executive-blog

May 23, 2008

The Greening of IT: Beyond the Easy

The growth in energy demanded by, and used in, IT environments is a well documented phenomenon. Datacenters are using more energy as CPUs get faster, hard drives become larger, and end user demand for access to data and applications continues to increase. Prices for the underlying hardware and services continue to fall, which just fuels more demand.

Datacenter operators have done their best to maximize the use of every available asset within a facility in order to operate highly efficient environments. Much of the emphasis to date has been on proper datacenter alignment: hot-aisle/cold-aisle configurations, blanking panels to cover gaps in server racks, and sealing holes under raised floors to better contain cold air have become common place in the data center.

However, in most large organizations, there many areas that needs more attention. Departments within a large company often have competing goals that negate green IT efforts. One example of this would be –

  • The system administrators and developers want the biggest, fastest machines they can get with the most expandability. This enables them to add memory or hard drives as utilization increases – which makes their jobs much easier to perform and helps them better maintain customer SLAs.
  • Purchasing (and finance) department’s primary goal is to save money. The focus is to work with the vendors to reduce the overall hardware cost.

The disconnect between those two departments will often leave the datacenter manager out in the heat (definitely not “out in the cold”). That person’s job essentially becomes “just find a place to put it” until the datacenter is full enough that the answer becomes “no more”. It then becomes a “fix it now” problem as the company struggles with plans to build more datacenter space. So, the problem is a short term view (meeting quarterly earnings results) versus long term direction (to achieve a sustainable and efficient operations environment that may have a short term cost implication).

What should happen is that the disparate groups need to work together throughout the entire planning process. The purchasing department, the system administrators, developers, and the datacenter managers should build a common plan and set realistic expectations in order to optimize the IT infrastructure required and to best meet business, operations, and efficiency objectives.

Let’s continue the example from above… if a server is ordered just because it’s more expandable (more expansion slots, RAM slots and hard drive bays), that means that the power supply has to be bigger to support the potential need of those future components. A server power supply is most efficient (wastes the least amount of power doing the conversion) when it is running at 80-90% load. If a power supply is over sized to support potential future needs, then it is operating at a much lower efficiency than it should – thus generating more heat, wasting more power and requiring more cooling, which in turn requires more power to run the AC’s.

That might seem like a small price to pay for expandability, but when that scenario is multiplied over an entire datacenter, the scope of the problem becomes very significant. This could lead to lost efficiency of well over 20% as a business plans and buys ahead of demand for the computing capacity it may need in the future.

So, what is the other option? Is purchasing right? Should IT simply buy a small server, at a lower total cost, and scale as the business scales? The problem with this is that it tends to lead to exponential growth in all aspects of IT – more racks to house smaller servers, additional disks, more space and power over time, increased obsolescence of components, and more lost efficiency.

The problem is considerably more complex than both options. The simple fact is that the “fixes” for IT go well beyond implementing a hot-aisle cold-aisle layout and sealing up holes under the raised floor of the datacenter. Now that those things have become “best practices,” it’s time to start highlighting all of the other things that can be done to help improve energy efficiency.

At SoftLayer, we promote an energy efficient focus across the entire company. Datacenter best practices are implemented in all of the datacenter facilities we occupy; we use hot-aisle cold-aisle configurations, we use blanking panels, we use 208v power to the server, we pay very close attention to energy efficient components such as power supplies, hard drives and of course CPUs, and we recycle whatever we can.

Most importantly, we deliver a highly flexible solution that allows customers to scale their businesses as they grow – they do not need to over buy or under buy, since we will simply “re-use” the server for the next customer that needs it. Individually, the energy savings from each of these might be fairly small. But, when multiplied across thousands and thousands of servers and multiple datacenters – these many small things become one large thing quickly – a huge savings in energy consumption over a traditional IT environment.

Ultimately, SoftLayer believes that we can never be satisfied with our efforts. As soon as one set of ideas becomes common place or best practices, we need to be looking for the next round of improvements. And bring those new ideas and practices forward so all can benefit.

