softlayer

April 3, 2014

Sprint Accelerator Spices Up Silicon Prairie

As part of the community development team here at SoftLayer, I get to travel the world and reach into cities to help local, born-on-the-Web communities grow and prosper. Last week, my travels took me (and my rock star team) to Kansas City, where we were invited to mentor startups in the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator powered by TechStars (PBTS).

I know when you think of KC, you might not think of a technology startup community. As part of Silicon Prairie, where startups and tech are thriving, KC is taking its place amongst US tech communities, as companies like Sprint, Garmin, H&R Block, and Hallmark are investing in the local startup community.

Through the course of the days I spent in KC, we talked to 10 startups and held technical office hours. What we learned is that the startups in this accelerator had all of the qualities we hope to find: grit and determination coupled with brains and insane talent. (And some of the teams we met with are growing so quickly that they even have open positions.)

What struck me most from my trip was the sheer fact that even though I live in the epicenter of all things tech startup, I can see with my own eyes that the rest of the world is catching up––and they are doing so quickly. Most of the teams at Sprint PBTS are not from the startup mega cities like New York and San Francisco. They are from places off the beaten path. I’m happy to see it, and I’m even more excited for my trips later this year to other parts of the country like Memphis, Detroit, and Okanagan, where I’m sure to be as impressed as I was with KC.

True, for the time being the venture capital and investment communities will likely still steer startups toward the Bay Area, but I’m not convinced that is a trend that will continue forever. I’m more and more certain that as we advance technologies—and as SoftLayer maintains its edge in building the best platform on which to create them––geography will become a secondary factor in the success of startups.

Our Catalyst Startup Program provides that platform for early stage startups around the globe. Members have innovative concepts that need reliable infrastructure to support their growth from idea to enterprise. Recently, I sat down in front of a camera to share an overview of the program and it's benefits from the perspective of Catalyst member HAUL. Here is a crash course on Catalyst:

I believe in a year, a few of the teams from the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator will combine forces to create one company that will eventually become a household name. Their evolution will be fun to watch from the beginning to end. And we are going to watch them closely. They’re going to do it, and we are going to be with them every step of the way.

-@joshuakrammes

March 19, 2014

An Inside Look at IBM Cloud Event 2014 in Hong Kong

On March 17 in Hong Kong, IBM and SoftLayer successfully concluded the first of many intimate cloud events. IBM Cloud Event 2014 marked the beginning of the $1.2 billion investment committed towards our global expansion plans.

Growing from 13 to 40 data centers is no mean feat, and Hong Kong is the starting point. Not only does this give our customers data redundancy in Asia-Pacific, but also provides data residency to our Hong Kong-based customers. Quite simply, we are growing where you want to grow.

For me, there were three key takeaways from the event.

We’re seeing overwhelming support from our customers.
Not only did we have an opportunity to host our Hong Kong clientele, but many also traveled from cities in Greater China to be a part of this milestone. It was immensely gratifying to see them being vocal advocates of SoftLayer services. Natali Ardianto from Tiket.com, Chris Chun from 6waves and Larry Zhang representing ePRO all shared their brilliant stories with the audience.

Tiket.com’s co-founder, Natali, is especially proud of the fact that the company sold out 6,000 tickets for the K-Pop Big Bang Alive concert in 10 minutes, while their competitor’s site was unable to meet the huge demand and shut down for four hours during the peak period. Tiket.com, founded in 2011, faced TCP, DoS and DDoS attacks and tried hosting unsuccessfully on two different IaaS providers before moving to SoftLayer’s infrastructure services in 2012.

6Waves, a gaming publisher, was started in 2008. Today, built on SoftLayer, 6waves has grown to the #1 third-party publisher on Facebook. 6waves manages 14 million monthly active users and 2 million daily active users. Chris, 6waves’ CTO and co-founder, shared that since 2009 6waves has launched more than 200 games on SoftLayer.

Larry Zhang, ePRO’s senior IT manager and architect, had a similar story to share. The B2C e-commerce platform, part of China-based DX Holdings, supports more than 200,000 items in 15 categories and saw a 66 percent increase in customers from October 2011 to September 2013. ePRO is now looking to cater to the US and Australian markets, and Larry believes that SoftLayer’s aggressive expansion plans will help them meet their goal.

