October 26, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 18

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

Keeping Aucklanders Safe
Cloud M moved its public safety alert system to IBM Cloud. The company came to IBM for assistance through the Global Entrepreneur Program, where it learned about and choose SoftLayer for IaaS. This initial shift has made the company’s Alerter app faster for users. “Today, Alerter gets alerts and safety information to subscribers’ smartphones, newsfeeds and social media sites with unprecedented speed and efficiency.”

The Auckland Civil Defense & Emergency Management (CDEM) authority “has used Alerter to help protect 1.4 million residents during many storms, earthquakes and two major tsunami warnings,” Richard Gill, founder and CEO of Cloud M wrote. Gill said, “Through our work and our partnership with IBM, we’re convinced more than ever that public emergency information sharing is best done through mobile and the cloud.”

For more on Cloud M’s story, check out this post on THINK.

We’re the picture-perfect solution.
Guten Tag! is a startup that created digital asset management software for support small and midsize companies. The goal is to help companies “collect, share, and manage photos, graphics, videos and other digital media with customers, business partners and remote workers.” To start, they hosted the solution on their own servers and quickly realized that it would be extremely difficult to scale at the speed and ease they needed.

The company turned to SoftLayer for many reasons, but keeping their data nearby was paramount. Andreas Gölkel, cofounder, elaborated “German customers are a little afraid to give out their data on servers that are not in Germany or in the EU.”

Well, our Frankfurt data center was the solution. He also noted, “With SoftLayer, we can scale up easily and fast. And due to the really good support, we saved a lot of time. As a startup, every hour that you can use for doing other stuff is worth a lot of money.”

Read more of their story here.

Watson, what’s in the oven?
Chef Watson put out a delicious dinner with the help of Chef James Briscione. He is the director of culinary development of the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC, plus an IBM collaborator. Briscione acted as sous-chef, actually creating the delectable dishes.

So how did they develop the menu? Thanks to four years of work and an analysis of 10,000 recipes from Bon Appétit magazine, Watson “deduced which ingredients routinely went together, and suggested pairings with other ingredients with overlapping flavor or aromatic compounds (along with recipes).”

Briscione says that Watson isn’t going to take the place of chefs, but is simply a tool providing data for chefs to use when thinking up enticing eats. He added, “While Watson is helping us select ingredients and find really wonderful new combinations of food, it doesn’t really tell us what to do with them,” he said. “It just says, ‘These things are going to taste good together, you guys figure out the rest.’”

Find more on this data driven dinner here.


October 23, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Global salesman Valentine Che is amazed by his interactions with “characters of the world”

It seems we just couldn’t stay away from Amsterdam. This week, Under the Infrastructure is going back to the Venice of the North to introduce you to yet another one of our incredible SLayers.

Say hello to Valentine Che, a global sales representative for new accounts. He’s been with us for three years, and if you’ve ever digitally reached out to us about what we offer in Europe and the Middle East, you might’ve had a conversation with Valentine.

Let’s meet him.

SOFTLAYER: What’s a day in the life like for a new account representative in global sales?

VALENTINE CHE: New account reps principally target new business coming in via online chat, email, and phone calls—it varies from day to day. I am the digital face of SoftLayer. From the guy in the development world who saw an ad for $500 off a cloud server and jumps into chat hoping to get a check to the IT executive who is seriously contemplating a move to the cloud and wants to configure his cloud infrastructure on the SoftLayer platform, I interface with these vastly differing characters and represent the brand.

While manning the online chat and answering incoming calls, I also work tickets created by existing customers and seek avenues to solve an issue a customer is facing.

SL: What does it take to be successful in a global sales position?

CHE: When you interface with dozens of people with different personalities through various communication tools over the course of a day, it is easy to get bogged down. The ability to discern a sales opportunity from this maze is a vital attribute. It is conventionally said that seasoned salespeople can sell ice to Eskimos, while some cannot sell a life jacket to a drowning person.

