October 1, 2008

An Investor. A Mentor. A Friend.

In the passing of Rick Gardner, SoftLayer has lost all in one man.
He breathed life into our company and shared in our dream.
He saw opportunity where others assumed failure.
He brought clarity when we couldn’t see past ourselves.
He brought wisdom, experience and humor to the SoftLayer family.
With his wit, charm and intelligence he was an inspiration to us all.

Even in the short time that I knew him, he invoked in me a sense of passion and drive that few have been able to create.

Rick, we are devastated by your passing. But we will never lose your presence. You continue to guide us, as we fulfill every promise we made.


September 30, 2008

Servers. Services. Support.

IT is a very fast paced industry where you always need to fight just to keep up. Some companies go that extra mile in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve. In my time here at SoftLayer, I can say I have never once been bored. There is always something to keep your interest, some new innovation that needs to be looked at. Three of the aspects of this that have a drastic effect on the industry as a whole are the servers that we can provide, services to use on those servers and finally support for both.

We are always looking to provide the best possible hardware to our customers. Every time we evaluate a new piece of hardware, we run it through the gauntlet. “Will this hardware work with our system, what kind of driver support does it have, and most important is it going to be an improvement for customers?” Once it’s decided that a new piece of hardware would be an improvement the real testing begins. Everything is thrown at the hardware to ensure it meet our high standards. The latest and greatest isn’t rushed into production; we want to be sure that it really does perform to our standards in the real world and not just on paper.

Having all this hardware is great, but you need to have some innovative services for the customer to go along with it. SoftLayer really has shined in this area. There are so many different services available, there is no way I could even start to list them all. The portal alone offers more server control than anyone else in the industry. Our provisioning system can provide a server in a matter of hours and not days and with tools such as StorageLayer, RescueLayer and the Portal you can perform complete disaster recovery remotely! You can even reboot your server remotely via a cell phone while you’re on vacation without having to open a single ticket or talking to a single person.

When you have all these great services, you need to back them up with great support. Here at SoftLayer we have just that. On top of our ever growing KnowledgeLayer, we have fast and efficient ticket and phone support. Within minutes of opening a ticket, a technician has already read it and is already looking into your issue. We don’t have those pesky call queues you sit in for hours just to get a human voice, you call support and the phone is immediately picked up by a skilled technician ready to address your every issue. Unlike many places I have worked, the NOC is not a dead quiet room with people staring at computers screens. The NOC is constantly active. Our support team is just that, a team. They are constantly working together to find solutions to any number of problems.

I can’t even express how much of an honor it is to work at SoftLayer. Every day you come into the office wondering what great innovation we have next for our customers. At the end of the day, I can go home knowing that we are providing the best hardware, the best services and the best support to our customers.


September 28, 2008

The Great Debate: SLackers

At SoftLayer we have long been calling each other names (TRUST ME!). There are two that we tend to greet each other with as we walk the halls. You can either throw out “SLacker” or “SLayer”. Why you ask?

If you are an avid fan of all things SoftLayer, the Facebook page, the forums, and The Innerlayer, then by now you have heard the term SLales. We have lots of “SL” terminology here. There is the SLiki, the support wiki, there is the fantasy football league run by operations called SLoperations and the not as popular SLupport team (SLupport is a tongue twister it seems). So along those lines both terms seem to fit nicely.

When I started this blog I decided that I would ask around to see what everyone preferred and you would be amazed, it is about 50/50. The most interesting part is the loud and proud way you receive the response and it is often accompanied by the VFB, an elbow or maybe by the person “throwing three bars”!

Three Bars

I do have to point out that HR gave the canned “no comment” answer, so I will leave it at that, HR is always so professional. So let’s begin the debate and dive into the differences in a two part series. Today we will discuss the SLackers.

Every company has their fair share of Slackers but at SoftLayer we have SLackers! The difference you ask? SLackers are everything SoftLayer. They eat and breathe SoftLayer. They are SLackers to the core. They love to work hard, drink caffeine, work a little more, and play around at the office quite a bit. I would dare say that if you visited our offices or our data centers today you would see more smiles than you have in a while. They crack jokes, and make fun of each other, they blog about each other and the goofiness that they get themselves into and it makes work seem like play. They do that and at the same time respect each other and understand that they are surrounded by some of the best and brightest in this industry and in each individual department as well. They do all of this SLacking for you, the customer!