-SamF

May 15, 2008

Dreams

Everyone has dreams. Dreams may include having enough money that one never needs to think about money again. Dreams might include working from home. Actually, forget about working from home, how about working from the beach? I dream of providing technical support from my laptop at the beach while sipping pina coladas (virgin, of course, Mr. Crosby…I would never have alcohol on duty):

Photo

I spoke to a customer of SoftLayer via his cell phone while he was on a ski boat in the middle of a lake somewhere. This customer received an email regarding a monitoring alert for one of his servers via his cell phone. He called me, the issue was resolved in 5 minutes, and he went back to skiing. That’s right…all work being done remotely from your favorite locale. That is a great dream. Our hardware manager, Brad, would definitely be on the ski slopes in less than a minute if he were told he could manage from that location via laptop. I can just see him snowboarding down the mountain and typing away to his Server Build Engineers about the latest and greatest hardware we are about to roll out. I’m pretty sure Lance is setting us up for this according to his blog entitled, “Your Datacenter is Obsolete

Wait…maybe he is saying that CSA’s will be obsolete as well…uh…nah…he wouldn’t do that to us, right…right?

I speak to customers daily that are working from their homes and living their dreams. A few weeks ago, I spoke to a customer somewhere in a remote location in Canada. He is running a very lucrative business from a cabin. His location is so remote and desolate that truck drivers must be enticed by a yearly salary of over $120,000 to come up there and work. No one would do it for less money than that. I have always lived and worked in big cities like Dallas, Texas, and I cannot imagine living in such a place. This customer is often trapped by snow in the winter and cannot leave his cabin until it melts to the point that he can get out. And yet, he runs a business using SoftLayer servers making more than the truck drivers (how much? I don’t know) from this desolate place (Why? I don’t know…he must like it). What a great business opportunity for someone who chooses to live away from civilization. People only dreamed of such opportunities not so long ago. The days of having to move away from family, friends, and your home in order to find work are long gone. An internet connection and a few SoftLayer servers ; ) are all one needs to make A LOT of money.

I was speaking to another customer yesterday, who was very excited about his business and how Softlayer was helping him to achieve his dreams. While I quietly worked on his issue, he spoke at length about how he first came to hear about Softlayer, the depth to which his vision for his business has grown while partnering with SoftLayer, and his amazing plans for the future of his business. I was truly inspired by his passion for his business and his particular vision for his company. He shared some of the challenges that he has faced and how he overcame them. He readily admitted to some mistakes he has made in business and what he learned from those mistakes. He said that he would not deviate from his goals and that partnering with SoftLayer was integral to achieving those goals. He also said that SoftLayer had helped him greatly in overcoming some of those challenges that he had faced in the past with other datacenters. I must say that it gives me a real sense of pride when a customer tells me that they have partnered with other datacenters in the past, and that their experience with SoftLayer has been second to none. He was also up north somewhere. I don’t know where he was located exactly, but I know he was working from home because I kept hearing a young child playing in the background. This is one thing that so great about the opportunities in this industry. Work from where ever you like and SoftLayer, in particular, makes this easier than ever before.

“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without first dreaming of that accomplishment.” - based on a quote by Hebbel

-David

May 14, 2008

On Site Development

I have a friend who worked at an internationally recognized fast food restaurant. It relies heavily on it’s computer systems to operate. Being a programmer (I’ve always preferred Computer Alchemist), I’ve always been fascinated with the command and control programs used at these restaurants, and have drilled many family members and friends to describe (in the most non-specific non-job-endangering way) what they do with those computers to do their job.

At the fast food restaurant, every order is entered into the cash register at the front of the line, processed by the computer systems on site, the orders are relayed to the kitchen in realtime and displayed on monitors, and various thermal ticket printers spit out meal tickets to be affixed to the various food items to describe their state (Double Cheeseburger, No Pickles, No Onions, Add Secret Sauce). It’s an amazing dance of software.

