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January 23, 2015

The SLayer Standard

The week in review. All the IBM Cloud and SoftLayer headlines in one place.

IBM: Cloud Revenue Hit $7 Billion in 2014
On Tuesday, IBM announced that its total cloud revenue for fiscal year 2014 hit $7 billion, up 60 percent from the prior-year period.

Chalk Up Another Two Customer for IBM’s Cloud Business
IBM’s newly formed cloud division has announced new agreements with Anthem and Clarient Global.

IBM Bluemix PaaS a Strong Contender Against AWS
IBM's most promising strategy so far may lie in its newest endeavor: Bluemix PaaS, which runs on SoftLayer’s cloud.

10 Things You Should Worry About in 2015
InfoWorld outlines 10 things to look out for in 2015, and number three is IBM’s cloud, including SoftLayer’s expanded footprint of data centers.

-Betsy

Categories: 
January 19, 2015

Asia Startup Series: It's All About Making the Most of Your “Professional Social Life”

Startups are near and dear to our heart at SoftLayer; just take a look at the Catalyst program. That’s why we are so excited to see the startup scene in Asia growing at a tremendous pace. The fact that venture capitalists are now setting aside funds especially for young technology companies in this part of the world brings to focus the absolute potential of this market. Some of the big funds announced in 2014 include: the Singapore government's $48 million fund distributed among six venture capital firms, Japanese mobile gaming giant GREE Ventures’ new $50 million fund, Softbank and Indosat’s partnership to launch a $50 million fund for Indonesia, and Softbank’s $20 million fund for the Philippines.

*This is Part 2 of the Asia Startup Series. Read Part 1: Drawing Board Events: Event Planning Goes the Way of the Cloud

Australia is a hotpot of ideas and over the years a number of local startups have shot to fame. Seedstarsworld released this overview of the Sydney startup scene. In April 2014, Insight Venture Partners invested US$250 million in a Sydney-based email marketing company. Much more recently, U.S. venture capital fund Technology Crossover Ventures invested US$30 million in an Australian online hotel distribution company. With all the momentum Down Under, this seems like a great time talk about one Australian startup that has a pretty cool idea to share.

ChannelPace
Working with startups is brilliant because there are no limits to how much one can blur the lines, extend the lines, distort the lines, join two lines to reinvent the boring the stuff, or bring in something brand new. ChannelPace is perhaps one of my favorite examples of such line-blurring ideas.

Picture this: As a business, it is imperative that you have a complete track of who your customers, your prospects, and even your potential employees are. When the world recognized this, we saw some really nice CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools come to market. The problem, however, with such tools is that the contact ownership is with the business, while the relationships are built by the people (the sales, marketing and support teams). Attrition is a reality, and when an employee leaves a company, the contacts, relationships, and information they’ve made often slip through the cracks. Of course that individual could continue to nurture those relationships through popular social channels. But keeping track of the hundreds, if not thousands, of contacts is nearly impossible, especially if the contacts themselves change companies.

And, this is where ChannelPace, an Australian-based startup, managed to merge and blur the lines. Greg Furlong, CEO of ChannelPace, attended SoftLayer’s Melbourne data center launch party last October, and that's where we started discussing the unique value his startup provides. Greg defines ChannelPace as the world’s first crowd-sourced contact management system.

He said, “The contacts we make during our working lives are some of our most valuable assets. And at its core, ChannelPace is designed to enable users to get their contacts organized in one place and available across all their Web-capable devices. The premise is that individuals own contacts, and our system enables sharing between users at the same company, thereby harnessing the knowledge of co-workers. When a ChannelPace user moves to another company, they take their contacts, and an imprint is left behind.”

This cloud-based system has the best of both worlds: a CRM system and a social channel. Contacts may be entered in the same manner as a traditional CRM system, or via business networking, in a manner similar to LinkedIn. Only one record is ever kept of a business card, keyed on the unique email address, and then people with the same contacts or in the same company all participate in updating the information—all without necessarily being connected to or aware of each other. Crowd-sourcing ensures information is always up-to-date, which is more efficient and effective, giving companies and individuals a competitive advantage.