SoftLayer in Hong Kong

There is a vested interest in the SoftLayer-IBM integration roadmap.
Large enterprises are moving towards the cloud. This is not a forward-looking statement, it's a fact. And from the feedback gathered and the questions put up by these organizations, it is clear that they are investing in leveraging cloud services for improving their internal processes and for bringing services to their end customers more quickly. Lance Crosby presented a SoftLayer-IBM integration roadmap. With SoftLayer forming the foundation of IBM's cloud offerings—SaaS, PaaS and BPaaS—there is no doubt that we are as invested in this partnership as our clientele.

The strong startup community in Hong Kong is committed to growing with Softlayer.
Catalyst, SoftLayer's startup incubator, has always had a strong presence in Hong Kong, and the startup spirit was evident on March 17 as well. The dedicated roundtable conducted for the community with Lance Crosby and Casey Lau, SoftLayer's Catalyst representative for APAC, was the highlight of the day. Lance left us with a powerful thought, "We are here to be an extension to your infrastructure... The question is what can you build on us."

All in all, this was a great start to our new journey!

- Namrata

March 12, 2014

Name Servers: Don't Get Lost in (Domain) Translation

The Domain Name System (DNS) is vital to keeping the Internet in order and easily accessible. Every byte on the World Wide Web lives in (at least) one specific place on the planet, and it's mapped to that location with an IP address like 66.228.118.53 (IPv4) or 2607:f0d0:4545:3:200:f8ff:fe21:67cf (IPv6). DNS translates the domain names you know and love to the correct IP addresses, so without DNS, you would have to memorize a 32-bit or 128-bit IP address for your favorite websites. Remember the last time your cell phone died? How many phone numbers did you have memorized?

There are plenty of resources available online to explain How DNS Works, so in this post, we'll focus on the basics of how we use DNS. Here's the scenario: We want to register a domain — softlayer.com — and make it available to the masses.

1. Reserve and Register a Domain Name
The first thing we need to do is purchase and register our domain name. To do this, we need to choose a domain registrar and verify that our domain is available. Every domain registrar effectively provides the same service: It will reserve an available domain on your behalf, and it will let you dictate where that domain will live. There's not a lot of differentiation or value-add in that service, so many registrars offer cheap or free domains as loss-leaders for higher margin hosting or Web services. Be sure to check the fine print to make sure you're not committing to a year of hosting to get a $0.99 domain name. Some registrars make the process of updating and configuring where a domain resolves more difficult than others, but for the sake of this example we'll assume that your registrar allows the same easy accessibility SoftLayer provides our customers in the customer portal.

The domain name we want is softlayer.com, and in this example, that domain name is available for us to reserve. Once we go through the ordering process, we'll need to associate the domain with a set of authoritative name servers. Authoritative name servers are effectively the go-to address book for a specified domain. By default, your domain registrar will provide name servers for your domain, but they can be changed easily to meet your needs. You have four typical options when it comes to choosing your domain's name servers:

  • Use the domain registrar's default name servers.
  • Use you hosting provider’s name servers.
  • Use a third party DNS service to manage your domain names.
  • Run your own name servers on your server to manage your domain names.

Each of these options has its own pros and cons, but because we're just interested in getting our domain online, we'll use SoftLayer's DNS control panel to manage our new domain name.

2. Create DNS Records
When we access our hosting provider's DNS control panel, we see this:

DNS Management

This is an extremely high level view of DNS, so we’re just going to focus on what we must have in order to make softlayer.com reachable via browser. The first thing we'll do is add a DNS zone. This is usually our domain, but in some situations, it can be a bit different. In this example, we'll create a “softlayer.com” zone to be responsible for the whole softlayer.com domain:

DNS Management

With that zone created, we now need to add new "Address Records" (A Records) within that zone:

DNS Management
DNS Management

The terminology used in different DNS control panels may vary, so let’s breakdown what the four sections in those screenshots mean:

  • Resource Type: This is our DNS record type. In our example, we have A records which link a hostname to our IP address. There are a number of DNS record types, each serving a different purpose.
  • Host: This is the host node or owner name — the name of the node that this record applies to. Using the @ symbol in the A record allows visitors to reach our website without the leading www. If we wanted blog.softlayer.com to live at a different IP address, we'd make that happen here.
  • Points To: This is the IP address of the host node. You might see this section referred to elsewhere as content, data or value. The standard term is RDATA — resource record data. This is specific to each data type.
  • TTL (Time-to-Live): TTL dictates how long your name server should keep a particular record before refreshing for possible updates. Generally speaking, longer TTLs work well if you’re just adding new entries and or don’t anticipate frequent record changes.

