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January 25, 2016

The SLayer Standard Vol. 2, No. 3

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

UStream joins the IBM family.
IBM has announced an exciting new addition to the family. We would like to welcome UStream to the team and a new cloud video services unit they will join. TechCrunch reported, “Braxton Jarratt, who came to IBM as part of the ClearLeap deal, has been chosen to run this new unit. He says UStream gives the company that missing streaming piece that allows them to form this unit with a full-service enterprise video offering.”

Jarrett also said that IBM “plans to incorporate other pieces like Watson for analytics, something that customers were asking for around video delivery at CES earlier this month. They want to know information like how long people are engaged and what kinds of actions they can take to stop churn.”

Get for information on the deal here.

IBM Watson is the future of artificial intelligence.
The head of IBM Watson, Mike Rhodin sat down for an interview with Forbes to talk about the future of artificial intelligence.

Since Watson’s appearance on Jeopardy!, it started a time that Rhodin considers “in-market experimentation.” During that time they worked with major names in the healthcare industry that “wanted to start to experiment with the technology–not to play Jeopardy!, but to use the underlying technology to start to solve problems.”

Rhodin noted, “The second thing that was a key decision about the launch of the commercial project was the creation of an open ecosystem: we would open up the APIs on platforms so that startups could get access to the technology and start to build out businesses on top of it.” This led to the beginning of the Watson Group made up of a few customers and a little group of startups who utilized the technology. That is when the ecosystem project took off.

Learn more about how Watson works and where it is going here.

-Rachel

Categories: 
January 22, 2016

Using Cyberduck to Access SoftLayer Object Storage

SoftLayer object storage provides a low cost option to store files in the cloud. There are three primary methods for managing files in SoftLayer object storage: via a web browser, using the object storage API, or using a third-party application. Here, we’ll focus on the third-party application method, demonstrating how to configure Cyberduck to perform file uploads and downloads. Cyberduck is a free and open source (GPL) software package that can be used to connect to FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, S3, or any OpenStack Swift-based object storage such as SoftLayer object storage.

Download and Install Cyberduck

You can download Cyberduck here, with clients for both Windows and Mac. After the installation is complete, download the profile for SoftLayer object storage here. Choose any of the download links under the Connecting section; preconfigured locations won’t matter as the settings will be modified later.

Once the profile has been downloaded, it needs to be modified to allow the hostname to be changed. Open the downloaded file (e.g. Softlayer (Amsterdam).cyberduckprofile) in a text editor. Locate the Hostname Configurable key (<key>Hostname Configurable</key>), and change the XML tag following that from <false/> to <true/>. Once this change has been made, there are two options to load the configuration file: Move the file to the profiles directory where Cyberduck is installed (on Windows this will be C:\Program Files (x86)\Cyberduck\profiles by default), or double-click on the profile, and Cyberduck will add the profile.

Configure Cyberduck to Work with SoftLayer

Now that Cyberduck has been installed, it needs to be configured to connect to object storage in SoftLayer. You can do this by creating a bookmark in Cyberduck. With Cyberduck open, click on Bookmark in the main menu bar, then New Bookmark in the dropdown menu.

In the dropdown box at the top of the Bookmark window, select SoftLayer Object Storage (Name of Location).

In the dropdown box at the top of the Bookmark window, select SoftLayer Object Storage (Name of Location). Depending on the profile that was downloaded, the location may be different. When the SoftLayer profile has been selected, the configurable options for that profile will be displayed. Enter a nickname that will identify the object storage location.

Next, depending on which data center will store the objects, the server option in Cyberduck may need to be changed. To find out which server should be specified, open a web browser and log into the SoftLayer portal. Once in the portal click on Storage then Object Storage. Select the object storage account that will be used for this connection.

If no accounts exist, a new object storage account can be ordered by using the Order Object
Storage link located in the upper right-hand corner. After selecting the account, select the data center where the object storage will reside.

When the Object Storage page loads, there will be a View Credentials link under the object storage container dropdown box in the upper left section of the screen.

