sales

March 4, 2016

Adventures with Bluemix

Keeping up with the rapid evolution of web programming is frighteningly difficult—especially when you have a day job. To ensure I don’t get left behind, I like to build a small project every year or so with a collection of the most buzzworthy technologies I can find. Nothing particularly impressive, of course, but just a collection of buttons that do things. This year I am trying to get a good grasp on “as a Service,” which seems to be everywhere these days. Hopefully this adventure will prove educational.

Why use services when I can do it myself?

The main idea behind “as a Service” is that somewhere out there in the cloud, someone has figured out how to do a particular task really well. This someone is willing to provide you access to that for a small service fee—thereby letting you, the developer, focus as much time as possible on your code and not so much time worrying about optimal configurations of things that you need to work efficiently.

SoftLayer is an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider, which is what will be the home for my little application—due in large part because I already have a ton of experience running servers myself.

I’m a big fan of Python, so I’m going to start programing with the Pyramids framework as the base for my new application. Like the “as a Service” offerings, programming frameworks and libraries exist to help the developer focus on their code and leverage the expertise of others for the auxiliary components.

To make everything pretty, I am going to use Bootstrap.js, which is apparently the de facto front-end library these days.

For everything else I want to use, there will be an attached Bluemix service. For the uninitiated, Bluemix is a pretty awesome collection of tools for developing and deploying code. At its core, Bluemix uses Cloud Foundry to provision cloud resources and deploy code. For now, I’m going to deploy my own code, but what I’m really interested in are the add-on services that I can just drop into my application and get going. The first service I want to try out is going to be Cloudant nosql, which is a managed couchDB instance with a few added features like a pretty neat dashboard.

Welcome to Bluemix

Combining Bluemix services with SoftLayer servers

One of the great things about services in Bluemix is that they can be provisioned in a standalone deployment—meaning Bluemix services can be used by any computer with an Internet connection and therefore, so can my SoftLayer servers. Since Bluemix services are deployed on SoftLayer hardware (in general, but there are some exceptions), the latency between SoftLayer servers and Bluemix services should be minimal, which is nice.

Creating a Cloudant service in Bluemix is as easy as hitting the Create button in the console. Creating a simple web application in Pyramid took a bit longer, but the quick tutorial helped me learn about all the cool things the Pyramid project can do. I also got to skip all the mess with SQLAlchemy, since I’m storing all the data in Cloudant. All that’s required is a sane ID system (I am using uuid) and some json. No need to get bogged down with a rigid table structure since Cloudant is a document store. If I want to change the data format, I just need to upload a new copy of the data, and a new revision of that document will be automatically created.

After cobbling together a basic application that can publish and edit content, all I had to do to make everything look like it was designed intentionally was to add a few bootstrap classes to my templates. And then I had a ready to use website!

Conclusion

Although making a web application is still as intensive as it’s always been, at least using technology in an “as a Service” fashion helps cut down on all the tertiary technologies you need to become an expert on to get anything to work. Even though the application I created here was pretty simple, I hope to expand it to include some of the more interesting Bluemix services to see what kind of Frankenstein application I can manage to produce. There are currently 100 Bluemix services, so I think the hardest part is going to be figuring out which one to use next.

-Chris

March 2, 2016

The SLayer Standard Vol. 2, No. 6: IBM InterConnect 2016 Round-Up

Another IBM InterConnect is in the books! As we get back to our daily routines, let’s reminisce on the announcements, innovations, and fun from last week in Vegas.

The conference started with some big news at the General Session. A new partnership between VMware and IBM was announced, letting you move to IBM Cloud while preserving your existing IT investments.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg; Robert LeBlanc, SVP of IBM Cloud, revealed several other major partnerships. The list included new relationships with Apple, GitHub, and Bitly, among others. Catch up with a breakdown of the major stories. Beyond the General Session, day one was full of breakout sessions, Solutions EXPO activities, and more.

