Softlayer Posts

January 6, 2015

Three Ways to Enhance Your SoftLayer Portal Account Security

We’ve recently discussed how to craft strong passwords and offered advice on choosing a password manager, but we haven’t yet touched on multi-factor authentication (MFA), which has been available to our customers for many years now.

What is MFA?
MFA is another line of defense for securing your user accounts within the customer portal. The concept behind MFA is simple: Users present two (or more) ways to authenticate themselves by providing something known such as a user name and password and providing something possessed such as a one-time password generated by a device or software application.
Why is MFA important?
Keeping passwords secure has always been a moving target. While you can train staff and enforce complex password policies, it’s difficult to prevent users from writing passwords down, saving them to files, or sharing them with others. By adding MFA, simply having a user password doesn't grant access to the resource. A user will need the user password in addition to a MFA token device, smartphone, or application.
What MFA options are available at SoftLayer?
SoftLayer offers three MFA methods to enhance portal account security:
Symantec Validation and ID Protection (VIP) – After downloading this app to a smartphone, when accessed, it will generate a one-time password. This product can be used to securely access the SoftLayer portal. The app is $3 a month per user.

PhoneFactor – A unique system where a one-time password is texted to a mobile phone. Users also have the option of receiving a phone call to input a PIN before receiving a one-time password. This can be used to access the portal as well as the SoftLayer SSL VPN. PhoneFactor costs $10 a month per user.

Google Authenticator – Another smartphone application with generated one-time passwords, can also be used to securely access the SoftLayer portal. This can be added for any user on an account free of charge.

Quickly Add MFA to SoftLayer Portal Users Today
It’s easy to add any of these MFA services to portal user accounts.

To add Symantec VIP or PhoneFactor:
  1. Log in to SoftLayer portal as the master user.
  2. Under the Account Tab click on Users.
  3. In the right hand column for each user, click the Actions icon and select Add External Authentication. You’ll then be able to subscribe to Symantec or PhoneFactor for that user.
To add Google Authenticator:
  1. Log in to SoftLayer portal as the master user.
  2. From the Accounts dropdown menu, select Users and then select your user account name.
  3. Scroll down and click the link to Add Google Authenticator to your account.
  4. From there, just snap the QR code with your GA application and you’re all set. The next time you log in you’ll be prompted to enter your authentication code after entering your username and password.

Any of these three MFA solutions will help ensure that your portal user accounts are secure, are easy to set up, and quick to install. Feel free to reach out if you have any suggestions or questions about MFA with SoftLayer.

- Seth

Categories: 
December 24, 2014

Holiday Traditions

Whether you believe in Santa Claus or not, there’s just something about this time of year that makes us giddy for tradition. For me the holiday season isn’t complete until I’ve watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Watching their “fun, old-fashioned family Christmas” turn into a “full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency” has turned into a yearly tradition that helps make my in-laws (and my family for that matter) seem just a little bit more jolly to be around this time of year—who doesn’t have an Aunt Bethany or Cousin Eddie hiding in their family tree somewhere?

We didn’t create a new holiday song this year (we’ve been busy opening data centers!), so we’re presenting our 12 Days of Christmas rendition again. Between decking the halls and dashing through the snow, we’d like to invite you to add a new tradition to your cloud holiday season.

Enjoy.

-JRL

December 19, 2014

Improving Communications for Customer-Affecting Planned Events

Since posting Improving Communications for Customer-Affecting Events, our developers have been hard at work making the SoftLayer customer portal even better. Initially, as discussed in the previous post, we released functionality that allows us to more rapidly communicate with customers about unplanned events such as infrastructure troubles or outages. The tool also allows customers to read and follow updates. Communications are targeted to specific customers who may experience degradation of disruption to their services as a result of these events.

I’m pleased to report a new major milestone: The system is now ready to distribute planned events communications such as scheduled maintenance.