But I noticed that my friend the grill cook was constantly complaining about the system. Apparently, the order processing is really real time. When the guy up front presses the “double cheeseburger” button, it immediately lights up in the back but it doesn’t alert you that this is an order in progress! So, if the cooks are in a rush and just preparing orders as fast as possible, they might already have the pickles on the burger before the lady up front presses the “No Pickles” button, updating the display. Also, updated items are NOT IDENTIFIED by the system, so if the burger is already wrapped and the burger man is already moving to the next little square, it might not be caught! (Keep this in mind: most order “errors” at this internationally recognized fast food restaurant are caused by slow order takers, or slow customers, or customers who change their mind at the end of an order (Oh, could you make that burger with no onions?). Remember, if the guys in the back are rushing, get your order together in your head before you speak. If you say “Double Cheeseburger, no pickles, no onions, add secret sauce” just like that, it’ll pop into the system the right way!)

My question, of course, was “Why not rewrite the cash registers to be more awesome?” See, the old registers tied into a small computer in the back room that tied into the monitors in the kitchen. All state was held on that one machine, so obviously as soon as it was updated, it would appear on the monitors. But I couldn’t figure out why they kept using this stupid backwards system. It’s 2008! When I worked in the local greasepit in my small town, we used paper tickets we were more efficient than this fast food restaurant’s system! So why haven’t they updated? Simple: the people who can fix it aren’t there to use it.

Aha! That’s what makes SoftLayer so awesome. See, our programming staff is right here, in the same office as everyone else (except for those people who work in our datacenters, but they have our internal IM, email, and phone numbers and know they can contact us at any time.). If something breaks, or if something is built in a backwards or strange way, we know immediately and can turn around and fix it. In fact, we have a whole lot of programmers, as a ratio of developers to normal people. This high ratio allows us to have the best control portal in the world, and to add features quickly. See, if only developers worked at that fast food restaurant, and saw how the system was used, and were allowed to make changes (another awesome bit about SoftLayer: management is open to change. You’d be surprised how many obvious changes simply are not allowed by management in some dev shops…), then it would be a much easier place for everyone involved. And maybe I’d get my Double Cheeseburger right. Without the onions.

-Zoey

Categories: 
May 12, 2008

The Great Debate Rebuttal

Although those faithful readers (I know there are two of you out there) might be wondering why the geniuses in the sales department engage in such mundane debates, the answer is pretty clear. We are competitive and also enjoy hearing our own voices. And thus the debates ensue. We have wrestled such fascinating topics as Batman vs. Spiderman, Santa vs. the Easter bunny, Chis Farley vs. John Candy, TuPac vs. Biggy and the infamous Gator vs Python, which regrettably ended in a draw.

Sure, we could argue politics or religion. But those topics are a little too touchy for people you have to sit in close proximity to for so many hours each week. So we debate "safer" topics. Unfortunately, even these "safe debates" become heated. But I digress. Enough with the why, let me get back to the important issue at hand… the rebuttal.

I have known young Miller for close to 20 years now and one thing has always remained constant with his arguments -- they are always horribly misguided, fatally flawed, and just plain WRONG. Even as I have watched him grow into the capable young man-child he is today, Miller consistently makes one fateful mistake . . . he continues to doubt my vast comprehension of the cosmos and all beings contained therein.

Based on the knowledge I acquired in vet school (if I went to vet school, why am I in sales, you ask?) and upon the many, many hours of Animal Planet I watch daily, Miller's argument is deficient for multiple reasons. Your boy Sharky is going down. Easily and with less dignity than that of roadkill, my friend.

The main X factor young Miller is over looking here is home field advantage. If this epic battle is to take place in 4 feet of water, then hands down the Grizzly has the advantage. Without depth, the Sharky loses his mobility and everything that makes him an efficient hunter. While it is rare to see a Great White hunt in the shallows, a Grizzly actually prefers to stalk his prey in this environment. Four feet of water is his home and much like the Chicago Bears, Grizzly bears rarely lose at home.

The next clear advantage being overlooked here is the fact that a bear has non-opposable thumbs. No, this does not mean he can use tools or even grip a rusty shank, but this does mean he has ARMS to put Sharky in a rear naked choke and tap him out (if Sharky only had ARMS to tap!!! THE TRAGEDY!). He can use these appendages to jab and swipe his razor sharp claws, all the while back-peddling and keeping his distance from the damaging teeth of the shark. While in his prime, Muhammad Ali used this exact tactic to chop down opponents much larger then him.