Here is a snapshot of my conversation and the innumerable email exchanges with Greg:

The crowd-sourcing concept was great, but why would an organization appreciate and implement this system if they were no longer contact owners?

Greg: The first pillar of the ChannelPace system, contact management, provides people with a place to enter their business contacts. As the only way into the system is via a work-issued email address, we bring users from the same company together by creating a dynamic CRM system where everyone in the same company’s contacts are pooled. Individuals still “own” their contacts, but now everyone in the same company has access to the contact knowledge of all other ChannelPace users in their company. When you leave your company, you lose access to the shared knowledge. When you start at a new company, your contacts are now pooled with other ChannelPace users at your new company. In this way, we are providing a contact management system where users have an active interest in using it, as it is their information. Traditional CRM relies on users within the company keeping information updated. ChannelPace does this also, but we extend the updating reach to any other users around the world with access to the same contacts, which makes it more reliable and relevant.

Why did you decide to build ChannelPace as a cloud-based system?

Greg: We began building the company in 2013 with a mission to disrupt the CRM industry and displace dominant players like LinkedIn, Google+, and Salesforce. In order to compete at that level, we realized that ChannelPace needed a scalable, global cloud infrastructure platform that was nimble, reliable, and easy to implement. Hence the move to cloud. We were also looking for local presence, redundancy on multiple continents, load balancing, and as workloads increase in specific areas, high scalability. We considered numerous cloud providers including SoftLayer, Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Engine, Rackspace and Microsoft’s Azure. Finally, we decided to sign up with SoftLayer.

Why SoftLayer?

Greg: Two of ChannelPace’s priorities were global reach and scalability. ChannelPace now operates in 56 countries, and SoftLayer’s growing number of data centers and global network makes it easy for us to expand and grow our business. Also, SoftLayer’s network-within-a-network architecture is quite unique and enables us deliver unlimited traffic “on network” between servers in different data center locations around the world. When you’re looking to make an immediate impact on an industry, it’s important to work with a provider who you truly consider to be an extension of your business.

The system has immense potential. What are your growth plans for ChannelPace in 2015?

Greg: Like any other startup, we want to focus on aggressive market expansion and customer outreach. We have set high targets for ourselves, and towards that we are currently developing iOS and Android apps to extend the ChannelPace service to mobile. We also have a couple of tweaks and innovations in pipelines and 2015 is going to be super exciting for us.

I think it's great that my work life now has the potential to become a “professional social life!”

Cheers,
–Namrata (Connect with me on LinkedIn or, Twitter)

January 16, 2015

The SLayer Standard

The week in review. All the IBM Cloud and SoftLayer headlines in one place.

IBM SoftLayer IaaS Stands Up to AWS With Free Support, Networking
IBM's SoftLayer IaaS offers low-cost networking and free support, tempting some customers away from AWS.

Computing, Fast and Slow
The Economist explores the challenges and possibilities for IBM, noting that “things began to change in 2013 when it [IBM] acquired SoftLayer, a cloud-computing provider” along with partnerships with other companies like Apple and Twitter.

IBM Brings Its Cloud to Mexico
IBM Cloud opened a new data center in Mexico, enabling customers to store location-sensitive data near Mexico while taking advantage of the data protection offered by redundancy options within SoftLayer’s global network.

IBM Mainframe Makeover: Mobile, Big Data Reality Check
IBM's cloud didn't catch fire until SoftLayer entered the picture in 2013.

-Betsy

Categories: 
January 15, 2015

Hot in 2015: Trends and Predictions

As cloud technology moves into 2015, the pace of innovation in the cloud space continues to accelerate faster and faster. Being no stranger to innovation ourselves, we’ve got our collective finger on the pulse of what’s up and coming. Here are some trends we see on the horizon for cloud in 2015.