Clicking on that link will bring up a dialog box that contains the information necessary for creating a connection in Cyberduck. Because SoftLayer has both public and private networks, there are two authentication endpoints available. The setup for each endpoint is the same, but a VPN connection to the SoftLayer private network is necessary in order to use the private endpoint.

Here, we will be using the public endpoints. Select the server address for the public endpoint (see the blue highlighted text) and enter it into the server text box in Cyberduck.

Next, select the username. It will be in the format:

object_storage_account_name:softlayer_user_name.

Then enter it into the Username text box. (Make note of the API Key, it will be used later.)

Once those options have been set (Nickname, Server, and Username), close the new bookmark window. In the main Cyberduck window, you should see the newly created bookmark listed. Double-click on it to connect to the SoftLayer object storage.

At this point, Cyberduck will prompt for the API key. Use the API key noted above and Cyberduck will connect to SoftLayer object storage. Uploading files can be accomplished by selecting the files and dragging them to the Cyberduck window. Downloading can be accomplished by selecting a file in Cyberduck and dragging it to the local folder where it will be downloaded.

-Bryan Bush

January 18, 2016

The SLayer Standard Vol. 2, No. 2

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

Ford and IBM team up to take the hassle out of driving.
Ford announced a partnership with IBM Cloud to start a new platform to analyze transportation data. In an article by TechCrunch, “The new platform will use IBM’s cloud computing platform to analyze small slices of data to look for patterns and trends that could help drivers make better decisions about their driving—or whether they should maybe use another means of transportation.”

Ford began testing the platform to run its Dynamic Shuttle model on the Ford campus. Ford explains, “Should one of the Transit vans experience a malfunction that triggers a warning light, the platform will be able to start routing requests away from that vehicle to other Transits in service—allowing another shuttle to redeploy to keep all riders on schedule.”

Learn more about how Ford and IBM are helping drivers here.

Bluemix Social Sentiment App set to better fan experience at Australian Open.
The entire Australian Open 2016 experience will be hosted by IBM’s Continuous Available Services. In a blog post from IBM Bluemix Dev, “The component that provides a social endpoint, Social Sentiment Application, for fan experiences is hosted on a Bluemix hybrid cloud that follows several design principles: Cognitive Design, Microservices, High Availability, Parallel Functions and Disaster Avoidance.”

One highlight of the cognitive design is that it will allow for an engaging user experience, further developing the interactivity between people and machines. The post notes, “The system enables humans and machines to understand the crowd and their opinions focused around tennis players. Over time, the trend of tennis player sentiment is displayed through IBM’s SlamTracker, which learns player popularity movement. Humans interact with the Social Sentiment Application through Twitter, which has a direct impact on social sentiment.

Read more about the application’s design principles here.

IBM named a hybrid cloud leader by Forrester and Synergy.
Reports from both Forrester and Synergy Research highlighted IBM’s continued cloud growth in the hybrid arena. “These new reports further underscore the momentum IBM has gained among its customers that are increasingly turning to IBM for help connecting cloud services and applications to core systems that may always remain on-premises, due to such factors as regulatory compliance, control and cost.”

Forrester’s report studied many hybrid cloud solutions and noted, “Leaders such as IBM offer deep and broad support for pre-built application and infrastructure templates, powerful provisioning and configuration management, role-based controls, and rich cost, performance, and capacity management features.”

Learn more about Forrester’s and Synergy’s findings here.

-Rachel

Categories: 
January 15, 2016

Vuukle: Helping Publishers Manage Comments and Match Readers with Content

I recently had a conversation with Ravi Mittal, the founder of a company called Vuukle. Vuukle is based in New Delhi and has just graduated from our Catalyst startup program.

Vuukle actually started out in Silicon Valley—Ravi launched his first product iteration with the goal of trying to source public opinion on the Web. Key to his initial offering was a proprietary algorithm he developed to sort comments in order of credibility—a highly valuable aspect of the product, but something he quickly learnt wasn’t enough value to encompass a product.

