infrastructure

January 31, 2008

SL Headquarters

Life at our Corporate Headquarters can get a bit weird at times but is never short on fun. Every day I get to pass the Ferrari Dealership of Dallas on the way to work, often times there are a few whizzing on by my Honda, much to my envy.

When I get into the office where Corporate is located in North Dallas I sit in my cube with Superman as my sidekick and go to work. Sitting on my row is Daniel the gadget guy, Doug who never stops talking (ever), and Mary who manages to receive at least one package a day from various vendors even if she is not here - how she does that I will never know. In the next row sits Amanda from The 'Ville, Laude the Kung-Fu Legend and Patty Mac-Patty Mac. While wheeling and dealing sales on our services we are always yelling over each other at what, when and where we are selling for coordination of product placement and inventory updates, it's very much like the floor at the NYMEX, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

So there we sit, 12+ hours a day in our nice massage chairs shouting at each other like heathens. Did I mention the story on the massage chairs? Daniel being the gadget guy that he is was always raving about how cool it would be to get office chairs that massage you while you sit there and work. So Lance made it one of our Sales incentives that month that if we hit, we all get massage chairs. We of course hit our team goal and now there is a general low humming from the chairs that resonate from the Sales section of the office - along with the yelling and screaming of course. More from Amanda on our cool new chairs.

Now we share this office building with several other companies and I would estimate that there are around 100+ people at any given time in this building. The restroom here has two stalls - you do the math. It gets quite interesting at times but at least they have elevator music playing in there. I guess.

After my day is over I like to go around and talk to co-workers to catch up on things. Then it's off past the dealership to my home for some more clicking away at my keyboard to tie up some loose ends from work and some much needed rest. And tomorrow I get to see some more Ferraris - how cool is that?

-Michael # 1

January 30, 2008

That's SMART

My grandmother used to say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Usually this was her polite way of telling me to pick my skateboard up off the stairs before she stepped on it and broke her neck or to put a sheet of newspaper over her antique kitchen table before I began refueling my model airplane. All very sound advice looking back. And now here I find myself repeating the same adage some twenty years later in the context of predicting mechanical drive failure. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Hard disk drive manufacturers recognized both the reality and the advantages of being able to predict normal hard disk failures associated with drive degradation sometime around 2003. This led a number of leading hard disk makers to collaborate on a standard which eventually became known as SMART. This acronym stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology and when used properly is a formidable weapon in any system administrator's arsenal.

The basic concept is that firmware on the hard disk itself will record and report key "attributes" of that drive which when monitored and analyzed over time can be used to predict and avoid catastrophic hard disk failures. Anyone who has been around computers for more than a day knows the terrible feeling that manifests in the pit of your stomach when it becomes apparent that your server or workstation will not boot because the hard disk has cratered. Luckily, we ALL of course back up our hard drives daily! Right?

All kidding aside even with a recent back up just the task of restoring and getting your system back in working order is a serious hassle and it’s not something you get the luxury of scheduling if the machine is critical to operations and failed in the middle of your work day or worse yet, the middle of your beauty sleep. That is where SMART comes in. When properly used SMART data can give “clues” that a drive is reaching a failure point--prior to it failing. This in turns means you can schedule a drive cloning and replacement within your next regular maintenance window. Really aside from a hard disk that lasts forever what more could an administrator ask for?

SMART drive data has been described as a jigsaw puzzle. That's because it takes monitoring a myriad of data points consistently over time to be able to put together a picture of your hard disk health. The idea is that an administrator regularly records and analyzes characteristics about the installed spinning media and looks for early warning signs that something is going wrong. While different drives have different data points, some of the key and most common attributes are:

  • head flying height
  • data throughput performance
  • spin-up time
  • re-allocated sector count
  • seek error rate
  • seek time performance
  • spin try recount
  • drive calibration retry count

These items are considered typical drive health indicators and should be base-lined at drive installation and then monitored for significant degradation. While the experts still disagree on the exact value of SMART data analysis, I have seen sources that claim at least 30% of drive failures can be detected some 60 days prior to the actual failure through the monitoring of SMART data.

