Posts Tagged 'Booth'

March 8, 2013

Server Challenge II: Strata Conference 2013

If you want to find the Server Challenge II on an exhibit hall floor, just look for a crowd in one of the aisles and listen for cheers. When SoftLayer partnered with Supermicro to build a retro upgrade for our original Server Challenge, we knew the results would be phenomenal, and we haven't been disappointed. Other booths are chatting with one or two attendees while we've got the attention of 20+ as we explain what the Server Challenge II is all about and how it relates to what we do.

Strata Conference

About a dozen Strata Conference attendees asked where the Server Challenge II would show up next, and upon hearing that we'd have it at SXSW next week, one (semi-jokingly) begged us to let him rent the unit so he could practice beforehand. It almost seems like the competition is getting a cult following. And we love it.

Beyond the simple fact that the Server Challenge II affords us to talk about SoftLayer's differentiators as a cloud infrastructure provider, the competition actually brings flocks of attendees to our booth at the *end* of a show when other booths are already starting to packing up to go home. At Strata, the top four times were set in the last two hours of the show, and the very last attempt (which started right when the lights were flashing to signal the end of the show) was less than five seconds for taking the top spot.

In the end, Jonathan Heyne Galli bested the competition to take home bragging rights and a MacBook Air with a speedy time of 1:04.45. To showcase the winning attempt in a unique way, I grabbed my phone and fired up Vine:

If you have twelve more seconds to watch two other attempts, the Second Place and Third Place attempts were also captured with Vine.

In the midst of all of this competition, I've been blown away at the sportsmanship between competitors. I know how cheesy that sounds given the fact that we're talking about a game with a server rack in an expo hall, but it's true. Carson, the third place finisher, actually beat Jonathan's 1:04.45 toward the end of the show, but one of the drive tray arms wasn't clipped closed when he stopped the timer. We explained that we couldn't give him the top spot but that we could wipe that score and give him one more chance to replicate the result (with no errors), and he was quick to agree. He wouldn't want someone else to win with an "incomplete" build if he were in first place, so he didn't want to win that way.

Here was the final leader board from Strata 2013:

Strata Leader Board

Given the floods of traffic to our booth wherever the Server Challenge II turns up, it's only a matter of time until someone makes a documentary on the Server Challenge like The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. I can see it now ... The Server Sultan: Get in Line to Bring Servers Online.

-@khazard

October 9, 2012

Server Challenge II - The Retro Upgrade of a Fan Favorite

Wakka wakka wakka wakka. All your base are belong to us. I'm sorry Mario, but our princess is in another castle. It's dangerous to go alone. Do a barrel roll.

If you can place any of those quotes from the video games of yore, you'll probably love the Server Challenge II. Taking cues from classic arcade games, we've teamed up with Supermicro to build a worthy sequel to our original Server Challenge:

Server Challenge II

If you come across Server Challenge II at a conference, your task is clear. You step up to the full-sized server rack and perform three simple tasks:

  1. Load the data.
  2. Connect the network.
  3. Save the world.

You've got two attempts per day to install twenty-four drive trays into two 2U Supermicro servers and plug eighteen network cables into their correct switches. Get all of that done in the fastest time at the conference, and you walk away with a brand new Macbook Air. During booth setup at GDC Online, we shot a quick video of what that looks like:

The new challenge is sure to garner a lot of attention, and we're excited to see the competition heat up as the show progresses. Beyond being a fun game, the Server Challenge II is also a great visual for what SoftLayer does. When you get to touch servers in a server hosting company's booth, you're probably going to remember us the next time you need to order a new server. You also get to see the Cisco and Supermicro switches that you'd see in all of our thirteen data centers around the world ... It's a tech geek's dream come true.

In honor of the launch of Server Challenge II, we're going to offer some "live" coverage of the competition at GDC Online this week. If you want to watch the Server Challenge II GDC Online 2012 remotely via "challenge-cast," bookmark this blog post and refresh frequently. We'll update the leader board every hour or two so that you can keep track of how the times are progressing throughout the show:

Server Challenge II Leader Board - GDC Online 2012

Game on.

**UPDATE** GDC Online has officially wrapped, and after some last-minute heroics, Derek Manns grabbed the top spot (and the MacBook Air) for his Server Challenge II efforts! If you've been watching the leader board throughout the conference, you saw the top attendee time fall from 1:59.30 all the way down to 1:09.48. We hope you've enjoyed the "challenge-cast" ... Keep an eye on SoftLayer's event schedule to prepare for your next chance to take on the Server Challenge II.