 

Tuesday’s General Session focused on the topic of transformation. Our experts and customers took to the main stage at Mandalay Bay to talk about advancements in IT infrastructure for companies as vital to the adapting to change in the enterprise structure. The debut of the Server Challenge 3 also began to heat up on Tuesday, as buzz about Robert LeBlanc’s top score made the rounds.

The General Session on Wednesday focused on change and growth using IBM Watson, IBM Bluemix, and SoftLayer. The day was topped off by a performance from Sir Elton John, who rocked the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Looking for more information on all the action from IBM InterConnect 2016? Check out IBM Cloud’s daily highlights blog. See you next year, Las Vegas!

-Rachel

Categories: 
February 17, 2016

Cloudocracy: Getting to the art of the matter with Artomatix

Who makes the servers hum in SoftLayer data centers around the world?

The SLayers are the brains and muscle beneath the SoftLayer cloud—and you had a chance to meet some of us in last year’s Under the Infrastructure series. But each firewall has two sides! And those servers would not be humming if not for our brilliant customers.

Today we’re launching a new series that will celebrate individuals and teams building on the SoftLayer cloud: the builders and founders, the creators and the disruptors, the developers and the architects, the dreamers and the visionaries, the inventors and the reformers. The Cloudocracy. 

We’re starting with Neal O’Gorman, co-founder and CTO of Artomatix. O’Gorman calls Artomatix the “artist’s personal slave robot.” The software uses machine learning-based artificial imagination to empower game dev studios that address mundane and dreary art creation tasks. Creating a beach full of pebbles or an army of zombies—with all the elements being unique—now takes minutes, not weeks, which can generate a tenfold increase in productivity. (For more details, read the complete case study here.)

At the GDC Game Developer Conference in San Francisco this spring, Artomatix will launch its inventive approach to generating video game art. We spoke to O’Gorman to find out more.

SOFTLAYER: Thank you for joining us today. Why don’t you start by telling us what Artomatix does?

O’GORMAN: Eric Risser, our co-founder, CTO, and the inventor of our incredible technology, built a game when he was a teenager and he was the artist on the team. He made a house and was delighted with it. Then he realized he had a whole village to create. From then on, he has been looking to solve that problem. Artomatix uses machine learning to quickly make high-quality variants of art assets.

SL: That sounds cool. We hear a lot about machine learning nowadays, but rarely about its use for creative applications. What do you do for Artomatix?

O’GORMAN: Unfortunately, what takes up too much time is funding. You close one funding round and go directly into the next. We’re in the process of closing our seed round. We received EU funding from the Creatify program, which helped us hire SoftLayer. We’ve also received funding from early stage investor NDRC, EU grants, and NVIDIA. We need to get to a point where revenues are coming in, which is the challenge for every startup. In the first year, we worked with companies who sent us art, we generated results, and sent it back. We validated that we were delivering the quality they needed. Then we had to build a product fast enough for them. With SoftLayer, being able to select bare metal servers and identify high-end GPUs gives us the speed we need.

SL: If you were stranded on a desert island, but you could take a few music albums and games with you, what would you bring?

O’GORMAN: Music hasn’t been a huge part of my life, but whatever you listen to in your teenage years ends up sticking. I’d definitely take the greatest Irish band that never made it out of Ireland, The Stunning.

SL: Were you in the band?

O’GORMAN: No! If you haven’t heard of them, and I suspect most people haven’t. Check them out.

For my game, the first one is definitely Quake. I got addicted in college and had to stop playing games because I was playing it too much.

For my next game, I’d say Texas Ask’Em Poker. I didn’t play for The Stunning, but I did create Texas Ask’Em Poker. When I lived in Germany, I was a quizmaster in the local Irish pub. I came across a poker company looking for new games and I had a eureka moment with the idea to put a quiz element into poker.

My final game would be Turrican on the Commodore 64 in the late 1980s. You run around, fly around, and just use your flamethrower. A classic!

SL: Pretty much everything on the Commodore is a classic, although some of the artificial intelligence was more artificial than intelligent in those days. I’ve seen a lot of talk recently about computers taking over creative jobs. Should video game artists feel threatened by your technology?

