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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

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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

December 18, 2015

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

What does the word “gift” mean to you? In English, it most often refers to a present or something given voluntarily. In German, it has a completely different meaning: “poison.” If a box marked “gift” is placed in front of an English-speaker, it’s safe to assume that he or she would interact with it very differently than a German-speaker would.

In the same way, simple words like “public,” “private,” and “hybrid” in cloud computing can mean very different things to different audiences. But unlike our “gift” example above (which would normally have some language or cultural context), it’s much more difficult for cloud computing audiences to decipher meaning when terms like “public cloud,” “private cloud,” and “hybrid cloud” are used.

We, as an industry, need to focus on semantics.

In this two-part series, we’ll look at three different definitions of “public” and “private” to set the stage for a broader discussion about “hybrid.”

“Public” v. “Private”

Definition 1—Location: On-premises v. Off-premises

For some audiences (and the enterprise market), whether an infrastructure is public or private is largely a question of location. Does a business own and maintain the data centers, servers, and networking gear it uses for its IT needs, or does the business use gear that’s owned and maintained by another party?

This definition of “public v. private” makes sense for an audience that happens to own and operate its own data centers. If a business has exclusive physical access to and ownership of its gear, the business considers that gear “private.” If another provider handles the physical access and ownership of the gear, the business considers that gear “public.”

We can extend this definition a step further to understand what this audience would consider to be a “private cloud.” Using this definition of “private,” a private cloud is an environment with an abstracted “cloud” management layer (a la OpenStack or CloudStack or VMWare) that runs in a company’s own data center. In contrast, this audience would consider a “public cloud” to be a similar environment that’s owned and maintained by another provider.

Enterprises are often more likely to use this definition because they’re often the only ones that can afford to build and run their own data centers. They use “public” and “private” to distinguish between their own facilities or outside facilities. This definition does not make sense for businesses that don’t have their own data center facilities.

Definition 2—Population: Single-tenant v. Multi-tenant

Businesses that don’t own their own data center facilities would not use Definition 1 to distinguish “public” and “private” infrastructure. If the infrastructure they use is wholly owned and physically maintained by another provider, these businesses are most interested in whether hardware resources are shared with any other customers: Do any other customers have data on or access to a given server’s hardware? If so, the infrastructure is public. If not, the infrastructure is private.

Using this definition, public and private infrastructure could be served from the same third-party-owned data center, and the infrastructure could even be in the same server rack. “Public” infrastructure just happens to provide multiple users with resources and access to a single hardware node. Note: Even though the hardware node is shared, each user can only access his or her own data and allotted resources.

On the flip side, if a user has exclusive access to a hardware node, a business using Definition 2 would consider the node to be private.

Using this definition of “public” and “private,” multiple users share resources at the server level in a “public cloud” environment—and only one user has access to resources at the server level in a “private cloud” environment. Depending on the environment configuration, a “private cloud” user may or may not have full control over the individual servers he or she is using.

This definition echoes back to Definition 1, but it is more granular. Businesses using Definition 2 believe that infrastructure is public or private based on single-tenancy or multi-tenancy at the hardware level, whereas businesses using Definition 1 consider infrastructure to be public or private based on whether the data center itself is single-tenant or multi-tenant.

Have we blown your minds yet? Stay tuned for Part II, where we’ll tackle bare metal servers, virtual servers, and control. We’ll also show you how clear hybrid environments really are, and we’ll figure out where the heck we go from here now that we’ve figured it all out.

-@khazard

December 17, 2015

Xen Hypervisor Maintenance - December 2015

Security of your assets on our cloud platform is very important to the SoftLayer team. Last week, our Security Operations Center – which provides real time monitoring of suspicious activity (including being part of multiple security pre-disclosure lists) – alerted our engineering team to a potential vulnerability (advisory CVE-2015-8555 / XSA-165) in the Xen Hypervisor that if left un-remediated could allow a malicious user to access data from another VSI guest sharing the same hardware node and hypervisor instance.