Until now, SoftLayer used read-only tickets as the method to post targeted communications to customers about upcoming planned events. Here are some of the customer benefits from moving to the Event Management System (planned events; unplanned events) within the customer portal:

  • With the mass ticket creation, only the master user account received email alerts. Now, any portal user account with a valid email address and permission to manage bare metal servers or virtual servers are now subscribed to receive the new planned event notifications.
  • Events are clearly organized in their own area in the portal—separate from tickets. The overview list shows relevant columns such as planned start and end times.
  • Customers only receive notifications relevant to their infrastructure.
  • The portal and email notifications will include a table listing which items on your account may be affected.
  • An alert bar will appear at the top of the customer portal if there is an active event in progress, which helps customers quickly find relevant information about any service impact.
  • A notification will be shown in the customer portal if customers open a ticket about a bare metal server or virtual server that is associated with an event in progress.
  • SoftLayer operational staff can rapidly post important updates to events as they arise.

No additional customer action is required in order to benefit from these improvements. However, you may wish to familiarize yourself with the Events view, which can be found under Support > Events.

When we publish information about a planned event that may affect your service, it will appear highlighted on the calendar. Customers can click directly on the date in the calendar to see an event planned for that day.

As mentioned previously, all users are subscribed by default to receive planned event email notifications. You may opt out of these notifications in the Account > Subscriptions dropdown menu.

We’ve already begun to use the new Event Management System for planned events as of December 2014. By the end of January 2015, we will cease using the system which opens up read-only tickets and exclusively use the Event Management System for future planned events.

Please take some time to familiarize yourself with this area of the customer portal, ensure that you have a valid email address associated with your login, and check your subscription settings for planned and unplanned events. Additionally please note that the Master User, as well as accounts that administer customer logins, can control subscription settings for their respective sub-users.

During the next phase of improvements to customer communications, our developers will be focusing on implementing these events in the SoftLayer mobile (smartphone/tablet) client.

Stay tuned for further updates as this work continues.

-Dani

December 17, 2014

Does physical location matter “in the cloud”?

By now everyone understands that the cloud is indeed a place on Earth, but there still seems to be confusion around why global expansion by way of adding data centers is such a big deal. After all, if data is stored “in the cloud,” why wouldn’t adding more servers in our existing data centers suffice? Well, there’s a much more significant reason for adding more data centers than just being able to host more data.

As we’ve explained in previous blog posts, Globalization and Hosting: The World Wide Web is Flat and Global Network: The Proof is in the Traceroute, our strategic objective is to get a network point of presence (PoP) within 40ms of all our users (and our users' users) in order to provide the best network stability and performance possible anywhere on the planet.

Data can travel across the Internet quickly, but just like anything, the farther something has to go, the longer it will take to get there. Seems pretty logical right? But we also need to take into account that not all routes are created equally. So to deliver the best network performance, we designed our global network to get data to the closest route possible to our network. Think of each SoftLayer PoP as an on-ramp to our global network backbone. The sooner a user is able to get onto our network, the quicker we can efficiently route them through our PoPs to a server in one of our data centers. Furthermore, once plugged into the network, we are able to control the flow of traffic.

Let’s take a look at this traceroute example from the abovementioned blog post. As you are probably aware, a traceroute shows the "hops" or routers along the network path from an origin IP to a destination IP. When we were building out the Singapore data center (before the network points of presence were turned up in Asia), the author ran a traceroute from Singapore to SoftLayer.com, and immediately after the launch of the data center, ran another one.