O’GORMAN: If there are Chinese whispers [the game more commonly known as “telephone”], artists might get concerned. But the reality is that we’re here to help artists spend more time being creative. We’re not replacing their creativity. We’re replacing their tedious, mundane tasks. With hybridization, we can take a few different concepts, iterate, and provide different ideas for the artist to choose from. Artomatix is always based on an example, and that needs an artist.

SL: Game developers can sleep easy! What kind of games will we be playing in 10 years, and how will we be playing them?

O’GORMAN: We’ll see a big push on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). AR is much more intriguing because with VR you're closed off to the rest of world—you’re not living in the real world. For AR, one of the keys for success is that new art needs to be created on the fly, and it needs to be in sync with the environment the person is in. Picture you and your family sitting at breakfast. On the screen, there’s an extra chair at the table. It’s not an exact copy of another chair, but it fits in perfectly. Sitting in it is someone who looks like a family member, but not any particular one. And they’re a zombie.

SL: Scary stuff! Good luck with your launch!

O’GORMAN: Thank you!
 

 

-Michalina 

February 16, 2016

The SLayer Standard Vol. 2, No. 5: IBM InterConnect 2016 Edition

IBM InterConnect is almost here! To help you get the most out of your time at the conference (and so you’ll spend less time looking at your phone or conference guide), we’re giving you all the need-to-know info so you can keep up with us in Vegas.

The Top 10 SoftLayer Sessions at InterConnect

With so many sessions at InterConnect, it is easy to miss the best ones. To hone in on your session selections, we’ve made a list of our top 10 SoftLayer sessions (in our humble opinion). With more than 60 SoftLayer-related sessions to choose from, this will point you in the right direction. You won’t want to miss any of these: 

CCI-6675: Bringing High Performance Computing Capabilities to the Cloud
Jerry Gutierrez, Global HPC Sales Leader, SoftLayer, an IBM Company  & Todd Mostak, MapD
Monday, February 22 @ 10:30 am — Breakers G — Mandalay Bay SOUTH

CSD-6379: Cloud Infrastructure Directions: Save Time and Money by Exploiting IBM SoftLayer
Marc Jones, CTO Softlayer, an IBM Company
Monday, February 22 @ 12:00 pm — Mandalay Ballroom A — Mandalay Bay SOUTH

CCI-5348: Infrastructure as a Toolbox
Phil Jackson, Manager Sales Engineering, SoftLayer, an IBM Company
Monday, February 22 @ 12:00 pm — Breakers K — Mandalay Bay SOUTH

CCI-4061: SoftLayer Versus the Competition: A Price/Performance Evaluation of Cloud Providers
Matt Walli, Consulting Performance Engineer, IBM & Dan Lucky, Micro Strategies Inc.
Monday, February 22 @ 3:00 pm — Breakers K — Mandalay Bay SOUTH

DDD-3106: Elevate Your Continuous Delivery Strategy Above the Rolling Clouds
Michael Elder, Senior Technical Staff Member, IBM
Tuesday, February 23 @ 8:30 am — Mandalay Ballroom K — Mandalay Bay SOUTH

CCI-6240: NGames Shares Good Gaming Industry Experiences from Working With IBM SoftLayer
Sandala Wang, Mid- Market Client Rep, IBM
Tuesday, February 23 @ 10:00 am — Breakers K — Mandalay Bay SOUTH

CCI-2831: Everyday Infrastructure Challenges for Your Enterprise That Vanish with IBM SoftLayer
Sravan Akkapelly, Miracle Software Systems, Inc.
Wednesday, February 24 @ 10:00 am — Mandalay Ballroom D — Mandalay Bay SOUTH

YPS-2751: The Hybrid Cloud Built to Perform with POWER8 in IBM SoftLayer
Alise Spence, Power Systems Cloud Offering Manager & Bob Sullivan, Executive Project Manager - Power Integrated Offerings, IBM
Wednesday, February 24 @ 1:15 pm — Lagoon J — Mandalay Bay SOUTH