Once we save these changes in our DNS control panel, we play the waiting game. Because these DNS changes have to propagate across our DNS servers to be accessible to the Internet as a whole, the process typically takes 24-48 hours, if not sooner. SoftLayer’s customer portal has DNS check built-in as one a few different network tools. If you aren't a current customer, you can use What's my DNS? This is what the SoftLayer tool looks like:

DNS Management

3. Create rDNS Records
The last step we want to take in setting up our domain is to create Reverse DNS (rDNS) records. These records do the same thing as DNS records, but (as the name suggests) they function in the opposite direction. With rDNS, we can assign an IP address to a domain name. This step isn't required, but I recommend it to help ensure better performance of online activities like email and website visitor tracking.

DNS is a central piece of the Internet as we know it, so by understanding how to use it, you'll have a much better understanding of how the Internet works. It seems challenging at first glance, but as you see from this simple walkthrough, when you break down and understand each step, you won't get overwhelmed. A wealth of DNS tools and tutorials are available for free online, and our DNS documentation might be a great resource to bookmark so you'll never get lost in domain translation.

- Landon

March 7, 2014

Why the Cloud Scares Traditional IT

My background is "traditional IT." I've been architecting and promoting enterprise virtualization solutions since 2002, and over the past few years, public and hybrid cloud solutions have become a serious topic of discussion ... and in many cases, contention. The customers who gasped with excitement when VMware rolled out a new feature for their on-premises virtualized environments would dismiss any recommendations of taking a public cloud or a hybrid cloud approach. Off-premises cloud environments were surrounded by marketing hype, and the IT departments considering them had legitimate concerns, especially around security and compliance.

I completely understood their concerns, and until recently, I often agreed with them. The cloud model is intimidating. If you've had control over every aspect of your IT environment for a few decades, you don't want to give up access to your infrastructure, much less have to trust another company to protect your business-critical information. But now, I think about those concerns as the start of a conversation about cloud, rather than a "no-go" zone. The cloud is different, but a company's approach to it should still be the same.

What do I mean by that? Enterprise developers and engineers still have to serve as architects to determine the functional and operational requirements for their services. In that process, they need to determine the suitability of a given platform for the computing workload and the company's business objectives and core competencies. Unfortunately, many of the IT decision-makers don't consider the bigger business context, and they choose to build their own "public" IaaS offerings to accommodate internal workloads, and in many cases, their own external clients.

This approach might makes sense for service providers, integrators and telcos because infrastructure resources are core components of their businesses, but I've seen the same thing happen at financial institutions, rental companies, and even an airline. Over time, internal IT departments carved out infrastructure-services revenue streams that are totally unrelated to the company's core business. The success of enterprise virtualization often empowered IT departments through cost savings and automation — making the promise of delivering public cloud “in-house” a natural extension and seemingly attractive proposition. Reshaping their perspectives around information security and compliance in that way is often a functional approach, but is it money well spent?

Instead of spending hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in capital to build out (often commoditized) infrastructure, these businesses could be investing those resources in developing and marketing their core business areas. To give you an example of how a traditional IT task is performed in the cloud, I can share my experience from when I first accessed my SoftLayer account: I deployed a physical ESX host alongside a virtual compute instance, fully pre-configured with OS and vCenter, and I connected it via VPN to my existing (on-prem) vCenter environment. In the old model, that process would have probably taken a couple of days to complete, and I got it done in 3 hours.

Now more than ever, it is the responsibility of the core business line to validate internal IT strategies and evaluate alternatives. Public cloud is not always the right answer for all workloads, but driven by the rapidly evolving maturity and proliferation of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS offerings, most organizations will see significant benefits from it. Ultimately, the best way to understand the potential value is just to give it a try.