Upon learning of this vulnerability, SoftLayer issued a notification including a per-data center schedule for applying critical maintenance to remediate the vulnerability. Our schedule was performed over multiple days and on a POD-by-POD basis with individual VM instances being offline for minutes while they rebooted. The updates were completed successfully in all data centers in advance of the public announcement of this vulnerability.

While deployment techniques such as clustering and failover across data centers and PODs allows continuous operations during a planned or unplanned event, you should be aware that SoftLayer is committed to working aggressively to further reduce the impact of events on your deployment and operations teams.

We value your business and will continue to take actions that insure your environment is secure and efficient to operate. If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to reach out to SoftLayer support or your direct SoftLayer contacts.

-Sonny

December 14, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 23

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

Grocery store chain comes to SoftLayer.
We are excited to have Giant Eagle moving to our infrastructure. So why are they moving away from building their data centers? Jeremy Gill, Giant Eagle’s senior director of technology infrastructure, said, “The firm's focus has shifted to infrastructure-as-a-service for its future computing needs as an answer to the geographic spread of its users. It chose IBM over other providers because it offered both virtual servers and bare-metal servers on which Giant Eagle could run some of its legacy applications.”

Giant Eagle plans to transition their secondary data center used for disaster recovery to SoftLayer over the next 12 months. Gill also noted that moving to the cloud will help to develop their current disaster recovery system. In doing so, they’ll be “adding additional resiliency.” In an article by InformationWeek said, “The disaster recovery system, instead of being asleep in storage, will be represented by a virtual machine, running at idle, but ready to receive data and be scaled out.” Gill further noted, “The goal is to get the recovery time objective down from one or several hours to 15 minutes or less (possibly even instant recovery).”

Get more details here.

IBM Cloud leaves competitors in the dust.
The results of a recent independent study, Amazon.com and Microsoft are a step behind IBM’s cloud offering.

The independent research firm’s goal was to “measure the performance and relative cost of the cloud industry's biggest players. The objective of the study was two-fold: one, determine which of the cloud kings offered the most operations per second. Second, compare the relative cost for each operation performed. Not only did IBM's SoftLayer bare metal platform win the day -- it turns out it wasn't even close.”

So why is it a big deal? If you look at it based solely on performance, the study found IBM is far and above its competitors. The survey said, “For each dollar spent on IBM's SoftLayer bare metal cloud platform, its customers enjoy 4.63 billion operations.” It also highlighted, “That's a lot of bang for the buck, particularly compared to other cloud providers. Amazon.com's AWS customers get about a third fewer operations for each dollar spent, and Microsoft about a tenth.”

Read more about the study in The Motley Fool’s article.

-Rachel

Categories: 
December 11, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Customers and customs make global HPC sales leader Jerry Gutierrez’s job enjoyable

Happy holidays! We can’t believe the year is already winding down. Under the Infrastructure has been so caught up in sharing our SLayer stories with you that the days have just flown by.

Speaking of flying, we’re excited to introduce you to one of our world voyagers, Jerry Gutierrez. He’s a global high performance computing (HPC) sales leader (say that one five times fast!) based in our Dallas headquarters—but you’d be hard-pressed to find him there these days. From South America to Asia, his busy schedule has him in meetings all over the map—and enjoying every minute of it.

Last month, Gutierrez celebrated his three-year mark with us. You ready to meet him?

SOFTLAYER: How would you explain your job to a layperson?

JERRY GUTIERREZ: I help sales teams globally identify and close HPC or accelerated computing-related sales opportunities. I also work with our product and marketing teams by way of customer feedback, marketing initiatives, and go-to market strategies around our HPC and accelerated computing products.

SL: Tell us about a day in the life of doing your job.

GUTIERREZ: I’ll give you an example. I was in Brazil this past week, in Sao Paulo and in Rio de Janeiro. I met with the sales teams there and gave them my insight into our GPU products from NVIDIA, along with some roadmap information. We then showed a really nice NVIDIA GRID demo for the customers and ran a small workshop around GPU-accelerated virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment. We aim to run these sessions with a small audience of technical influencers and we keep them interactive and hands-on. We traveled to one of the customer’s offices and showed a live demo to a full house—running their software on a virtual GPU-enabled workstation that was running from SoftLayer’s Sao Paulo data center.