Yet another advantage that goes to the Bear is height. Being 8 feet tall would allow for the Bear to pounce on the shark like Laude at an all you can eat sausage buffet (the guy likes sausage). In 4 feet of water the shark is nothing more then an ankle biting battering ram lacking agility and mobility.

And finally… Bears eat fish and things that swim in the water and I have never seen a shark eat anything on land. I could go on all day here but I will spare you all and just cut to the conclusion: Bear wins, end of story.

There is no reply blog necessary here, Miller. I just shut you down, son. Now if you want to talk Chuck Norris vs. God, I am open to debate. GOOD DAY, SIR. I SAID GOOD DAY!

-Daniel

Categories: 
May 9, 2008

Industry-Wide Language Barrier

What language do we speak here at Softlayer? What language is spoken across the industry? Is it the same, or does everyone have their own code for translation?

It seems that in the “on demand datacenter industry”, “hosting industry”, “dedicated server industry” (or whatever you prefer to call it) each company or provider has its own idea and way of projecting who they are. These projections are seldom in line with one another and have a slight difference only to give some idea of separation.

The biggest grey area that I have seen and something that gets distorted is the idea of managed services and just the term “management” in general seems to have lost any kind of universal meaning. The thing that I run into most is when a customer asks us if we are a managed company. I find this to be a loaded question knowing what I know of the industry and other providers. The reason is that you can call your service anything you want to and even come up with clever and creative names for it, but at the end of the day creative marketing doesn’t get results when the rubber meets the road.

It is imperative that the correct expectations are set so that customers aren’t lead astray and find themselves in a situation that they were unprepared for because they were disillusioned by gimmicky wording. Softlayer has the reputation of being an honorable company and I am proud to be a part of that. We do not consider ourselves to be a managed service, but we do offer support and help in many situations. We have support staff here 24 hours every day of the year that can help you, or possibly help point you in a good direction for you to be able to help yourself. We offer OS updates and patches at no additional charge automatically. We strive to be as upfront and fair on everything from the bottom to the top, so I feel that it is my duty to explain this situation in more detail. In fact, all of our sales representatives and many of our customers have felt this same way. What I have found is that this upfront and honest explanation is a rarity and that many companies are not as forthcoming as they could be or should be when discussing “managed services”.

There are a lot of companies who provide the exact same services as we do and call this being “fully managed”. There are others who promise the moon and a shoe shine with their service and then just come up short on the efforts. Now, this may not be entirely their fault because they may have excellent intentions, but a poor and impractical business model. However, intentions don’t get results and customers are the ones who pay most for the misrepresentation. The worst situation is when someone pays a huge premium for a service that is overpromised and then severely under delivered. When I am able to talk to someone who has been in this situation they really appreciate the options and control that they have over every aspect of their service when choosing Softlayer as their provider. The only satisfaction I can get is helping people that have been taken advantage of find a provider that they know they can count on and exactly what they can expect.

This elaboration of services extends beyond server management. No matter what buzz words a company may want to use to describe your company (“largest”, “best”, “heroic”, “ultimate”, really just fill in the blank on this if you’ve been around long enough.) the main thing that matters in this industry is functionality. I am confident in saying that no other company can offer anything close to what Softlayer can provide. Softlayer provides options and capabilities which are unparalleled in the industry in order to give customers complete control over their hardware and thus their own business. There are some that have tried to copy our model and others who have tried to produce a stop-gap solution between what they offer and what we offer, but they have failed. Is this, perhaps, a key reason why we have been able to sustain our high level of growth and remain stable? Possibly. Is this a sign that the best is yet to come with Softlayer? Definitely.

If you want to talk about situations or projects you may have coming up, I would be happy to speak with you and help come up with a solution that will maximize your businesses potential. In fact my entire team is here for this specific purpose.

-Doug

Categories: 
May 7, 2008

The Great Debate

Who would win in a fight to the death between a Grizzly Bear and a Great White Shark?

Yes, we here in SLales, particularly Daniel and myself, have these types of serious debates quite often. Now before you get all riled up about how this would never happen and there’s no way these two would ever even meet, etc, etc, hear me out folks. Daniel said it best during one of our many debates about this important issue:

“I win the lotto and I’m putting this show on Pay-Per-View.... greatest show on earth.”