-Andy

Andreas Groth is an IBM worldwide channel solutions architect, focusing primarily on SoftLayer. Follow him on Twitter: @andreasgroth

March 6, 2014

SoftLayer at SXSW 2014

When attending South by Southwest (SXSW), the streets of Austin can feel like a giant maze. Keeping up with all the events in and around the conference is exhausting (if not impossible), so we thought we'd create a simple "SoftLayer at SXSW 2014" cheat sheet to eliminate the twists, turns and Internet searches that you'd otherwise make to track us down.

SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) Tradeshow

You will find the SoftLayer team in the Austin Convention Center Exhibit Hall at Stands 404 and 406. SLayers will be on-hand to give you a guided tour of the SoftLayer customer portal and answer any questions you have about moving your business into the cloud in general or moving it onto SoftLayer, specifically. If you have trouble locating our booth, we've got an 8-bit-inspired milestone for you to look for: The Server Challenge II.

We launched the original Server Challenge at SXSW in 2011, and since then, we've been tweaking and improving the competition to engage with conference attendees and help us tell the SoftLayer story. The objective of the competition is to popular 24 drive trays into two 2U servers and plug the network cables into the correct switches in the fastest time possible. If at the end of the show you have the fastest time, you will walk away with a MacBook Air and major bragging rights. As a reward for reading the SoftLayer Blog, we'll give you a leg up on the competition by letting you watch the current 43-second Server Challenge II world record completion:

SoftLayer Speakeasy

If you're looking to chill, recharge or get work done in the midst of the SXSW craziness, sign up to join us at the SoftLayer Speakeasy, featuring the Catalyst Startup Lounge. Our Catalyst team is taking over a great 6th Street venue on Sunday and Monday to provide a relaxed co-working space for customers, partners, and startups. Entrepreneurs, investors, developers and individuals in the startup ecosystem are welcome to stop in for free WiFi, coffee and drinks all day, and after 7pm, you'll enjoy live music!

Catalyst Startup Lounge

Register Now
Location: 501 East 6th Street, on the 2nd floor
Dates/Times: Sunday, March 9 at 12:00 PM to Monday, March 10 at 10:00 PM

SoftLayer Catalyst Incubator Program - SXSWi Panel

SoftLayer VP of Community Development Joshua Krammes joins a panel of customers and partners on Monday for a look at the tangible resources startup companies need to succeed:

SoftLayer’s Catalyst Incubator Program
@JoshuaKrames, VP Community Development (+ Panel)
Monday, March 10 @ 12:30pm — Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon B

IBM Cognitive Food Truck

While you're in town for SXSW, you're going to get hungry. Luckily, the Austin food truck scene is amazing, and you have quick and convenient access to any kind of food you can think of. This year, you'll even have quick and convenient access to any kind of food that IBM Watson can think up! Stop by the corner of Red River and 4th Street for a creative, crowd-sourced treat from the IBM Cognitive Food Truck. By using algorithms to determine why people like certain foods, Watson comes up with unique combinations of ingredients that deliver unbelievable results. And the best part...

Cognitive Cooking

Vote for the dishes you want to see the IBM Cognitive Food Truck create at SXSW online or by Tweeting your desired dish using #IBMFoodTruck. And if you get to try any of the food, let us know what you think about it.

With this cheat sheet, finding SoftLayer at SXSW will be a breeze ... Navigating the streets of Austin in the midst of all the crowds and chaos still might be tricky, though.

See you on Sunday!

-Rachel

March 5, 2014

Making an Impact: Catalyst and BEHUM

Running a startup is hard. We all know that. The right help at the right time makes all the difference, and for many, finding that help is a challenge. Not knowing who to ask for help or where to meet the right people to help move the needle in the right direction, many entrepreneurs and startup teams don't even know where to start.

That's one of the biggest reasons we created Catalyst. When entrepreneurs are passionate enough about an idea to ditch "safe" careers to build their own companies, we want to help them succeed by getting them access to the right resources.

That vision may seem simple on paper, but when I reconnected with a Catalyst program graduate last night, I was humbled to hear how Catalyst helped his company succeed. That entrepreneur was Neal Bram, founder of BEHUM – Be Heard You Matter. BEHUM is a political engagement platform that empowers voters to take simple but meaningful actions to support the candidates and political issues they believe in. Or to put it more simply, BEHUM helps individuals make their political views a reality.