After that, we took a flight to Rio, where we had additional meetings with the internal sales group and a workshop-style presentation with customers. I have a technical background, so I talked to them about the technology, showed the demo, and answered questions. I think this strategy is very effective and much more powerful than just doing a PowerPoint presentation and showing slides with the bits and bytes of the products we offer.

Following that, I met with a large local university and a couple of startups to discuss our Catalyst program. Because I’ve been with SoftLayer for quite a while as a former senior sales engineer and now in my current role, I’m comfortable speaking to everyone from large enterprise C-level execs to the fast moving startup groups.

Wherever I go, I’m excited to talk about SoftLayer. I enjoy that part of the job.

SL: People always wonder, “How does that apply to me?” when you’re showing them something new. You demonstrate how the platform can work for them.

GUTIERREZ: Absolutely. We find it very powerful. Customers get engaged. They sit up in their chairs. They ask questions. That’s very powerful to me. We almost take the sales part right out of it and we’re talking on a technical level: what are your challenges, what have you done so far, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked? In Brazil, the goal was to show, on a technical level, the capabilities of SoftLayer with NVIDIA technology running applications that they use in-house but deployed in the SoftLayer cloud—all with the same experience that they’re used to, with the added benefits of better security and scalability.

SL: So your position isn’t as much exclusively sales as it is possibilities.

GUTIERREZ: Right. Part of what I do is business development around accelerated computing (including GPUs) because I have a technical background, and I’m very passionate about it. (I actually manage the relationship overall between SoftLayer and NVIDIA). It’s very exciting see what our customers have created using our platform, especially with GPU technology.

SL: Your position is very global. What have you learned in dealing with customers around the world?

GUTIERREZ: Understanding the different cultures and what it means to do business in different cultures was a huge plus for me. For instance, in Japan, it’s very formal during business hours. But afterwards, you go to happy hour and people loosen up a little bit. I had several calls with our Japan team before I visited, and I felt there were some awkward silences. I didn’t know what the pauses meant because I wasn’t seeing their faces. I was wondering if I said something wrong or off. When I went to visit, I got to know their personalities. They want to ingest what you just said, so there’s a pause before they answer you. You can’t get a feel for personalities or body language over the phone, and video chat isn’t the same.

SL: If someone was interested in doing what you’re doing, what advice would you have?

GUTIERREZ: First, I would advise them to get a mentor. At SoftLayer, it’s extremely helpful for us to both have a mentor (and I would say a plus would be an IBMer that’s been with the company a while) and be a mentor—it’s actually highly encouraged at IBM, because that relationship can provide so many insights and help us along our career paths. Secondly, do what you love. If you love to be in front of customers and enjoy working with people and talking about technology like I do, pursue it. In my role, you’d want to have a technical background and a sales background as well. That’s really the mix for this role, since it’s very customer-facing—you’re doing presentations, thinking on the fly, and you need to be able to answer technical questions. Lastly, I would encourage them to pick a product, process, etc., to be the lead on or to champion and work to drive it and improve it. I found it very refreshing when I came to SoftLayer that it was not only open to this but that the company encouraged it—even though it was well out of my original job description. IBM is the same. Score!

SL: What’s the best places you’ve traveled and why?

GUTIERREZ: Tokyo and Rio. Tokyo is a very unique city. Tokyo is very clean, people are thoughtful and friendly. I’m a technical person and they have all the coolest technology. That’s the geek side of me talking! The food is fantastic, too. Rio is a totally different experience: beautiful beaches, beautiful weather, beautiful sights. The music, the food, it’s just phenomenal. And of course, the people. The people are extremely friendly.

SL: Those are pretty good favorites, we’d say.

Oh, and hey, if you’ve got any room in your suitcase, we wouldn’t mind hitching a ride around the world with you.

-Fayza

December 9, 2015

Startups should embrace both diversity and inclusion

During the NewCo Boulder festival, web development agency Quick Left gave a talk about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The panelists shared stories of their experiences around diversity—good and bad—and gave advice on what can be done to make workplaces more inclusive. It was one of the best talks I heard all year.