Pre-Launch Traceroute to SoftLayer.com from Singapore

traceroute to softlayer.com (66.228.118.53), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
 1  10.151.60.1 (10.151.60.1)  1.884 ms  1.089 ms  1.569 ms
 2  10.151.50.11 (10.151.50.11)  2.006 ms  1.669 ms  1.753 ms
 3  119.75.13.65 (119.75.13.65)  3.380 ms  3.388 ms  4.344 ms
 4  58.185.229.69 (58.185.229.69)  3.684 ms  3.348 ms  3.919 ms
 5  165.21.255.37 (165.21.255.37)  9.002 ms  3.516 ms  4.228 ms
 6  165.21.12.4 (165.21.12.4)  3.716 ms  3.965 ms  5.663 ms
 7  203.208.190.21 (203.208.190.21)  4.442 ms  4.117 ms  4.967 ms
 8  203.208.153.241 (203.208.153.241)  6.807 ms  55.288 ms  56.211 ms
 9  so-2-0-3-0.laxow-cr1.ix.singtel.com (203.208.149.238)  187.953 ms  188.447 ms  187.809 ms
10  ge-4-0-0-0.laxow-dr2.ix.singtel.com (203.208.149.34)  184.143 ms
    ge-4-1-1-0.sngc3-dr1.ix.singtel.com (203.208.149.138)  189.510 ms
    ge-4-0-0-0.laxow-dr2.ix.singtel.com (203.208.149.34)  289.039 ms
11  203.208.171.98 (203.208.171.98)  187.645 ms  188.700 ms  187.912 ms
12  te1-6.bbr01.cs01.lax01.networklayer.com (66.109.11.42)  186.482 ms  188.265 ms  187.021 ms
13  ae7.bbr01.cs01.lax01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.166)  188.569 ms  191.100 ms  188.736 ms
14  po5.bbr01.eq01.dal01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.140)  381.645 ms  410.052 ms  420.311 ms
15  ae0.dar01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.211)  415.379 ms  415.902 ms  418.339 ms
16  po1.slr01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (66.228.118.138)  417.426 ms  417.301 ms
    po2.slr01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (66.228.118.142)  416.692 ms
17  * * *

Post-Launch Traceroute to SoftLayer.com from Singapore

traceroute to softlayer.com (66.228.118.53), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
 1  192.168.206.1 (192.168.206.1)  2.850 ms  1.409 ms  1.206 ms
 2  174.133.118.65-static.reverse.networklayer.com (174.133.118.65)  1.550 ms  1.680 ms  1.394 ms
 3  ae4.dar01.sr03.sng01.networklayer.com (174.133.118.136)  1.812 ms  1.341 ms  1.734 ms
 4  ae9.bbr01.eq01.sng02.networklayer.com (50.97.18.198)  35.550 ms  1.999 ms  2.124 ms
 5  50.97.18.169-static.reverse.softlayer.com (50.97.18.169)  174.726 ms  175.484 ms  175.491 ms
 6  po5.bbr01.eq01.dal01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.140)  203.821 ms  203.749 ms  205.803 ms
 7  ae0.dar01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.253)  306.755 ms
    ae0.dar01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.211)  208.669 ms  203.127 ms
 8  po1.slr01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (66.228.118.138)  203.518 ms
    po2.slr01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (66.228.118.142)  305.534 ms
    po1.slr01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (66.228.118.138)  204.150 ms
 9  * * *

After the Singapore data center launch, the number of hops was reduced by 50 percent, and the response time (in milliseconds) was reduced by 40 percent. Those are pretty impressive numbers from just lighting up a couple PoPs and a data center, and that was just the beginning of our global expansion in 2012.

That’s why we are so excited to announce the three new data centers launching this month: Mexico City, Tokyo, and Frankfurt.



Of course, this is great news for customers who require data residency in Mexico, Japan, and Germany. And yes, these new locations provide additional in-region redundancy within APAC, EMEA, and the Americas. But even customers without servers in these new facilities have reason to celebrate: Our global network backbone is expanding, so users in these markets will see even better network stability and speed to servers in every other SoftLayer data center around the world!

-JRL

December 15, 2014

SoftLayer in 2014

As 2014 comes to a close, we’re reflecting on another exciting year: our proudest moments, smartest innovations, and continued growth. It’s been an incredible year being part of IBM, and we continue to broaden our reach while adding new capabilities to our portfolio of cloud services.

SoftLayer’s IaaS platform has become the centerpiece of IBM’s cloud portfolio, providing a scalable, secure base for the global delivery of IBM’s cloud services, spanning extensive middleware and SaaS solutions. IBM has either built or bought 100 cloud properties over the last five years, and SoftLayer is the foundation or the piece that brings it all together.

Expanding our Global Footprint
In January, IBM announced its $1.2 billion commitment to expand its global cloud footprint, including plans to open 15 new SoftLayer data centers. Our first data center to open in 2014 was in Hong Kong, followed by London, Toronto, Melbourne, and Paris, with more to follow. We also launched two data centers for U.S. government workloads in Ashburn, Virginia and one in Dallas, Texas. These data centers are reserved for government customers and will be certified for U.S. Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) and Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) compliance.