When I spoke with Neal about his Catalyst experience, he explained, "For this to work we need reliability and SoftLayer has always been up to the task. When a leading political official sends a BEHUM link to 2 million individuals at the same time as a statewide advocacy group’s petition is going viral, we have to stay up.” Those numbers might not seem huge for the Facebooks and Twitters of the world, but for early stage startups that can’t afford to pay for more capacity than they need, it's a mountainous task. The Catalyst program provides free cloud hosting resources for early stage startups like BEHUM, allowing them to be confident and aggressive about seizing opportunities to accelerate growth without fear of breaking the bank.

Hearing that the scalability of our platform could accommodate BEHUM's demands felt good, but what Neal said next was what really stuck with me: “Catalyst is far more than the technology and economics. It’s a network of entrepreneurs helping each other led by Catalyst mentors who provide invaluable insights and connections.”

It's easy for the tangible benefits of the program to get the lion's share of a startup's attention, so when I hear about qualitative and relational impact the Catalyst team is making, I know we're doing something right. When I asked Neal if he had any specific examples of that type of involvement, he answered, “Whether it’s commenting on pitches, input on business models, or making an important introduction, the Catalyst program provided BEHUM the right help at the right time.”

That's the best feedback any Catalyst customer could ever give about the program.

If you want your views on candidates and political issues to be heard, head over to BEHUM. And if you're interested in connecting with Neal and his team, let me know, and I'll make that happen.

-@JoshuaKrammes

February 20, 2014

SoftLayer at IBM Pulse 2014

When you plan your IBM Pulse schedule, you'll want to know where to find SoftLayer in the sea of people, sessions and events in Las Vegas next week. I consolidated some of the SoftLayer-specific highlights into this blog post, but by the time I got to the end of the post, it seemed like a daunting amount of content. To give the blog audience a "tl;dr" ("too long; didn't read") alternative, I convinced a few of my coworkers into sharing a quick overview of our activities via video:

Armed with the information from the video, scan down the rest of this post for details about the specific sessions or events that piqued your interest.

SoftLayer-Led IBM Pulse Sessions

Six different SLayers are presenting IBM Pulse 2014 sessions — five technical overviews, one panel, and one general session. Click on any of the topics below to read the session abstracts and learn more about the presenter with the IBM Pulse agenda preview tool.

IAS-2137A: Compute-as-a-Service: More than a Virtual Affair?
Steven Canale, VP of Global Sales
Monday, February 24 @ 11:15am — Room 119
IAS-2145A: Comparing Cloud Computing Models for Performance and Workload Suitability
Marc Jones, VP of Product Innovation
Monday, February 24 @ 1:00pm — Room 101
IAS-2117A: Cloud Performance is Not a Commodity
Nathan Day, Chief Scientist
Monday, February 24 @ 3:45pm — Room 119
IAS-1943A: Elastic OpenStack Private Clouds on SoftLayer
Marc Jones, VP of Product Innovation (+ Panel)
Tuesday, February 25 @ 11:15am — Room 124
IAS-2158A: High-Performance, Scalable Big Data Solutions in a Bare Metal Cloud
Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect
Tuesday, February 25 @ 2:15pm — Room 119
IAS-2167A: Infrastructure at Scale: Best Practices in Scaling Cloud Architectures
Phil Jackson, Developer Advocate Lead
Tuesday, February 25 @ 3:45pm — Room 119
GEN-2539A: General Session Day 3: Inspiring Bold Moves
Lance Crosby, CEO
Wednesday, February 26 @ 9:00am — Grand Garden Arena

Solution EXPO

In addition to those presentations, we'll be making a lot of noise in the Solution EXPO. Visit the IAAS Zone in the Cloud Demo Area to find us at Demo Pad 432-08. Here, you'll get a first-hand look at the ordering, configuration and management tools we use for our bare metal and virtual server cloud resources. Click around in our customer portal, try out our ordering process, and learn more about the automation that drives our cloud platform.

