall, the number of infections increased steadily until last week. Officials link the increase to emergency funds for containing the disease in West Africa starting to run out. We may not see Ebola cured overnight, but thanks to grid computing and the efforts of scientists and individuals donating their idle computing power resources, hopefully treatments and vaccinations for this disease and many other diseases can be developed sooner.

- JRL

February 6, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1 No. 5

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

IBM Lands Cloud Deals With Marriott, Others
IBM Cloud has entered into deals with Marriott, Opera Software, Sohonet, and Kallo.

What IBM Is Doing to Prove Cloud Computing Can Help Any Industry
IBM is making a major push to convince its enterprise customers, like Marriott, of the benefits of migrating to the cloud.

Sohonet Delivers Cloud for Rendering
Sohonet has signed on to IBM Cloud’s SoftLayer IaaS platform to provide its extensive network of film and media companies with the compute and storage resources they need.

National Grid Uses IBM to Add Predictive Maintenance Capabilities
National Grid is using cloud-based analytics powered by IBM Cloud’s SoftLayer to provide preventative maintenance.

Additionally, SoftLayer CTO Marc Jones recently met with members of the European press during a recent visit to Germany, France, and the U.K. Click here to read some of the key stories covering his visit.

-Betsy

Categories: 
February 2, 2015

#SLCloudLove: Growing an e-Commerce Business On The Cloud

Editor’s Note: Each month in 2015, we’ll be celebrating the cornucopia of reasons why the cloud reigns supreme — from customer tales to cloud insights and everything in between. During February, the notorious month of love, we’re showing you exactly why we heart the cloud. Follow all the fun on your favorite social networks by keeping tabs on #SLCloudLove.

Clicking Add to Cart—that’s how I like to shop these days. Brick and mortar shopping might be retail therapy, but the convenience and online discounts at my fingertips appeases my inherently lazy human tendencies.

With more and more online e-stores cropping up, physical retail outlets can no longer ignore not having an online presence, including a mobile-friendly website and ordering system. The numbers say it all:

  • e-Commerce sales are expected to be more than $1.7 trillion with mobile commerce accounting for nearly $300 billion in sales. Read more here.
  • In India, the e-commerce market is expected to reach $6 billion in 2015—a 70 percent increase over 2014. Read more here.
  • The Chinese government is allowing foreign-owned e-commerce companies to operate in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone as part of a pilot program; the market is expected to see a lot of inflow despite tough competition from local giants like JD.com and Alibaba. Read more here.
  • The six largest Southeast Asian countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) reached $7 billion in total revenues in 2013 and will grow at a CAGR of 37.6 percent to reach $34.5 billion by 2018. Read more here.

So when I recently attended the iMedia Online Retail Summit, I jumped at the chance to discuss with the audience the benefits of moving their e-Commerce business to the cloud as well as discussing some very interesting stories about e-commerce platforms based in Asia.

Here is a quick overview of the presentation:

e-Commerce on Cloud
There is no denying the high reliance on IT. e-Commerce portals need to handle a rising number of Internet users, provide a secure and convenient online payment system, and support lucrative offers by e-tailors. The problem is that the utilization is unpredictable (except holiday season when it is predictably unpredictable!). If your site slows or freezes, especially during a sale, it can be compared to shutting your store on Black Friday. Customers will abandon their carts, and the social media sites will erupt with negative remarks—recall the recent headliner, Flipkart faces social media backlash over ‘crashes’, ‘misleading’ pricing.

The dilemma: Over-allocate and over-pay for unused resources just to manage sudden shopping spurts, or under-allocate resources and suffer the wrath of the new-age shopper. Cloud resources seems like a natural solution when you don’t want to be stuck in the either-or situation. But, not just any cloud solution will do. If a provider has a lock-in period or contract (even if it’s short-term)—well that's not really cloud, now is it?

Similarly the cloud solution is not justifying your investments if it is going to charge you every time you, as an internal user, try to move your virtual servers across your operating geos to get closer to customers. For example: your next online sale is targeted at holiday shoppers in Singapore or you want to carry out test runs for your Amsterdam customer base, but your core virtual server originally resides in Melbourne.

Solving e-Commerce Challenges with SoftLayer
I like using this image as it gives a great view into how SoftLayer can help e-commerce and e-tail customers manage day-to-day scenarios. From seasonal site traffic spikes to needing backup solutions for business continuity, SoftLayer has a solution for it. Plus SoftLayer brings advantages gleaned from working with e-commerce giants over the past decade.