With our new international facilities, we’ve tripled our footprint in Europe and Asia. Expanding our physical presence in these geographies gives our customers SoftLayer solutions for workloads and data that need to remain local, while providing additional data redundancy options within key regions around the world. With our data centers and points of presence (PoPs) combined, SoftLayer is on track for world domination.

Read more:
+IBM Commits $1.2 Billion to Expand Global Cloud Footprint

Hourly Bare Metal
Our bare metal cloud differentiates us by providing an ideal solution for the toughest workloads in the cloud, including big data and analytics that require high performance. For more than 10 years, we’ve been refining, pioneering, and innovating our bare metal cloud. This year we unveiled a new offering: new bare metal servers that are deployed in less than 30 minutes and billed by the hour. These hourly bare metal servers provide the raw performance of physical servers with shorter commitments, making it easier than ever to deploy computing-intensive workloads on SoftLayer at will.

Read more:
+Hourly Bare Metal

Growth
In 2014, we’ve continued to experience incredible growth. Since being acquired by IBM, SoftLayer has added thousands of new customers at an average rate of 1,000 new accounts per month. To match our aggressive business growth, our employee base is expanding as well.

“We expected to almost double this year, and to almost double again next year," said SoftLayer COO Francisco Romero. “In Dallas, SoftLayer expects to hire workers to fill 250 new jobs by the end of 2015.”

In order to accommodate our growing employee population, we’ll be relocating our Dallas headquarters to a new space early next year.

We look forward to serving you from our new address, 14001 North Dallas Parkway.

Read more:
+SoftLayer to Double Its Dallas Headquarters

-@quigleymar

December 2, 2014

The Dallas Startup Scene – It’s Hot and Getting HOTTER!

Dallas came into existence prior to the country of Texas being admitted into the United States. From its early origins, Dallas prided itself on being on the cutting edge of business.

When the railroads began crisscrossing the country to take people north and south and east and west, Dallas quickly positioned itself as the center of activity—no railroad company could pass that up.

Over the next one hundred years, Dallas developed markets that influenced the end destinations of goods around the country and around the world. Then, as technology began to develop, Dallas followed suit. Texas Instruments became a leader in semi-conductors, and Telecom Corridor moved communications to new levels.

As other parts of the world grew their own specialties and opportunities, Dallas, outside the spotlight of other advancements in business and technology around the world, quietly plodded along and avoided the large swings other economies endured.

As recently as 2010, the entrepreneurial scene in Dallas was quiet, and there was little direction in advancing it. That was then . . .

In the last 18 months, the Dallas startup ecosystem has seen a magnificent transformation. The cobwebs have cleared, groups have organized, and the drumbeat of expansion is resonating across the four corners of the DFW Metroplex.

From Fort Worth to McKinney and Denton to Dallas, new companies are coming to life like never before. At the heart of this is a community—a community of people and companies collaborating to develop relationships, create and hold events, provide mentoring support, and drive a forward-thinking approach to sustain and grow the ecosystem.

Dallas-based SoftLayer plays a vital role in this resurgence of the Dallas startup community. Beyond monetary support of events, the Catalyst program is a revolutionary force across all startup communities around the world with a unique blend of services, programs, and one-on-one mentoring. SoftLayer has committed to the growth of the Dallas startup community by investing in community leaders, plugging into local programs, providing free services, and developing relationships that will not only grow revenue for SoftLayer over time but will tightly bond startups with the corporate world in a way that provides benefit to the overall economy.

It is important for SLayers and IBMers to get involved in what is going on in the startup ecosystem in Dallas; every week, events and sessions provide opportunities to network or learn how to build a company. Go build those relationships; either personally or professionally. These relationships build benefits extending beyond work. Learn about events via online sources like LaunchDFW or Startup Digest. If outside Dallas, other communities will have similar listings. Look for ways to get tied into incubators (The Dallas Entrepreneur Center) and accelerators (Techwildcatters, VentureSpur). The local universities and other corporate entities also hold events and courses.

The evolution of business in Dallas is unique and will continue to grow. A business friendly state that supports low taxes, low cost of living, easy access to strong technical resources, leads on capital, and the ability to get from DFW to anywhere in the U.S. (or the world for that matter) in just hours keeps the “freight train” picking up speed. It’s a destination for companies to start and grow businesses, and it is so much fun to see.

