Posts Tagged 'Build'

February 15, 2013

Cedexis: SoftLayer "Master Model Builder"

Think of the many components of our cloud infrastrucutre as analogous to LEGO bricks. If our overarching vision is to help customers "Build the Future," then our products are "building blocks" that can be purposed and repurposed to create scalable, high-performance architecture. Like LEGO bricks, each of our components is compatible with every other component in our catalog, so our customers are essentially showing off their Master Model Builder skills as they incorporate unique combinations of infrastructure and API functionality into their own product offerings. Cedexis has proven to be one of those SoftLayer "Master Model Builders."

As you might remember from their Technology Partner Marketplace feature, Cedexis offers a content and application delivery system that helps users balance traffic based on availability, performance and cost. They've recently posted a blog about how they integrated the SoftLayer API into their system to detect an unresponsive server (disabled network interface), divert traffic at the DNS routing level and return it as soon as the server became available again (re-enabled the network interface) ... all through the automation of their Openmix service:

They've taken the building blocks of SoftLayer infrastructure and API connectivity to create a feature-rich platform that improves the uptime and performance for sites and applications using Openmix. Beyond the traffic shaping around unreachable servers, Cedexis also incorporated the ability to move traffic between servers based on the amount of bandwidth you have remaining in a given month or based on the response times it sees between servers in different data centers. You can even make load balancing decisions based on SoftLayer's server management data with Fusion — one of their newest products.

The tools and access Cedexis uses to power these Openmix features are available to all of our customers via the SoftLayer API, and if you've ever wondered how to combine our blocks into your environment in unique, dynamic and useful ways, Cedexis gives a perfect example. In the Product Development group, we love to see these kinds of implementations, so if you're using SoftLayer in an innovative way, don't keep it a secret!

-Bryce

April 9, 2012

Scaling SoftLayer

SoftLayer is in the business of helping businesses scale. You need 1,000 cloud computing instances? We'll make sure our system can get them online in 10 minutes. You need to spin up some beefy dedicated servers loaded with dual 8-core Intel Xeon E5-2670 processors and high-capacity SSDs for a new application's I/O-intensive database? We'll get it online anywhere in the world in under four hours. Everywhere you look, you'll see examples of how we help our customers scale, but what you don't hear much about is how our operations team scales our infrastructure to ensure we can accommodate all of our customers' growth.

When we launch a new data center, there's usually a lot of fanfare. When AMS01 and SNG01 came online, we talked about the thousands of servers that are online and ready. We meet huge demand for servers on a daily basis, and that presents us with a challenge: What happens when the inventory of available servers starts dwindling?

Truck Day.

Truck Day not limited to a single day of the year (or even a single day in a given month) ... It's what we call any date our operations team sets for delivery and installation of new hardware. We communicate to all of our teams about the next Truck Day in each location so SLayers from every department can join the operations team in unboxing and preparing servers/racks for installation. The operations team gets more hands to speed up the unloading process, and every employee has an opportunity to get first-hand experience in how our data centers operate.

If you want a refresher course about what happens on a Truck Day, you can reference Sam Fleitman's "Truck Day Operations" blog, and if you want a peek into what it looks like, you can watch Truck Day at SR02.DAL05. I don't mean to make this post all about Truck Day, but Truck Day is instrumental in demonstrating the way SoftLayer scales our own infrastructure.

Let's say we install 1,000 servers to officially launch a new pod. Because each pod has slots for 5,000 servers, we have space/capacity for 3,000-4,000 more servers in the server room, so as soon as more server hardware becomes available, we'll order it and start preparing for our next Truck Day to supplement the pod's inventory. You'd be surprised how quickly 1,000 servers can be ordered, and because it's not very easy to overnight a pallet of servers, we have to take into account lead time and shipping speeds ... To accommodate our customers' growth, we have to stay one step ahead in our own growth.

This morning in a meeting, I saw a pretty phenomenal bullet that got me thinking about this topic:

Truck Day — 4/3 (All Sites): 2,673 Servers

In nine different data center facilities around the world, more than 2,500 servers were delivered, unboxed, racked and brought online. Last week. In one day.