Of course not all drive failures can be predicted. Plus some failures are caused by factors other than drive degradation. Consider drives damaged by power surges or drives that are dropped in shipping as good examples of drive failures that cannot normally be detected through SMART monitoring. However in my humble opinion even one hard disk failure prevented over the course of my career is something to celebrate--unless you happen to own stock in McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a.k.a. the distributors of Tylenol!

So what does this have to do with SoftLayer? Well I am certainly not claiming that SoftLayer is going to predict all your hard drive disasters so there is no reason for you to back up your data. In fact, I recommend not just backing it up but backing it up in geographically disparate locations (did I mention we have data centers in Dallas and Seattle?). What I do mean to share is that technologies like SMART data are just one of the many ways SoftLayer is currently investigating to improve what is already the best hosting company in the business.

I should know. I was tasked with writing the low-level software to extract this data. That’s right. SoftLayer has engineers working at the application layer, down at the device driver layer, and everywhere in between. If that doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy about your hosting company, I don’t know what will.

-William

January 29, 2008

Where is All the Noise?

Earlier in the week, Shawn Boles wrote a post that included some nostalgic feelings for old-fashioned computers. As I read it, I was thinking of my own experiences with the grandfathers of our desktop computers. I vividly remember getting the floppy disks out of the big dusty box, sliding them into the drive, and listening as the drive began its slow, crunching march towards the data I needed. That’s when it hit me. I can’t hear my computer! Sure, there’s a cooling fan in it, and if I stick my head under my desk I can hear not only the fan, but my coworkers quietly asking each other why my head is under my desk in the middle of the day. Other than that, there’s nothing! No drive heads moving, no crunching, no system beeping, no modem noises, and certainly no death rattles.

That’s right, death rattles. Those of you unfamiliar with the dinosaurs we used to call computers don’t know about the death rattles. The large floppy drives were the worst offenders. Every faulty sector on those disks caused a loud grinding sound that you could FEEL, indicating that the pencil-sized drive head was none too happy with encountering the data equivalent of a marching band at a funeral. Now that we’ve moved away from media that comes in physical contact with the drive head, we’ve moved away from the death rattles. However, hard drives can occasionally produce them, even to this day. When a hard drive goes bad, it emits this high-pitched chirping sound, akin to what you would expect a robotic sparrow to make.

When I was in high school, my best friend’s dad was a programmer. One day we were working on a bad hard drive for a friend and had a brilliant idea. We took a microphone and recorded the sounds the hard drive was making. With some Mp3 editing tools, we added roughly 10 minutes of silence in front of that sound. Then, we made the sound into his dad’s windows startup sound. So upon turning on his computer, he would work for 10 minutes and then hear the DEATH RATTLE. Watching his pasty frame lunge for the power button was hilarious for a good 24 hours after it happened.

Browsing computer message boards (yes, I’m a nerd, that’s why I work here as a developer) I occasionally come across people who are still cursed by dial-up modems, and they invariably ask how they can disable the noises their modem makes when it connects. I want to scream to them “DON’T! You’ll destroy your last audible connection to your machine!” The noises a modem makes are iconic, and a sufficiently trained guru can tell the connection speed simply by listening to the connection noises. From the industrial clanking of the 2400 baud to the sci-fi whooshing of the 56k, each remaining hardware noise is precious.

Precious to humans anyway. When I was younger I saved all my money for weeks to buy a 56k modem. I painstakingly researched (at 24,000 baud) all the different kinds of modems I could purchase, and finally decided on a US Robotics 56k modem. I arrived home from my triumphant shopping trip and promptly tore the cover off the family computer to install my new toy. Once installed, I powered up the computer, installed the drivers, and attempted to connect. Sweet, sweet screeching poured out of the modem, to my delight! However, my dog was also in the room. He had, until this point, tolerated the noises the computer had been making in “his” room. However, how there was a new noise. A new, screechier noise. And it was coming from an OPEN COMPUTER CASE. That’s right, in my excitement, I had left the case cover off just in case I had to tinker some more. My dog got up, walked across the room, and promptly ripped the modem right out of the case with one mighty chomp. He threw it on the ground, chomped it once more and then, satisfied that it would no longer disturb his rest, flopped back down onto his bed in the corner. I still cannot hear a connection sequence without bringing up that memory.