CLD-5118: Taking the Next Hot Mobile Game Live with Docker and IBM SoftLayer
Daniel Krook, Senior Software Engineer & Shaun Murakami, Lead Architect - IBM Cloud Labs, IBM; Scott Porter, Firemonkeys; Lennart Goedhart, Electronic Arts (EA) Melbourne Firemonkeys
Wednesday, February 24th @ 3:45 pm — Breakers L — Mandalay Bay SOUTH

CBP-4461: Integrating Private Cloud into Your Enterprise
Christopher Von Koschembahr, Executive IT Management Consultant, IBM & Melissa Maheux, TriDatum Solutions
Wednesday, February 24th @ 4:45 pm — Breakers J — Mandalay Bay SOUTH

The IBM Cloud Zone

When you’re in Mandalay Bay, drop in to the Solution Expo (South Convention Center, Level 1, Bayside C&D) and head over to the IBM Cloud Zone. That’s where you’ll find the Bluemix and SoftLayer hub. We’ll be doing live demos, showing you the power of our infrastructure in action. You’ll also find the beloved Server Challenge there—with a twist. 

Want more details on the Solution Expo? Download the IBM Events App for Android or Apple for even more conference details. 

Party time at IBM InterConnect

All work and no play make IBMers a dull bunch. After busy days at the conference, we’ll kick back, relax, and enjoy a performance from The Rocket Man himself, Sir Elton John! On Wednesday, February 24, IBM InterConnect and Rocket are sponsoring a performance just for IBM InterConnect attendees.

Prefer to shake it? Dust off those dancin’ shoes on Wednesday, February 24 and party like only IBM can at Hakkasan. From 8:00–10:00 pm, a bash featuring five levels of dance floors, DJs, food, private VIP spots, and your fellow InterConnect attendees caps off the night. Your badge is your ticket to the party.

See you next week in Las Vegas!

-Rachel  

 

Categories: 
February 10, 2016

The Compliance Commons: Do you know our ISOs?

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series designed to address general compliance topics and to answer frequently asked compliance questions.

How many times have you been asked by a customer if SoftLayer is ISO compliant?  Do you ever find yourself struggling for an immediate answer?  If so, you're not alone. 

ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization. The organization has published more than 19,000 international standards, covering almost all aspects of technology and business. If you have any questions about a specific ISO standard, you can search the ISO website. If you would like the full details of any ISO standard, an online copy of the standard can be purchased through their website. 

SoftLayer holds three ISO certifications, and we’re going after more. We offer industry standard best security practices relating to cloud infrastructure, including: 

ISO/IEC 27001: This certification covers the information security management process. It certifies that SoftLayer offers best security practices in the industry relating to cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Going through this process and obtaining certification means that SoftLayer observes industry best practices in offering a safe and secure place to live in the cloud. It also means that our information security management practices adhere to strict, internationally recognized best practices.

ISO/IEC 27018: This certifies that SoftLayer follows the most stringent code of practice for protection of personally identifiable information (PII) in public clouds acting as PII processors. It establishes commonly accepted control objectives, controls, and guidelines for implementing measures to protect PII in accordance with the privacy principles in ISO/IEC 29100 for the public cloud computing environment. While not all of SoftLayer is public and while we have very distinct definitions for processing PII for customers, we decided to obtain the certification to solidify our security and privacy principles as robust.

ISO/IEC 27017: This is a code of practice for information security controls for cloud services.  It’s the global standard for cloud security practices—not only for what SoftLayer should do, but also for what our customers should do to protect information. SoftLayer’s ISO 27017 certification demonstrates our continued commitment to upholding the highest, most secure information security controls and applying them effectively and efficiently to our cloud infrastructure environment. The standard provides guidance in, but not limited to, the following areas:

  • Information Security
  • Human Resources
  • Asset Management
  • Access Control
  • Cryptography
  • Physical and Environmental Security
  • Operations Security
  • Communications Security
  • System Acquisition, Development & Maintenance
  • Supplier Relations
  • Incident Management
  • Business Continuity Management
  • Compliance
  • Network Security

How can SoftLayer’s ISO certification benefit me as a customer?