After you learn about SoftLayer in the Demo area, make your way to the Cloud Category Area to compete in the legendary Server Challenge II competition at #332. Your goal will be to repopulate the drives and network cables into a scaled-down version of a SoftLayer server rack, and if you record the best time at the event, you'll walk away with the pride of being the IBM Pulse 2014 Server Challenge champion... and a MacBook Air. To train for your two attempts per day, you might want to watch the current world record: SoftLayer + Supermicro Server Challenge II - World Record.

Dev@Pulse

Happening in parallel with IBM Pulse, Dev@Pulse is a FREE developer-focused event where attendees have access to hands-on labs, lightning talks and a playground of technical toys like the Oculus Rift and Parrot AR Drones. Additionally, IBM subject matter experts will be on-site to answer questions and help developers solve any of the code-related problems they've run into. And yes, as Phil Jackson so humbly explained in the video, he'll be presenting one of those lightning talks.

Pulse Palooza

To relax and unwind a bit after the heavy-hitting sessions on Monday and Tuesday, IBM Pulse is rolling out the red carpet for attendees to party in the MGM Grand Garden Arena from 7:00-10:00pm with live performances by Elvis Costello and Fall Out Boy!

Pulse Palooza

This event is included with all Pulse passes, and as Ryan said in the video, it's guaranteed to be a good time.

I can't even begin to describe the excitement our team has about IBM Pulse 2014, and we hope you feel the same way. Next week will be a great opportunity for you to learn more about SoftLayer, AND it'll give us a chance to learn more about your business and how we help you improve it in the cloud.

-@khazard

February 6, 2014

Building a Bridge to the OpenStack API

OpenStack is experiencing explosive growth in the cloud market. With more than 200 companies contributing code to the source and new installations coming online every day, OpenStack is pushing hard to become a global standard for cloud computing. Dozens of useful tools and software products have been developed using the OpenStack API, so a growing community of administrators, developers and IT organizations have access to easy-to-use, powerful cloud resources. This kind of OpenStack integration is great for users on a full OpenStack cloud, but it introduces a challenge to providers and users on other cloud platforms: Should we consider deploying or moving to an OpenStack environment to take advantage of these tools?

If a cloud provider spends years developing a unique platform with a proprietary API, implementing native support for the OpenStack API or deploying a full OpenStack solution may be cost prohibitive, even with significant customer and market demand. The provider can either bite the bullet to implement OpenStack compatibility, hope that a third party library like libclouds or fog is updated to support its API, or choose to go it alone and develop an ecosystem of products around its own API.

Introducing Jumpgate

When we were faced with this situation at SoftLayer, we chose a fourth option. We wanted to make the process of creating an OpenStack-compatible API simpler and more modular. That's where Jumpgate was born. Jumpgate is a middleware that acts as a compatibility layer between the OpenStack API and a provider's proprietary API. Externally, it exposes endpoints that adhere to OpenStack's published and accepted API specification, which it then translates into the provider's API using a series of drivers. Think of it as a mechanism to enable passing from one realm/space into another — like the jumpgates featured in science fiction works.

Connection

How Jumpgate Works
Let's take a look at a high-level example: When you want to create a new virtual instance on OpenStack, you might use the Horizon dashboard or the Nova command line client. When you issue the request, the tool first makes a REST call to a Keystone endpoint for authentication, which returns an authorization token. The client then makes another REST call to a Nova endpoint, which manages the computing instances, to create the actual virtual instance. Nova may then make calls to other tools within the cluster for networking (Quantum), image information (Glance), block storage (Cinder), or more. In addition, your client may also send requests directly to some of these endpoints to query for status updates, information about available resources, and so on.

With Jumpgate, your tool first hits the Jumpgate middleware, which exposes a Keystone endpoint. Jumpgate takes the request, breaks it apart into its relevant pieces, then loads up your provider's appropriate API driver. Next, Jumpgate reformats your request into a form that the driver supports and sends it to the provider's API endpoint. Once the response comes back, Jumpgate again uses the driver to break apart the proprietary API response, reformats it into an OpenStack compatible JSON payload, and sends it back to your client. The result is that you interact with an OpenStack-compatible API, and your cloud provider processes those interactions on their own backend infrastructure.

