funny

June 14, 2007

KVM over IP or Sliced Bread?

I’m spoiled. Really, really spoiled. I have a test lab full of servers to play with about thirty paces away from my office. Most of them have KVM over IP on a daughtercard. When I need to jam an OS on a server or manage to lock myself out by screwing up a network config, do you think I stand up and take a short walk? Nope. I fire up the KVM/IP and take care of business from my comfy office chair.

Let’s see how old the audience is. Raise your hand if you ever had to yell into a phone telling a datacenter tech what to type.

“'S' as in Sam, 'H' as in Harry, 'O' as in Oscar, 'W' as in Wally, SPACE, 'D' as in David, 'E' as in Edward, 'V' as in Victor, 'I' as in Isabel, 'C' as in Charlie, 'E' as in Edward, ENTER” (extra credit to whoever can name the OS without using a search engine or reading ahead).

For some of you this is a recent event, but there will come a day when our IT generation can regale the youngsters with stories of “When I first started in IT, we didn’t have this fancy KVM stuff you kids have today…”.

KVM over IP isn’t exactly brand new. It has been around for a few years starting with external devices hanging off the back of the server. But it is becoming much more common to find daughtercards from your favorite motherboard manufacturer with this capability. The motherboard suppliers have already added other server control technologies like IPMI and iAMT to the motherboard. I wonder how long until KVM over IP makes the jump from the optional daughtercard to coming standard on the motherboard? I’ll bet we’ll see it before you can spell VMS.

-@nday91

June 12, 2007

Being Green

For so many years growing up, I heard the "Sam I Am" / "Green Eggs and Ham" comments when being introduced to other kids. At this point, you would think I would hate the color green. On the contrary - being green is good.

One of the biggest costs in a datacenter is power, and if you're involved in datacenter operations you get to experience first hand the challenges of juggling power, cooling and floor space availability. If you use less power, your electrical costs go down and your cooling costs go down and there is a ripple affect across the entire facility. In an effort to reach that goal, we do everything we can to hone down the power requirements of our servers. We start by using 240v circuits to the rack. Doing so eliminates the need to step down to 110v which is much more efficient and it helps eliminate harmonic feedback in the circuit. Add to that “less heat” which means less wear and tear on the servers and that is a good first step.

Once you get power to the server, it helps to spec your servers properly. A properly sized power supply can save more than 25 Watts per server. When you multiply that by just 1,000 servers, that's a cool 25kW of power savings. When you multiply that by the number of servers in our facilities? Well, it's certainly worth the exercise of making sure we are ordering the proper equipment.

Aside from server equipment and datacenter power, SoftLayer has recently joined the Green Grid (more info). We are looking to use that association to join the likes of AMD, Intel, Dell, HP, IBM, Microsoft and many more to help reduce overall power consumption by datacenters. There are many lessons yet to be learned by IT companies to help reach that goal.

Being green is not confined to datacenter facilities. On SoftLayer Truck Day, we receive hundreds of cardboard boxes. Rather than just throwing those all away, we work with a local vendor to make sure the cardboard and packaging materials inside get recycled. Each server comes with various parts that are not needed (it's cheaper for the vendor to just ship the servers with all misc parts than it is to strip specific parts from specific orders). It would be easiest to just deposit all of those unneeded parts into a dumpster, but being green means doing more than just whatever is easiest. We sort spare power cords and recycle those for the copper. We sort screws and sell them to a local vendor (and use the money to buy Monster). Any spare part that we have not found a specific destination for, gets donated to a group that sells the parts and makes donations to charities.

Being green not only makes good financial sense, but it also makes good ecological sense. And – it keeps us stocked with Monster.

-SamF

June 8, 2007

Your Datacenter is Obsolete

By 2010, the datacenter as we know it today will be dead. Datacenters of the future will be ultra high-density geographically-dispersed IT utility centers. Datacenters will be focused on maximizing all the facets of the IT environment including floor space, HVAC, power, server form factor, security, storage, networking, bandwidth, personnel and preventive maintenance. Physically, I envision 5,000 square foot facilities installed across the globe that are relatively small, lights-out bunkers utilizing commodity infrastructures, owned or leased footprints, and housing servers at a rate of 10 per square foot.