Walking the Talk—Businesses that are Leveraging Cloud . . . Successfully!
In October 2014, Natali Ardianto, Tiket.com's CTO, gave a keynote address at Cloud Expo Asia about building one of Indonesia’s largest online travel and entertainment portals. When it first launched a few years ago, Tiket.com faced TCP, DoS, and DDoS attacks while hosting unsuccessfully on two different IaaS providers. The company needed a highly stable infrastructure delivering consistent performance and reliable support to ensure site uptime and a smooth end-user experience. Tiket.com chose SoftLayer to support its site. Running on SoftLayer bare metal servers, Tiket.com systems are now able to handle more than 300 API requests per minute and has experienced a 75 percent cost savings. Watch Natali's video where he discusses his cloud experience, or read the detailed case study.

HotelsCombined.com is an impressive collection of over 5 million real-time international hotel deals, a database of more than 800,000 properties and an affiliate base of over 20,000 companies. The company uses a combination of SoftLayer bare metal and virtual servers, load balancers, and redundant iSCSI storage. This provides the company with several thousand cores of processing power and enables it to remain lean and move quickly. The company also uses the SoftLayer infrastructure to provide real-time predictive models to the website and to support its business intelligence tools. Read the detailed case study.


Photo credits @iMediaSummit

While at the conference, I met up with a great bunch of entrepreneurs, startups and giants from across Asia. It was amazing to hear about the journey and growth plans of Rakuten, Life Project, Qoo10, Telunjuk, Seroyamart.com, and many more. Keep your ears open this coming year. The e-commerce landscape is rapidly progressing and these guys are weaving the fabric.

Cheers,

–Namrata (Connect with me on LinkedIn or, Twitter)

January 30, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1 No. 4

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

The Man Behind IBM’s Cloud-Based Campaign
Robert LeBlanc, a 33-year IBM veteran, was named the leader of a new dedicated cloud unit in early January.

EMLYON Business School to Create a Smart Business School via IBM Cloud
EMLYON Business School will develop a new digital learning environment to deliver personalized, on-demand business education on a global basis via IBM Cloud’s SoftLayer infrastructure.

KONA’s Choice of IBM Cloud Set to Help Them Claim Significant Part of BaaS Market
KONA Uruguay will launch its new cloud-based application development service on IBM Cloud’s SoftLayer.

-Betsy

Categories: 
January 27, 2015

Hello, IBM Bluemix!

Developers, if you'd prefer to focus on building new applications instead of customizing your own unique cloud infrastructure, IBM Bluemix provides building blocks to rapidly develop and deploy applications on the Platform as a Service (PaaS) level to make life easier for you. It’s an ecosystem of services based on Cloud Foundry, an open source project designed to make deploying and scaling an application as simple as possible. Leveraging an existing project like this is a large part of what makes Bluemix so easy to use.

Bluemix integrates with Jazz, IBM’s DevOps service, to help manage code, plan versions and release, and actually push code to production. You can still use it with your github projects, so no worries there.

And as a SoftLayer customer (or potential customer), you can rest assured that Bluemix projects can run on SoftLayer’s hardware and network.

Core Ideas

The Application
This is your code. Bluemix comes with a number of predefined buildpacks to get your language of choice up and running quickly, but you will still need to actually develop your application. Bluemix hasn’t solved that problem yet.
Buildpacks
A buildpack is a collection of scripts designed to set up your container and all of the application dependencies. If Bluemix doesn’t have a buildpack that suits your needs, you can always create your own. Extending a buildpack is pretty easy. Simply clone an existing one to use as a base, make your changes, commit it to your github repo, and then tell Bluemix about it so it can build your application properly.
Services
Bluemix has a long list of services you can bind to your application. Instead of making a MySQL server yourself, you can just bind the MySQL service to your application and start coding. Along with many of the standard services expected from a CloudFoundry project, there are also some IBM specific ones, like Watson as a service. While I haven’t had the time to learn about Watson personally, everyone I talk to says it’s a rather neat thing to have on your application.

Getting Started

I recommend reading this tutorial which will get you to a nice “hello world” application. Overall I found that going from “I have no idea what Bluemix is” to “I’ve created my own Bluemix application!” to be a rather pleasant experience.

Creating your first Bluemix project is only a few clicks away. A Bluemix 30 day free trial should give you plenty of time to get an idea if Bluemix is the right fit for you.