Through experiments with Vuukle’s early customers (including the Santa Clara Weekly), a major problem emerged which appeared to pervade the online publishing industry: reader engagement wasn’t sticky enough to compel them to post (and reply to) comments. In order to solve this meta-problem, Vuukle pivoted into a new type of comment publishing system, which helps publishers see engagement through custom analytics.

The major problem Vuukle faces is not unique to just the publishers they service. It’s a pretty large scale global problem, extending beyond news publishers and into all content-based publishing online—so you can imagine how much competition is out there around the globe in this space. When I asked Ravi how he differentiates Vuukle from recently dominant players like Livefyre and Disqus, he offered, "Most customers aren’t using those other services; they have their own commenting systems. If anything, we were pitted against Facebook commenting. In the few cases where Disqus is being used, we’ve seen problems with load times, throttling limits and so on."

In order to set Vuukle in a class of its own, Ravi and his team—which is globally dispersed, with people in Egypt, the Ukraine, U.S.A., and India—have architected an infrastructure for super-fast load times that work at amazing scale, employing SoftLayer servers in our Singapore and India data centers, as well as working with a third party, ScaleDB, to handle database queries and traffic. Of course, that alone doesn’t give them a unique value proposition; Vuukle truly sets itself apart by dropping publisher costs upfront to a minimal platform access fee and offering a 50/50 revenue share model. Vuukle not only is set up to handle high traffic websites with commenting, but it also promotes user engagement with comments by integrating with actual publishing systems. Vuukle passes traffic between posts and offers editors insights into how readers are commenting, in addition to creating a new revenue stream through comments—from which it sources the majority of its own income.

Interestingly, Ravi’s move from the Valley to India came because of family reasons and ended up being a blessing to the business. Early after his move, he realized that there was a ton of opportunity for Vuukle with the major Indian newspapers that had cobbled together their own infrastructure to power websites. Just a couple years in, Vuukle is powering comments on The Hindu, Deccan Chronicle, and Indian Express, three of the most highly trafficked news websites in the country. To help global adoption amongst all sorts of publishers, Vuukle also offers a free WordPress plugin.

Vuukle seems to have gained traction through Ravi’s hard work chasing customers at home, and he’s proud to be finding success despite being bootstrapped. When questioned about the local startup scene, Ravi said, “Nothing much is unique in the Indian startup ecosystem. [It's] kind of like a gold rush in India, where founders are hunting for investment before they have a clear market path and products that are market-ready. A lot of copycat businesses [are] launching that are focused on Indian markets (taking models from the States and elsewhere.) Not many patents are being filed in India—not much actual innovation, indicative of a proliferation of large seed round raises (around $1 million) and a lot of startups spend funding on staff they don’t need.”

The future seems bright for Vuukle. Its growth beyond India’s borders will happen soon and will be financed through revenue rather than venture capital rounds, of which Ravi seems quite wary. Now that Vuukle has graduated from Catalyst, I was keen to hear whether the company would still keep the majority of their infrastructure with IBM—it turns out prospective Vuukle customers love hearing that their infrastructure is hosted on our cloud and that a core aspect of Vuukle’s value proposition is the scale and reliability we offer their solution.

I really think this company is an exciting one to watch. I look forward to seeing greater success for Vuukle as they grow with our ever-expanding footprint of data centers in the Asian region and globally.

-Qasim

Based in Toronto, Qasim Virjee manages the Catalyst Startup Program in Canada and can be reached on twitter (@qasim) or via his personal website.

January 12, 2016

The SLayer Standard Vol. 2, No. 1

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

AT&T’s data comes to IBM.
IBM and AT&T announced an expansion of their current partnership. According to the press release, “AT&T will transition its managed application and managed hosting services unit to IBM. IBM will then align these managed service capabilities with the IBM Cloud portfolio.” Philip Guido, IBM General Manager of Global Technology Services for North America, said, "Working with AT&T, we will deliver a robust set of IBM Cloud and managed services that can continuously evolve to meet clients' business objectives."