Of course, we don’t have to worry about these things at SoftLayer (dogs OR noises). We developers work on silent machines with no rattles or screeches, while the servers in the data center are attended to by dozens of employees, aware of any slight problem. The noise in the data center is substantial. Each employee wears hearing protection, and even with that the noise of thousands of cooling fans will get to you. Each time the developers have to spend a morning in the data center installing new servers, we spend the rest of the day shouting “WHAT?!” to each other. But computers will continue to get quieter, and our connection to them will continue to be less and less physical. Our customers know this already: none of them have even seen their servers, they rely on our skilled datacenter staff to monitor their hardware for them, day and night. But there are no death rattles, no screeches, just cooling fans.

The last of our noisy connection to our computers is starting to fade. Already we’ve stopped using magnetic media like floppy disks, and the noisy CD and DVD drives of yesteryear are being replaced with silent models. Even the hard drives that caused my friend and I so much joy are being replaced with mechanically simple solid state drives, which run much faster and have no noise at all. Come to think of it, I think I can learn to live in the new silent computing future.

-Daniel

Categories: 
January 28, 2008

Virtualizing Our Childhoods - There's Money to be Made

Here's a couple of my childhood memories for you. Today, they've been virtualized. And monetized.

Shooting Up the Neighborhood
The kids in my neighborhood would get home from school, crank out the homework and household chores, then bail outdoors in all kinds of weather and play some version of battle games, be it "cops and robbers", "cowboys and Indians", "World War II", etc. In addition to politically incorrect game names, we'd use toy guns and plastic knives and swords to pretend-shoot each other and pretend-hack each other to bits -- all in good fun and while using vocabulary that our parents didn't care for. I'm sure the toy makers made a modest profit from our recreation.

Just last night, my son (age 14) approached me and announced that his homework was done, his room was straight, he was ready for his tests, etc., then asked if he could get on his Xbox 360. After I had him help with the dinner dishes, he headed upstairs much like I would head out the front door when I was 14. I went upstairs a little later and he was logged on to Xbox Live with the voice headset running and he pointed out that about 11 of his hockey teammates were also online and playing Call of Duty 4. So instead of pretend-shooting each other outside in the cold January air, they all get together online and do it. Don’t ask him what kind of language gets used either – it’s probably the same as my generation. From what I understand, the toy makers in this case make a lot more money than those of my youth.

Passing Notes at School
In yet another politically incorrect part of my upbringing, somewhere around 5th and 6th grade, somebody thought it would be a good idea to pass ballots around the classroom. They’d write a question at the top of the page along the lines of “Do you like Gary?” and they’d put two columns below. Other kids would sign under the “yes” or “no” columns depending on how they felt that day.

This is basically virtualized with Facebook, Linked In, and Plaxo. We get prompted to accept others as friends and recommend each other with these networking tools. With all the applications, pictures, messaging and so on these go way beyond our childhood note-passing but the concept is the same. Virtualizing this concept has unlocked untold riches. How much? Microsoft’s investment in Facebook extrapolates the value of Facebook to be $15 billion. That’s a nice chunk of change for virtualizing the passing of notes at school.

All This Virtualization Requires Servers – We’ve Got ‘Em
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not real good at whiteboarding new ideas. Tell you what – you think of something from childhood that can be virtualized into billions in valuation, and SoftLayer will provide the servers and connectivity you need to achieve it.

-Gary

Categories: 
January 25, 2008

Virtualized Virtualization

For the past several months, we have been struggling with how to implement virtualization in a hosting environment. Xen, VMWare, Virtuozzo, Parrallels, and Virtual Iron just to name a few. As many of you know, the software world courts the enterprise and the hosting world is left to shove the square peg into a round hole. Once again, these software packages have been designed for one company with many servers versus one company with many clients with many servers.