Customers can leverage SoftLayer’s certifications as long as it’s done in the proper manner. Customers cannot claim that they’re ISO certified just because they’re using SoftLayer infrastructure. That’s not how it works. SoftLayer’s ISO certifications may make it easier for customers to become certified because they can leverage our certification for the SoftLayer boundary. Our SOC2 report (available through our customer portal or sales team) describes our boundary in greater detail: the customers are not responsible for certifying what’s inside SoftLayer’s boundary.  

ISO File

How does SoftLayer prove its ISO compliance?

SoftLayer’s ISO Certificates of Registration are publicly available on our website and on our third-party assessor’s website. By design, our ISO certificates denote that we conform to and meet all the applicable objectives of each standard. Since the ISO standards are steadfast and constant controls for everyone, we don’t offer our reports from the audits, but we can provide our certificates.

What SoftLayer data centers are applicable to the ISO certifications?

All of them! Each ISO certificate is applicable to every one of our data centers, in the U.S. and internationally. SoftLayer obtained ISO certifications on every one of our facilities because we operate with consistency across the globe. When a new SoftLayer data center comes online, there is some lag time between opening and certification because we need to be reviewed by our third-party assessor and have operational evidence available to support our data center certification. But as soon as we obtain the certifications, we’ll make them available.

Visit www.softlayer.com/compliance for a full list of our certifications and reports. They can also be found through the customer portal.

-Dana

 

February 5, 2016

Enable SSD caching on Bare Metal Server for 10X IOPS Improvements

Have you ever wondered how you could leverage the benefits of an SSD at the cost of cheap SATA hard drives?

SSDs provide extremely high IOPS for read and writes and are really tempting for creating volumes, which are IOPS centric. However, because SSD prices are significantly higher than SATA drives, IT managers are at a crossroad and must decide whether to go for SSDs and burn a fortune on them or stay with SATA drives.

But there is a way to use SATA drives and experience SSD performance using some intelligent caching techniques. If you have the right PCI RAID card installed on bare metal servers, you can leverage certain SSD caching feature benefits.

Make sure when configuring a bare metal server, which has sufficient drives bays (8+ the least), to have a LSI (AVAGO) MegaRAID card as the chosen RAID card. You can select the appropriate RAID configuration for OS and other workload data during the order process itself so that the RAIDs come preconfigured with them. As an additional resource for high speed cache device, consider ordering at least two or more SSDs. You can add this to your server even after deployment. These drives are the SSD caching drives that can be used to improve the overall performance of the cheap SATA drives from which one has carved out the volume. 

Install MSM for Easy Management of the RAID Card

Once the server is deployed, consider installing AVAGO MegaRAID Storage Manager (MSM) for the OS that has been installed in the server. (You can also perform a remote management of the RAID controller from a local machine by providing the IP of the server where the controller is installed).

Users can directly download MegaRAID Store Manager from the AVAGO website for the installed card in the machine. For the most popular MegaRAID SAS 9361-8i card download the MSM from the AVAGO website here.

How to Create CacheCade - SSD Caching Volumes and Attach to the Volume Drives

Follow these three steps to improve the IOPS on the existing Volumes on the bare metal server.

Step 1: Creating CacheCade Volumes

Once SSDs are deployed on bare metal servers and Regular Volumes are created, users can create a CacheCade volumes to perform SSD Caching. This can be easily achieved by right clicking AVAGO Controller and selecting the Create Cachecade – SSD Caching option.

Create Cachecade

Step 2: Choosing the right RAID Level and Write Policy for CacheCade Volumes

It is recommended to use a RAID 1 SSD Cache Cade Volume. This will eliminate a single point of failure at the SSD device level. This can be done by selecting available SSDs on the system and choosing RAID 1 as the RAID level. Click Add to add all available disks and Create Drive Group. Also, be sure to select Write Back as the Write Policy for increased IO performance for both Read and Writes to a Volume that needs to be cached. 

