introductions

October 28, 2009

Meet Virus Jack

I am Jack’s Vundo Virus. I cause Jack’s computer to have popup. I also disable Windows Automatic Updates, task manager, registry editor, and msconfig so Jack cannot boot to safe mode. I use Jack’s Norton AntiVirus to help spread my infection. I make Jack’s google searches to redirect to rogue antispyware sites. Jack got me by not keeping his system up to date. Now there are programs out there designed to remove me but the best way is for Jack to reformat. Let’s hope he has backups. Morale of this story is keep your computers up to date with the latest OS updates, AntiVirus definitions and program updates.

October 26, 2009

Dickies, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap…SoftLayer?

Is there anything SoftLayer can't do!!?? Of course not! It seems every day I come to work there is something new that we are offering. Today, I came in ready to read up on any new products we might have released, and to my surprise, we now have a clothing line! Can you believe it!? SoftLayer now has clothing for employees. This includes everything from sweatshirts, to polo's, to t-shirts, to hats, to specialized shirts, including workout shirts. I must say I find the workout shirts ironic considering the number of employees that actually workout. I believe the number is 3...oh wait...maybe 4. I'm not sure how many golfers we have, but the ones who do golf will look good in their SL gear. I hope the SoftLayer clothing line is opened up to the public soon as I would love to see my company represented in the mall by a random “Joe” who appreciated an amazing company. It is truly exciting seeing a company go from several employees in a "closet" and one server room, to a huge entity with a multitude of server rooms, multiple datacenters in multiple locations, a huge array offerings, a cutting edge mentality, a solid track record, a commitment to be the best in the business, and yes, now offers a clothing line. SoftLayer has taken a huge bite out of the on-demand data center and hosting industry and continues to hunger for more. I guess now is the time to put the top clothing manufacturers on notice as SoftLayer is comin' for ya!

October 22, 2009

Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful.

People just can't take a joke.

I'd like to start this tale of revenge by letting you know what a family affair Truck Day is around here. All month long, every month, SoftLayer's lightning fast infrastructure team works to build our high density racks from the ground up. They put in some serious hours to meet our fast paced deadlines, and at the end of the month everyone pitches in to fill those racks up with servers. Early in the morning all of our team members will pile in, sleepy eyed and jonesing for coffee (with the exception of the overnight "SLombies," who are jonesing for bed), to unload a semi truck full of servers.

Here's some pics of the event from way back.

Truck Day 1
The Unload
Truck Day 2
The Stack and Sort

True, it's not as fun as.. well, most things. But SoftLayer's Truck Day is an institution. A bonafide tradition! And I'd hate for anyone to think that I forgot one.

After scrimping and saving (and accepting generous handouts from family members) I finally got to cut loose and fly to Hawaii for a few days in the sun. The Mrs. and I made the most of it and headed to the beach as often as we could. While I was there I took this harmless photo and uploaded it to Facebook, to let everyone know that I was thinking of them on truck day:

Beach Day
Happy Truck Day

Apparently, it wasn't taken in the light hearted manner in which it was meant.

Desk 1
Desk 2
Desk 3

It's dangerous to go on vacation.

-Jeaves

October 20, 2009

Droid Award Update: Romeo Rodriguez

SLayers!

Droid Award Update: Romeo Rodriguez 

All hail Romeo Rodriguez for he has received the Destroyer Droid Award!

Romeo has stepped up in the face of the opposition - and destroyed them! He consistently takes care of business, helping to prioritize daily tasks, escalate high priority issues promptly, and execute emergency procedures swiftly and efficiently.

Another one of SoftLayers outstanding techs!

 

Destroyer Droid Award
The Destroyer Droid Award is given to a tech who, like the Destroyer Droid, consistently rolls into situations, takes control, and "destroys" them. Techs with this award look at the bigger picture, and go outside their realm of job description, making sure projects and tasks are completed with proper prioritization, no matter how many. Awardees frequently think like a manager and are quick to help coordinate workload among fellow employees.
Categories: 
October 19, 2009

I have backups…Don’t I?

There is some confusion out there on what’s a good way to back up your data. In this article we will go over several options for good ways to backup and sore your backups along with a few ways that are not recommended.