The most shocking reality about virtualization is the lack of scalability. Now, before you call quack shack to have my head examined – hear me out. All (and I mean all) of the virtualization products on the market scale extremely well to a couple hundred physical servers (lets call it 200). These technologies were designed to be used in companies that have relatively small subsets of physical servers (yes…I think 200 is small) managed through a centralized console. The idea is – those 200 servers should be utilized more efficiently thereby creating 400 to 2000 virtual machines. This model works great in companies that only have the need for one or two mass “virtual deployments.”

Now, fast forward to SoftLayer where we have already virtualized every aspect of the datacenter and we manage over 12,000 servers. Let’s run through the high points of virtualization - Rapid deployment – we got that. Asset tracking – yip, been there done that. Network management – baked and done. Add services on-the-fly – is there any other way? Complete control – piece of cake. Eliminate inefficiencies – have you seen our offerings? In essence, SoftLayer has abstracted the physical layer from the datacenter and left our customers with a complete virtualized datacenter environment. So, the questions remains – how do we virtualize the virtualized?

-@lavosby

January 23, 2008

640K Ought to Be Enough for Everybody

I was talking with a friend about memory on computers. He said he wanted a computer with tons of memory for Photoshop. I said something to the effect that I've never seen a desktop that can handle more than 16 GB, and that most operating systems now don't want to handle more than that... that Windows will only give a process 4 GB max, 2 GB for the application and 2 GB shared with the operating system. He then said "I can't imagine having to use more than 16 GB!" This immediately reminded me of Bill Gates' famous quote, that "640K ought to be more than enough for everybody." Striving for accuracy, I went to the Internet to find when and where he said this.

Interesting fact came up: HE NEVER SAID IT. He vehemently denies having ever uttered this phrase. Every quote I've seen is always un-sourced, so let's give him the benefit of the doubt. So what makes this quote clog the tubes so easily?

First, the irony that a person renowned for his computer visions of the future would say something so backward causes people to smile. Secondly, there is a nugget of truth. In a 1989 speech, Bill Gates said:

"I have to say that in 1981, making those decisions, I felt like I was providing enough freedom for 10 years. That is, a move from 64k to 640k felt like something that would last a great deal of time. Well, it didn't - it took about only 6 years before people started to see that as a real problem."

Bill never said "640K is enough for everybody." He said "640K should keep everyone happy for the next 10 years." Turns out he was wrong. Within less than 6 years we started hitting the "640K limit"... which wasn't a hard limit at all, it was just a limit proposed by the operating system at the time. Mr. Gates thought that 640K was generous, and in the beginning it was. But as the industry marched forward, it started cramping. Pretty soon, we had DOS memory managers, extended and expanded memory, virtual memory... we would do ANYTHING to escape the 640K limit.

So what's the moral of this story? First, you can't believe just anything you read on the Internet. Sometimes something gets into the tubes because it's funny, not because it's accurate. Secondly, predicting the computer industry is hard. To be a successful computer development company (like the portion of SoftLayer I work in), you have to be able to look to the horizon and attempt to spy the most likely location the software industry is moving in. We developers work on projects 3, 6, 9, 12 months before they're used by our users; we have to make predictions at least double that size in advance to give growth room whilst the next tool is developed. And, I dare say, we've done a good job of that around here!

In conclusion, Bill Gates never said "640K should be enough for everybody." That quote is a myth. It's a funny joke, but a joke nonetheless. However, Bill Gates did actually say this at a Macintosh conference:

"To create a new standard, it takes something that's not just a little bit different; it takes something that's really new and really captures people's imagination — and the Macintosh, of all the machines I've ever seen, is the only one that meets that standard."

And this time there's video evidence. And there's the not-quite-quote where Bill Gates implies that Vista isn't really the best thing since 8086 Segmented Physical Memory Models. Aren't real quotes more humorous fake ones? I think so.

-Zoey

Categories: 
January 17, 2008

Whatever Happened to CEOs - Chief *Electricity* Officers

The power grids that we enjoy today did not magically appear as power generation developed during the Industrial Revolution. In 1902, according to the US Census, the country had 3,600 central systems and over 50,000 isolated power plants in large homes, hotels, and other commercial establishments. Thus, it’s a pretty safe bet that companies employed a fair amount of people who were tasked with “keeping the lights on.” For our purposes, we’ll call them the Chief Electricity Officers (CEOs).