RAID Level and Write Policy for CacheCade Volumes

Step 3: Enabling SSD Caching For Volumes

If the Virtual Drives were created without SSD caching enabled, then this is the right time to enable them as shown below—selectively enable or disable set of Virtual drives which needs SSD caching.

Right click on the volume and select Enable SSD Caching.

Enable SSD Caching

Performance Comparison

We tried a simple comparison here on a 3.6TB RAID 50 (3 Drive with 2 Spans) volume with and without SSD caching using IOmeter tool (available here). The workload was a 50/50 (Read/Write) 4kb Pure Random IO workload subjected for about an hour on the volumes. 

Without SSD Caching – IOPS 970

Without SSD Caching IOPS 970

With SSD Caching – IOPS 9000 (10X Improvement)

With SSD Caching IOPS 9000 (10X Improvement)

The result shows a 10X IOPS and workload dependent benefit. Results also show how repeatable the Read/Writes are happening with the same LBA.

This could certainly help a database application or IO centric workloads, which are hungry for IOPS, get an instant boost in performance. Try this today at Softlayer, and see the difference!!

-Subramanian 

 

February 3, 2016

Use TShark to see what traffic is passing through your gateway

Many of SoftLayer’s solutions make excellent use of the Brocade vRouter (Vyatta) dedicated security appliance. It’s a true network gateway, router, and firewall for your servers in a SoftLayer data center. It’s also an invaluable trouble-shooting tool should you have a connectivity issue or just want to take a gander at your network traffic. Built into vRouter’s command line and available to you, is a full-fledged terminal-based Wireshark command line implementation—TShark.

TShark is fully implemented in vRouter. If you’re already familiar with using TShark, you know you can call it from the terminal in either configuration or operational mode.  You accomplish this by prefacing a command with sudo; making the full command sudo tshark – flags.

tshark graphic

For those of us less versed in the intricacies of Wireshark and its command line cousin, here are a couple of useful examples to help you out.

One common flag I use in nearly every capture is –i (and as a side note, for those coming from a Microsoft Windows background, the flags are case sensitive). -i is a specific interface on which to capture traffic and immediately helps to cut down on the amount of information unrelated to the problem at hand. If you don’t set this flag, the capture will default to “the first non-loopback address;” or in the case of vRouter on SoftLayer, Bond0. Additionally, if you want to trace a packet and reply, you can set –i any to watch or capture traffic through all the interfaces on the device.

The second flag that I nearly always use to define a capture filter is –f, which defines a filter to match traffic against. The only traffic that matches this pattern will be captured. The filter uses the standard Wireshark syntax. Again, if you’re familiar with Wireshark, you can go nuts; but here are a few of the common filters I frequently use to help you get started:

  • host 8.8.8.8 will match any traffic to or from the specified host. In this case, the venerable Google DNS servers. 
  • net 8.8.8.0/24 works just like host, but for the entire network specified, in case you don’t know the exact host address you are looking for.
  • dst and src are useful if you want to drill down to a specific flow or want to look at just the incoming or outgoing traffic. These filters are usually paired with a host or net to match against.
  • port lets you specify a port to capture traffic, like host and net. Used by itself, port will match both source and destination port. In the case of well-known services, you can also define the port by the common name, i.e., dns.  

One final cool trick with the –f filter is the and and the negation not. They let you combine search terms and specifically exclude traffic in order to create a very finely tuned capture for your needs.

If you want to capture to a file to share with a team or to plug into more advanced analysis tools on another system, the –w flag is your friend. Without -w, the file will behave like a tcpdump and the output will appear in your terminal session. If you want to load the file into Wireshark or another packet analyzer tool you should make sure to add the –F flag to specify the file format. Here is an example:

Vyatta# sudo tshark –i Bond0 –w testcap.pcap –F pcap –f ‘src 10.128.3.5 and not port 80’

The command will capture on Bond0 and output the capture to a .pcap file called testcap.pcap in the root directory of the file system. It will match only traffic on bond0 from 10.128.3.5 that is not source or destination port 22. While that is a bit of a mouthful to explain, it does capture a very well defined stream! 