Hybrid cloud
As more and more workloads move to the cloud, many companies are looking for a way to leverage all of the value and economies of scale that the cloud provides while still being able to keep sensitive data secure. Hybrid cloud solutions, which can mean an environment that employs both private and public cloud services, on- and off-prem resources, or a service that combines both bare metal and virtual servers, will continue to grow in popularity. With 70 percent of CIOs planning to change their company’s sourcing and technology relationship within the next three years, Gartner notes that hybrid IT environments will dominate the space as they offer many of the benefits of legacy, old-world environments but still operate within the new-world as-a-service model.

Read more:
+IBM Hybrid Clouds

Bare metal
In 2015, the term bare metal will be officially mainstream. Early on, bare metal servers were seen as a necessity for only a few users, but now it has become the ideal solution for processor-intensive and disk I/O-intensive workloads like big data and analytics. We’ve been in the business of bare metal (formerly called dedicated servers) for 10 years now, and we’re happy to see the term become a standard part of the cloud dialogue. As cloud workloads get tougher and more complex in 2015, companies will continue to turn to bare metal for its raw performance.
Security
Security has been a hot topic in the news. In 2014, major retailers were hacked, certain celebrity photos were leaked, and issues surrounding government surveillance were in the spotlight. More than ever, these incidents have reminded everyone that the underlying architectures of the Internet are not secure, and without protections like firewalls, private networks, encryption, and other security features, private data isn’t truly private. In response to these concerns, tech companies will offer even higher levels of security in order to protect consumers’ and merchants’ sensitive data.

Read more:
+SoftLayer Cloud Security

Big data
Big data moves from hype and buzzword status to mainstream. The cloud industry has seen a change in the way big data is being put to work. It’s becoming more widely adopted by organizations of all types and sizes, in both the public and private sectors. One such organization is the Chicago Department of Public Health, which is using predictive analytics and data to experiment and improve food inspection and sanitation work. The city’s team has developed a machine-learning program to mine Twitter for tweets that use words related to food poisoning so that they can reply directly to posters, encouraging them to file a formal report. We’ll see much more of this kind of smart application of big data analytics to real-life problems in the year to come.

Read more:
+ In Chicago, Food Inspectors are Guided by Big Data

Docker
Docker is an open platform for developers and system administrators to build, ship, and run distributed applications. It enables apps to be quickly assembled from components and eliminates the friction between development, QA, and production environments. Streamlining workflow, the Docker software container allows developers to work on the exact same deployment stack that programmers use and contains all the dependencies within it. It can also be moved from bare metal to hybrid cloud environments—positioning it to be the next big thing on the cloud scene in 2015. IBM has already capitalized on Docker’s simplicity and portability by launching its IBM Containers service, part of Bluemix, last month. IBM Containers will help enterprises launch Docker containers directly onto the IBM Cloud via bare metal servers from SoftLayer.

Read more:
+Docker
+At DockerCon Amsterdam, an Under Fire Docker Makes a Raft of Announcements

Health care
The medical and health care industries will continue to adopt cloud in 2015 to store, compute, and analyze medical data as well as address public concerns about modernizing record-keeping and file-sharing practices. The challenge will be keeping patients’ sensitive medical data secure so that it can be shared among health care providers, but kept safely away from hackers.

Read more:
+Coriell Life Sciences

Data sovereignty
In order to comply with local data residency laws in certain regions, many global companies are finding it necessary to host data in country. As new data centers are established worldwide, it’s becoming easier to meet data sovereignty requirements. As a result of launching new data centers, cloud providers are increasing the size and power of their network—creating even lower latency connections—and creating an even more competitive cloud marketplace. As a result, smaller players might be left in the dust in 2015.