In all honesty, the SoftLayer value prop already sells itself. Global sales mostly does what we call “telling.” In “telling” why a customer needs to be on the SoftLayer platform, reps need to be digitally polite and enthusiastic. Obviously, it will be difficult to communicate enthusiastically and exude confidence if you do not know the product or service you are selling and cannot show a customer how it solves his or her problems better than the competition. Hence, product knowledge is crucial.

SL: What’s your travel schedule like?

CHE: I travel to trade shows within Europe and the Middle East with the events team about three times per quarter. During these events, I have the opportunity to meet prospects and existing customers face-to-face. I like these face-to-face meetings because you can read the body language of the person you are talking to and the person cannot just disappear (as is often the case with online chats). Also, I carry an iPad and can demonstrate the modularity of the SoftLayer offering. I show prospects how to customize their server to meet their particular needs. It is a fun experience.

SL: What do you like the most about your job?

CHE: The interactions with “characters of the world” are interesting. In a three-year period, I have had a conversation with someone from at least two-thirds of the nations of the world. I pick up cultural cues from these interactions that truly amaze me.

If I did not become a salesman, I would have been either a lawyer or a preacher (mum says I love the sound of my own voice).

SL: Would you rather have a dinosaur or a dragon for a pet? Why?

CHE: I do not believe in pets. In my world, animals should stay in the wild. If all the money spent on pets was diverted toward helping humans, there would not be a hungry soul on the face of the earth.

Did we mention our SLayers have heart, too?


October 21, 2015

The Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Said

Last week, I attended the LAUNCH Scale conference and had the pleasure of attending the VIP dinner the night before the event began. We hosted the top 10 startups from the IBM SmartCamp worldwide competition for the dinner and throughout the events. Famed Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis joined us for the dinner and gave a quick pep talk to the teams. He mentioned that people come up to him and lament that they wished they’d gotten into the "Internet thing" earlier—and that he's been hearing this since 1999. His story reminded me of a similar personal experience.

In the fall semester of 1995, I was a junior at St. Bonaventure University, working in the computer lab. One day after helping a cute girl I had a crush on, she said to me, “You’re so good with computers, why aren’t you a computer science major?” Swelling with pride, I tried to sound impressive and intelligent as I definitively stated, “Windows 95 just came out, and pretty much everything that can be built with computers has been built.”

Yep. Windows 95. The pinnacle of software achievement.

It is easily the dumbest thing I've ever said—and perhaps up there as one of the dumbest things anyone has said. Ever.

But I hear corollaries to this fairly often, both in and outside the startup world. "There's no room for innovation there," or "You can't make money there," or "That sector is awful, don't bother." I'm guilty of a few of those statements myself—yet businesses find a way. We live in an age of unprecedented innovation. Just because one person didn't have the key to unlock it doesn't mean the door is closed.

Catch yourself before you fall into this loop of thinking. It might mean being the "Uber of X" or starting a business that's far ahead of its time. Think it's crazy to say everything that can be built has been built? I think it's just as crazy to say, "It's too late to get into ___ market."

For example, when markets grow in size, they also grow in complexity. The first mover in the space defines the market, catches the innovators and early adopters, and builds the bridge over the chasm to the early and late majority. (For more on this, read Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore.) When a market begins to service the majority, the needs of many are not being met, which leaves room for new entrants to build a business that addresses the segments dissatisfied with the current offerings or needing specialized versions.

The LAUNCH Scale event showcased dozens of startups and the innovation out there in the world always amazes me. I'd recommend it to any startup that has built something great, and now needs to scale. Still haven't built something yourself? Think you missed the opportunity to build and create? In 1995, I didn't think about how things would change in five, 10, even 20 years. Now it's 2015 and the startup world has been growing faster than any sector in history.

Think everything that could be built has been built? Think again. Want to build something? Do it. Build something. What are you waiting for? Go make a difference in the world.


October 20, 2015

What’s in a hypervisor? More than you think

Virtualization has always been a key tenet of enabling cloud-computing services. From the get-go, SoftLayer has offered a variety of options, including Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Parallels Cloud Server, just to name a few. It’s all about enabling choice.