Bluemix is absolutely worth checking out. So, what are you waiting for? Give it a go!

- Chris

January 23, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1 No. 3

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

IBM: Cloud Revenue Hit $7 Billion in 2014
On Tuesday, IBM announced that its total cloud revenue for fiscal year 2014 hit $7 billion, up 60 percent from the prior-year period.

Chalk Up Another Two Customer for IBM’s Cloud Business
IBM’s newly formed cloud division has announced new agreements with Anthem and Clarient Global.

IBM Bluemix PaaS a Strong Contender Against AWS
IBM's most promising strategy so far may lie in its newest endeavor: Bluemix PaaS, which runs on SoftLayer’s cloud.

10 Things You Should Worry About in 2015
InfoWorld outlines 10 things to look out for in 2015, and number three is IBM’s cloud, including SoftLayer’s expanded footprint of data centers.

-Betsy

Categories: 
January 19, 2015

Asia Startup Series: It's All About Making the Most of Your “Professional Social Life”

Startups are near and dear to our heart at SoftLayer; just take a look at the Catalyst program. That’s why we are so excited to see the startup scene in Asia growing at a tremendous pace. The fact that venture capitalists are now setting aside funds especially for young technology companies in this part of the world brings to focus the absolute potential of this market. Some of the big funds announced in 2014 include: the Singapore government's $48 million fund distributed among six venture capital firms, Japanese mobile gaming giant GREE Ventures’ new $50 million fund, Softbank and Indosat’s partnership to launch a $50 million fund for Indonesia, and Softbank’s $20 million fund for the Philippines.

*This is Part 2 of the Asia Startup Series. Read Part 1: Drawing Board Events: Event Planning Goes the Way of the Cloud

Australia is a hotpot of ideas and over the years a number of local startups have shot to fame. Seedstarsworld released this overview of the Sydney startup scene. In April 2014, Insight Venture Partners invested US$250 million in a Sydney-based email marketing company. Much more recently, U.S. venture capital fund Technology Crossover Ventures invested US$30 million in an Australian online hotel distribution company. With all the momentum Down Under, this seems like a great time talk about one Australian startup that has a pretty cool idea to share.

ChannelPace
Working with startups is brilliant because there are no limits to how much one can blur the lines, extend the lines, distort the lines, join two lines to reinvent the boring the stuff, or bring in something brand new. ChannelPace is perhaps one of my favorite examples of such line-blurring ideas.

Picture this: As a business, it is imperative that you have a complete track of who your customers, your prospects, and even your potential employees are. When the world recognized this, we saw some really nice CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools come to market. The problem, however, with such tools is that the contact ownership is with the business, while the relationships are built by the people (the sales, marketing and support teams). Attrition is a reality, and when an employee leaves a company, the contacts, relationships, and information they’ve made often slip through the cracks. Of course that individual could continue to nurture those relationships through popular social channels. But keeping track of the hundreds, if not thousands, of contacts is nearly impossible, especially if the contacts themselves change companies.

And, this is where ChannelPace, an Australian-based startup, managed to merge and blur the lines. Greg Furlong, CEO of ChannelPace, attended SoftLayer’s Melbourne data center launch party last October, and that's where we started discussing the unique value his startup provides. Greg defines ChannelPace as the world’s first crowd-sourced contact management system.

He said, “The contacts we make during our working lives are some of our most valuable assets. And at its core, ChannelPace is designed to enable users to get their contacts organized in one place and available across all their Web-capable devices. The premise is that individuals own contacts, and our system enables sharing between users at the same company, thereby harnessing the knowledge of co-workers. When a ChannelPace user moves to another company, they take their contacts, and an imprint is left behind.”

This cloud-based system has the best of both worlds: a CRM system and a social channel. Contacts may be entered in the same manner as a traditional CRM system, or via business networking, in a manner similar to LinkedIn. Only one record is ever kept of a business card, keyed on the unique email address, and then people with the same contacts or in the same company all participate in updating the information—all without necessarily being connected to or aware of each other. Crowd-sourcing ensures information is always up-to-date, which is more efficient and effective, giving companies and individuals a competitive advantage.

Here is a snapshot of my conversation and the innumerable email exchanges with Greg:

The crowd-sourcing concept was great, but why would an organization appreciate and implement this system if they were no longer contact owners?