When the deal closes, managed applications and managed hosting services AT&T offers will be delivered by IBM. “AT&T will continue to provide networking services including security, cloud networking, and mobility that it provides today. And the two companies will work closely to innovate and deliver a full suite of integrated solutions to customers.”

Read the rest of the details in the official press release.

Welcome to Munich, Watson IoT.
The Watson IoT business unit is getting a new home. Last week, IBM announced the “launch of a new global headquarters” in Munich. The new home base “will be the centerpiece of a group of eight global regional customer centers that suggest IBM plans to win major IoT business by deemphasizing its American roots.” Building trust with European companies is a vital part of this new office. Frank Gillett, a Forrester analyst said, “A traditional mainline tech company has plunked down in Europe to say, we are firmly with you, we are rooting ourselves in your environment to work with you.”

Gillett also said with IBM’s announcement “signaled the most strongly of any of the vendors when it comes to investment and organizational structure and headquarters. Now they have to execute and deliver.”

Get more information about the new office here.

Watson is the rise of the thinking machine.
IBM Watson VP, Steve Gold, sat down with Forbes to talk about where Watson is headed in 2016.

With the announcement of several new partnerships, IBM plans to put Watson’s cognitive capabilities to use solving a wide array of issues worldwide. Gold said, “At the start of 2014 we had three partners, and today we have over 300.” The article notes, “Watson is already in operation across 26 industries, including financial services, travel and retail in 36 countries, and its uptake is continuing to accelerate.”

The partnerships with Twitter, Softbank, and Mubadala, just to name a few, will further develop Watson’s cognitive growth. That’s because “cognitive computers don’t need to be programmed—they can learn for themselves.”

Get the full article here.

-Rachel

Categories: 
January 8, 2016

A guide to Direct Link connectivity

So you’ve got your infrastructure running on SoftLayer, but you find yourself wishing for a more direct way to connect your on-premises or co-located infrastructure to your SoftLayer cloud infrastructure—with higher bandwidth and lower latency. And you also think the Internet just isn’t good enough when we’re talking VPN tunnels and private networking connectivity. Does that sound like you?

What are my options?

SoftLayer offers three Direct Link products that are specifically for customers looking for the most efficient connection to their SoftLayer private network. A Direct Link enables you to connect to the SoftLayer private network backbone with low latency speeds—up to 10Gbps using fiber cross-connect patches directly into the SoftLayer private network. A Direct Link is used to connect to a SoftLayer private network within the same geographical location of the physical cross-connect. (An add-on is available that enables you to connect to any of your SoftLayer private networks on a global scale.)

Direct Link Network Service Provider


The Direct Link NSP option allows you to create a cross-connect using single-mode fiber from one of our PoP locations onto the SoftLayer private backbone. You’ll have a Network Service Provider of your own preference that provides you with connectivity from your on-prem location to the SoftLayer PoP. This could be an “in-facility” cross-connect to your own equipment, MPLS, Metro WAN, or Fiber provider. The Direct Link NSP is the top-tier connectivity option we offer pertaining to private networking connectivity onto the SoftLayer private backbone.

Direct Link Cloud Exchange Provider


A cloud exchange provider is a carrier/network provider that is already connected to SoftLayer using multi-tenant, high capacity links. This allows you to purchase a virtual circuit at this provider and a Direct Link cloud exchange link at SoftLayer at reduced costs, because the physical connectivity from SoftLayer to the cloud exchange provider is already in place and shared amongst other customers.

Direct Link Colocation Provider


If your gear is co-located in a cabinet purchased via SoftLayer that’s in the same facility near or adjacent to a SoftLayer data center or POD, this option would work for you. Similar to the NSP option, this is a single-mode fiber but there’s no need to connect to a SoftLayer PoP location first—you can connect directly from your cabinet to the relevant SoftLayer data center.

How do you communicate over a Direct Link?

The SoftLayer Direct Link service is a routed Layer 3 service. Routing options are: routing using a SoftLayer assigned subnet, NAT, GRE or IPsec tunnels, VRF, and BGP.