If you have seen the movie Slackers then take the passion those characters had for slacking off and their passion for beating the system, reverse it, and then apply it to 100% customer satisfaction and you will begin to understand how much they love to SLack! Everything they do is for the customer. If you ever feel like they have done something in error please let any one of them know however you can and they will do their best to take care of you with the utmost SLack.

Our culture might be the coolest around and the best part is we don’t have to talk about it, have endless meetings about it, advertise it, and beg people to drink the SLacker punch like some companies, it just happens. We have fun. We work hard. And we SLack off as much as we can for every customer. You can tell by my blogs that I am one of them; a Red and Black blooded SLacker and I am very proud of that fact.

It is now time for me to quit goofing off writing blogs and get back to SLackin! Next up, The SLayers!


September 26, 2008

Browser Wars III

With the recent releases of Google's Chrome (Sept 2), Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 (Aug 28), Mozilla's Firefox 3 (June 17), not to mention all the legacy browsers many of which are still in use. If you are not a web developer, you are probably thinking why should I care what web browser people are using? Believe me you should, the majority of SoftLayer’s customers run a business and with that have a website which must be displayed on, you guessed it, a web browser.

1. Layout/Rendering Engine
This could be one of the biggest differences between the browsers, a layout/rendering engine is what the browser uses to parse the html and display your web pages. Although there are numerous specifications for various types of content (HTML, XHTML, images, etc..) each of the engines seem to render it slightly different based on their interpretation of the specification documents.

But don’t take my word for it go check the ACID website or the screenshots of the ACID tests in different web browsers.

2. Your Privacy
Most of the front runners in the browser wars are sending your usage and machine specifications back to the mother ship. What they are doing with the information once they get it, who knows. But, with Google being the front runner in search and ads, with the addition of Google Chrome, they pretty much can monitor all web usage for anyone using their product. Please get out the tin foil hats now ☺

3. Usage / Front Runner
Based off most of the statistics I have seen IE 6, IE 7, Firefox 2, Firefox 3 are the front runners, with a few stragglers using Safari and Opera. But I bet things will be changing and Chrome will be coming up in usage ranks over the next few months as well as IE 8 once it is released from Beta.

At SoftLayer we test on all the major front runners in the browser wars for our web presence. I will be grabbing the popcorn and watching the show, things are about to get hectic in this area. Whether it is good or bad; users are getting more options in the browser market.


September 24, 2008

Fantasy Football

Football season is BACK!!! I know that not all of our customers really care or keep up with what is going on in the National Football League…. But I DO!  Along with this comes the hobby/obsession with Fantasy Football.  I will admit that I myself am a fantasy junkie, a nerd, but also a king.  While I am not very involved in the MySpace community and only slightly in the LinkedIn community I am proud to be a member of the vast and consistently growing FFL community. 

(Note: you can check out our SL Facebook world at

We have been able to form an office Fantasy Football League that consists of Accounting, Development, Marketing, and SLales staff are all involved.  We have called the league the Fantasy Layer, and many of us have our teams named after characters or minor points from the movie “Office Space”.  Characters like Milton, Lumbergh, and Lawrence (the guy who lives next door that you can hear through the wall) to simple things like the red swingline stapler and the fax machine that never works are all involved in some pretty creative team names.

60% of our league has never played before and this is their first crack at it ever.  Even though we are only one week into the season there has already been a lot of entertainment based on the name of our league alone.  If I can help it there may be a good deal of trash talk coming very soon.

Like with most internet communities you can put endless amounts of time into fantasy football leagues, or very little.  I have put a good deal of my off time into researching the teams I have put together this year and I feel confident about them.  Even more rewarding is that the efforts I have made are not only to my benefit, but Michael Miller has directly made use of my research and through him even my own Vice President (Steven Canale) was able to benefit second hand.  I am happy to say that we have all gotten off on the right foot and are dominating our leagues so far.  