Internally, Jumpgate is a lightweight middleware built in Python using the Falcon Framework. It provides endpoints for nearly every documented OpenStack API call and allows drivers to attach handlers to these endpoints. This modular approach allows providers to implement only the endpoints that are of the highest importance, rolling out OpenStack API compatibility in stages rather than in one monumental effort. Since it sits alongside the provider's existing API, Jumpgate provides a new API interface without risking the stability already provided by the existing API. It's a value-add service that increases customer satisfaction without a huge increase in cost. Once full implementations is finished, a provider with a proprietary cloud platform can benefit from and offer all the tools that are developed to work with the OpenStack API.

Jumpgate allows providers to test the proper OpenStack compatibility of their drivers by leveraging the OpenStack Tempest test suite. With these tests, developers run the full suite of calls used by OpenStack itself, highlighting edge cases or gaps in functionality. We've even included a helper script that allows Tempest to only run a subset of tests rather than the entire suite to assist with a staged rollout.

Current Development
Jumpgate is currently in an early alpha stage. We've built the compatibility framework itself and started on the SoftLayer drivers as a reference. So far, we've implemented key endpoints within Nova (computing instances), Keystone (identification and authorization), and Glance (image management) to get most of the basic functionality within Horizon (the web dashboard) working. We've heard that several groups outside SoftLayer are successfully using Jumpgate to drive products like Trove and Heat directly on SoftLayer, which is exciting and shows that we're well beyond the "proof of concept" stage. That being said, there's still a lot of work to be done.

We chose to develop Jumpgate in the open with a tool set that would be familiar to developers working with OpenStack. We're excited to debut this project for the broader OpenStack community, and we're accepting pull requests if you're interested in contributing. Making more clouds compatible with the OpenStack API is important and shouldn’t be an individual undertaking. If you're interested in learning more or contributing, head over to our in-flight project page on GitHub: SoftLayer Jumpgate. There, you'll find everything you need to get started along with the updates to our repository. We encourage everyone to contribute code or drivers ... or even just open issues with feature requests. The more community involvement we get, the better.

-Nathan

Categories: 
February 3, 2014

Risk Management: 5 Tips for Managing Risk in the Cloud

Security breaches have made front-page news in recent months. With stories about Target, Neiman Marcus, Yahoo! and GoDaddy in the headlines recently, the importance of good information security practices is becoming harder and harder to ignore — even for smaller businesses. Moving your business into the cloud offers a plethora of benefits; however, those benefits do not come without their challenges. Moving your business into the cloud involves risks such as multi-tenancy, so it's important to be able to properly manage and identify these risks.

1. Know the Security Your Provider Offers
While some SaaS providers may have security baked-in, most IaaS providers (including SoftLayer) leave much of the logical security responsibility of a customer's systems to the customer. For the security measures that an infrastructure provider handles, the provider should be able to deliver documentation attesting these controls. We perform an annual SOC2 audit, so we can attest to the status of our security and availability controls as a service organization. With this information, our customers use controls from our report as part of their own compliance requirements. Knowing a provider's security controls (and seeing proof of that security) allows business owners and Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) to have peace-of-mind that they can properly plan their control activities to better prevent or respond to a breach.

2. Use the Cloud to Distribute and Replicate Your Presence
The incredible scalability and geographical distribution of operating in the cloud can yield some surprising payoff. Experts in the security industry are leveraging the cloud to reduce their patch cycles to days, not weeks or months. Most cloud providers have multiple sites so that you can spread your presence nationally, or even globally. With this kind of infrastructure footprint, businesses can replicate failover systems and accommodate regional demand across multiple facilities with the minimal incremental investment (and with nearly identical security controls).

3. Go Back to the Basics
Configuration management. Asset management. Separation of duties. Strong passwords. Many organizations get so distracted by the big picture of their security measures that they fail to manage these basic rights. Take advantage of any of your provider's tools to assist in the ‘mundane’ tasks that are vitally important to your business's overall security posture. For example, you can use image templates or post-provisioning scripts to deploy a standard baseline configuration to your systems, then track them down to the specific server room. You’ll know what hardware is in your server at all times, and if you're using SoftLayer, you can even drill down to the serial numbers of your hard drives.

