Softlayer Posts

October 22, 2016

The future of SoftLayer is bright. And it’s Bluemix.

Since the founding of SoftLayer in May of 2005, our motto has been “Innovate or Die.” Over the past decade, our business has grown exponentially and evolved to meet the needs of our customers and seize opportunities in the marketplace. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Today, we’re excited to share the next big step in SoftLayer’s evolution as part of the IBM Cloud portfolio: IBM Bluemix is integrating SoftLayer products and services into its vast catalog of infrastructure, platform, and application services!

The SoftLayer products, services, tools, systems, and support you know and love will become a cornerstone of a unified Bluemix cloud experience that delivers the performance, flexibility, and consistency of SoftLayer infrastructure alongside the extensive catalog of cloud resources that include IBM Watson services, development runtimes, containers, database services, and more.

But enough of the fluff. What does this mean to you as a SoftLayer customer?

In the coming days, weeks, and months, you’ll start seeing “Bluemix” more and more where you’re used to seeing “SoftLayer.” Because the legacy SoftLayer offerings and legacy Bluemix offerings will be available from a unified cloud platform, we’re bringing them all under the Bluemix brand.

The most important thing to remember about this transition is that all of the SoftLayer systems, products, services, and support you know and love will remain in place as fundamental building blocks upon which the broader Bluemix catalog will be built.

Bluemix will be consistent with your SoftLayer experience:

  • For the next few months, all SoftLayer offerings will be available on both and—which means you can order identical products and services on either site, and they’ll be deployed in the same data centers and managed in the same systems.
  • You still have access the your SoftLayer control portal to manage your cloud infrastructure environment.
  • The support teams for all platforms will remain exactly the same.

While our team places a high priority on preserving the SoftLayer customer experience, the opportunities available as a result of this integration into Bluemix are what we’re most excited about:

  • The SoftLayer control portal has been integrated into the Bluemix console to allow for a single dashboard to manage infrastructure and cloud services.
  • By linking your SoftLayer account to a Bluemix account, you’ll receive one invoice for all of your infrastructure and services.
  • The full catalog of Bluemix products and services is available for you to integrate into your own apps and systems, letting you do what you do better and more efficiently.

You may have seen a service notification about the availability of IBMid single sign-on authentication for your SoftLayer account, and we’re happy to announce that customers have the ability to link SoftLayer and Bluemix accounts as well.

So, what can you do now?

Well, you can keep doing what you’ve always done—we were intentional about making that possible. But if you want to take a more proactive approach to learning about what the future of SoftLayer looks like in Bluemix, we recommend heading over to the Bluemix homepage so you can see how our infrastructure offerings—like bare metal servers, virtual servers, cloud storage, security, and network products—are integrated into Bluemix.

And while you’re there, you can learn about some of the cool things you can do with Bluemix, like:

  • Optimize campaigns in real-time based on customer reactions using Watson Personality Insights.
  • Improve outcomes with Watson Alchemy API and Retrieve and Rank paired with high performance bare metal servers.
  • Securely store, analyze, and process your big data using database services with Apache Spark.

As we transition SoftLayer fully into Bluemix, please follow us over to the IBM Bluemix Blog to keep up with the latest announcements, news, and product information about your Bluemix infrastructure.

Innovate or Die.


August 4, 2016

Magic Quadrants, Performance Metrics & Water Cooler Discussions: Evaluating Cloud IaaS

When you make decisions about extending your infrastructure footprint into the cloud, you do so very intentionally. You hunt down analyst reports, ask peers for recommendations, and seek out quantitative research to compare the seemingly endless array of cloud-based options. But how can you be sure that you’re getting the most relevant information for your business case? Bias exists and definitions matter. So each perspective is really just a single input in the decision-making process.

The best process for evaluating any cloud solution involves four simple steps:

  1. Understand what you need.
  2. Understand what you’re buying.
  3. Understand how you’ll use it.
  4. Test it yourself.

Understand What You Need

The first step in approaching cloud adoption is to understand the resources your business actually needs. Are you looking to supplement your on-premises infrastructure with raw compute and storage power? Do your developers just need runtimes and turnkey services? Would you prefer infrastructure-abstracted software functionality?