Routing
We directly bind the 172.x.x.x IP block to your remote hosts that need to communicate with your SoftLayer infrastructure. You can either renumber your existing hosts on the remote networks or bind these as secondary IPs and setup appropriate static routes on the host. You can then use the 172.x.x.x IP space to communicate with the 10.x.x.x IP's of your SoftLayer hosts as necessary. Routing via BGP is optional.

NAT
With NAT, SoftLayer will assign you a block of IPs from the 172.16.0.0/12 IP block to NAT into a device from your remote network to prevent IP conflicts with the SoftLayer 10.x.x.x IP range(s) assigned.

GRE / IPsec Tunneling
You can create a GRE or IPSEC tunnel between the remote network and your infrastructure here at SoftLayer. This allows you to use whatever IP space you want on the SoftLayer side and route back across the tunnel to the remote network. With that being said, this is a configuration that will have to be managed and supported by you, independent of SoftLayer. Furthermore, this configuration could break connectivity to the SoftLayer services network if you use a 10.x.x.x block that SoftLayer has in use for services. This solution will also require that each host needing connectivity to the SoftLayer services network and the remote network have two IPs assigned (one from the SL 10.x.x.x block, and one from the remote network block) and static routes setup on the host to ensure traffic is routed appropriately. You will not be able to assign whatever IP space you want directly on the SoftLayer hosts (BYOIP) and have it routable on the SoftLayer network inherently. The only way to do this is as outlined above and is not supported by SoftLayer.

VRF
You can opt-in to utilizing a VRF (Virtual Routing and Forwarding) instance. This allows the customer to either utilize their own remote IP addresses or overlap with a large majority of the SoftLayer infrastructure; however, you must be aware that if you utilize the 10.x.x.x network you still cannot overlap with your hosts within SoftLayer nor within the SoftLayer services network (10.0.0.0/14 and 10.200.0.0/14). You will not be able to set any of the following for your remote prefixes: 10.0.0.0/14, 10.200.0.0/14, 10.198.0.0/15, 169.254.0.0/16, 224.0.0.0/4, and any IP ranges assigned to your VLANs on the SoftLayer platform. When choosing the VRF option, the ability to use SoftLayer VPN services for management of your servers will no longer be possible. Routing via BGP is optional.

Example:

FAQ

Will I need to provide my own cross-connect?
Yes, you will need to order your own cross-connect at your data center of choice—to be connected to the SoftLayer switch port described in the LOA (Letter of Authorization) provided.

What kind of cross-connects are supported?
We strictly use Single Mode Fiber (SMF). We do not accept MMF or Copper.

What is the default size of the remote 172.16.*.* subnet assigned?
Unless otherwise requested, Direct Link customers will be assigned a /24 (256 IPs) subnet.

Which IP block has been reserved for SoftLayer servers on the backend?
We've allocated the entire 10.0.0.0/8 block for use on the SL private network. Specifically, 10.0.0.0/14 has been ear-marked for services. Here’s the full list of service subnets: http://knowledgelayer.softlayer.com/faqs/196#154

Which IP block has been reserved for point-to-point SoftLayer XCR to customer router?
10.254.0.0/16 range. We normally allocate either a /30 or /31 subnet for the point-to-point connection (between our XCR and their equipment on the other end of the Direct Link).

Does Direct Link support jumbo frames?
Yes, just like the private SoftLayer network Direct Link can support up to MTU (Maximum Transmission Unit) 9000-size jumbo frames.

Pricing and locations

A list of available locations and pricing can be found at www.softlayer.com/direct-link.

-Mathijs Dubbe

January 6, 2016

Do You Speak SoftLayer Object Storage?

So you’ve made the decision to utilize object storage at SoftLayer. Great! But are you and your applications fluent in object storage? Do you know how to transfer data to SoftLayer object storage as well as modify and delete objects? How about when to use APIs and when to use storage gateways? If not, you’re not alone.