Here is one more example:

Vyatta#sudo tshark –I any –f ‘host 10.145.23.4 and not ssh’

This command will capture traffic to the terminal that is to or from the specified IP (10.145.23.4) that is not SSH. I frequently use this filter, or one a lot like it, when I am SSHed into a host and want to get a more general idea of what it is doing on the network. I don’t care about ssh because I know the cause of that traffic (me!), but I want to know anything else that’s going to or from the host.

This is all very much the tip of the iceberg; you can find a lot more information at the TShark main page. Hopefully these tips help out next time you want to see just what traffic is passing through your gateway.

- Jeff 

 

February 2, 2016

The SLayer Standard Vol. 2, No. 4

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

What does Marc Jones have to say about SoftLayer?

Our CTO Marc Jones sat down for an interview with Angel Diaz, IBM VP Cloud Technology & Architecture, host of IBM Cloud Dragon Dojo Series. Marc discusses his start at SoftLayer, the benefits of the SoftLayer cloud platform, dark fiber matter, and the importance of global reach. Instead of telling you what he said, you can watch it. 

Find a bit more about it here

IBM Watson business gets a new general manager.

IBM’s acquisition of the Weather Company is now complete, and that means a few changes are afoot. First, all of the Weather Company’s workloads are now running in IBM Cloud data centers. And second, David Kenny, who was the Weather Company CEO, is now in charge of Watson business.

In his new role, Kenny says his primary objective is to make Watson an even more robust platform and a leader in cognitive computing. In TechCrunch, he noted that the weather platform is not just about weather data. The massive amount of data that The Weather Channel takes in is used across various industries to help both companies and consumers make well-educated choices. All of this data will also be a boon to Watson as IBM continues to grow the AI platform with the Weather Company’s data sets.

“Obviously we ingest more weather data than others and process it in the cloud for pilots, insurers or farmers or ordinary citizens to make better informed decisions. But that platform can be reused for other unstructured data sets… this will be helpful for IBM in other business areas. What we have figured out at the Weather Company, and IBM will continue to explore across more IoT applications, is how to take data from lots of places and turn that into decisions to help make things work,” Kenny said.

Find out more about it here.

-Rachel  

Categories: 
January 29, 2016

Cloud, Interrupted: The Official SoftLayer Podcast, Episode 3

You’re never going to believe this. You already know the second episode of Cloud, Interrupted—the one, the only, the official SoftLayer podcast—hit the streets in December. And now, coming in hot, we’re bringing you the long-awaited third episode of Cloud, Interrupted—only a month after the last one! Contain your excitement. We’re getting good at this.

In the third episode of our authoritative, esteemed podcast, we discuss why our first podcasts were recorded in wind tunnels, we pat ourselves on the back for being doers and not scholars, and we reveal the humble, testosterone-fueled origins of the iconic Server Challenge.

Join Kevin Hazard, director of digital content, Phil Jackson, lead technology evangelist, and Teddy Vandenberg, manager of network provisioning, as they wreak havoc interrupting the world of cloud. Yet again.

You skipped that fluff-filled intro, didn’t you? We’ll reward your impatience with the CliffsNotes:

Cloud, Interrupted, Episode 3: In the end, you’ve gotta start somewhere.

  • [00:00:01] Yo yo yo, it’s the new and improved bleep bloops!
  • [00:00:25] We've finally stopped recording Cloud, Interrupted from our pillow forts. Now we just follow the mountains and valleys.
  • [00:04:23] So you want to host your own podcast? Cool. Take it from us on the ultimate, definitive, pretty-much-only guide to success: gear, software, and magical editing.
  • [00:06:24] Teddy takes us on a boring tangent about startups that’s not really a tangent at all. (You decide if it’s boring.)
  • [00:07:25] Ha ha, Kevin totally used to trick out his MySpace page.
  • [00:09:16] GOOD JOB, PHIL!
  • [00:09:26] Phil was THE most popular kid in school. That's how he started programming.
  • [00:13:40] There are two types of technical people: those that do and those that read the docs. Teddy doesn't read the docs. Ask him about YUM.
  • [00:17:59] C'mon, Kevin. No one wants to build a server at a conference for fun. What a dumb idea!