Greg: The first pillar of the ChannelPace system, contact management, provides people with a place to enter their business contacts. As the only way into the system is via a work-issued email address, we bring users from the same company together by creating a dynamic CRM system where everyone in the same company’s contacts are pooled. Individuals still “own” their contacts, but now everyone in the same company has access to the contact knowledge of all other ChannelPace users in their company. When you leave your company, you lose access to the shared knowledge. When you start at a new company, your contacts are now pooled with other ChannelPace users at your new company. In this way, we are providing a contact management system where users have an active interest in using it, as it is their information. Traditional CRM relies on users within the company keeping information updated. ChannelPace does this also, but we extend the updating reach to any other users around the world with access to the same contacts, which makes it more reliable and relevant.

Why did you decide to build ChannelPace as a cloud-based system?

Greg: We began building the company in 2013 with a mission to disrupt the CRM industry and displace dominant players like LinkedIn, Google+, and Salesforce. In order to compete at that level, we realized that ChannelPace needed a scalable, global cloud infrastructure platform that was nimble, reliable, and easy to implement. Hence the move to cloud. We were also looking for local presence, redundancy on multiple continents, load balancing, and as workloads increase in specific areas, high scalability. We considered numerous cloud providers including SoftLayer, Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Engine, Rackspace and Microsoft’s Azure. Finally, we decided to sign up with SoftLayer.

Why SoftLayer?

Greg: Two of ChannelPace’s priorities were global reach and scalability. ChannelPace now operates in 56 countries, and SoftLayer’s growing number of data centers and global network makes it easy for us to expand and grow our business. Also, SoftLayer’s network-within-a-network architecture is quite unique and enables us deliver unlimited traffic “on network” between servers in different data center locations around the world. When you’re looking to make an immediate impact on an industry, it’s important to work with a provider who you truly consider to be an extension of your business.

The system has immense potential. What are your growth plans for ChannelPace in 2015?

Greg: Like any other startup, we want to focus on aggressive market expansion and customer outreach. We have set high targets for ourselves, and towards that we are currently developing iOS and Android apps to extend the ChannelPace service to mobile. We also have a couple of tweaks and innovations in pipelines and 2015 is going to be super exciting for us.

I think it's great that my work life now has the potential to become a “professional social life!”

Cheers,
–Namrata (Connect with me on LinkedIn or, Twitter)

January 16, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1 No. 2

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

IBM SoftLayer IaaS Stands Up to AWS With Free Support, Networking
IBM's SoftLayer IaaS offers low-cost networking and free support, tempting some customers away from AWS.

Computing, Fast and Slow
The Economist explores the challenges and possibilities for IBM, noting that “things began to change in 2013 when it [IBM] acquired SoftLayer, a cloud-computing provider” along with partnerships with other companies like Apple and Twitter.

IBM Brings Its Cloud to Mexico
IBM Cloud opened a new data center in Mexico, enabling customers to store location-sensitive data near Mexico while taking advantage of the data protection offered by redundancy options within SoftLayer’s global network.

IBM Mainframe Makeover: Mobile, Big Data Reality Check
IBM's cloud didn't catch fire until SoftLayer entered the picture in 2013.

-Betsy

Categories: 
January 15, 2015

Hot in 2015: Trends and Predictions

As cloud technology moves into 2015, the pace of innovation in the cloud space continues to accelerate faster and faster. Being no stranger to innovation ourselves, we’ve got our collective finger on the pulse of what’s up and coming. Here are some trends we see on the horizon for cloud in 2015.

Hybrid cloud
As more and more workloads move to the cloud, many companies are looking for a way to leverage all of the value and economies of scale that the cloud provides while still being able to keep sensitive data secure. Hybrid cloud solutions, which can mean an environment that employs both private and public cloud services, on- and off-prem resources, or a service that combines both bare metal and virtual servers, will continue to grow in popularity. With 70 percent of CIOs planning to change their company’s sourcing and technology relationship within the next three years, Gartner notes that hybrid IT environments will dominate the space as they offer many of the benefits of legacy, old-world environments but still operate within the new-world as-a-service model.