But what about VMware—the company that practically pioneered virtualization, making it commonplace?

Well, we have some news to share. SoftLayer has always supported VMware ESX and ESXi—your basic, run-of-the mill hypervisor—but now we’re enabling enterprise customers to run VMware vSphere on our bare metal servers.

This collaboration is significant for SoftLayer and IBM because it gives our customers tremendous flexibility and transparency when moving workloads into the public cloud. Enterprises already familiar with VMware can easily extend their existing on-premises VMware infrastructure into the IBM Cloud with simplified, monthly pricing. This makes transitioning into a hybrid model easier because it results in greater workload mobility and application continuity.

But the real magic happens when you couple our bare metal performance with VMware vSphere. Users can complete live workload migrations between data centers across continents. Users can easily move and implement enterprise applications and disaster recovery solutions across our global network of cloud data centers—with just a few clicks of a mouse. Take a look at this demo and judge for yourself.

What’s in a hypervisor? For some, it’s an on-ramp to the cloud and a way to make hybrid computing a reality. When you pair the flexibility of VMware with our bare metal servers, users get a combination that’s hard to beat.

We’re innovating to help companies make the transition to hybrid cloud, one hypervisor at a time. For more details, visit

-Jack Beech, VP of Business Development

October 19, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 17

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

We’re in India.
We’ve finally arrived! Our first Indian data center is now open in Chennai. The new data center will allow us to grow our cloud footprint with a direct connection between Europe and Asia through India. It will also offer “local customers and end users increased performance and speed for data traveling to and from the region.

Along with the data center, IBM announced a new partnership with the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) to launch Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of IBM Cloud said, “With the opening of the IBM Cloud data center in Chennai and our collaboration with NASSCOM, IBM is not only delivering greater access to a globally integrated cloud data center that offers the performance and speed needed, but it is also creating the foundation for future growth by working with NASSCOM 10,000 Startups program to equip local developers with the skills they need to grow the market.”

What’s up with Watson?
Watson Analytics now offers even more resources to users. IBM announced the introduction of new data discovery and Q&A capabilities that will allow users to more easily gather knowledge from their data.

IBM also introduced its newest tool, Expert Storybooks. Expert Storybooks will guide users in understanding, learning, and reasoning with different types of data sources to uncover the most relevant facts and reveal patterns and relationships for predictive decision making. Find more information about the types of Storybooks here.

You’re only a couple of clicks away from hybrid cloud.
Our public cloud is being integrated with VMware’s virtualization stack. This will allow current VMware customers to build hybrid clouds with just a few clicks. Geoff Waters, vice president of Service Provider Channel at VMware, said, “This partnership provides enterprises with a proven cloud platform on a global basis with high performance, enhanced security and control by using technologies from SoftLayer and VMware. The ability to move workloads across continents offers enterprises new and exciting deployment options for their applications and cloud services.” Get more information about the partnership here.


October 16, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Provisioning support technician Robert Molidor brings kindness to computers

After a few weeks in Amsterdam, Under the Infrastructure is bringing it on home to Texas. This week, we’re chatting up provisioning support technician Robert Molidor. He’s stationed in our DAL07 data center in Plano, where he’s been a SLayer for a little over two years.

Ready to meet him?

SoftLayer: What does “provisioning support” mean?

Robert Molidor: The provisioning support team provides level one support to technicians working in our data centers globally. Essentially, we support the provisioning process from build to final boot. If there is something we cannot handle, it gets escalated to other departments.

In addition to providing internal support, our team is also responsible for training new and old server build technicians. We have a group that does onboarding training and a group that does continuing education. All of our training is done remotely, so we don’t actually travel. Instead, we use webcams, chat, and email to connect with the people we’re teaching.

SL: How did you end up in this particular field in the wide world of tech jobs?