In the past, your answers to those questions may send you to three different cloud providers, but the times are changing. The lines between “Infrastructure as a Service,” “Platform as a Service,” and “Software as a Service” have blurred, and many cloud providers are delivering those offerings side-by-side. While SoftLayer cloud resources would be considered “infrastructure,” SoftLayer is only part of the broader IBM Cloud story.

Within the IBM Cloud portfolio, customers find IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS solutions to meet their unique workload demands. From an infrastructure perspective alone, IBM Cloud offers cloud servers and storage from SoftLayer; containers, databases, deployment, and monitoring tools within Bluemix; and turnkey OpenStack private cloud environments from Blue Box. We are integrating every component of the IBM Cloud portfolio into a seamless user experience so that when a customer needs to add cognitive capabilities or a private cloud or video services to their bare metal server infrastructure, the process is quick and easy.

Any evaluation of SoftLayer as a cloud provider would be shortsighted if it doesn’t take into account the full context of how IBM Cloud is bringing together multiple unique, highly differentiated offerings to provide a dynamic, full-featured portfolio of tools and services in the cloud. And as you determine what you need in the cloud, you should look for a provider that enables the same kind of cross-functional flexibility so that you don’t end up splintering your IT environment across multiple providers.

Understand What You’re Buying

Let’s assume that you’re primarily interested in deploying raw compute infrastructure in the cloud, since that’s SoftLayer’s primary focus. The seemingly simple first step in choosing the cloud infrastructure that best meets your needs is to define what “cloud infrastructure” actually means for your business.

Technology analyst firm Gartner defines cloud IaaS as “a standardized, highly automated offering, where compute resources, complemented by storage and networking capabilities, are owned by a service provider and offered to the customer on demand. The resources are scalable and elastic in near real time, and metered by use.” While that definition seems broad, its Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service explains that when cloud resources are provisioned in “near real time,” that means they must be deployed in minutes (not hours). To be considered “metered by use,” they must be charged by the minute or hour (rather than by the month).

Given Gartner’s interpretation of “real time” and the “by use” measurement, bare metal servers that are fully configured by the customer and provisioned into a cloud provider’s data center (usually in about two hours and billed by the month) aren’t classified as cloud infrastructure as a service. That distinction is important, because many customers looking to extend workloads into the cloud are more interested in the performance of the resources than they are in provisioning times, and bare metal servers deliver better, more consistent performance than their virtualized counterparts.

The performance angle is important. Many of cloud customers need servers capable of processing large, big data workloads (data mining, numerical and seismic analysis, processing and rendering 3D video, real-time social media analysis, etc.). These types of workloads generally consist of petabytes of data, and bare metal servers are better suited for running them—and options like adding GPU cards for high performance computing make them even more enticing. The fact is that most virtualized cloud servers that can be delivered in minutes or less are not capable of handling these types of demanding workloads at all, or at least not as well as, more powerful bare metal servers that are available in just a couple of hours.

In contrast to Gartner’s definition, other analysts support the inclusion of monthly bare metal servers in cloud infrastructure decisions. In “The Truth About Price-Performance,” Frost & Sullivan explains, “Bare metal servers provide the highest levels of raw ‘throughput’ for high-performance workloads, as well as flexibility to configure storage and network resources.” And Forrester Research published a full report to address the question, “Is bare metal really ‘cloud’?” The answer was, again, a resounding yes.

Using Gartner’s definition, the majority of SoftLayer’s cloud infrastructure as a service offerings are considered “noncloud,” so they are not considered or measured in evaluations like the Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS. And without the majority of our business represented, the interpretation of those results may be confusing.

In practice, customers actually choose SoftLayer because of the availability of the offerings that Gartner considers to be “noncloud.” For example, Clicktale, a SoftLayer client, explains, “SoftLayer gives us the flexibility we need for demanding workloads. The amount of data we process is enormous, but SoftLayer’s bare metal machines are the best out there and we have a high level of control over them—it’s like owning them ourselves.”  

Our unique cloud platform with full support of both bare metal servers and virtual servers delivers compute resources that better suit our customers’ workloads in the cloud. Whether or not you consider those resources “cloud” is up to you, but if you opt for a more limited definition, you’ll cut out a large, important segment of the cloud market.

Understand How You’ll Use It

Once you settle on a definition of what meets your workload’s needs in the cloud, it’s important to evaluate how a given cloud resource will actually be used. Many of the factors that go into this evaluation are actually supplementary to the resource itself. Is it accessible via API? How can you connect it to your on-premises infrastructure? Will the data and workloads hosted on these resources be delivered quickly and consistently when your customers or internal teams need them?