-@khazard

September 20, 2012

Conferences, Culture and the SoftLayer Server Challenge

I can't begin to tell you how much fun I have when I get to represent SoftLayer at conferences. The days may be long, and my feet may go numb by the end of the day from so much standing, but the time seems to fly as I get to meet new people, give out SoftLayer swag and introduce/explain the (in)famous SoftLayer Server Challenge.

I've observed that at most tech conferences, attendees will wander up and down the aisles, avoiding eye contact and looking preoccupied with emails or Angry Birds on their phones. When they walk by the SoftLayer booth, something changes. They stop. They pay attention. They get engaged. It's hard to passively navigate around a crowd of people cheering on a Server Challenge competitor, and if you see another attendee your peripheral vision "wowing" us with his/her three-switch-ball juggling skills, you're going to get distracted from your Angry Birds game. The SoftLayer booth is a snapshot of SoftLayer's culture, and SoftLayer's culture is magnetic.

When we catch the eye of that previously disinterested attendee, we get to tell the SoftLayer story: "Oh this? It's a small version of a SoftLayer server rack with five SuperMicro servers in it. We've got more than 100,000 servers like these in 13 data centers around the world. Want to try and race to put it back together?" "This is called a switch-ball ... SoftLayer is an infrastructure as a service provider, so it doesn't really have a direct tie-in with SoftLayer's business, but it's the coolest giveaway you'll see at the conference." Whether the attendee is interested in the competition, hosting, servers or cool swag, we've started a conversation that we might not have had if we were just shaking hands and passing out brochures.

As the conference goes on, most booths see traffic decline. That's when the Server Challenge is usually getting the most competitive. Several of our competitions have been decided by tenths or even hundredths of seconds, and a few have been won by the last competitor on the last day as the PA announcement notifies attendees that the expo hall is closing. At Cloud Connect Chicago, I recorded three competitors who each had the potential to walk away victorious:

All three of those competitors had fun in the SoftLayer booth. The other attendees who stepped up to the Server Challenge enjoyed themselves, too. That's huge. That's extremely rare. That's why I love being a part of the rag-tag group SLayers who have the opportunity to spread the word about SoftLayer.

As I put together the quick video to show the competition from Cloud Connect Chicago, I wondered how the times compared with the other shows that have featured the Server Challenge this year. My "wondering" wound up becoming "researching," and this is what I found:

NAME SHOW TIME
Roger Weber GDC Europe 0:57.62
Rany Grinberg ad:tech San Franscisco 0:58.34
Dejian Fang Cloud Expo East 0:59.08
Darin Goldman HostingCon 0:59.28
Joseph Waite Internet World London 1:03.68
Scott Fossen Cloud Connect Chicago 1:05.51
EJ Fernald GDC San Francisco 1:06.06
Kenny Liao Web 2.0 Expo 1:06.41
Matthew Downing Cloud Expo Europe 1:08.16
Gary Barclay TFM&A 1:10.08

Every conference seems to be competitive, and it's amazing to see how close the times are between all of the conference winners in 2012. Server Challenge World Championship? While I start drawing up plans to try and make that a reality, I recommend you all print out blueprints and start training for the next time you come across a SoftLayer booth at an event.

-@khazard

Categories: 
April 13, 2012

Looking at the Big Picture

Last week, the SoftLayer team attended ad:tech San Francisco. It's pretty unbelievable to think that it's only April, and this show was the seventh I've attended this year. 2012 has already been a HUGE year for SoftLayer in terms of growth, and our trade show and conference schedule has provided a fantastic outlet to share some of the good news. In addition to the seven shows I've attended, SoftLayer has exhibited at six more, and each has it's own unique focus and audience — ad:tech in particular.

At most shows, the conversations I have can be best described as "technical." I'll field questions about our network capacity, hybrid environments, API functionality and data center pod architecture. The attendees that stop by and talk to us are typically technical members of IT teams familiar with their hosting needs and interested in learning about our cloud and dedicated environments. At ad:tech, the attendees that I talked to were more interested in "big picture" differentiators and the non-technical value that SoftLayer provides, so I got to tell the SoftLayer story in a fresh way.