Read more:
+ Cloud Security Remains a Barrier for CIOs Across Europe

Enterprises
Last, but certainly not least, 2015 will see an aggressive move to the cloud by enterprise organizations. The cost- and timing-saving benefits of cloud adoption will continue to win over large companies.

Read more:
+IBM Enterprise Cloud System

Looking Ahead
Martin Schroeter, senior vice president and CFO, finance and enterprise at IBM has projected approximately $7 billion in total cloud-related sales in 2015, with $3 billion of that coming from new offerings and the rest from older products shifted to be delivered via the cloud.

SoftLayer will continue to match the pace of cloud adoption by providing innovative services and products, signing new customers, and launching new data centers worldwide. In Q1, our network of data centers will expand into Sydney, Australia, with more to come in 2015.

Read more:
+IBM’s Cloud-Based Future Rides on Newcomer Crosby
+InterConnect 2015

-Marc

January 9, 2015

The SLayer Standard

The week in review. All the IBM Cloud and SoftLayer headlines in one place.

IBM Bids for Exploding German Cloud Market With Local Data Center
IBM opened its first SoftLayer data center in Germany as part a broader effort to reach international markets amid heightened privacy fears.

IBM Opens SoftLayer Data Center in Germany
IBM’s new SoftLayer data center in Frankfurt will allow customers to run workloads in the cloud while complying with German data-privacy regulations.

Growing Japanese Customer Base Wants Local Data
IBM has opened its first SoftLayer cloud data center in Japan, located in Tokyo.

SoftLayer Launches Three International Data Centers During the Holidays
Dallas-based SoftLayer, an IBM Company, opened data centers in Tokyo and Mexico City on December 22 and Frankfurt on December 29.

-Betsy

Categories: 
January 6, 2015

Three Ways to Enhance Your SoftLayer Portal Account Security

We’ve recently discussed how to craft strong passwords and offered advice on choosing a password manager, but we haven’t yet touched on multi-factor authentication (MFA), which has been available to our customers for many years now.

What is MFA?
MFA is another line of defense for securing your user accounts within the customer portal. The concept behind MFA is simple: Users present two (or more) ways to authenticate themselves by providing something known such as a user name and password and providing something possessed such as a one-time password generated by a device or software application.
Why is MFA important?
Keeping passwords secure has always been a moving target. While you can train staff and enforce complex password policies, it’s difficult to prevent users from writing passwords down, saving them to files, or sharing them with others. By adding MFA, simply having a user password doesn't grant access to the resource. A user will need the user password in addition to a MFA token device, smartphone, or application.
What MFA options are available at SoftLayer?
SoftLayer offers three MFA methods to enhance portal account security:
Symantec Validation and ID Protection (VIP) – After downloading this app to a smartphone, when accessed, it will generate a one-time password. This product can be used to securely access the SoftLayer portal. The app is $3 a month per user.

PhoneFactor – A unique system where a one-time password is texted to a mobile phone. Users also have the option of receiving a phone call to input a PIN before receiving a one-time password. This can be used to access the portal as well as the SoftLayer SSL VPN. PhoneFactor costs $10 a month per user.

Google Authenticator – Another smartphone application with generated one-time passwords, can also be used to securely access the SoftLayer portal. This can be added for any user on an account free of charge.

Quickly Add MFA to SoftLayer Portal Users Today
It’s easy to add any of these MFA services to portal user accounts.

To add Symantec VIP or PhoneFactor:
  1. Log in to SoftLayer portal as the master user.
  2. Under the Account Tab click on Users.
  3. In the right hand column for each user, click the Actions icon and select Add External Authentication. You’ll then be able to subscribe to Symantec or PhoneFactor for that user.
To add Google Authenticator:
  1. Log in to SoftLayer portal as the master user.
  2. From the Accounts dropdown menu, select Users and then select your user account name.
  3. Scroll down and click the link to Add Google Authenticator to your account.
  4. From there, just snap the QR code with your GA application and you’re all set. The next time you log in you’ll be prompted to enter your authentication code after entering your username and password.