IIIIIIIIIIIn the red corner weighing in at 5,000lbs, laying 20 feet long – SHARKY! AAAAAAAnd in the blue corner weighing in at 1,500lbs and standing 8 feet tall – GRIZZLY!

The setting would be similar to the UFC Octagon, only twice the size, instead of a cage it will be a solid metal octagon and filled with 4 feet of water so the Shark can maneuver and so can the Bear. Both animals are fully grown adults - the Shark is a female, the Bear is a male - predatory in nature and very aggressive.

My contention would be that the Great White wins this battle to the death for a few reasons:

  1. The Great White Shark has been dubbed “an efficient killing machine” on several occasions by many scientists and experts.
  2. This ain’t no Salmon Grizzly; this is 20ft and 5,000lbs of fury coming for YOU Bear!
  3. Sharky is HUGE, more than double the size of Grizzly.
  4. Sharky has rows and rows of teeth that are easily replaceable in a fight to the death, Grizzly has one set and that’s it.
  5. Great White Sharks are notorious for their thick skin; the bear doesn’t stand a chance with his teeth and claws.
  6. Yes, Grizzly will be more maneuverable, however one bite from Sharky and he’s done.
  7. There is a certain 80's rock band named after Sharky, none for Grizzly.

What’s you guys’ take on the outcome here, do you think Sharky or Grizzly would win?

Daniel, I await your side of the argument sir!

-Michael

***The views and expressions of these events are completely fictional and meant for entertainment purposes only. ***

Categories: 
May 6, 2008

High Five Rebuttal

I know this is an overdue rebuttal, but I have to stick up for myself here. Recently it has been brought up the high five and the fist bump pro’s and cons. I am here to shed new light on the matter which will provide a feasible alternative, but at the same time bring respect to all no matter what form you like to bring it.

Let's review:

The high five is a cornerstone of cool. It is the revolutionary leader in which we should pay homage because without it we wouldn’t have this conversation in the first place. God only knows when the high five was invented, but even then he must have been impressed. So in the interest of staying positive let’s stick with the pro’s of the high five.

  • A high five can be a good alternative to anything else because of range and when height is a factor (especially over a cube wall).
  • The high five is versatile in different levels and angles that it can be applied from. It can even go inverted (see explanation of “low five” in blogs to come)
  • The high five is not likely to spur on a game of bloody knuckles or other such contests of pain thresholds even as invigorating as they can be.
  • The high five is universal and you can take it all over the world. (see Borat, he’ll tell you all about it)
  • The high five can be seen in many instances throughout the movie “TOP GUN”. Especially in the brotherhood of “Maverick” and “Goose”. I don’t care who you are or how old you are TOPGUN is still one of the coolest movies around and the high fives used in the movie just help make it that much cooler. Also, as a side note, if you didn’t feel remotely bad when Goose died in the movie you have no soul and can probably stop reading at this point.
  • Above all the high five has withstood a test many popular things haven’t or won't; the test of time.

So now that we have elaborated on why the high five is not the evil empire of office camaraderie, but in fact a form of communication to be respected and treasured, we can move onto the fist bump. The fist bump is more recent. It’s hip, it’s now, it’s from the streets. You can do kewl little things like “lock it up” or “blow it up”. They perform a fist pump out of sign of respect before any boxing match or other fight. Some believe it to be a sign of strength or superiority. I find it simply to be a solid alternative to be used to keep things fresh when pumping up the colleagues. For more on the positive promise of the fist bump please note our CEO’s perfectly mannered and unbiased point of view of the subject in an earlier blog.

Taking it to the next level people have suggested the chest bump. However, I don’t have a lot to say about this one because I don’t know when it’s ever really ok to get that close to someone else in the office and we’ll just leave it at that.

OK, so after all this. I have a suggestion to include the elbow into the repertoire. Names that have been thrown out have been simply “the elbow” and the “e-dap”. If stating that the fist bump is a sign of strength and thus making it good the elbow bump or other connection has to be the next logical form of enthusiasm.