While some of these questions are relatively easy to answer, others are nuanced. For example, SoftLayer's data center footprint continues to expand around the world, but this seemingly pedestrian process of making servers available in a new facility or geography is only part of the story. Because every new SoftLayer data center is connected to a single global network backbone that streamlines and accelerates data transfer to, from, and between servers, as our data center footprint grows, our network performance improves to and from users in that geography to SoftLayer customer servers in every other data center around the world.

And what does that underlying network architecture mean in practice? Well, we’ve run public network performance tests that show consistent results between 35 percent to 700 percent faster network speeds when compared to other “leaders” in the cloud space. Most industry reports, including Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, fail to acknowledge the importance of network performance in their assessments of cloud resources, focusing instead on the features and functionality of a given offering on its own.

The underlying platform capabilities and network infrastructure that support a given cloud resource aren’t obvious when comparing the speeds and feeds of cloud server specifications. So as you evaluate a cloud provider, it’s important to look beyond “what’s in the box” to how cloud resources will actually perform, both on the server and between the server and your data’s users. And the best way to get an understanding of that performance is to run your own tests.

Test It Yourself

The process of choosing a cloud provider or adopting a specific cloud resource cannot be purely academic. The nature of cloud computing allows for on-demand deployment of resources for real-world testing at a low cost with no long-term commitments. Making a decision to go with a given cloud provider or resource based on what anyone says—be it Gartner’s MQ, Forrester, Frost & Sullivan, SoftLayer, or your nephew—could have huge implications on your business.

SoftLayer will continue working with third-party research firms to demonstrate how our cloud infrastructure delivers up to 440 percent better performance for the cost compared with our competitors, but those stats are meant to start a conversation, not end it.

We encourage prospective customers to try SoftLayer for free. You can do this by taking advantage of up to $500 in free cloud resources for a month. Put our servers and our underlying platform to the test. Then make your own assessments on the vision and execution of SoftLayer’s unique approach to cloud infrastructure as a service.

Start Building
June 23, 2016

Meet the Integrated IBM Cloud Platform: SoftLayer and Bluemix

Did you know that you can complement your SoftLayer infrastructure with IBM Bluemix platform-as-a-service? (Read on—then put these ideas into practice with a special offer at the end.)

When you pair Bluemix with SoftLayer, you can buy, build, access, and manage the production of scalable environments and applications by using the infrastructure and application services together. 

Whether you need insight on the effectiveness of a multimedia campaign, need to process vast amounts of data in real-time, or want to deploy websites and web content for millions of users, you can create a better experience for your customers by combining the power of your SoftLayer infrastructure with Bluemix.

Bluemix solutions and services allow you to:

  • Optimize campaigns in real-time based on customer reaction using Watson Personality Insights and Insights for Twitter.
  • Run scalable analytics using Streaming Analytics to retrieve results in seconds.
  • Improve outcomes with Watson Alchemy API and Retrieve and Rank paired with high performance bare metal servers.
  • Automate hundreds of daily web deployments using SoftLayer and Bluemix APIs.
  • Securely store, analyze, and process big data using Cloudant database service with Apache Spark.

You can see the value of an integrated SoftLayer/Bluemix experience by looking at insights and cognitive, big data and analytics, and web applications.

Insights and Cognitive

Forty-four percent of organizations say customer experience will be the primary way they seek to differentiate from competitors.

The scenario: Marketing organizations and advertising agencies want to release a large, worldwide marketing campaign, complete with embedded ads. With the explosive growth of mobile, social, and video, those ads are often image- and video-intensive. Not only are these enterprises worried about how to run such a high-performing workload where customer data needs to stay in-country, but they have no idea how effective their campaign will be—and whether those receiving it are the users they’re trying to target—until it’s too late.

The solution: A media-rich campaign workload can run on high-performing bare metal servers in SoftLayer data centers. Cognitive services are added to understand in real-time the impact of campaign and target customers, whose personal data is stored in proximity to the user.

  • SoftLayer bare metal servers run media-rich (video, image) campaign workloads.
  • Bluemix’s Insights for Twitter service is used to understand in real-time the impact of the campaign.
  • Watson’s Personality Insights allows you to see, based on 40 calculated attributes, if users viewing ads match the target customers.
  • Globally diverse block storage enables data storage across the world.