Most of our ad:tech conversations were in a theme of managed hosting, flexibility, short-term resource availability and scalability. The attendees that stopped by our booth were no less qualified as customers than the IT administrators we might meet at other shows, but they couldn't be won over with the industry-leading numbers we would normally share ... They were more interested in hearing about the Super Bowl campaigns we've supported, the streaming media services we host and some of the high-profile clients that attest to platform's ability to handle anything they can throw at us.

The messaging on our booth graphic set the stage perfectly:

Our Platform.
Your Vision.
Build on a global cloud infrastructure at Internet scale. Blur the lines between physical and virtual. Bend infrastructure to your imagination. We've created the platform on which you'll create tomorrow.
Build the future.

The most surprising observation I made at ad:tech was that despite the "big picture" conversations I tended to have with attendees, they were all equally (if not MORE) interested in our Server Challenge:

ad:tech Server Challenge

During the two-day conference, these "non-technical" attendees completed the challenge with an average time of 1:37, and this show's Server Challenge champion, Rany Grinberg, walked away with a "new iPad" after recording a blazingly fast 0:58.34 time. They might not have been able to tell you what all the pieces in our server rack did, but they could definitely put it back together quickly.

I had a blast meeting all the attendees who stopped by our booth. If you happen to be one of those people, thank you for visiting us ... Now start studying and practicing to take on the Server Challenge again at our next show!

-Summer

Categories: 
February 3, 2012

Server Hardware "Show and Tell" at Cloud Expo Europe

Bringing server hardware to a "Cloud Expo" is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Why would anyone care about hardware? Isn't "the cloud" a magical land where servers and data centers cease to exist and all that matters is that your hardware-abstracted hypervisor can scale elastically on demand?

You might be surprised how many attendees at Cloud Expo Europe expressed that sentiment in one way or another when SoftLayer showed up in London with the infamous Server Challenge last week. Based on many of the conversations I had with attendees, some of the most basic distinctions and characteristics of physical and virtual environments are widely misunderstood. Luckily, we had a nice little server rack to use as a visual while talking about how SoftLayer fits in (and stands out) when it comes to "the cloud."

When we didn't have a line of participants waiting to try their hand at our in-booth competition, we were able to use it to "show and tell" what a cloud hardware architecture might look like and what distinguishes SoftLayer from some of the other infrastructure providers in the industry. We're able to show our network-within-a-newtork topology, we explain the pod concept of our data centers and how that streamlines our operations, and we talk about our system automation and how that speeds up the provisioning of both physical and virtual environments. Long-term memory is aided by the use of multiple senses, so when each attendee can see and touch what they're hearing about in our booth, they have a much better chance to remember the conversation in the midst of dozens (if not hundreds) they have before and after they talk to us.

And by the time we finish using the Server Challenge as a visual, the attendee is usually ready to compete. As you probably noticed if you caught the Cloud Expo Europe album at Facebook.com/SoftLayer, the competition was pretty intense. In fact, the winning time of 1:08.16 was set just about twenty minutes before the conference ended ... In the short video below, Phil presents the winner of the Cloud Expo Europe Server Challenge with his iPad 2 and asks for some insight about how he was able to pull off the victory:

Being the international debut of the Server Challenge, we were a bit nervous that the competition wouldn't have as much appeal as we've seen in the past, but given the response we received from attendees, it's pretty safe to say it's not the last time you'll see the Server Challenge abroad.

To all of the participants who competed last week, thanks for stopping by our booth, and we hope you're enjoying your "torch" (if you beat the 2:00.00 flashlight-winning time)!

-@khazard

November 21, 2011

SLaying at Cloud Expo West 2011

A month ago, Summer talked about how SoftLayer defies the laws of physics by being in several different places at the same time. With a worldwide network and data center footprint, that's always going to be the case, but when we have several events going on in a given week, we're even more dispersed. As Summer mentioned in her Server Challenge blog this morning, she traveled east to New York City for ad:tech with a few SLayers, and I joined a team that headed west for Cloud Expo West in Santa Clara, California.

We set up shop on the expo floor and had the opportunity to meet with interesting and interested attendees between session. In addition to our exhibit hall presence, SoftLayer had three SLayers featured in presentations, and the response to each was phenomenal.

Our first presenter was none other than SoftLayer CTO Duke Skarda. His presentation, "Not Your Grandpa's Cloud," was about dedicated servers and whether cloud computing may be surpassing that "grandpa" of the hosting industry. Joined by RightScale CEO Michael Crandell, Duke also announced our SoftLayer's new relationship with RightScale. If you didn't have a chance to join us, we have a treat for you ... You can download Duke's presentation from Sys-con!