Any of these three MFA solutions will help ensure that your portal user accounts are secure, are easy to set up, and quick to install. Feel free to reach out if you have any suggestions or questions about MFA with SoftLayer.

- Seth

Categories: 
December 31, 2014

SoftLayer Asia Roadshow 2014 ends with a sprint across Greater China

As 2014 draws to an end, so does the nine-city SoftLayer Asia Roadshow. We concluded our GCG chapter in Taipei on December 18, and I was thrilled to see guests coming to our customer meetups and workshops to learn and share experiences. This tour has helped us get closer to our clients and get a better understanding of the local market challenges and expectations.

Mic Kwok and William Lim, our in-house experts and local leads for the Roadshow in GCG, presented and shared unique SoftLayer solutions and advantages and industry success stories with start-ups, developers, and entrepreneurs. They also led interactive sessions where we had in-depth conversations, like the Bare-feet, Bare Metal workshop held at PicCollage.

We’d like to send a great big shout out to the speakers and our attendees for making the event such a success.

I had a chance to talk to iTaiwan Consultancy and Herxun Inc. during the workshop and customer meetups. It was great to hear positive feedback on the SoftLayer Roadshow initiative and SoftLayer services.

“[SoftLayer's] monthly bandwidth package provides us with more buffer to deal with potential DDoS attacks. Unlike other cloud solution providers, SoftLayer charges a standard monthly fee without additional bandwidth usage billing. This eliminates unexpected bandwidth charges when a hacking situation arises. I chose SoftLayer for a client of mine who’s a famous local opinion leader to prevent unexpected billing if any hacking.”
Tommy Lee, Founder of iTaiwan Consultancy Co., Ltd

“SoftLayer data center service, charged by hour, pay by usage, is a great option for start-ups! With [SoftLayer’s] flexible solutions, it allows us to test in all sorts of creative formats, which accelerates time to market of our new product/services.”
Brian Chen, CEO and Co-Founder of Herxun Inc.

While in Taipei, we also met with local start-ups and SMBs at the Asia BEAT 2014. SoftLayer’s Allen Poon, Angus Ip and William Lim held a dedicated workshop for the event attendees. What stood out for us was the deep-dive discussions and cross-questioning from the attendees that made the session so much livelier.

Although it was a fun and stressful couple of months of planning and executing, time flew by. While I am looking forward to recharging over the holidays, I am also super pumped for 2015. As you have probably heard, we launched three new data centers (Tokyo, Mexico City, and Frankfurt) in December with more to come in 2015. And there are a lot of new activities planned in the new year, especially in Greater China, so stay tuned!

‘Til then, wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a new year full of peace and happiness!

- Winifred (stay connected via LinkedIn)

December 30, 2014

Three data centers. One week.

Launching back-to-back data centers across the world in less than 24 hours is easier said than done. Launching three sites over the Christmas holiday, well, that’s just a Christmas miracle (and a lot of hard work).

That’s right. If you haven’t been keeping count, we’ve opened three data centers in the last seven days! Tokyo and Mexico City went live last week on December 22, and Frankfurt started accepting orders on December 29.



As you can imagine, the development and operations teams have been working around the clock to get these three new data centers up and running. “The Go Live Team has been working until two, three, four in the morning, and they are all working through their vacations to make sure we meet our deadlines,” says Scott Kennedy, project manager.

As soon as the lease is signed on the data center space, and SoftLayer moves into the operational state, Kennedy takes over. From Dallas, he coordinates all the moving pieces, from equipment to personnel. The Go Live Team arrives one month before launch to start setting up shop. Then a week later, the network team (mostly Houston-based SLayers) arrives to set up the cabling for the network devices.

Everything is tested, tested again, and tested a third time to make sure we're ready for the first day of service. (About two weeks prior to the Tokyo and Mexico City launches, emails about this test being enabled or that test being completed began filling my inbox.)