-Kevin
Director, Strategic Initiatives

November 18, 2014

Your Direct Link into the SoftLayer Cloud

Remember the days when cellular companies charged additional fees for calls placed during peak hours or for text messages that exceeded your plan?

The good news is those days are pretty much over for cellular services thanks to unlimited text and data plans. The bad news is there are cloud and hosting providers who adhere to those same old billing practices of charging customers for every single communication their severs send or receive.

At SoftLayer we do things differently. All of our servers come with included terabytes of outbound bandwidth—5TB for virtual servers and 20TB for bare metal servers. Now you probably just noticed I specifically mentioned outbound bandwidth, and that's because we don't charge anything, nothing, zip, zilch for all traffic inbound to any of our servers, nor do we charge for any bandwidth usage across our Global Private Network.

Imagine the possibilities of what you could build on a Global Private Network that essentially comes free of charge just by being a SoftLayer customer.

  • How about building that true disaster recovery solution that you’re always talking about?
  • How about moving all of your backups offsite now that the necessary bandwidth requirements and costs aren’t standing in your way?
  • Or maybe it’s time to offer your app a little GSLB now that replicating data across remote sites, which hasn’t been feasible over the public Internet due to latency or security concerns, is now feasible?

We help put all these dreams within grasp thanks to Direct Link. Tap directly into our Global Private Network at connection speeds of 1Gbps or 10Gbps to establish a Direct Link into any of our 19 network PoPs (more PoPs are being added regularly). You’ll have the ability to seamlessly extend your private networks directly into SoftLayer. Not only does a Direct Link give you access to one of the world’s largest and fastest private networks, it gives you access to elastically scale your compute and storage on demand.

Many companies look to the cloud as a way to reduce capex and adjust spending on demand but hesitate to move workloads due to latency or security concerns. I'd like to say that latency isn’t even worth thinking twice about at SoftLayer. But don't take my word for it; take a peek at our Looking Glass, and see for yourself. In regards to security, a SoftLayer Direct Link enables you to build and deliver secure services on our private network without having to expose your servers to the public Internet.

For more information on Direct Link and connectivity check out KnowledgeLayer or this blog where the author digs into the technical details and explains how enterprise customers benefit from Direct Link with GRE Tunnels.

Thanks,
JD Wells

Categories: 
November 4, 2014

Cloud Conversations Ruled at the SoftLayer Asia Roadshow

Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok, Singapore, & Hong Kong

For those who couldn’t make it to one of the sessions, here are some of the highlights from our Kick aaS five-city SoftLayer whirlwind tour. For the scoop on the entire event, check out the first Asia Roadshow blog.

We met with amazing startups, developers, and entrepreneurs during our technical workshops who were all eager to explore, grow, and exploit cloud computing to its full capacity. We talked about industry best practices and global trending use cases.

It’s so exciting to see the tech community interested in the cloud adoption in Asia and where and how it’s taking today’s businesses!

Tales From #SLAsiaRoadshow

Harold Smith, director of sales engineering at SoftLayer (@Hslmith), kick started the workshops with an introduction to SoftLayer’s cloud infrastructure and business model. He discussed: the security of private clouds, the applicability of auto-scaling, tagging virtual servers, assigning static IPs, moving workloads between onsite servers and SoftLayer environment, and so much more.

Kevin Tan (@s1lve3rd3m0n), CEO, Double Edge Software and Iskandar Reza (@iskandarreza), Cirrus Byte commented that the introduction to the company was an eye opener, and they were glad to get the technical overview of the services, control portal and flexibility offered by SoftLayer cloud.

A chunk of the workshop focused on technical hands-on-training. Phil Jackson, lead developer advocate (@underscorephil), and Chris Gallo, developer community advocate (@allmightspiff), set up attendees with demo accounts to run test scenarios and taught folks how to automate a blog on the cloud.

Casey Lau, Catalyst lead (@casey_lau) and Mic Kwok, sales engineer, also joined us in Hong Kong to discuss how other startups leverage the cloud.

"I am not really a techie, but the presentation, set up of the servers, and login was so nice and easy. I would definitely recommend this workshop and SoftLayer to my startup friends in KL [Kuala Lumpur] and PJ[(Petaling Jaya]."
- @hazimsufyan, a student of IT and business technology

Reaching Out to the Asian Community

One the reasons we planned this workshop series was to help inform the startup and developer communities in Asia about the various cloud models available to deploy their innovative ideas and applications.