Note: When I say dominating I don’t mind beating my chest a little bit in telling the rest of my league that “This is the greatest team ever assembled, and I will teach you the meaning of the word Fear”.

And now coming back down to earth…

Fantasy Football is completely hit or miss.  I get it.  I used to be a complete cynic before seeing the light by getting involved.  Still even though this type of thing isn’t for everyone (nor is it meant to be) it is a good example of how the internet has grown in the past couple of years.  The internet and internet based communities have moved beyond the realm of the stereotypical geeks and created entire new geek realms bringing us all closer together.  For some, these types of on line communities are the only reason that they even log on to the internet or have any reason to associate with it.  The thing that seems to continually tie new people into the fold are the common interests and sharing of information.  I know that if we continue to share what we have found in our own experiences we will continue to attract more people to be a part of what we are involved in ourselves. 

I encourage everyone to share and invite new people to be a part of what they already know and involved in, but for now I am just looking forward to Week 2 of the NFL season.


September 22, 2008


For starters, let me say that if you were affected by IKE my thoughts are with you as you try to cleanup and get life back to as close to normal as possible. I can’t even fathom what it would be like to be away from home and work and not know what lies ahead or even be allowed back to see the damage.

A few friends of mine live in the area surrounding Houston and I have heard from them that they still don’t have power and gas is hard to come by. It sure makes me understand what I take for granted every day. Even with short power outages at my house due to spring storms I find myself opening the microwave and then realizing that my burrito isn’t going to be very warm when I think it is done.

This particular blog came to me when I emailed one of my friends in far north Houston at his work email address. He works for a company that is also located in north Houston. After no response I decided to call him to get an update but ended up leaving a message. Before he called me back that evening my email to his work bounced. When I did talk to him I asked him a simple question, “are your company’s servers sitting in a closet onsite at your office?” He responded with what I already knew, “Yep!” Now, he is a national account manager and he has been meeting at his boss’s house this week to go over what they will need to do once things are back to normal. I asked him if it would help them if they could still receive emails from their customers and if they could post updates on their website if it was still up and running. He of course said, “Yep!”

So here is my plea to all you savvy IT gurus out in the world. Outsource it! Then you don’t take the brunt force of the storm when everything is down. Your servers, whether or not you are still receiving email, and whether your website is still up and running will probably and should probably be the last things on your mind when a disaster like IKE strikes. Leave that part to us.


September 17, 2008

I Need Help, STAT!

I am sure everyone can remember the overwhelming feeling of getting their first server. The SoftLayer family recognizes that this can be a very discouraging time, thus we created a group of technical wizards who have the very specific goal of assisting newer clients who are in the process of learning how to use the tools provided by SoftLayer.

Have you ever wished you could copy data to your server without bandwidth concerns, or wondered how to reboot a server that is no longer responding? Ever wonder what the RescueLayer is and who it rescues? What is NAS, iSCSI, a firewall, how do I load balance? What is the CDNLayer and how can it help me? These are just a few of things we can help you better understand. This will allow you the leisure to ponder the ways to make your server more profitable. No more wasting time creating support tickets when you can do it yourself fast and easy. We can show you how. Here is a little more about the team:

What do we do for fun - Our hobbies include Aviation, Camping, Music, and Automotive Engineering. Some like the outdoors, golf, Karate, poker, etc and some spend their off hours with the family and kids. Smarts - The technical abilities in the group range from Automation to Xen and everything in between including disaster recovery, portal and backend database design, server administration, load balancing, hosting in general (the what to do’s and what not to do’s), ASP and PHP development, developing online collaborations sites, MMO gaming, and LAMP stacks to Windows. We try to be as well rounded as we can. The group has years and years of experience in the hosting, internet, ISP, and system administration arena and we are here and ready to help.

We are STAT! The SoftLayer Technical Assurance Team, pleasure to meet you. How can we help?


September 10, 2008

Help! My Server Blocked Me!