After much discussion, both philosophical and tactical, an audience member expressed concern about counter-discrimination. Would the time come when he would be overlooked for a job because he was not a diversity candidate?

This is not the first time this has been brought up in diversity discussions, and he was expressing what many (perhaps too many) straight white males think when diversity is discussed. To the credit of Gerry Valentine, one of the panelists, he did not chastise the audience member, and instead commended him for his bravery. The man who asked the question gave voice to a common concern that is often thought, but rarely brought up. The panelists at NewCo Boulder handled it very well, pointing out that no one wants a job just based on their gender, skin color, sexual preference, or anything other than their ability to execute on the job. And, collectively, we want to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to compete for jobs on equal ground.

I was truly moved by the entire session, but found myself upset that even at the close of 2015 we are still answering questions about counter-discrimination. When Gerry commended the question for its bravery, I first wondered if he was being glib. But knowing Gerry, I was certain he was serious about his comment. Upon further reflection, I realized what's interesting about this "pale and male" pushback is that it comes from a place of fear. A fear of discrimination is at the root of the question when someone asks, "As a white male, am I going to get passed over for a job because this company wants to hire for diversity?"

Following Gerry's example, it's OK to acknowledge that fear. It’s OK to point out that white men don’t want to live in a world where they are discriminated against, even subtly. While that is a valid fear, for the straight white male candidate, it is only a fear of a potential future. If they can imagine potential discrimination, can they acknowledge that the reality of our world today: anyone who isn’t a straight white male does experience this as real fear. Imagine walking into a job interview having to first overcome the things about you that you cannot control (gender, skin color, sexual orientation, physical handicap, economic background, country of origin, etc.) just to get to a level playing field with the other candidates. If you don't want this for yourself, you certainly wouldn't want it for anyone else.

In startups, we love to talk about unfair advantage, but when it comes to hiring, the only unfair advantages should be skills and experience. What the movement for inclusion and diversity is about—and what we should be striving for—is a world where we all compete equally. If it is a brave thing to express your fear publicly, it is braver still to acknowledge the reality of the situation and work to rectify it.

One of the things I love about the startup community is that once we identify a problem, we move forward to solve it in as many ways possible. The path to inclusion in the workplace doesn't have to be a pendulum that oscillates between two extremes—discrimination and counter-discrimination—before settling down in the middle. Pendulums are a relic of the industrial era. In the digital era, we can choose our target, set our standards, and move forward as a community to achieve them. As you build your startup, build inclusion in your workplace from day one.

-Rich

December 7, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 22

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

IBM grows Direct Link services.
IBM is speeding up hybrid cloud adoption by expanding Direct Link services with the help of Verizon and Equinix. An article from eWeek highlights the key points and the aspects of the new services. The new services include colocation capabilities, which will allow companies to “house their own infrastructure in a secure cabinet within an IBM Cloud data center while connecting directly into the IBM Cloud network from 13 global data center locations.”

Jack Beech, VP of business development at SoftLayer, says, "With help from providers such as Verizon, Equinix and Digital Realty, we're giving clients more options for connecting to our cloud platform. Users can connect directly into our Infrastructure as a Service from their global data centers or offices using Direct Link, benefiting from a faster, more reliable and more secure connection than is typical through the public Internet."

Read more about how the new services will increase the life of existing IT investments here.

Let’s play rock-paper-scissors.
Channel your inner child and get ready to play Rock-Paper-Scissors against IBM Analytics for Apache Spark service.

So how did they build the game? The Cloud Data Services Developer Advocacy team used “the data and analytics power of Apache® Spark™. We set out to create a pattern-recognition engine that could browse a large collection of interactions to determine what would most likely be the winning move.”

With only two months to complete the application, they reached out to the IBM Design team for assistance in “how design thinking could produce very exciting results.”

Want to know what went into the architecture, player experience design, implementation with Node.js, and more? Get the details here.

What’s cooking, Watson?
Watson can do more than win Jeopardy. Turn to IBM Watson to help you plan the menu for your next meal.

Enter Chef Watson. The cognitive cooking app will assist you in creating new recipes in just a couple of clicks.

Want to try it? Start here.

-Rachel

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