Five minutes after Duke left the stage, SoftLayer Director of Product Innovation Marc Jones spoke to Cloud Expo attendees about "Building at Internet Scale in a Hosted Environment." His focus was how businesses could enable technologies, design and architecture of Internet scale solutions in a hosted environment. He shared trends from SoftLayer customers and partners, explained what SoftLayer believes Internet-scale is from a technology perspective, and the products and services in the market that create a scalable solution.

On Day 3, SoftLayer Director of Corporate Analytics Francisco Romero presented a question to attendees: "How Smart is it to Build Your Own Cloud?" With concerns around security, hardware, software and flexibility, is a business better off going with a hosted solution over building its own cloud infrastructure. Spoiler alert: He showed how the hosted environment was head-and-shoulders over the in-house environment in most cases.

All in all, Cloud Expo West was an exemplary tradeshow for SoftLayer ... Three fantastic speakers in two days driving traffic to our booth where we could share how SoftLayer has built our cloud and how our approach is part of a bigger effort to drive innovation in the world of hosting.

As Summer mentioned in her post, we want to see your smiling faces at our booths and in our presentations in the future, so bookmark the SoftLayer Event Calendar and start planning your trips to meet us in 2012!

-Natalie

October 16, 2011

Advice for the Non-Experienced Tradeshow Traveler

SoftLayer attends 60+ tradeshows a year. That may not sound like much too some people, but when it means you're only home for six days in a given month, it's pretty daunting. Some think that going to a tradeshow is a "free" min-vacation, but in reality it's exhausting work. You'll get lucky at a few shows where the booth time is only 4-6 hours, but most of the time, you're on the hook for 8 or 9 hours. You never know how much you use your leg muscles by just standing until you do it for nine straight hours. After being on your feet for that long, the first thing you want to do when the show closes is go to dinner just so you can sit down. Now think about doing this for three or four days in a row, and it doesn't sound like a vacation anymore.

Before I turn you off tradeshows altogether, I should admit that they are actually quite fun if you're a people person. I love getting to meet new people and show them what SoftLayer has to offer. It's a rewarding experience to see that light in someone's eyes who has never heard of SoftLayer and then finds out how we can make their business better. I can't help but think to myself, "Yeah, we are kind of a big deal." :-)

Given my extensive experience in the conference and tradeshow realm, here are a few key pieces of advice for the non-experienced SoftLayer tradeshow traveler (adjust for your brand as necessary):

Attire

  • Guys should wear black slacks with a polo or button down. For the more casual shows, nice jeans (no rips, tears or holes) and any kind of SoftLayer shirt is fine.
  • Girls should wear black slacks or a black skirt with a polo or button down ... And now you have the option of a SoftLayer dress.
  • It's always a good idea to wear slacks the first day to "test the waters" of the attire for the show. After that, you can plan your next day's attire accordingly.
  • Always wear black shoes. Girls do NOT wear high heels ... You will regret it 30 minutes into the first day. An great alternative for the ladies are black flats, these will look great with pants, a skirt, or a SoftLayer dress.
  • Sometimes it gets extremely cold in the conference hall, so I suggest bringing a jacket – even if it's 110 degrees outside. When wearing a jacket over your attire, make it one of the branded SoftLayer jackets – a SoftLayer logo should be visible at all times so attendees know you're not a random stranger in the SoftLayer booth.

Behavior

  • I know how easy it can be to get carried away when other attendees get a little wild, but that is NO excuse to be late, completely absent or operating at less than 100% when you get to the booth the next day.
  • You should always have a smile on your face when talking with attendees. You're talking about great stuff when you're talking about SoftLayer, so you should be happy to share it with the next potential SoftLayer customer.
  • This should go without saying, but there should be NO cursing, yelling or arguing with anyone at the booth.

Last but not Least
The number ONE rule for the non-experienced traveler: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS know your stuff before going to a tradeshow. Nothing is more embarrassing for your colleagues (or SoftLayer in general) when you are asked a simple question about what SoftLayer does and you do not know. If you do not know something, ask a colleague or simply look on our website. We have plenty of information there and numerous datasheets that explain in detail the products and services SoftLayer offers.