Molidor: I came across this position by chance. I had been experiencing a serious lull in employment opportunities and had been working in food service for almost 10 years. My education was doing nothing to help. After two years at Starbucks, I was fed up and shot a message out on Facebook. A buddy of mine responded, “What do you know about computers?” Little did he know I had been an enthusiast my entire life. We met up to discuss the position and a couple months later, I started at SoftLayer as a server build technician.

About a year went by, and I had been told many times to check out provisioning support because I would fit in well. I was hesitant, but decided to go for it. After speaking with the manager of the team and the regional manager that supervised my data center, it was agreed that I would make the move. At the beginning of the year, I was sitting at my new desk.

This job has taught me a ton and I am now with a team of people running continuing education courses. We help other techs gain the skills they need to lead their teams. It’s a lot of fun. My peers and I get to talk to people all over the world and hopefully leave them with a deeper understanding of how to better troubleshoot and respond to situations in their daily routines.

I really enjoy working on my current team, and the position really does suit me well.

SL: What special skills do you need to be successful as a member of a provisioning support team?

Molidor: I wouldn’t say any special skills are needed; it’s more general skills. It’s important to have an understanding of a wide range of possible situations and the ability to find solutions. That said, experience with internal management systems (IMS) and working in the server rooms is a huge advantage.

Our department requires that you’re a self-starter. Our boss isn’t telling us specifically what to do all day, so one needs to be on top of his or her own game and be ready to produce results in his or her own way. Some of us do support, some of us do onboard training, the rest of us do support and continuing education. This department relies on your interests and specific abilities to compliment the team as a whole as long as it’s within the scope of our function. At least that’s how I see it.

One characteristic of people that do well on our team is the ability (or perhaps tendency) to be kind to people. We deal with technicians all day that don’t quite have all the information they need, so it’s our job to help them solve whatever problems they are having and teach them how to fix it on their own the next time. This can really try a person's patience and the ones that enjoy it here have that patience to give. It can be a very rewarding yet challenging job.

SL: How many SoftLayer shirts do you own?

Molidor: I think I have three? Wearing SoftLayer swag is cool, but I’d much rather earn shirts by volunteering or attending events and seminars.

SL: Where would you go in a time machine?

Molidor: This topic could get pretty deep so I’ll leave it with this: I would go forward in time about 50 years to get a feel for how technology has developed. With that information, I would come back here and try to innovate change in an effort to be an integral part of what’s to come.

A technologist for the ages. We pick ‘em well.


October 13, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 16

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

The dawn of a new era
IBM’s fearless leader, Ginni Rometty, took the stage at the Gartner Symposium last week to discuss the where Big Blue is headed.

What’s in store for IBM? Rometty called it the “cognitive era.” In that vein, IBM is forming the Cognitive Business Solutions group “to build cognitive innovations across industries.” About the new addition, Rometty said, “Digital business and digital intelligence equal the cognitive era.”

Pretty exciting stuff, if we do say so ourselves. Read more about it here.

Tackling mobile cloud security with AT&T
IBM and AT&T are working together on a mobile cloud security solution to improve mobile app and data security in the cloud.

How are they going to do it? Caleb Barlow, vice president of IBM Security, said, "To help protect organizations, employees, and data, IBM Security and AT&T are delivering a tested and easy-to-deploy set of complimentary tools. We’re giving enterprise mobile device users stable, private access to data and apps in the cloud.” The approach will allow workforces to be “productive without compromising security and the mobile user experience.”

What are these tools Barlow references? Learn about the partnership here.

Tangled up in Big Blue
The world’s most famous supercomputer is following Rometty’s lead—Watson’s all about cognitive computing, too. Except Watson has Bob Dylan in his corner of the ring.

Wait, what? Bob Dylan? Yes, you read that correctly. The Jeopardy winner jokes with Dylan in a new IBM video.


October 7, 2015

Give me a MOOC with social proof

I’ve spent the last few weeks investigating the technologies needed to deliver e-learning, and it’s been a real eye-opener as to what’s hot.