Oh Phil, Phil, Phil. Little did you know very how wrong you were. (Must’ve been the ponytail.)

- Fayza

January 27, 2016

Sales Primer for Non-Sales Startup Founders

The founder of one of the startups in our Global Entrepreneur Program reached out to me this week. He is ready to start selling his company’s product, but he's never done sales before.

Often, startups consist of a hacker and a hustler—where the tech person is the hacker and the non-tech person is the hustler. In the aforementioned company, there are three hackers. Despite the founder being deeply technical, he is the closest thing they have to a hustler. I'm sure he'll do fine getting in front of customers, but the fact remains that he's never done sales.

So where do you begin as a startup founder if you've never sold before?

Free vs. Paid
His business is B2B, focusing on car dealers. He's worried about facing a few problems, including working with business owners who don’t normally work with startups. He wants to give the product away for free to a few customers to get some momentum, but is worried that after giving it away, he won’t be able to convert them to paying customers.

Getting that first customer is incredibly important, but there needs to be a value exchange. Giving products away for free presents two challenges:

  1. By giving something away, you devalue your product in the eyes of the customer.
  2. The customer has no skin in the game—no incentive to use it or try to make it work.

Occasionally, founders have a very close relationship with a potential customer (e.g., a former manager or a trusted ex-colleague) where they can be assured the product will get used. In those cases, it might be appropriate to give it away, but only for a defined time.

The goal is sales. Paying customers reduce burn and show traction.

Price your product, go to market, and start conversations. Be willing to negotiate to get that first sale. If you do feel strongly about giving it away for free, put milestones and limitations in place for how and when that customer will convert to paid. For example, agree to a three-month free trial that becomes a paid fee in the fourth month. Or tie specific milestones to the payment, such as delivering new product features or achieving objectives for the client.

Build Credibility
When putting a new product in the market, especially one in an industry not enamored with startups and where phrases like “beta access” will net you funny looks, it helps to build credibility. This can be done incrementally. If you don't have customers, start with the conversations you’re having: “We’re currently in conversations with over a dozen companies.”

If you get asked about customers, don’t lie. Don’t even fudge it. I recommend being honest, and framing it by saying, “We’re deciding who we want to work with first. We want to find the right customer who is willing to work closely with us at the early stage. It’s the opportunity to have a deep impact on the future of the product. We're building this for you, after all.”

When you have interest and are in negotiations, you can then mention to other prospective customers that you’re in negotiations with several companies. Be respectful of the companies you’re in negotiations with; I wouldn't recommend mentioning names unless you have explicit permission to do so.

As you gain customers, get their permission to put them on your website. Get quotes from them about the product, and put those on your site and marketing materials. You can even put these in your sales contracts.

Following this method, you can build credibility in the market, show outside interest in your product, and maintain an ethical standing.

Get to No
A common phrase when I was first learning to sell was, “get to the ‘no’.” It has a double meaning: expect that someone is going to say “no” so be ready for it, and keep asking until you get a “no.” For example, if “Are you interested in my product?" gets you a “yes,” then ask, “Would you like to sign up today?”

When you get to no, the next step is to uncover why they said no. At this point, you’re not selling; you’re just trying to understand why the person you’re talking to is saying no. It could be they don't have the decision-making authority, they don't have the budget, they need to see more, or the product is missing something important. The point is, you don’t know, and your goal here is to get to the next step in their process. And you don’t know what that is unless you ask.

Interested in learning more? Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO of Hubspot and creator of the community OnStartups, authored a post with 10 Ideas For Those Critical Early Startup Sales that is well worth reading.

As a founder, you’re the most passionate person about your business and therefore the most qualified to get out and sell. You don't have to be “salesy” to sell; you just need to get out and start conversations.

-Rich

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