Ok, the title of this blog may sound funny but you would be surprised how many phone calls I get about that very subject. Sure it’s not that specific case every time, sometimes it’s a software issue, other times hardware. But in the end not being able to access your server is the worst feeling in the world.

Enter KVM over IP. (Also known as Keyboard-Video-Mouse)

Yes boys and girls, this wonderful feature provided on all mid to high-performance multi-core servers can be your best friend in a time of need. While on a routine support call, a customer of mine stated the server was blocking not only himself but a lot of his customers. I kept a level head and told him it was no problem. He paused for a moment then let me know just how big a deal it was, while he was explaining I promptly used the KVM to login to his server and shutdown the firewall. All of a sudden he stopped talking and said “It’s working!”, “What did you do?” I explained to him how KVM works just as if you were hooking up a console to your server, and can be used even if your public Ethernet cable is unplugged. I went on to show him where it was in his home portal and how all of this was given to him for free. Also I explained the issue had been fixed from my desk without ever having access to either the public or private ports on his server. The customer had never heard of such a feature and was amazed at how easy it was to use.

The beauty of KVM over IP is it removes the one thing many server owners dread, not being able to be in the data center when issues arise with their standard connection methods (RDP, SSH). With KVM over IP we are giving the customer a solution to that problem. Via KVM you can login to the management interface card, which in most cases resides on an entirely different network, and within seconds you will have access to your terminal as if you were standing right there in the datacenter!!! Not only can you connect to your server, you can manually power it on/off and also reboot your server all within the same management screen. Beyond server access you can monitor temperature readings as well as fan speeds in the server. The KVM card is a HUGE tool in any Softlayer customers’ toolbox and one that we in the Operations Team use often.

Here at Softlayer we are always thinking about how to make your business easier to run, whether it be implementing global services such as CDN, or making sure our customers have basic access to their server in the event of a crisis. Since starting my career here at Softlayer and learning of the KVM feature I’ve made it a point to inform the customer of the KVM interface along with all features that are offered to them (and believe me they never stop coming!) so be sure and check our announcements page because you never know what we will come out with next!


September 8, 2008

Meat SoftLayer

It has been a bit since I last “bloghogged” so I figured it was time to see what I could come up with. There is just so much going on in the world that I am not sure I can control myself and keep my blog on topic. You have all seen it in the past where I go from topic to topic and then finally wrap it all up with nonsense in the end. I can only assume this one will be the same.

My choices are the Olympics and how they turned out, politics, servers, outsourcing of course, customer service, 4-year old flag football, or meat. It is a tough choice but I think this one just has to be about meat.

The SoftLayer corporate offices are really close, I dare say too close, to a little place called Rafain. Warning, if you click the link you will get hungry. In case you haven’t ever been to a Brazilian Steakhouse (Churrascaria) then you might want to consider finding one close to you and giving it a shot. It is servers, the human ones, walking around with 7 to 15 types of grilled meat on long metal skewers holding big sharp knives. They slice the meat of your choice off and it lands on your plate. It’s the point and click of steakhouses. Instant steakification! You can of course choose to eat fillers along the way starting with salad, or great little cheese rolls and you are also offered mashed potatoes and fried bananas. Some people eat that stuff but I go straight for the money meat. Beef! Lots of beef. There is Spicy Beef, Garlic Beef, Top Sirloin, Flank, and the house special. They are always hot and fresh off the grill. They have other meats like chicken, pork, leg of lamb, and sausage but you can get those anywhere. As our CEO would say, “If a meat is low fat by design, there is no point in eating it!”

How is the service you ask? Amazing. You have a small card that is red on one side and green on the other. If you have it on the green side they will keep offering you meat until you explode or you get smart and turn the card to red. Red means, “I am taking a small break in the action but far from done!” The real fun is when they bring you a clean plate and you suddenly forget that you are about to fall out of your chair and need assistance to get back in it and start all over and eat more.

Here is where the stretch begins. How am I going to tie this into SoftLayer and outsourcing and why we are the best at what we do? Well, I’m not. This blog is simply about Meat.