We’ve found that most IT professionals understand the difference between “traditional” (i.e., file and block) storage and object storage. They have difficulty, however, navigating the methods to interact with SoftLayer’s object storage service that is based on OpenStack Swift. This is understandable because traditional storage systems expose volumes and or shares that can be mounted and consumed via iSCSI, NFS, or SMB protocols.

That’s not the case with object storage, including the object storage service offered by SoftLayer. Data is only accessed via the use of REST APIs and language bindings, third-party applications supporting SFTP, the SoftLayer customer portal, or via storage gateways.

The solutions are outlined below, including guidance on when to utilize each access method. Figure 1 provides a high level overview of the available options and their purpose.



Figure 1: Object storage data access methods

REST APIs and Language Bindings
The first and possibly most flexible method to access SoftLayer object storage is via REST APIs and language bindings. These APIs and bindings give you the ability to interact with SoftLayer object storage via command line or programmatically. As a result, you can create scripts to perform a file upload, download certain objects, and modify metadata related to the object. Additionally, the current support for PHP, Java, Ruby, and Python bindings give application developers the flexibility to support SoftLayer object storage in their applications.

While this method is flexible in terms of capabilities, it does assume the user has knowledge and experience writing scripts, programs, and applications. REST APIs and language bindings aren’t the best methods for IT organizations that want to integrate existing environment backup, archive, and disaster recovery solutions. These solutions typically require traditional storage mount points, which REST APIs and language bindings don’t provide.

Third-Party Applications
The second method is to use third-party applications that support SFTP. This method abstracts the use of REST APIs and gives users the ability to upload, download, and delete objects via a GUI. However, you won’t have the ability to modify metadata when using an SFTP client. Additionally, third-party applications have a 5GB upload limit placed on each object by SoftLayer and OpenStack Swift. If an object greater than 5GB needs to be uploaded, you have to follow the OpenStack method of creating large objects on object storage to assure successful and efficient object upload. Unless you’re comfortable with this methodology, it’s strongly recommended that you use either the REST APIs or storage gateway solutions to access files over 5GB.

SoftLayer Customer Portal
The third method to access SoftLayer object storage is to simply use the SoftLayer customer portal. By using the portal, you have the ability to add containers, add files to containers, delete files from containers, modify metadata, and enable CDN capabilities. As with the SFTP method of accessing the object store, you can upload an unlimited number of files as long as each file does not exceed 20MB in size. Also, there is no bulk upload option within the customer portal; users must select and upload on a per-file basis. While using the portal is simple, it does provide some limitations and is best for users only wanting to upload a few files that occupy 20MB or less.

Storage Gateways
The last method to access and utilize SoftLayer object storage is storage gateways. Unlike other methods, storage gateways are unique. They’re able to expose traditional storage protocols like iSCSI, NFS, CIFS, and SMB and translate the read/write/modify commands into REST API calls against the object storage service. As a result, these devices offer an easier path to consume SoftLayer object storage for businesses looking to integrate their on-premises environment with the cloud. Some storage gateways also have the ability to compress, deduplicate, and encrypt data in-flight and at-rest. Storage gateways work best with organizations looking to integrate existing applications requiring traditional storage access methods (like backup software) with object storage or to securely transfer and store data to cloud object storage.

Summary
While there are many methods to access SoftLayer object storage, it’s important that you select an option that best meets your requirements relating to data access, security, and integration. For example, if you’re writing an application that requires object storage, you would most likely choose to interact with object storage via REST APIs or use language bindings. Or, if you simply need to integrate existing applications in your environment to cloud object storage, storage gateway would be the best option. In all cases, make sure you can meet your requirements with the appropriate method.

Table 1 lists sample requirements and shows whether each option meets the requirements. Use it to help you with your decision making process:



Table 1: Decision making tool

Click here for more information about SoftLayer’s object storage service and click here for FAQs on object storage.

Click here for information about SoftLayer’s REST-APIs and language bindings.