The datacenters will be designed, built, and fully functional on day one -- including the installation of all IT equipment. There will be no movement of physical components as everything will be managed virtually through a series of networks and management tools -- a datacenter grid, if you will. These datacenters will only require personnel for failure-replacement or maintenance. Hardware node failures would automatically route to other nodes in the same datacenter. The failure of a datacenter would result in a re-route of data to other facilities. A series of failsafe datacenters, with all data, will be sitting on the edge near the end user for maximum performance and efficiency. Companies would select geographical regions for their installations of IT services.

The datacenter of the future is indifferent to the technology of the day. Dedicated hosting, virtualization, grid computing or the next emerging technology all work in the datacenter of the future because they will be designed as an IT utility. It's time for the datacenter to grow up.

-@lavosby

June 5, 2007

Microsoft: The Next SoftLayer

Microsoft, the Next Softlayer…

I'm only kidding, but with the recent announcement for Microsoft's Surface, total integration across product platforms has serious backing from within Microsoft, as evidenced by Bill Gates' support. The idea behind "surface computing" is to capture all tangible applications that are data-driven and integrate them into a portal that allows cross-sharing no matter what the product is (a phone, a camera, a personal computer or whatever). The commonality of this all lies within centralization. As one analyst writes in a recent Business Week article:

"It will be at least a few years before a consumer will be able to buy a Surface Computer and bring it home. To get there, Microsoft will need to create an ecosystem where software developers are motivated to write must-have applications. 'This thing is only cool if it works seamlessly,' says Roger Kay, president of market research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates. 'If it works well, it's game-changing.' Should those stars align, Kay says, sales could reach into the low billions of dollars in five years. 'Individuals are going to want this much faster than Microsoft is going to be able to deliver it to them,' he adds.”

When the team here at Softlayer started, we all had a very similar view as it pertained to the dedicated hosting and utility computing markets. With a tremendously successful track record behind us building companies spanning most everything internet-related, we looked at these markets with a simple question to answer—"How do we merge the physical layer with the virtual layer?” If we could answer this question, this would be our game-changing moment. After our recent announcement of the world's first API in the dedicated web hosting environment, we are certain the game has changed. The API has certainly started to answer our simple question of merging the physical and virtual environments and now with the introduction of the SoftLayer Development Network, we have opened doors to what is sure to be some really exciting applications to come in the next few days, weeks, and months. Our Eco-System is now one that resides both internally at SoftLayer and with our customer-base. We feel we've just barely touched the "Surface.”

-Sean

Categories: 
June 4, 2007

Why Finance Guys Don't Blog

Q4UY don’t finance guys blog much? If j00 post “IAAA” and talk of KPIs, EVA, and other TLAs, readers think listening to this llama is a CWOT and say “CYAL8R”. CMIIW but hosting demand r0x0rs. The SMB market sk00lz all else but there are other factors. I’ll mention just a couple here:

I’ll call one the “middle school” factor. I have a 13 year-old boy. He and his classmates are absolutely addicted to Internet chatting. He’ll open six or more windows at once and at least four of them are girls who are also chatting with IDK, their BFFs AFAIK. They will ROTFLOL for hours even if OMG, PAW. It’s NBD to them.

I doubt that as these kids grow up they’ll give up the chat habit, and the n00bs that come along will only add to the ranks. Thus, another driver of internet fundamentals grows seemingly forever and demands more servers to relay the ever growing messages.


I’ll call the other factor the “mullet factor”. I knew our CEO back in the 80’s and he sported quite the mullet, I can assure you (see image to the left for proof).

Punch in the word “mullet” into Google and in .05 seconds you’ll get links to about 3.8 million web sites somehow related to mullets. w00t! A few are related to the fish, but most have to do with the hairstyle. YKW, these websites have to live on a server somewhere. Strange websites like this only seem to proliferate over time. AWHFY?

-Gary

May 31, 2007

If You Can't Beat 'em - Sue 'em!!

I just ran across an article that grossly embarrasses me to be associated with the legal profession. In a recent  NetworkWorld article I found the following paragraph:

Lawsuits are a fact of life for organizations today. Recent surveys show that the average U.S. company faces 305 suits at any one time; that number jumps to 556 for companies with $1 billion or more in revenue.

As a licensed attorney I realize that legitimate disputes do exist between parties. I take no issue with legitimate disputes. I do find it hard to believe that the average U.S. Company has over 305 active lawsuits at any one time!!