I thought the only way to investigate was to try out a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) for myself. After all, “eating your own dog food” is an essential skill for any entrepreneur.

Most of my learning in the last 20 years has been through the School of Life—I haven’t been in formal training for a while. Going back to school (or at least digital school) has been a fascinating experience. MOOCs, as offered by the likes of Coursera, iVersity and Udemy, represent a real step change in learning technology.

We all have areas of interest beyond technology; mine is global politics and development. (So keen am I on this subject that after a recent hackathon, I started running an employee advocacy program for the United Nations: the UN Social 500.) I enrolled in a Coursera course, Configuring the World, to learn how data drives political decisions. Perfect for a startup founder offering automated statistical release software!

The course covers eight weeks of lectures with reading material for each week and a quiz at the end of the week. You can watch the videos in normal or double-time on the web, or you can download them to your mobile device of choice to watch on-the-go.

Having the content accessible via mobile turned out to be essential for me. I thought I was going to block out the time at work (two hours every other day), but client needs always felt more pressing. In the end, I found that perching the phone above the sink whilst doing the washing up worked best (although I frequently have to dry my hands to press play on the next video).

As head of a company offering digital services, the mobile need has been a great lesson for me. You can’t always expect your users to either have Internet access or the time to sit at a desk. Mobile offers the experience offline on a smartphone and is utterly necessary if you want to retain your customers.

The second key I picked up from the course has been the value of interaction with others. It is in the discussion forums that you can review the lectures, ask questions, and extend the conversation beyond the confines of the curriculum.

I’m a social person, so you’d think I’d love the discussion forums. While helpful, they aren’t enough for me. They lack a killer feature, which is a social proof mechanism: a way of comparing my progress with other participants. On Twitter, I have a social proof mechanism: I can compare numbers of followers. That may be an overly simplified score (what’s the value of a follower anyway?), but at least it allows me compare progress via some standard metric.

What I really craved was a similar mechanism in my course. Not because I particularly wanted to compete—I’m not aiming to be top of the class—but because I wanted to make sure I am keeping up. Are my quiz scores worse or better than the average? Am I watching enough of the lectures?

The traditional way for us technologists to solve this problem is to offer a dashboard. You know the type: a page of multiple bar graphs, dials, and gauges.

The trouble with these types of data dashboards is that it is pretty difficult for the user to figure out whether he or she needs to do anything or not. The insights are not exactly “actionable.” If one gauge has gone up and another has gone down, is that good or bad overall? Moreover, should I be panicking?

Dashboards of this nature also tend to be fairly passive. Unless you remember to check them regularly (and who does?), they are quickly forgotten. I would prefer to see a single composite score (much like what Nike+ does for running or Klout for social media) that has an embedded weighting method for the relative importance of each metric. For my MOOC example, watching videos is important, so that should be worth 60 percent of the score. Scoring well on the quiz also counts, which should be worth 30 percent of the score. That leaves 10 percent for the discussion forums.

Now that I have a score, it should be sent to me each week (no passivity here), and I’ll know whether I’ve done well or badly. Even better: show me how I compare versus others across the world or in my country on a leaderboard. Then I will really have a social proof mechanism to help guide my behaviour.


Toby Beresford is CEO and founder of, a social utility to share the score. Rise provides an automated statistical release service to create composite single scores and to distribute the results via web, social media, and email. Rise scores and leaderboards have been used across enterprises for multiple use cases including employee advocacy programs, partner management, e-learning, audience development, digital marketing, and digital sales enablement. Rise is a member of the SoftLayer Startup Catalyst program.

October 5, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 15

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

It’s time to Box.
Which cloud platform will offer Box first? We will! Our new deal with Box helps the company expand its customer base and further its IBM partnership. Whitney Bouck, general manager at Box, said, “This is a fabulous step in the right direction and satisfies the majority of customers in Europe that have maybe been uncomfortable with a U.S.-only data centre approach.”