There is some confusion out there on what’s a good way to back up your data. In this article we will go over several options for good ways to backup and sore your backups along with a few ways that are not recommended.

When it comes to backups storing them off site (off your server or on a secondary drive not running your system) is the best solution with storing them off site being the recommended course.

When raids come into consideration just because the drives are redundant (a lave mirror situation) there are several situations, which can cause a complete raid failure such as the raid controller failing, the array developing a bad stripe. Drive failure on more than one drive(this does happen though rarely) , out of date firmware on the drives and the raid card causing errors. Using a network storage device like our evault or a nas storege is also an excellent way to store backups off system. The last thing to consider is keeping your backups up to date. I suggest making a new back every week at minimum (if you have very active sites or data bases I would recommend a every other day backup or daily backup). It is up to you or your server administrator to keep up with your backups and make sure they are kept up to date. If you have a hardware failure and your backups are well out of date it’s almost like not having them at all.

In closing consider the service you provide and how your data is safe, secure, and recoverable. These things I key to running a successful server and website.

October 16, 2009

Raid 1 or Raid 0: which should I choose?

When considering these 2 raid options there are a few points you’ll want to consider before making your final choice.

The first to consider is your data, so ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it critical data that your data be recoverable?
  • Do you have backups of your data that can be restored if something happens?
  • Do you want some kind of redundancy and the ability to have a failed drive replaced without your data being destroyed?

If you have answered yes to most of these, you are going to want to look at a Raid 1 configuration. With a Raid 1 you have 2 drives of like size matched together in an array, which consists of an active drive and a mirror drive. Either of these drives can be replaced should one go bad without any loss of data and without taking the server offline. Of course, this assumes that the Raid card that you are using is up to date on it’s firmware and supports hot swapping.

If you answered no to most of these questions other than the backup question (you should always have backups), a Raid 0 set-up is probably sufficient. This is used mostly for disk access speeds and does not contain any form of redundancy or failover. If you have a drive failure while using a Raid 0 your data will be lost 99% of the time. This is an unsafe Raid method and should only be used when the data contained on the array is not critical in anyway. Unfortunately with this solution there is no other course of action that can be taken other than replacing the drives and rebuilding a fresh array.

I hope this helps to clear up some of the confusion regarding these 2 Raid options. There are several other levels of Raid which I would suggest fully researching before you consider using one of them.

Categories: 
October 9, 2009

Facebook games, the datacenter, and you – film at 11

Ok, I admit it. I am addicted to Facebook games. For those of you who are a bit “long in the tooth” you might remember a series of games from a certain era where all you did was walk around and try to figure “it” out, but you really didn’t know what “it” was. Zork for instance was my favorite. In Zork you simply walked around and talked to people, touched walls and things rumbled, and picked up and dropped items. etc. Now don’t misunderstand, you didn’t see this happen, it was all in your head because the only thing on the screen was text. Think of it like the hit TV show LOST in text and you were John Locke. Are you LOST yet? Here is an example:

Facebook has taken us back to the world of Zork but now you can almost see what is going on. Let’s use the early on Mobster style games as example number one. They were sleek and simple; do a job, fight someone, whack someone on the hitlist, write a script, find a bot to do it all for you and become a “made man”. Now, the main idea in these games is ad generation and page views, so when the techies of the world figured out how to cheat, um I mean make the game more efficient, it was time to add some new ideas to the games to keep you more in tune to your monitor and the ads on the page instead of your bot! Enter the flash games, they are shiny and I like shiny things! Maybe the word should be polished. There are a few farm simulation games that are very popular. A couple of them have over 18 million monthly active users. Who would have thought that everyone in the world wanted to move to Texas and become a veggie farmer, or berries, or raise animals and fruit trees? I have to say that the new games are to carpel tunnel as Krispy Kreme is to clogged arteries. You have to click and then click a little more and then even a little more. You have to do tasks, so you can do jobs, so you can move up in levels so you can do more tasks to do even more jobs to make more money and it just keeps getting more involved. Maybe there is a flash automation system out there I can find to do it for me!