-Natalie

August 19, 2011

SoftLayer at HostingCon 2011

In my "HostingCon, Here We Come!" blog post, I promised that SoftLayer would be Bigger, Better and Badder at HostingCon 2011, and we made some pretty ambitious plans to be sure that was the case: Six conference panels and speaking sessions, SoftLayer's biggest expo hall presence ever, in-booth presentations about everything from Portal 4 to Social Media, our infamous Server Challenge, and the biggest party in HostingCon history ... Heck, we even let PHIL attend to do some "research" for PHIL's DC. We pulled out all the stops.

Now that the dust has settled and the sunburns have started to heal, I can share a glimpse into SoftLayer's HostingCon experience with anyone who wasn't able to make it to San Diego last week.

HostingCon Expo Hall

When you walked onto the conference floor, you saw SoftLayer, and if you managed to miss our 20'x40' two-story booth or the commotion around it, you were probably in the wrong hall. Each person on our team had a chance to speak with hundreds of attendees, and at the end of every conversation, we gave some swag as parting gifts: Switch balls, foam rockets and limited-edition "Robot" T-shirts:

Robot Shirt

Our in-booth theater was the venue where Marc Jones showed off the private beta of our new Flex Images for dedicated servers, Jeff Reinis talked about how customers can take advantage of our international expansion, Stephen Johnson gave a tour of Portal 4, Kevin Hazard shared some tips and tricks to managing social media, and Phil Jackson dove into the API.

Take a virtual stroll around the conference center with us:

And as you can tell from the pictures, the Server Challenge was a big hit.

The Server Challenge

If you bring a cabinet of servers to a conference full of server geeks, you're going to get some attention. Challenge them to a hardware competition, and you'll be inundated with attendee traffic. If you aren't familiar with the in-booth activity, Kevin's blog about the Server Challenge at OSCON is a perfect place to get your crash course. If you already know all about it (and if you've competed in it), you'll be even more interested in seeing some of the action from the show floor:

At 3:07 in that video, you can see the eventual winner of the HostingCon Server Challenge complete a run on Day 1. His iPad 2-winning time was 1:01.77, and he beat some pretty stiff competition for the title of Server Challenge Champ.

Geeks Gone Wild

Put SoftLayer, cPanel and Resell.biz in a room, and you have a party. Add free drinks, a thousand of our closest friends, The Dan Band and a legendary venue, and you've got yourself the biggest party in HostingCon history:

If you took part in any or all of the above shenanigans, thank you! We owe a great deal of our success at HostingCon to you. Once everyone finally catches up on the sleep they missed last week, we'll get the wheels turning to figure out a way to go even bigger next year in Boston ... Speaking of which, does anyone know where I can get a boat that was in the Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773?

-@gkdog

August 4, 2011

Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Server Challenge

When you're walking down the aisles of an expo hall at a technical conference, what do you expect to see? Stacks of collateral? Maybe a few giveaway T-shirts? A fancy switch-ball or two? How about a crowd of people watching as a fellow attendee slams hard drive trays into a server enclosure and frantically plugs in network cables as a digital clock times them?

Cynical attendees might look at the Server Challenge and think of it as a gimmicky way to draw a crowd to our booth, but when you step up to the server enclosure to compete, you're getting a crash course in SoftLayer's business (along with an exciting tangible experience).

Before your first attempt, you'll learn that SoftLayer is a hosting provider and that you'll be reassembling a miniature version of the larger server racks we have filling data centers around the country (soon to be around the world). You see that one of SoftLayer's biggest differentiators is our network configuration: A public network, a private network and an out-of-band management network connection to every SoftLayer server for free ... And when the clock starts, we can share even more of the SoftLayer story.

Our goal is to let you experience SoftLayer while you're just hearing about other companies. As it turns out, the experience draws people in:

One of the coolest parts of pulling together that time lapse video from OSCON was seeing the reactions on the faces of the participants when they finished. The challenge sparks a surge of adrenaline, so when competitors stop the clock, they expectantly check to see how they fare against the conference's Top 10 times.

In the last conference alone, no fewer than five other companies (who don't even have a connection with the hosting industry) approached us to ask how they could build their own Server Challenge. Needless to say, the Server Challenge is becoming a SoftLayer conference staple ... And we're looking forward to the hottest competition ever at HostingCon 2011 next week!

Between your study of server schematics and your dissection of the winning run's strategy from the end of the OSCON video, make sure you click through to George's HostingCon preview so you can learn where to find SoftLayer in San Diego.

-@khazard

P.S. Space is limited for the HostingCon Party, so if you'll be in town, make sure to let us know so we can give you a promo code for free admission!

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