As a consumer of goods and services (individual or business), you should be angered by false and litigious lawsuits because the cost is ultimately born by you - the end consumer.

The truly alarming trend in business litigation is companies suing each other for “strategic purposes.” These cases are filed and announced in press releases as the plaintiff shouts from the courthouse steps. These types of cases have very little to do with the law, include very fuzzy causes of action and seem to languish endlessly. The goal is to slow down a competitor, burn money, waste productive resources and disparage companies.

Has corporate America forgotten how to compete? Does corporate America really feel like it must lie, cheat and manipulate the legal system to achieve their business goals? Didn’t we learn from Michael Milken and his Bond trading, Enron and their financial house of cards, Tyco and the incredulous expenditures; that cheating the system never results in a long term victory? Just because other companies are doing it doesn’t make it right. Looking down the road, some company will be “the example” when the day comes to reform the system.   

Personally, I think the penalty for a plaintiff abusing the legal process by filing a “strategic suit” should be the death penalty and the lawyers should be disbarred. That should be a sufficient deterrent for potential future players. Let’s not create SarBox for the legal profession because we abused the intended use.  Business Ethics should apply all the time, not just when required by law.

-@lavosby

May 30, 2007

Mike Jones?

Yes, Mike Jones is my real name.

I am the least liked guy in the whole company. I am the one who has to say no. No to the fully enclosed domed cubicles with sliding doors and skylights. No to the quad processor quad core desktop PCs. No to 6 flat screen 30 inch monitors for each developer (3 is plenty). No to the recumbent Herman Miller massage desk chairs. No to the offices large enough to fly more than 3 RC toys at any one time. No to the “must haves” outside the budget. In short, I am the evil CFO. Some have even called me Iron Fist.

In spite of my constant no’s, we have built an amazing culture of innovation by saying "yes", a lot more often than saying "no" over the last two years.
Here are some of the things we've said yes to:

  • Yes to 10 of us starting the company when no one believed we had a prayer of surviving.
  • Yes to outside investment.
  • Yes to going ahead with the idea of a private network.
  • Yes to building out data center space not knowing when or if we would ever see that first customer.
  • Yes to not taking salary the first year to get the business started.
  • Yes to investing in programmers to build a portal that gives customers what they want.
  • Yes to spending extra money on infrastructure to allow us to build server farms on a scale never seen before.
  • Yes to the API project.
  • Yes to giving our developers time to be creative and come up with new ideas.
  • Yes to Muenster Fest!! (Lavosby or Samf can explain in a future blog)


In the future, I hope to be able to share more with you from a financial standpoint about how we make this business work.

-The Real Mike Jones (CFO, SoftLayer)

p.s. To put the rumors to rest, this is not me. In fact, none of these are either.

May 29, 2007

The Real Price of Retail

A few days ago Dell made a splash by telling the world they had established a partnership with Wal-Mart to sell their computers and other products throughout Wal-Mart’s 3,000 stores worldwide. This marks an interesting milestone in Dell's corporate existence. Dell has always been acknowledged as an innovative and cutting edge company through their direct sales model which took a layer of distribution (in this case retail) out of the sales process and allowed customers to "have it their way", so to speak.

With the competitiveness in the PC market and Dell’s admission of trailing behind the likes of HP and IBM, the motivation for this transition in their sales channel is clearly predicated on increasing overall volume to boost the market's perception of their thriving company and the goal of being #1 worldwide in the PC market. Obviously, this has sparked a debate on their ability to maintain a differentiated strategy in the branding of "Dell", which has generally been perceived as a higher quality because of their direct channel strategy.

In hearing the news of this new marriage between Dell and Wal-Mart it reminded me of an article that I ran across at fastcompany.com entitled "The man who said no to Wal-Mart" and it hit home with the story of Jim Wier, CEO of Simplicity (owner of Snapper Lawn Mowers) who was at a crux in his company's life cycle where he would have to choose a path that would shape the course of his company going forward. Was he going to choose a path of high volume, low margins products or high quality and sustained margins product sets at levels that his company needed to maintain its proper corporate health? To the surprise of many, including Wal-Mart, Mr. Wier respectfully choose the path that many others had not in the past -- the one without Wal-Mart. Although two unique industries here with technology and durable consumer goods, the thoughts have to be the same in the minds of both management teams. It’s a fascinating article and I would encourage anyone who runs a business that struggles with pricing and volume levels to read.