I am going back to the farm idea for a minute. When I started out I had a couple of small plots and I would plant different crops. I had a few animals walking around and a fruit tree or two, some fences, some green space in between and flowers. I began to notice that some of the extra shiny things got in the way and made my farm very inefficient. I began to streamline, one crop, no green space because that is just wasted, no animals, just plant the whole screen, harvest and plow, rinse and repeat. It is now very profitable, easy to manage and I don’t have to worry about this crop will be ready in 2 hours, that crop will be ready in 2 days, etc. It just works!

So I have just described SoftLayer to you in a nutshell. At first we tried many things, streamlined it, got it down to a very efficient science automated “it” and then wrapped products around “it”. Our products are shiny, we don’t waste space, we have one crop, and it just works!

October 7, 2009

GAHAP Revisited. Otherwise titled “Credit Analysts, Statistics, and Common Sense”

From time to time, I have posted about my frustration with GAAP accounting and traditional credit analysis and how it is not friendly to the hosting business model. For a refresher, click here, here, here, here, and here. By GAHAP, I jokingly mean “generally accepted hosting accounting principles.”

Mike Jones came in my office after a frustrating phone call with a credit analyst. They were trying to talk through collateral possibilities. He told me that the credit analyst has a problem because we carry hardly any accounts receivable. The credit analyst wants something that he can collect in case of default. In GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles), accounts receivable is the total amount that you have billed your customers but have not yet collected from them. Common sense hint: the accounts receivable balance won’t pay your bills – they won’t get paid until you collect the cash.

SoftLayer includes this common sense in its business model. Rather than send out invoices and bug people to pay us later, we choose to have our customers pay us in advance of their use of products and services. Many other hosting companies do the same. There are many advantages to this: we save costs that we would incur collecting the cash, we reduce the amount of abusive accounts that would sign up for a few days of malicious activity and never pay us, and it helps facilitate the on-demand billing side of the cloud computing model.
Again, the disadvantage of this practice comes about when trying to educate a set-in-his-ways credit analyst about our business model. Here is the basic gist of a mythical conversation between a credit analyst and a hosting company:

Credit Analyst: “I see you don’t have any accounts receivable to speak of.”

Hosting Company: “I know! Isn’t that great?”

Credit Analyst: “But if you default, what can I collect?”

Hosting Company: “You’d simply continue to bill the customers for their continued business. Because our customer agreement is month-to-month, you just collect for their next month of service over the next 30 days and you’ve essentially done the same as collect receivables. In fact, that is far easier than collecting past due receivables. We’d be happy place the anticipated next month billing to our customers on the balance sheet in an accounts receivable type of account, but GAAP does not allow this.”

Credit Analyst: “Oh my…you don’t have long term contracts? So all of your customers could leave at once? Isn’t that risky?”

Hosting Company: “We have several thousand customers who trust us with mission critical needs. They will not all leave at once. Our statistics show only a very low percentage of customers terminate services each month. Even through the depths of the recession, we had more new customers joining us than we had customers leaving.”

Credit Analyst: “But conceptually, they could all leave at once since they have no contracts.”

Hosting Company: “That is statistically impossible. The odds of that event are so low that it’s immeasurable. As I said, we provide mission critical services to our customers. To think that they will all no longer need these services simultaneously is paranoid. And if they did, would a contract keep them paying us? That’s doubtful. Let me ask you – do you lend to the electric company or the phone company?”

Credit Analyst: “Of course.”

Hosting Company: “Do their customers sign long term contracts?”

Credit Analyst: “Some do for special promotions. But for the most part – no.”

Hosting Company: “So why do you lend to them?”

Credit Analyst: “Why, the customers can’t live without electricity or phones. That’s a no brainer.”

Hosting Company: “It is exactly the same with our business. In this information age economy, our customers cannot live without the hosting services that we provide. You should look at us in a similar way that you look at a utility company.”

Credit Analyst: “But we classify your business as a technology company. Can’t you just have your customers sign contracts?”

Hosting Company: “Well, wouldn’t that conflict with the on-demand, measured billing aspects of cloud computing?”

Credit Analyst: “I guess there’s not much hope of you building up a sizeable accounts receivable balance then.”

Hosting Company: “It really makes no sense for us to do that.”

Credit Analyst: “We may not be able to do business with you. Do you have any real estate?”

Conclusion: Most credit analysts are so wrapped up in GAAP that they’ve forgotten the laws of statistics and many have even lost touch with common sense. Is it any wonder we’ve had a big banking crisis over the past couple of years?