4. Have Sound Incident Response Plans
The industry is becoming increasingly cognizant of the fact that it’s not a matter of if, but when a security threat will present itself. Even with exceedingly high levels of baked-in security, most of the recent breaches resulted from a compromised employee. Be prepared to respond to security incidents with confidence. While you may be physically distanced from your systems, you should be able to meet defined Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs) for your services.

5. Maintain Constant Contact with Your Cloud Provider
Things happen. No amount of planning can completely halt every incident, whether it be a natural disaster or a determined attacker. Know that your hosting provider has your back when things take an unexpected turn.

With proper planning and good practice, the cloud isn't as risky and frightening as most think. If you're interested in learning a little more about the best practices around security in the cloud, check out the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). The CSA provides a wealth of knowledge to assist business owners and security professionals alike. Build on the strengths, compensate for the weaknesses, and you and your CISO will be able to sleep at night (and maybe even sneak in a beer after work).

-Matt

January 31, 2014

Simplified OpenStack Deployment on SoftLayer

"What is SoftLayer doing with OpenStack?" I can't even begin to count the number of times I've been asked that question over the last few years. In response, I'll usually explain how we've built our object storage platform on top of OpenStack Swift, or I'll give a few examples of how our customers have used SoftLayer infrastructure to build and scale their own OpenStack environments. Our virtual and bare metal cloud servers provide a powerful and flexible foundation for any OpenStack deployment, and our unique three-tiered network integrates perfectly with OpenStack's Compute and Network node architecture, so it's high time we make it easier to build an OpenStack environment on SoftLayer infrastructure.

To streamline and simplify OpenStack deployment for the open source community, we've published Opscode Chef recipes for both OpenStack Grizzly and OpenStack Havana on GitHub: SoftLayer Chef-Openstack. With Chef and SoftLayer, your own OpenStack cloud is a cookbook away. These recipes were designed with the needs of growth and scalability in mind. Let's take a deeper look into what exactly that means.

OpenStack has adopted a three-node design whereby a controller, compute, and network node make up its architecture:

OpenStack Architecture on SoftLayer

Looking more closely at any one node reveal the services it provides. Scaling the infrastructure beyond a few dozen nodes, using this model, could create bottlenecks in services such as your block store, OpenStack Cinder, and image store, OpenStack Glance, since they are traditionally located on the controller node. Infrastructure requirements change from service to service as well. For example OpenStack Neutron, the networking service, does not need much disk I/O while the Cinder storage service might heavily rely on a node's hard disk. Our cookbook allows you to choose how and where to deploy the services, and it even lets you break apart the MySQL backend to further improve platform performance.

Quick Start: Local Demo Environment

To make it easy to get started, we've created a rapid prototype and sandbox script for use with Vagrant and Virtual Box. With Vagrant, you can easily spin up a demo environment of Chef Server and OpenStack in about 15 minutes on moderately good laptops or desktops. Check it out here. This demo environment is an all-in-one installation of our Chef OpenStack deployment. It also installs a basic Chef server as a sandbox to help you see how the SoftLayer recipes were deployed.

Creating a Custom OpenStack Deployment

The thee-node OpenStack model does well in small scale and meets the needs of many consumers; however, control and customizability are the tenants for the design of the SoftLayer OpenStack Chef cookbook. In our model, you have full control over the configuration and location of eleven different components in your deployed environment:

Our Chef recipes will take care of populating the configuration files with the necessary information so you won't have to. When deploying, you merely add the role for the matching service to a hardware or virtual server node, and Chef will deploy the service to it with all the configuration done automatically, including adding multiple Neutron, Nova, and Cinder nodes. This approach allows you to tailor the needs of each service to the hardware it will be deployed to--you might put your Neutron hardware node on a server with 10-gigabit network interfaces and configure your Cinder hardware node with RAID 1+0 15k SAS drives.

OpenStack is a fast growing project for the implementation of IaaS in public and private clouds, but its deployment and configuration can be overwhelming. We created this cookbook to make the process of deploying a full OpenStack environment on SoftLayer quick and straightforward. With the simple configuration of eleven Chef roles, your OpenStack cloud can be deployed onto as little as one node and scaled up to many as hundreds (or thousands).

To follow this project, visit SoftLayer on GitHub. Check out some of our other projects on GitHub, and let us know if you need any help or want to contribute.

-@marcalanjones

Pages

Subscribe to softlayer