"The monthly and hourly packages offered without contracts are amazing as most of us would not want to be tied in long-term contracts."
-@jemhor, a consultant in mobile applications and technology space

"Definitely a good start for those who want to know more about cloud. After these sessions, we can definitely play around, compare various services, and go about building our own cloud."
- Steason Tee, Founder of Freak Lab

Thank You

A big shout out to all who attended #SLAsiaRoadshow and for the interesting discussions had. If you're looking for more dirt on SoftLayer at the Asia Roadshow, take a peek at e27's blog.

Also, thanks for the suggestions on what you would like to see in the next workshop, ideas on what startups would like to see from the cloud industry, and on how SoftLayer can continue building and improving itself. Keep them coming!

For more information on the workshops or to register for upcoming cities, drop us a note at marketingAP@softlayer.com.

Cheers
-Namrata
(Connect with me on LinkedIn or, Twitter)

October 28, 2014

SoftLayer and AWS: What's the Difference?

People often compare SoftLayer with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

It’s easy to understand why. We’ve both built scalable infrastructure platforms to provide cloud resources to the same broad range of customers—from individual entrepreneurs to the world’s largest enterprises.

But while the desire to compare is understandable, the comparison itself isn’t quite apt. The SoftLayer platform is fundamentally different from AWS.

In fact, AWS could be run on SoftLayer. SoftLayer couldn’t be run on AWS.

AWS provisions in the public cloud.

When AWS started letting customers have virtual machines deployed on the infrastructure that AWS had built for their e-commerce business, AWS accelerated the adoption of virtual server hosting within the existing world of Web hosting.

In an AWS cloud environment, customers order the computing and storage resources they need, and AWS deploys those resources on demand. The mechanics of that deployment are important to note, though.

AWS has data centers full of physical servers that are integrated with each other in a massive public cloud environment. These servers are managed and maintained by AWS, and they collectively make up the available cloud infrastructure in the facility.

AWS installs a virtualization layer (also known as hypervisor) on these physical servers to tie the individual nodes into the environment’s total capacity. When a customer orders a cloud server from AWS, this virtualization layer finds a node with the requested resources available and provisions a server image with the customer’s desired operating system, applications, etc. The entire process is quick and automated, and each customer has complete control over the resources he or she ordered.

That virtualization layer is serving a purpose, and it may seem insignificant, but it highlights a critical difference in their platform and ours:

AWS automates and provisions at the hypervisor level, while SoftLayer automates and provisions at the data center level.

SoftLayer provisions down to bare metal resources.

While many have their sights on beating AWS at its own game, SoftLayer plays a different game.

SoftLayer platform is designed to give customers complete access and control over the actual infrastructure that they need to build a solution in the cloud. Automated and remote ordering, deployment, and management of the very server, storage, and security hardware resources themselves, are hosted in our data centers so that customers don’t have to build their own facilities or purchase their own hardware to get the reliable, high performance computing they need.

Everything in SoftLayer data centers is transparent, automated, integrated, and built on an open API that customers can access directly. Every server is connected to three distinct physical networks so that public, private, and management network traffic are segmented. And our expert technical support is available for all customers, 24x7.

Notice that the automation and integration of our platform happens at the data center level. We don’t need a virtualization layer to deploy our cloud resources. As a result, we can deploy bare metal servers in the same way AWS deploys public cloud servers (though, admittedly, bare metal servers take more time to deploy than virtual servers in the public cloud). By provisioning down to a lower level in the infrastructure stack, we’re able to offer customers more choice and control in their cloud environments:

In addition to the control customers have over infrastructure resources, with our unique network architecture, their servers aren’t isolated inside the four walls of a single data center. Customers can order one server in Dallas and another in Hong Kong, and those two servers can communicate with each other directly and freely across our private network without interfering with customers’ public network traffic. So with every new data center we build, we geographically expand a unified cloud footprint. No regions. No software-defined virtual networks. No isolation.