All Systems Go

Kennedy says the key to the successful launches has been communication and the SLayers’ hard work. And it shows—orders started rolling in the moment the TOK02 option became available on the order form. This just proves how necessary expansion is to meeting our customers’ needs. Each new data center helps provide better performance, flexibility, and control closer to where our customers need it. And because these data centers are the first in their respective countries, those needing to compute and store sensitive data required to remain in Mexico, Japan, or Germany can now do so.

Please join us in welcoming Tokyo, Mexico City, and Frankfurt to the SoftLayer family.

-JRL

Categories: 
December 24, 2014

Holiday Traditions

Whether you believe in Santa Claus or not, there’s just something about this time of year that makes us giddy for tradition. For me the holiday season isn’t complete until I’ve watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Watching their “fun, old-fashioned family Christmas” turn into a “full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency” has turned into a yearly tradition that helps make my in-laws (and my family for that matter) seem just a little bit more jolly to be around this time of year—who doesn’t have an Aunt Bethany or Cousin Eddie hiding in their family tree somewhere?

We didn’t create a new holiday song this year (we’ve been busy opening data centers!), so we’re presenting our 12 Days of Christmas rendition again. Between decking the halls and dashing through the snow, we’d like to invite you to add a new tradition to your cloud holiday season.

Enjoy.

-JRL

December 19, 2014

Improving Communications for Customer-Affecting Planned Events

Since posting Improving Communications for Customer-Affecting Events, our developers have been hard at work making the SoftLayer customer portal even better. Initially, as discussed in the previous post, we released functionality that allows us to more rapidly communicate with customers about unplanned events such as infrastructure troubles or outages. The tool also allows customers to read and follow updates. Communications are targeted to specific customers who may experience degradation of disruption to their services as a result of these events.

I’m pleased to report a new major milestone: The system is now ready to distribute planned events communications such as scheduled maintenance.

Until now, SoftLayer used read-only tickets as the method to post targeted communications to customers about upcoming planned events. Here are some of the customer benefits from moving to the Event Management System (planned events; unplanned events) within the customer portal:

  • With the mass ticket creation, only the master user account received email alerts. Now, any portal user account with a valid email address and permission to manage bare metal servers or virtual servers are now subscribed to receive the new planned event notifications.
  • Events are clearly organized in their own area in the portal—separate from tickets. The overview list shows relevant columns such as planned start and end times.
  • Customers only receive notifications relevant to their infrastructure.
  • The portal and email notifications will include a table listing which items on your account may be affected.
  • An alert bar will appear at the top of the customer portal if there is an active event in progress, which helps customers quickly find relevant information about any service impact.
  • A notification will be shown in the customer portal if customers open a ticket about a bare metal server or virtual server that is associated with an event in progress.
  • SoftLayer operational staff can rapidly post important updates to events as they arise.

No additional customer action is required in order to benefit from these improvements. However, you may wish to familiarize yourself with the Events view, which can be found under Support > Events.

When we publish information about a planned event that may affect your service, it will appear highlighted on the calendar. Customers can click directly on the date in the calendar to see an event planned for that day.

As mentioned previously, all users are subscribed by default to receive planned event email notifications. You may opt out of these notifications in the Account > Subscriptions dropdown menu.

We’ve already begun to use the new Event Management System for planned events as of December 2014. By the end of January 2015, we will cease using the system which opens up read-only tickets and exclusively use the Event Management System for future planned events.

Please take some time to familiarize yourself with this area of the customer portal, ensure that you have a valid email address associated with your login, and check your subscription settings for planned and unplanned events. Additionally please note that the Master User, as well as accounts that administer customer logins, can control subscription settings for their respective sub-users.

During the next phase of improvements to customer communications, our developers will be focusing on implementing these events in the SoftLayer mobile (smartphone/tablet) client.

Stay tuned for further updates as this work continues.

-Dani

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