EVRY one gets cloud.
IBM will be the go-to provider for EVRY Partners’ cloud infrastructure offerings. The services will start running in SoftLayer data centers in 2016. “Our partnership demonstrates how IBM’s expertise, technology and services can help EVRY adapt to new market conditions and opportunities while having trusted infrastructure services supporting the ongoing operations,” said Martin Jetter, senior vice president at IBM Global Technology Services.

With new platforms comes cloud growth.
How does IBM expand its global business solutions? With cloud, of course. Sanjay Rishi, managing partner at IBM Global Business Services, said, "Our new IBM Cloud Business Innovation Center will help us co-create with our clients, addressing their unique needs with tailored solutions, delivered on the cloud for fast results."

Welcome to the family!
Cleversafe, a data storage vendor newly acquired by IBM, is the next step in providing customers a way to “build a hybrid bridge to the cloud.” IBM discussed the benefits of Cleversafe in a press release, saying, “The company uses unique algorithms to slice data into pieces and reassemble the information from a single copy, rather than simply making multiple copies of the data, which is how storage traditionally has been done. As a result, Cleversafe can store data significantly cheaper and with greater security.” We would like to welcome Cleversafe to the IBM family!


October 2, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Growth account manager Matthew Miller is a problem solver

We’re creeping up on two months into the series, and Under the Infrastructure has introduced you to seven SLayers. We’re a pretty diverse and interesting bunch—if we do say so ourselves.

This week, we’re staying in amazing Amsterdam and chatting with growth account manager Matthew Miller. Fast approaching his six-year mark at SoftLayer, Miller is a born and bred Texan who moved to Amsterdam almost four years ago. He’s not a fan of the weather, but, well, this Dallas-based company wishes the whole world could be Texas.

SoftLayer: You’re a growth account manager. What does it mean to be a growth account manager?

Matthew Miller: We are responsible for worldwide growth account activities, which include revenue generation, long-term customer relationship management, retention, and business development with Internet-centric and tech-savvy companies. Our daily activities include vetting current Softlayer accounts and proactively engaging the accounts with the use of different communication methods to identify new sales opportunities and grow existing portfolios.

SL: You’re pretty much a relationship builder.

Miller: Correct.

SL: So what particular skills and talents, do you think, make a successful growth account manager?

Miller: Great communicator, problem solver, and trust. Most of the customers we deal with have so many problems, they don’t know where to start. You need to be able to communicate. But I don’t mean that as in just talking [laugh]. I’m talking about being able to explain things within the customer’s range. There are customers we deal with on a daily basis that have different levels of knowledge when it comes to technology and our business as a whole. So being able to understand your customers needs, while being able to explain it to them on their level, really helps build trust and confidence.

SL: So you kinda have to be, like, a technology whisperer. You have to understand what they’re looking for and interpret it.

Miller: To a degree, yes.

SL: What do you think is the coolest thing about your job?

Miller: Every day comes with its own little challenges. Not every day is the same; that’s the excitement of being in this position. You’re not going to have the same day yesterday as you do today. One day it could be super busy, the next day you’re selling, the next day you’re dealing with problems—there are always different day-to-day operations.

SL: Diversity in work responsibilities definitely makes life more interesting. Sort of on the flip side, what do you think is the most challenging thing about your job?

Miller: Customers [laughs]. We deal with customers all day, and that requires me to take the good with the bad. That’s the beauty of the job. One day you’ll be helping out a customer and they’re happy with our service, while you have another customer who’s struggling and is not happy. It’s part of the challenges we deal with daily.

SL: If you woke up and you had 2,000 unread emails and you could only answer 300 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer?

Miller: I’d start from the top and go down.

SL: You would? There wouldn’t be any sort of filtering in looking for specific names or companies or subject lines? You’d just start at the top?

Miller: Well, yeah, because if I can only do 300, it’s first come, first served.

SL: OK. In case anyone ever needs to get your attention and this 300 rule is implemented, they’d better email you a lot.

Miller: I hope I don’t wake up with 2,000 emails [laughs].

We think 2,000 of you should email Matthew right. this. second.



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