SoftLayer vs. AWS

Parts of our cloud business certainly compete with AWS. When users compare virtual servers between us, they encounter a number of similarities. But this post isn’t about comparing and contrasting offerings in the areas in which we’re similar … it’s about explaining how we’re different:
  • SoftLayer is able to provision bare metal resources to customers. This allows customers free reign over the raw compute power of a specific server configuration. This saves the customer from the 2–3 percent performance hit from the hypervisor, and it prevents “noisy neighbors” from being provisioned alongside a customer’s virtual server. AWS does not provision bare metal resources.

  • AWS differentiates “availability zones” and “regions” for customers who want to expand their cloud infrastructure into multiple locations. SoftLayer has data centers interconnected on a global private network. Customers can select the specific SoftLayer data center location they want so they can provision servers in the exact location they desire.

  • When AWS customers move data between their AWS servers, they see “Inter-Region Data Transfer Out” and “Intra-Region Data Transfer” on their bills. If you’re moving data from one SoftLayer facility to another SoftLayer facility (anywhere in the world), that transfer is free and unmetered. And it doesn’t fight your public traffic for bandwidth.

  • SoftLayer bare metal servers ordered with monthly billing include 20TB/mo of public outbound bandwidth, and virtual servers ordered with monthly billing include 5TB/mo of public outbound bandwidth. With AWS, customers pay a per-GB charge for bandwidth on every bill.

  • SoftLayer offers a broad range of management, monitoring, and support options to customers at no additional cost. AWS charges for monitoring based on metrics, frequency, and number of alarms per resource. And having access to support requires an additional monthly cost.

Do SoftLayer and AWS both offer Infrastructure as a Service? Yes.

Does that make SoftLayer and AWS the same? No.

-@khazard

October 14, 2014

Enterprise Customers See Benefits of Direct Link with GRE Tunnels

We’ve had an overwhelming response to our Direct Link product launch over the past few months and with good reason. Customers can cross connect into the SoftLayer global private network with a direct link in any of our 22 points of presence (POPs) providing fast, secure, and unmetered access to their SoftLayer infrastructure from their remote data center locations.

Many of our enterprise customers who’ve set up a Direct Link want to balance the simplicity of a layer three cross connection with their sophisticated routing and access control list (ACL) requirements. To achieve this balance, many are using GRE tunnels from their on-premises routers to their SoftLayer Vyatta Gateway Appliance.

In previous blogs about Vyatta Gateway Appliance, we’ve described some typical use cases as well as highlighted the differences between the Vyatta OS and the Vyatta Appliance. So we’ll focus specifically on using GRE tunnels here.

What is GRE?
Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) is a protocol for packet encapsulation to facilitate routing other protocols over IP networks (RFC 2784). Customers typically create two endpoints for the tunnel; one on their remote router and the other on their Vyatta Gateway Appliance at SoftLayer.
How does GRE work?
GRE encapsulates a payload, an inner packet that needs to be delivered to a destination network, within an outer IP packet. Between two GRE endpoints all routers will look at the outer IP packet and forward it towards the endpoint where the inner packet is parsed and routed to the ultimate destination.
Why use GRE tunnels?
If a customer has multiple subnets at SoftLayer that need routing to, these would need multiple tunnels to each if they were not encapsulating with GRE. Since GRE encapsulates traffic within an outer packet, customers are able to route other protocols within the tunnel and route multiple subnets without multiple tunnels. A GRE endpoint on Vyatta will parse the packets and route them, eliminating that challenge.

Many of our enterprise customers have complex rules governing what servers and networks can communicate with each other. They typically build ACLs on their routers to enforce those rules. Having a GRE endpoint on a Vyatta Gateway Appliance allows customers to route and manage internal packets based on specific rules so that security models stay intact.

GRE tunnels can allow customers to keep their networking scheme; meaning customers can add IP addresses to their SoftLayer servers and directly access them eliminating any routing problems that could occur.

And, because GRE tunnels can run inside a VPN tunnel, customers can put the GRE inside of an IPSec tunnel to make it more secure.

Learn More on KnowledgeLayer

If you are considering Direct Link to achieve fast and unmetered access with the help of GRE tunnels and Vyatta Gateway Appliance but need more information, the SoftLayer KnowledgeLayer is continually updated with new information and best practices. Be sure to check out the entire section devoted to the Vyatta Gateway Appliance.

- Seth

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