This was the era before electricity was a utility. As we know, the power grid eventually encompassed the whole country and provided all needed electricity on tap. Once companies found that it was far more economical to plug into the grid than to generate their own power, the poor CEOs had to find other things to do in their organizations. Of course, industry regulation played a part here also, but the basic economics worked – with the grid in place, it was cheaper to buy power than do it yourself.

I see several parallels in this present Information Age. Many companies have Chief Information Officers and/or Chief Technology Officers. Part of what these folks are tasked with is IT infrastructure, i.e., acquiring the computing and networking gear required by the business and operating it in a redundantly powered and cooled data center. In most companies, IT is not the core competency of the business, yet they lay out a lot of capital expenditures and employ a lot of people for an overhead operation – much like what the old CEOs did with independent power generation.

SoftLayer and companies like us parallel the rollout of the power grid which began about a hundred years ago. In the coming years, companies will realize that the time, people, and capital expenditures required to locate data center space, find redundant power, set up backup power, install redundant HVAC systems, expend capital to acquire routers/switches/servers/storage systems/load balancers/firewalls/operating system software, and hire the people to run it all and upgrade everything every few years will be far too great a cost compared to “plugging in” to a provider such as SoftLayer. With Softlayer, IT infrastructure is our core competency. Companies need only give us a shout to instantly have IT infrastructure provided at far better economics than doing it themselves. They’re essentially “plugging in” to IT as a basic utility to be used to perform their core competency – just like they plug into the power receptacle to use electricity to help perform their core competency.

Hey, when Sun Microsystems says they’ll be out of data center operations by 2015, that raises our eyebrows around here. Dan Golding of Tier 1 research concurs that by 2015 “enterprise data centers will be in decline.” Once the business leaders of companies grasp the economics of halting their independent data center operations in favor of plugging in to utility providers, the CIOs and CTOs will have to do what the old CEOs did – find other ways to add value to their companies.

-Gary

January 16, 2008

Where Have All the Gurus Gone?

When I was growing up, computers were these wonderful things that sat at the back of the classroom (usually one, or maybe two if the class was lucky). If the school was lucky, there was a "computer lab" where you could have access to the latest and greatest in government approved hardware.

My favorite of the time was the Apple IIe. Our school district had so many of them, they handed 'em out to classrooms (The school district now uses them as very effective door stops). In fact, I got my start with computers by tinkering with a IIe. My first computer experience was hooking up a printer to a IIe, and the wonder of this experience (plug something in, type a command, and print came out!) completely captured me (I was in first grade), and from that moment on I was completely wrapped up in the wonder of computers.

Anyway, I graduated to PC compatibles and DOS. Trying to get a grasp on this computer thing, I got a copy of DOS for Dummies. Near the beginning of the book, they had a paragraph that had some important words of wisdom. While I don't have the book any more, the message is still with me: "This book will teach you the basics of the computer, what you can do, what you can't do, and what you really shouldn't ever do. However, for anything you don't know, contact your local computer guru."

Computer Guru? What is this "Computer Guru"?

According to Wikipedia, Guru means "Teacher, in a religious or spiritual sense." And as luck would have it, I was able to get into contact with Computer Gurus throughout my life. These were the computer equivalents of the small town mechanic: you pull up for some gas and Harvey the mechanic walks around the corner. "Howdy! I heard you pull up. You've got a bit of a timing issue, and I think one of your spark plugs are bad. I can change 'em out in a few minutes, if you like." It's almost like Harvey has a supernatural connection to vehicles. He can hear issues, he can smell problems... he's one with the Motor Vehicle Force.