There is no doubt Dell has been one of the most influential companies of the last 20 years in the technology industry and their management teams, through addition and attrition, have paved the way for tremendous success both financially and technologically over those years. Not many other companies have the ability to coin a phrase such as "Dellionaire". With this shift, I trust the powers that be have thought long and hard regarding the pros and cons of the retail markets, primarily in the retail technology sectors. If volume is what they want, then volume is what they are likely to receive. The real question lies in “at what price?” and which of these two corporate giants has a bigger muscle to flex in the room, Dell or Wal-Mart?

-Sean

Categories: 
May 25, 2007

The 8 Keys to Successful Tickets

Tickets are a tough animal to tackle because everyone is predisposed to their own "best way". After eleven years in the hosting world (3 in mass virtuals, 3 in enterprise, and 5 in high volume dedicated), the trouble ticket is always tough to perfect.

From our side, here are some pointers that will streamline your ticket:

The 8 Keys to Successful Tickets

1. One Ticket = One Issue - If possible, keep the tickets as simple and targeted as you can. Don't worry about opening multiple tickets with different issues...we actually prefer it. Having multiple issues can impede proper support. Here's why:

1) It can make it hard to troubleshoot because we don't know which one to work on first.
2) We don't always know which issue is more important (to you) and needs resolution first.
3) It can require different departments and may be shuffled around.
4) The longer the ticket gets, the more the next tech has to read and the higher the propensity to miss key information.
5) Multi-issue tickets seem to be never-ending, frustrating both the customer and the technicians trying to help.

2. Username / Password / Server / IP - start with the basics. We lob about half the tickets back within minutes asking for server credentials which slows the process. It's your server -- if you don't want us in there just tell us. You won't hurt our feelings. It makes troubleshooting more difficult when we don't have access, but we do respect your right and privacy. Just understand there is a trade-off with slower troubleshooting and limited server access. We will not login to your server unless we have to.

3. Come Clean and tell the truth - if you flubbed up a kernel upgrade, deleted key files, installed new software, or just don't know what you're doing, don't worry about it. We will not parade you down the data-center hall of shame. We all learned this stuff somehow and most of that learning came from making mistakes. Being honest will get your resolution much faster and your technician will appreciate you not playing "hide the ball". We all make mistakes -- even seasoned veterans. We are here to help you and that is our goal.

4. Close the ticket - if your problem is resolved, just update the ticket and say "please close this one". Otherwise, tickets can hang out, get stale, and fill up the queue, slowing the whole ticket resolution process. The techs will greatly appreciate your response.

5. Clear, Concise & Complete - "I installed this, made these changes and now the server does _______" (good). We get a lot of tickets where it states "Server seems slow?" (bad). Does that mean network, hardware, disk IO, application, everything? If you don't know, general is fine, but if you mean Disk I/O seems slow, tell us you mean disk I/O. Don't leave off that key piece of info like "I run a forum that gets 10,000 hits an hour".

6. Network Issues - include trace-routes or ping times (as many as you can possibly get). Attach them to the ticket. The vast majority of network issues are outside the network between you and the server. We are very interested in finding those locations so we can:

1) ...help you resolve this issue.
2) ...contact the carriers for further assistance.
3) ...manually route around clogged public peering points.

Chances are, if it is affecting you, it also affects at least one of our other customers as well.

7. Research & Info - help us help you by giving us any ideas you may have. The forums are chock full of goodies. Google solves half my problems on the first search, and the vendor websites are a goldmine. Remember that when we log into your server for the first time, its like going into a home you have never been in while it's dark. It takes a few minutes to feel around to see what is running and where things are. We appreciate any help or insight you may have in the process.

8. Throw them a Bone - I am convinced that being a support technician is one of the most difficult and thankless jobs in this world. Every phone call, ticket, or chat involves a problem that must be resolved and the person on the other end is potentially anxious or agitated because downtime is bad. When you get to resolution, top off a ticket with thanks....great job.....or end the phone call with thanks for all the hard work. At the end of the day, we are all human and need a little recognition for a job well done.

-@lavosby

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