October 5, 2009

Outstanding Tech Recognition: Droid Awards

Here at SoftLayer, we keep the culture fun, entertaining, challenging, and sometimes a bit left of center! In the same vein as the Star Wars motif (http://theinnerlayer.softlayer.com/2008/softlayer-the-empire/) we have started awarding techs that go way above and beyond. Techs at SoftLayer are already some of the best in the industry, so this is a way to keep it fun and challenging- and nerdy! Let me tell you, I had a realization when getting the Star Ware figures, that I am now an adult and could just buy everything!

Here is how the awards went down..

(in the voice of General Grievous)

SLayers!

For those droids not destroyed in the line of duty or beheaded for undisclosed reasons (cough cough) rewards are in order!

Droid Awards are presented to a tech for outstanding work in the line of duty.

The awards are Star Wars "Droids."

But in our universe, SoftLayer is the ruling entity, of course! And all Droids have the SoftLayer logo.
Right now, there are 3 Droid Awards:

Super Battle Droid Award
The Super Battle Droid Award is given to a tech who, like the Super Battle Droid,
does his job better than average all the time. Techs with this award are considered a workhorse,
and respected by their peers for always taking care of business no questions asked.
Assassin Droid Award
The Assassin Droid Award is given to a tech who,
like the Assassin Droid, knocks one specific project or task out of the park, or "assassinates" it.
Techs with this award take control of one specific high profile issue, own the problem, and see it through to the end.
Destroyer Droid Award
The Destroyer Droid Award is given to a tech who, like the Destroyer Droid,
consistently rolls into situations, takes control, and "destroys" them.
Techs with this award look at the bigger picture, and go outside their realm of job description,
making sure projects and tasks are completed with proper prioritization, no matter how many.
Awardees frequently think like a manager and are quick to help coordinate workload among fellow employees.

Techs that receive an award should be respected- these awards are not given out lightly. So be proud if you receive one, strive to get one if you have not, and congratulate all who are adorned with them!

Scott Minyard, a Dallas Server Build Engineer was the first to receive an award, the Super Battle Droid Award!

Congratulations, Scott, for being one of the great employees of SoftLayer!

Categories: 
October 2, 2009

Is That a Real Computer?

Some mornings after work when the weather is nice I'll go to a local coffee shop on the way home to read or study for the CCNA exams. Sometimes I'll just end up pulling out the netbook and browse around online. There are times during these outings when I'll get asked the title question of this blog: is that a real computer? I guess the size that throws people but the answer is yes.

For those who are not familiar with the netbook class of systems here are the specs for mine:

  • 10.2 inch screen
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor
  • 160GB SATA hard drive
  • 3 USB ports
  • Card reader
  • Built-in Wifi
  • Built-in webcam
  • Windows XP (I've got plans for Windows 7)
  • 5 hour battery life
  • Light weight (I've got books that weigh more)

Netbooks are great for when you're just knocking around town and might want to do some light web work. This morning while at Starbucks I've checked e-mail several times, caught up on the daily news, and reviewed the game statistics from the Cowboys game I missed last night. Other mornings I've fired up a VPN connection into the office and been able to remotely help with tickets, work on documentation for our SSL product and tinker around with a NetScaler VPX Express virtual machine (an interesting bit of tech for a later article).

So how does this tie into server hosting?

You've probably had a time when your monitoring has indicated a service ceasing to respond on a server. If all you have is a cell phone the options are somewhat limited. With a fancy enough phone you might have an SSH or RDP client but do you really want to do anything on a PDA sized screen? I didn't think so. You can put in a ticket from your phone and our support can help out but the person best able to fix a service failure is still going to be you, the server administrator who knows where all the bodies are buried and how the bits tie together.

A small netbook can be a lightweight (and inexpensive) administration terminal for your servers hosted with us. Just find an Internet connection, connect up to the SoftLayer VPN and now you have complete access to work on your servers via a secure connection.

Through the wonders of the IPMI KVM this access even includes the console which opens up the possibility of doing a custom kernel build and install safely, while sitting under the stars, drinking a hot chocolate and watching the local nightlife.

Sounds like a pretty nice reality to me.

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