The same with the Computer Gurus I knew. You walked in and turned on your machine, they'd make a "Hmm" sound (in computer science, "Hmm" is similar to the Indian sacred syllable "Aum" or "Om". It's ritually chanted by a computer guru whilst contemplating your computer's connection to the Universe), type some sacred symbols into the prompt, then tell you the problem and offer to fix it. Most times they would happily fix your computer in exchange for a pizza; sometimes just getting a cup of coffee from the ever present drip dispenser could net you a small fix. And if you were truly interested in computers, you could even ask to become a follower of the Guru. You'd spend your spare time in his or her office, ask meaningful questions about the nature of the Universe, contemplate ancient tomes and user manuals, and take care of the mundane tasks of life (like formatting floppies or installing software) so the Guru could spend their time connecting with his or her latest project (generally spent looking at an arcane flowchart or design document and saying "Hmm" a lot). You knew, one day, with practice and patience, you too could become a Guru, have followers to format your floppies, and say Hmm.

However, the computer industry started changing. User interfaces became simpler, USB made the promise of true plug-and-play a near reality... the command line all but disappeared. Computers stopped being a specialized device and became a commodity. Computers were EVERYWHERE. And there was this belief that computers will become so "user friendly" that there was no need for the long learning process of the Guru.

And for the most part, this has happened. Programs are very user friendly now. There's tons of documentation, and most don't expect you to have a PhD in Computer Science to understand them. Workflows have become "point and click link" instead of "chant this esoteric string into the command prompt".

However, sometimes I really miss my Guru. For example, just this last week, my roommate's computer (which I built) started randomly crashing. There wasn't a specific program that crashed, and it didn't crash at a set time. I knew something was wrong, so I tried to diagnose. 'Course, Vista being user friendly, the computer would automatically reboot, without showing the Bluescreen, except for the subliminal hint of blue to let you know that the computer had crashed. See, blue screens have "Technical Information" (it says so right on the screen!)... and user friendly computers (1) don't crash, and (2) are NOT technical. So I was stuck with a computer that wouldn't run, and a bored Roommate who just realized he has a $1200 paperweight.

As Dr. McCoy would say, "I'm a programmer, not a hardware doctor!" Hardware issues are right outside my realm of experience. I longed for my Guru. I knew how to diagnose; I pulled hardware, changed orders of cards, swapped the memory sticks back and forth... all the standard religious rituals for modern computers. I knew that if I could but approach a Guru, tell him or her my issue, they could give me leads to check. I didn't have the money to buy all new parts at random; I had to work with what I had. I knew I had all the data for a real diagnosis... I simply wasn't able to pick out the error. Working the next day at SoftLayer, I mused about my lack of Guru leadership. At the end of the day, I turned to a coworker and said "Now I get to tinker for a few more hours on this stupid computer. I wish I knew a Computer Guru!"

My coworker smiled and asked what the problem was. I told him and he looked at the ceiling. "Hmm" he said. "Could be a power supply issue. Maybe the power coming out of the supply isn't clean and it's resetting the motherboard." Just then, another coworker walked around the corner.

"What about a power supply?" he asked. The first coworker told him the issue. "Hmm," he said, looking intently at the wall. "I bet it's a RAM issue. I bet your ram is bad. Swap it out with some good RAM and see what happens."

So I went home and crosswired some power supplies. Rebooting the machine, I finally got a bluescreen that crashed itself, locking up the computer and letting me read it. "PAGE_FAULT_IN_NON_PAGED_AREA" "Page Fault?" I thought. "Hmm." My roommate walked in. "What are you doing, meditating? Have you fixed it yet?"

We went to Fry's and bought some new RAM sticks. Going home, I popped 'em in and started the machine. And it worked! It's been running 6 days nonstop. My roommate was really happy. I was finally able to look up the bluescreen message up on the Internet. Sure enough, that specific error almost always pops up when there's bad ram.

So, where have all the Gurus gone? Where else? They all work at SoftLayer! Whenever I've had a software or hardware issue, or an operating system issue, I've found somebody here who knows the issue. They look at the wall, say "Hmm", sip their coffee or Monster (depending on their level of enlightenment), and give me the answer. The guys here are at one with the Network. The DC guys almost seem to be able to FEEL a power issue or a drive problem before it happens. SLales is able to think about your problems and provide a tailor made solution to help. And Development is where all the action takes place; we get to write all the behind the scenes magic.