  • No set of bones in the human body are as strong as the elbow (the thigh could claim some contention, but we’re not touching that with a really long pole) and nothing can be as impactful as a well placed “forearm shivva”.
  • In the heyday of steroids in baseball it was the en vogue way of celebrating. At no other point in time was neither baseball nor the players stronger than during the reign of “the elbow”.
  • In entertainment disguised as sport in wrestling “The Rock” (name spurred on from a symbolism of strength) had a favorite move called “The People’s Elbow”. It was aptly named for the people because of its popularity.
  • The Elbow has an outreach so wide that Michael Miller of the sales department often speaks of “The Flying Elbow” inspired by the Macho Man Randy Savage.

The fist bump is still quite popular now, but with all of this evidence available I implore upper management to cease its discrimination of other forms of enthusiasm. Please broaden your horizons to accept new ways as well as classic ways of expressing ones pride in celebration. After all people of one mind and one spirit working for one goal cannot be wrong in any form of celebration as victory is achieved.

-Doug

Categories: 
May 5, 2008

Money, Money, Money, Money…Money!

I am a CSA with SoftLayer and I have the privilege of working with extremely successful customers on a daily basis solving issues and keeping their businesses running smoothly. I continue to be amazed at the amount of money that some of our customers must be making. I looked at a certain customer’s website, and then compared his prices for the services he provides using his SoftLayer servers with the average price of a server on SoftLayer’s website, the conclusion I came to was unbelievable. Of course, I had to make an educated guess concerning how much he could provide per a given server. And, I do not know how much he actually pays for any particular server as specials have been run at different times on different servers. But, taking into account that this particular customer has over 30 servers with SoftLayer, and few other factors that I know about this customer from speaking with him over the phone at different times, my best guess is that he is making somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 per month all things considered. WOW! (Hold on…I choked…yep, that’s right…about $30,000 per month)

Example Customer X (one of many!):

  • Started with one server and a great business model
  • Took advantage of all that SoftLayer has to offer (specials, tools, resources, etc.)
  • Continued to grow to more than 30 servers
  • Now brings in at least $30,000 per month per my best guess! WOW!

Of course, this is just one of our customers. SoftLayer has many extremely successful customers like this. I find it very interesting that we have such a large number of very successful customers. That tells me that SoftLayer must be a great foundation for a successful business. It just makes sense. If you have many unsuccessful customers and the customer turn-over is high, then your sales team must be great, but your product is bad. But, when you have many enormously successful customers and customer turn-over is low, then you must have a great product that is the best thing going. And, if these successful customers could choose to support their very successful businesses with any provider that they wanted, and yet they continue to choose SoftLayer, that means that SoftLayer is a great choice if you want to be successful!

Personally, I will attain this level of success one day. Will I be a Customer X or will I be a Lance Crosby? I don’t know yet. I do know that I am truly enjoying the journey to my ultimate success while learning everything I can in my current position here at SoftLayer.

So, to all you amazingly successful SoftLayer customers…and to all of you who are so quickly building your success on the foundation of SoftLayer, thank you for your inspiration.

If you don’t mind sharing some of your story of success with us here on this blog, I, for one, would really enjoy reading about it.

-David

Categories: 
May 2, 2008

Outsource IT – The Numbers Back it Up

With Skinman blogging about outsourcing (here, here, and here) along with Michael Miller blogging about the ease of leasing vs. buying, I had to jump in to say that the numbers show that their thinking is right on track.

Using database driving financial modeling software, I modeled a small internet-based business doing their IT infrastructure in-house versus using SoftLayer to handle the infrastructure for them. The benefits of using SoftLayer are eye-popping.

Here are the basic assumptions of the mythical company. There are 8 employees, 2 of which are founders who took out second mortgages on their houses to launch the business. First year sales are about $1.5 million. Business needs require 12 servers in two different geographic locations, housed in climate controlled rooms. Pricing out the servers and networking gear on Dell and eBay worked out to $71,509. This gear was financed with part of the proceeds from the second mortgages, booked to the balance sheet and depreciated. After three years, it was disposed of and upgraded with new gear costing $125,000.