-Daniel De Araujo & Naeem Altaf

Categories: 
December 30, 2015

Using Ansible on SoftLayer to Streamline Deployments

Many companies today are leveraging new tools to automate deployments and handle configuration management. Ansible is a great tool that offers flexibility when creating and managing your environments.

SoftLayer has components built within the Ansible codebase, which means continued support for new features as the Ansible project expands. You can conveniently pull your SoftLayer inventory and work with your chosen virtual servers using the Core Ansible Library along with the SoftLayer Inventory Module. Within your inventory list, your virtual servers are grouped by various traits, such as “all virtual servers with 32GB of RAM,” or “all virtual servers with a domain name of softlayer.com.” The inventory list provides different categorized groups that can be expanded upon. With the latest updates to the SoftLayer Inventory Module, you can now get a list of virtual servers by tags, as well as work with private virtual servers. You can then use each of the categories provided by the inventory list within your playbooks.

So, how can you work with the new categories (such as tags) if you don’t yet have any inventory or a deployed infrastructure within SoftLayer? You can use the new SoftLayer module that’s been added to the Ansible Extras Project. This module provides the ability to provision virtual servers within a playbook. All you have to do is supply the build detail information for your virtual server(s) within your playbook and go.

Let’s look at an example playbook. You’ll want to specify a hostname along with a domain name when defining the parameters for your virtual server(s). The hostname can have an incremental number appended at the end of it if you’re provisioning more than one virtual server; e.g., Hostname-1, Hostname-2, and so on. You just need to specify a value True for the parameter increment. Incremental naming offers the ability to uniquely name virtual servers within your playbook, but is also optional in the case where you want similar hostnames. Notice that you can also specify tags for your virtual servers, which is handy when working with your inventory in future playbooks.

Following is a sample playbook for building Ubuntu virtual servers on SoftLayer:

---
- name: Build Tomcat Servers
  hosts: localhost
  gather_facts: False
  tasks:
  - name: Build Servers
    local_action:
      module: softlayer
      quantity: 2
      increment: True
      hostname: www
      domain: test.com
      datacenter: mex01
      tag: tomcat-test
      hourly: True
      private: False
      dedicated: False
      local_disk: True
      cpus: 1
      memory: 1024
      disks: [25]
      os_code: UBUNTU_LATEST
      ssh_keys: [12345]

By default, your playbook will pause until each of your virtual servers completes provisioning before moving onto the next plays within your playbook. You can specify the wait parameter to False if you choose not to wait for the virtual servers to complete provisioning. The wait parameter is helpful for when you want to build many virtual servers, but some have different characteristics such as RAM or tag naming. You can also set the maximum time you want to wait on the virtual servers by setting the wait_timeout parameter, which takes an integer defining the number of seconds to wait.

Once you’re finished using your virtual servers, canceling them is as easy as creating them. Just specify a new playbook step with a state of absent, as well as specifying the virtual server ID or tags to know which virtual servers to cancel.

The following example will cancel all virtual servers on the account with a tag of tomcat-test:

- name: Cancel Servers
  hosts: localhost
  gather_facts: False
  tasks:
  - name: Cancel by tag
    local_action:
      module: softlayer
      state: absent
      tag: tomcat-test

New features are being developed with the core inventory library to bring additional functionality to Ansible on SoftLayer. These new developments can be found by following the Core Ansible Project hosted on Github. You can also follow the Ansible Extras Project for updates to the SoftLayer module.

As of this blog post, the new SoftLayer module is still pending inclusion into the Ansible Extras Project. Click here to check out the current pull request for the latest code and samples.

-Matt

December 28, 2015

Semantics: "Public," "Private," and "Hybrid" in Cloud Computing, Part II

Welcome back! In the second post in this two-part series, we’ll look at the third definition of “public” and “private,” and we’ll have that broader discussion about “hybrid”—and we’ll figure out where we go after the dust has cleared on the semantics. If you missed the first part of our series, take a moment to get up to speed here before you dive in.