"You must be some kind of Computer Genius!" shouts my roommate (lucky for me, he's gotten to play some Call of Duty 4, so he's already forgotten the previous week of frustration). "No, not yet." I respond. "I'm working on it, but I'm not a Guru yet."

-Zoey

January 14, 2008

Growth is a Good Thing. No Really.

The high-pitched whine of a drill sends a shiver down my spine. I jump a little in my seat at a loud bang followed by shuffling feet and mumbled voices. I involuntarily cower at the unmistakable sound of a saw blade spinning—gaining momentum—biting. Nope, I'm not sitting in a theater watching Eli Roth's next installment in the Hostel franchise. In fact, I'm at the office.

That's right. I'm sitting at my desk. Sitting at my desk and trying hard to ignore the plethora of singing power tools and crooning contractors who for the last two months have been busy putting up dry wall, wiring electrical outlets, installing locks, and occasionally setting off the fire alarm. It's the sound of growth. And at the risk of conjuring up images of bad 80's haircuts, guys in jeans way-too-tight, and shirts where the collars just wouldn't seem to stay down-- one might dare refer to the ruckus as "growing pains".

Make no mistake about it, growing is painful. Take it from me. I think I was 19 before I managed to grow enough facial hair to require the use of a razor. Combine that tidbit of info with the fact that I had every 8-bit computer known to man proudly on display in my room right next to my impressive collection of latex Hollywood style monster masks and you'll start to get the picture. Growing requires a lot of work and allows almost no planning as humans have a habit of blossoming in their own sweet time. Companies are no different.

So while management did everything possible to make the required building expansion as unobtrusive as possible, well, it's still construction work within earshot of a whole team of developers, technicians, and engineers. That's just the way it is. And while I may complain about the noise and distractions now and again, there is also something very comforting about knowing that I am working at a place that is growing. Growing phenomenally, in a time when not all technology companies are fairing so well.

When the dust settles there will be a lot of new space.

More space means a lot of new hires. More space means more opportunity for existing employees. And yes, more space means more work for everyone involved. Having worked for three failed ventures in as many years, I can tell you I am more than happy to be putting my time and effort and energies into something that is successful; something that continues to be more successful every day. It feels good to be on the winning team for a change. Hearing what some of the other engineers here are saying I don't think I'm alone in that sentiment.

That's not to say I'll miss the noise when the construction is all said and done. Which in case you are interested sounds to be winding down. As for SoftLayer, well something tells me we are just getting started.

-William

Categories: 
January 11, 2008

I Need a Whataburger!!

Somebody...Anybody...I need a Whataburger!!

If you haven't been to a Whataburger, I'm sorry. It's an amazing fast food chain that sells not only the freshest made-to-order burgers, but they're also open 24-hours a day, and their breakfast is second to none (Chris Menard has a clinical addiction to their taquitos). The problem with this is that they only exist in the South. I'm in the North. In Seattle, Washington to be precise—accompanied by our go-live team to manage our newest datacenter and make sure the launch goes smoothly.

On the bright side (no pun intended, it hasn't stopped raining since we landed), it has. We have assembled an amazing team, the datacenter is absolutely spectacular, and the locals have been very friendly. Efficiencies we have built into our normal daily operations over the last two years have basically allowed us to "drag and drop" our datacenters as needed, where they are needed without having to reinvent the wheel every time we launch. Since the deployment is simple, we can focus on service upgrades—like the latest 40-Gigabit rack-level connections—while we roll out a new facility. Connectivity you could use…say…to look for a Whataburger near you http://www.whataburger.com/one_near_you.php (I look every day). We've already flown through our first historic Seattle Truck Day, and had a second one to boot. We're provisioning droves of machines for new and current customers who are taking advantage of our network architecture, tools, and StorageLayer to create their own custom solutions. In a nutshell, we have brought a new DC online and maintained the ability to provide our customers with the same cutting edge hardware and innovative utilities that they have come to expect in Dallas.

On the darker side, with everything is going so well, it leaves a lot of time to sit and think about a tasty Whataburger. With jalapenos. And bacon. Ugh.

-Joshua

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