Using SoftLayer changes several of these assumptions. By letting SoftLayer handle infrastructure, one less employee was required. There was no capital outlay for the needed 12 servers and networking gear. SoftLayer got the servers running in a couple of hours with no setup fees for a manageable monthly charge. This allowed less debt to start the business, and there were no long term contracts with SoftLayer if the business idea didn’t work out. There was no need to book the assets to the balance sheet, depreciate them, and upgrading them after three years involved a simple phone call so SoftLayer. No disposing of old gear or balance sheet write offs were necessary.

Consequently, this improved all the most important financial statement measures besides revenue, which remained the same in each scenario. Gross profit, EBITDA, EBIT, and Net Income all improved dramatically from using SoftLayer. Balance sheet credit worthiness, measured by things like equity and the Current Ratio among other things, dramatically improve. Finally, cash balances and cash flow almost double by using SoftLayer. Just compare the highlighted fields in this spreadsheet.

As they say, “your mileage may vary.” But odds are that you can significantly improve your financial performance by using SoftLayer to eliminate operating costs, depreciation, debt financing, and upgrade logistics related to your IT infrastructure needs.

-Gary

April 30, 2008

The Art Of Ramen

A man bicycles down a dimly lit street, balancing three hot steaming bowls of soup as he navigates the various pedestrians and suicidal drivers all intent on their destination. Approaching the apartment building, he enters, climbs a few flights of stairs, and makes his delivery, picking up some bowls from the previous night’s dinner. Whereas in America we would have been expecting a pizza delivery, in Japan it’s not an uncommon sight to see Ramen soup delivery.

If you ever find yourself in an “Oriental Style” kitchen, see if you can find some Miso Ramen to eat. The soup is like a more complex version of Chicken Noodle Soup, served in a huge bowl (if they do it right). Hmm. Makes me hungry typing this.

However, in free association, most Americans will think instead of a small, hard brick of fried noodles sealed in a plastic wrap with a small foil packet of soup base. In 1958, Momofuku Ando of Nissin Foods invented instant ramen noodles (named the greatest Japanese invention of the 20th century in a Japanese poll, beating out karaoke and the Walkman (!)) which allows a meal to be prepared in 3 minutes or so. Liberal application of artificial flavoring and monosodium glutamate trick the brain into believing it has indeed had a complete meal. And at 15-20 cents per packet, it beats out mac and cheese and completely decimates spaghetti as the food of choice when you just have to go out and buy a new RAID array or Wii and discover you’ve stomped your food budget (again).

For such a simple meal, however, I’ve discovered that everyone has their own special way of preparing it. A friend of mine boils the water, takes it off the heat, stirs in the sauce and lets it cool. And liberally applies pepper to the resulting soup. 50% (made up statistic) of the people who make these noodles crush the noodle brick before boiling. Various additions and subtractions have been tried, with various levels of success.

My favorite noodle cooking process is to place the brick into rapidly boiling water, then following it with what my sister and I call “Korean Ketchup” (a very spicy red sauce with a rooster on it; you can find it at your local WalMart), about three tablespoons. Allow the water to boil the brick on medium-high heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the pan off and drain, leaving about a quarter inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Return to the stove and set to medium heat. Open the flavor packet and sprinkle on the noodles. Stir rapidly to dissolve the packet in the water before it boils away, and coat the noodles with the resulting sauce. Remove from heat and pour on plate. You end up with a very strongly flavored, spicy, almost Yakisoba style ramen dish. Sometimes I add frozen fajita chicken, but let’s be honest, if I had the money for frozen fajita chicken, I wouldn’t be scarfing down ramen noodles. Goes excellent with disposable wooden chopsticks swiped from your local oriental meal establishment.

I’ve seen tons of recipes for ramen noodles, from Mexican Ramen and Cheese to an almost Rice Krispie Treat type Noodle/Sugar/Chocolate/Marshmallow recipe that tastes pretty good. Yes, the humble ramen noodle brick is so inoffensive and flavorless (by design) that it can be used as the base for nearly any food desired. So, the next time you snag a box of 15 cent plastic packets, try to come up with an exciting new way to cook them. Ramen is an art, not a science.

-Zoey

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