Definition 3—Control: Bare Metal v. Virtual

A third school of thought in the “public v. private” conversation is actually an extension of Definition 2, but with an important distinction. In order for infrastructure to be “private,” no one else (not even the infrastructure provider) can have access to a given hardware node.

In Definition 2, a hardware node provisioned for single-tenancy would be considered private. That single-tenant environment could provide customers with control of the server at the bare metal level—or it could provide control at the operating system level on top of a provider-managed hypervisor. In Definition 3, the latter example would not be considered “private” because the infrastructure provider has some level of control over the server in the form of the virtualization hypervisor.

Under Definition 3, infrastructure provisioned with full control over bare metal hardware is “private,” while any provider-virtualized or shared environment would be considered “public.” With complete, uninterrupted control down to the bare metal, a user can monitor all access and activity on the infrastructure and secure it from any third-party usage.

Defining “public cloud” and “private cloud” using the bare metal versus virtual delineation is easy. If a user orders infrastructure resources from a provider, and those resources are delivered from a shared, virtualized environment, that infrastructure would be considered public cloud. If the user orders a number of bare metal servers and chooses to install and maintain his or her own virtualization layer across those bare metal servers, that environment would be a private cloud.

“Hybrid”

Mix and Match

Now that we see the different meanings “public” and “private” can have in cloud computing, the idea of a “hybrid” environment is a lot less confusing. In actuality, it really only has one definition: A hybrid environment is a combination of any variation of public and private infrastructure.

Using bare metal servers for your database and virtual servers for your Web tier? That’s a hybrid approach. Using your own data centers for some of your applications and scaling out into another provider’s data centers when needed? That’s hybrid, too. As soon as you start using multiple types of infrastructure, by definition, you’ve created a hybrid environment.

And Throw in the Kitchen Sink

Taking our simple definition of “hybrid” one step further, we find a few other variations of that term’s usage. Because the cloud stack is made up of several levels of services—Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service, Business Process as a Service—“hybrid” may be defined by incorporating various “aaS” offerings into a single environment.

Perhaps you need bare metal infrastructure to build an off-prem private cloud at the IaaS level—and you also want to incorporate a managed analytics service at the BPaaS level. Or maybe you want to keep all of your production data on-prem and do your sandbox development in a PaaS environment like Bluemix. At the end of the day, what you’re really doing is leveraging a “hybrid” model.

Where do we go from here?

Once we can agree that this underlying semantic problem exists, we should be able to start having better conversations:

  • Them: We’re considering a hybrid approach to hosting our next application.
  • You: Oh yeah? What platforms or tools are we going to use in that approach?
  • Them: We want to try and incorporate public and private cloud infrastructure.
  • You: That’s interesting. I know that there are a few different definitions of public and private when it comes to infrastructure…which do you mean?
  • Them: That’s a profound observation! Since we have our own data centers, we consider the infrastructure there to be our private cloud, and we’re going to use bare metal servers from SoftLayer as our public cloud.
  • You: Brilliant! Especially the fact that we’re using SoftLayer.

Your mileage may vary, but that’s the kind of discussion we can get behind.

And if your conversation partner balks at either of your questions, send them over to this blog post series.

-@khazard

December 21, 2015

Introducing API release notes and examples library

The website to find out what new and exciting changes are happening on the SoftLayer platform is now softlayer.github.io. Specifically, this website highlights any changes to the customer portal, the API, and any supporting systems. Please continue to rely on tickets created on your account for information regarding any upcoming maintenances and other service impacting events.

At SoftLayer, we follow agile development principles and release code in small but frequent iterations—usually about two every week. The changes featured in release notes on softlayer.github.io only cover what is publicly accessible. So while they may seem small, there are usually a greater number of behind-the-scenes changes happening.

Along with the release notes are a growing collection of useful example scripts on how to actually use the API in a variety of popular languages. While the number of examples is currently small, we are constantly adding examples as they come up, so keep checking back. We are generally inspired to add examples by the questions posted on Stack Overflow that have the SoftLayer tag, so keep posting your questions there, too.

-Chris

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