Personality portrait

Big Data and Analytics

The value of data decreases over time. On average, it takes two weeks to analyze social data.

The scenario: Customers need to harness vast amounts of data in real-time. The problem is many data streams come too fast to store in a database for later analysis. Further, the analysis needs to be done NOW. From social media, consumer video, and audio, to security cameras, businesses could win or lose by being the first to discover essential patterns from these real-time feeds and act upon them.

The solution:  Customers can use Streaming Analytics and get results in seconds, not hours. Alchemy API and Retrieve and Rank services can improve decisions and outcomes all from bare metal servers with scalable IBM Containers.

•       Streaming Analytics can run scalable analytics solutions and get results in seconds, not hours.

•       Patterns that are found can be stored with the associated stream content in object storage and transferred around the world using CDN to be co-located with their customers.

•       Watson’s Retrieve and Rank service can improve decisions and outcomes.

•       Run services from high-performing, low-latency bare metal servers that can scale as activity swells using IBM Containers.

Hadoop, data warehouse, NOSQL diagram

Web Application

It can take several weeks for a DBMS instance to be provisioned for a new development project, which limits innovation and agility.

The scenario: Customers deploying websites and web content for millions of users need fast infrastructure and services so they can focus on their users, not spend their time managing servers and infrastructure. This is especially true for commerce sites that need to be constantly available for orders. These also need a reliable database to securely store the data. The problem is these customers do not want to manage their database, and need an infrastructure provider that is worldwide, reliable, and screaming fast.

The solution: Customers can host web applications on VMs and bare metal with a broad range of needs, including sites that require deep data analysis. Apache Spark can be used to spin up in-memory computing to analyze Cloudant data and return results 100x faster to the user.

  • Automate hundreds of web deployments using SoftLayer APIs.
  • Cloudant DB offloads DB management, reallocates budget from admins to application developers.
  • Apache Spark analyzes Cloudant data 100 times faster using in-memory computing cluster.
  • Bare metal servers provide a high-performing environment for the most stringent requirements.
  • Load balancers manage traffic, helping to ensure uptime.
  • Virtual servers with the Auto Scale service grow and shrink environment to consistently meet needs of application without unnecessary expenditures.
  • Object storage open APIs speed worldwide delivery via CDN.

Cloudant diagram

Exciting Offer

Put these ideas into practice by trying Bluemix today. To get you started, we are offering you a $200 Bluemix spending credit for 30 days when you link your SoftLayer account with a Bluemix account. When you link your Bluemix and SoftLayer billing accounts, you receive a $200 credit toward Bluemix usage. The credit must be used within 30 days of linking the accounts.

Follow these easy instructions to get started:  

  • Visit the SoftLayer customer portal and log into your account.
  • Open a ticket to request the ability to enable the ability to link your Bluemix account.
  • Once activated, the “Link a Bluemix Account” button will appear at the top of the SoftLayer customer portal page.
  • Click on the “Link a Bluemix Account” button. 
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to link your SoftLayer account to a Bluemix account.

This offer expires on December 30, 2016.

Learn More

Bluemix Intro Demo

Watson Personality Insights

Real Time Streaming Analysis

Hybrid Data Warehouse


-Thomas Recchia

March 4, 2016

Adventures with Bluemix

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

Why use services when I can do it myself?

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to Bluemix

Combining Bluemix services with SoftLayer servers

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

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

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


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


March 2, 2016

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


February 17, 2016

Cloudocracy: Getting to the art of the matter with Artomatix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SL: Were you in the band?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SL: Scary stuff! Good luck with your launch!

O’GORMAN: Thank you!



February 16, 2016

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

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

The Top 10 SoftLayer Sessions at InterConnect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The IBM Cloud Zone

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

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

Party time at IBM InterConnect

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

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

See you next week in Las Vegas!



February 3, 2016

Use TShark to see what traffic is passing through your gateway

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

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

tshark graphic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is one more example:

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

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

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

- Jeff 


February 2, 2016

The SLayer Standard Vol. 2, No. 4

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

What does Marc Jones have to say about SoftLayer?

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

Find a bit more about it here

IBM Watson business gets a new general manager.

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

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

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

Find out more about it here.


January 29, 2016

Cloud, Interrupted: The Official SoftLayer Podcast, Episode 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Fayza

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