Read more:
+IBM Hybrid Clouds

Bare metal
In 2015, the term bare metal will be officially mainstream. Early on, bare metal servers were seen as a necessity for only a few users, but now it has become the ideal solution for processor-intensive and disk I/O-intensive workloads like big data and analytics. We’ve been in the business of bare metal (formerly called dedicated servers) for 10 years now, and we’re happy to see the term become a standard part of the cloud dialogue. As cloud workloads get tougher and more complex in 2015, companies will continue to turn to bare metal for its raw performance.
Security
Security has been a hot topic in the news. In 2014, major retailers were hacked, certain celebrity photos were leaked, and issues surrounding government surveillance were in the spotlight. More than ever, these incidents have reminded everyone that the underlying architectures of the Internet are not secure, and without protections like firewalls, private networks, encryption, and other security features, private data isn’t truly private. In response to these concerns, tech companies will offer even higher levels of security in order to protect consumers’ and merchants’ sensitive data.

Read more:
+SoftLayer Cloud Security

Big data
Big data moves from hype and buzzword status to mainstream. The cloud industry has seen a change in the way big data is being put to work. It’s becoming more widely adopted by organizations of all types and sizes, in both the public and private sectors. One such organization is the Chicago Department of Public Health, which is using predictive analytics and data to experiment and improve food inspection and sanitation work. The city’s team has developed a machine-learning program to mine Twitter for tweets that use words related to food poisoning so that they can reply directly to posters, encouraging them to file a formal report. We’ll see much more of this kind of smart application of big data analytics to real-life problems in the year to come.

Read more:
+ In Chicago, Food Inspectors are Guided by Big Data

Docker
Docker is an open platform for developers and system administrators to build, ship, and run distributed applications. It enables apps to be quickly assembled from components and eliminates the friction between development, QA, and production environments. Streamlining workflow, the Docker software container allows developers to work on the exact same deployment stack that programmers use and contains all the dependencies within it. It can also be moved from bare metal to hybrid cloud environments—positioning it to be the next big thing on the cloud scene in 2015. IBM has already capitalized on Docker’s simplicity and portability by launching its IBM Containers service, part of Bluemix, last month. IBM Containers will help enterprises launch Docker containers directly onto the IBM Cloud via bare metal servers from SoftLayer.

Read more:
+Docker
+At DockerCon Amsterdam, an Under Fire Docker Makes a Raft of Announcements

Health care
The medical and health care industries will continue to adopt cloud in 2015 to store, compute, and analyze medical data as well as address public concerns about modernizing record-keeping and file-sharing practices. The challenge will be keeping patients’ sensitive medical data secure so that it can be shared among health care providers, but kept safely away from hackers.

Read more:
+Coriell Life Sciences

Data sovereignty
In order to comply with local data residency laws in certain regions, many global companies are finding it necessary to host data in country. As new data centers are established worldwide, it’s becoming easier to meet data sovereignty requirements. As a result of launching new data centers, cloud providers are increasing the size and power of their network—creating even lower latency connections—and creating an even more competitive cloud marketplace. As a result, smaller players might be left in the dust in 2015.

Read more:
+ Cloud Security Remains a Barrier for CIOs Across Europe

Enterprises
Last, but certainly not least, 2015 will see an aggressive move to the cloud by enterprise organizations. The cost- and timing-saving benefits of cloud adoption will continue to win over large companies.

Read more:
+IBM Enterprise Cloud System

Looking Ahead
Martin Schroeter, senior vice president and CFO, finance and enterprise at IBM has projected approximately $7 billion in total cloud-related sales in 2015, with $3 billion of that coming from new offerings and the rest from older products shifted to be delivered via the cloud.

SoftLayer will continue to match the pace of cloud adoption by providing innovative services and products, signing new customers, and launching new data centers worldwide. In Q1, our network of data centers will expand into Sydney, Australia, with more to come in 2015.

Read more:
+IBM’s Cloud-Based Future Rides on Newcomer Crosby
+InterConnect 2015

-Marc

January 9, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1 No. 1

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

IBM Bids for Exploding German Cloud Market With Local Data Center
IBM opened its first SoftLayer data center in Germany as part a broader effort to reach international markets amid heightened privacy fears.

IBM Opens SoftLayer Data Center in Germany
IBM’s new SoftLayer data center in Frankfurt will allow customers to run workloads in the cloud while complying with German data-privacy regulations.

Growing Japanese Customer Base Wants Local Data
IBM has opened its first SoftLayer cloud data center in Japan, located in Tokyo.

SoftLayer Launches Three International Data Centers During the Holidays
Dallas-based SoftLayer, an IBM Company, opened data centers in Tokyo and Mexico City on December 22 and Frankfurt on December 29.

-Betsy

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