Ok, last funny story. A few of the crew here at SoftLayer worked together back in the early 90’s, general ISP technical support stuff. We worked long shifts and usually ate at our desks. We would occasionally sneak out and go to a local Chinese Buffet but we were on a serious time crunch. We could eat 4 or 5 plates of food in 10 minutes easily. We came up with a term we still use today, CPM (Calories Per Minute). We had fun little sayings like, “The CPM’s were very high that day my friend” (thanks Seinfeld!) and many others like it. I can only assume that the Chinese buffet, as far as calories are concerned, would still beat out “instant steakification” on the CPM scale, but I can assure you we would need a couple of SoftLayer servers and some serious Excel equations to figure out the numbers.

Eat less Chicken!


September 5, 2008

I Have a Crush on Sarah Palin

Let me begin by saying I don’t want to turn our company blog into something political and suggest how you should vote. I still haven’t decided myself for whom I will vote. Full disclosure – I haven’t voted Republican since I cast a vote for Reagan in 1984, when I was first old enough to vote.

But hey, Sarah Palin is a former state champion basketball player and sportscaster who competed in beauty pageants and enjoys hunting and fishing. What’s not to like here? Of course, I don’t want to raise the ire of her husband, Alaska’s “First Dude” Todd Palin. I mean, he’s won a 2,000 mile snowmobile race four times, and the one time I know of that he finished fourth, it was because he broke his arm along the way but still finished the race. First “dude” indeed!

Sarah Palin appears to have a background to which I can relate. She and her family are neither Ivy League educated elitists nor entrenched Washington DC insiders. From what I’ve read, she and her family deal with many of the issues that everyday folks deal with: transporting kids to their activities, going to church, running a small business, balancing a two career family, sending a son off to the military and to battle, raising a special needs child, and handling a teenage pregnancy situation. From this list of things, this family can identify with millions and millions of other families.

What I like most about Sarah Palin is that she and her husband have small business in their background. When asked why they eloped, husband Todd said they had a bad fishing year and thus had no money for a wedding. They understand the ups and downs of small business because they’ve lived it. Consequently, she has been cognizant of supporting small businesses in her policies.

Policies toward small businesses are important to me because small businesses are our bread and butter here at SoftLayer. That is who we serve – small businesses who need enterprise class IT infrastructure and services but are too small to provide them on their own. Though we are larger than most of our customers, SoftLayer still fits in the small business category. Hey, we came from 10 guys with a dream and no revenue for 6 months – you can’t get any more “small business” than that! The small business culture still permeates this place and I hope it always will. When I send out some sort of metrics report to the management team, it usually kicks off an email thread of smart-aleck remarks while we review the metrics.

Just so that I give equal time to both sides here, Barack Obama has outlined some specific policies that will affect small businesses. Along with 40 million others, I watched Obama’s historic speech at the Democratic convention. There were several things that I liked therein, such as his desire to develop new alternative energy sources. But when he talked about helping small businesses, I wonder if he’s out of touch with us because he said that he will eliminate the capital gains tax for small businesses. Well, SoftLayer is responsible for and pays a LOT of taxes (sales taxes, franchise taxes, property taxes, income taxes, etc.) but we have never paid a penny of capital gains taxes. Unless a small business running a small real estate or money management operation, small businesses do not have capital gains. They’re not putting cash into stocks and bonds and holding them to sell them at a later gain – they’re putting the cash into payroll and operating expenses and advertising and capital expenditures to keep their business alive and growing. Word to Obama – if you want to help small businesses, please eliminate a tax that we actually pay!

I am totally in favor of policies that truly help small businesses. You are our customer base and whatever helps you helps us. Consequently, we are very focused on serving your small business. We want to help you establish the best IT cost structure for your needs as well as take away the headache of IT infrastructure so that you can focus on your core business more effectively. Just talk to Steven, Mary, Amanda, Arielle, Chris, Doug, Daniel, Laura, Michael (either one of them), Patrick, Justin, Don, Mathew, or John. They’ll treat you right.

Again, I haven’t decided who to vote for yet. But if I select a Republican candidate for the first time in 24 years, I won’t necessarily say that I voted for John McCain – I’ll say I voted for Sarah Palin!




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