Now I know the operations team wasn't looking for any kind of recognition ... They were just reporting that everything went as planned. Given the fact that an accomplishment like that is "just another day at SoftLayer" for those guys, they definitely deserve recognition for the amazing work they do. We host some of the most popular platforms, games and applications on the Internet, and the DC-Ops team plays a huge role in scaling SoftLayer so our customers can scale themselves.

-@gkdog

March 23, 2012

AMS01 DC Tour: Built by SoftLayer, Powered by Innovators

About a month ago, Kevin Hazard visited SoftLayer Amsterdam after a conference in London, and while he was here, I invited him on a data center tour. You saw a few glimpses of the data center in his "This is Different" video, but he turned the camera around on me to give a simpler "Data Center Tour" video to show off some of the key characteristics of the server room environment in AMS01.

Given the fact that nearly everything in the data center is the same, if you've ever seen a SoftLayer data center, this tour will seem very familiar. The configuration and architecture of all 13 of our data centers are identical, and with the exceptions of a few Dutch words on the walls, this tour could be given (and is frequently given to customers) in all of our facilities around the world:

As we were recording this video, I started thinking about all the similarities and differences between all the entrepreneurs I have worked with during my career — which coincidentally lines up well with Clayton's "Building. Business. SoftLayer." blog. I cut my technology teeth in Silicon Valley during the dot-com tsunami of the late 90's, and since then, I have collaborated on-location with entrepreneurs from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Chile, Ukraine and Italy. While these cultures often vary widely with customs, manners, food and methods of business, I would have to say that entrepreneurs have far more similarities than they do differences.

At the peak of the dot-com boom, money was raining from the sky, and anyone with a decent PowerPoint presentation containing the word "Internet," could raise million dollars of dollars in a matter of days. After the bubble popped, funding all but dried up. Even real businesses with profitable business models couldn't raise a cent. My neighbor went from being worth over $10M on paper and keeping company with the Queen of the Netherlands to scrambling to pay the rent and fighting for a seat at the local coffee shop.

In my opinion, that's when the real magic happened: The creators just kept on creating. Despite all our friends making fun of us — telling us "the Internet thing" was dead — we kept building cool stuff and coming up with innovative products that pushed the limits of technology.

While entrepreneurs liked the idea of making tons of money and building a global company from a simple idea, money and fame are not the primary drivers of true entrepreneurs. They were really more interested in creating something that would impact peoples' everyday lives and disrupt tired industries ... Just look at SoftLayer. In 2005, "tired" would have been one of the nicest things you could have said about the hosting industry, and in response to that environment, our "Innovate or Die" mentality shot us to the front of the pack.

Entrepreneurs are a lot like our data centers ... They may look a little different from the outside, but they are exactly the same on the inside. Ask them how they'd change the world, and take note of the wild look in their eyes. Our growth is fueled by the passions of our customers, and as long as we have brilliant customers doing amazing things, you can expect to see more and more of these "new data center" tour videos in the coming months and years.

-@jpwisler

P.S. If you don't have time to watch the video right now, you can head to our Flickr page to see a few pictures we snapped while recording the tour: AMS01 - Amsterdam Data Center

P.P.S. Make sure you watch the video all the way to the end. :-)

March 22, 2012

Building. Business. SoftLayer.

"If you build it, he will come."

I hope I'm not alone as I find myself whispering those words in my head as I read them. If you've seen Field of Dreams*, you know that Kevin Costner mysteriously hears and sees things no one else can see, and he seems like a lunatic when he follows the instructions of his invisible guide. He builds a baseball diamond on his farm land, and famous baseball players like Shoeless Joe Jackson come to play from the afterlife. He took a risk to build something with faith that it would yield results.

It's a lot like the way most visionaries and entrepreneurs take risks to make their marks on the world.

Taking an idea from inception to market is much like building a baseball field in the middle of your farmland. You can factor in all the "knowns" (size, shape, materials, etc.), but in the end, you have to trust that consumers will come. Faith in a product or service drives the concept forward, and second-guessing it or working at it halfheartedly can destroy its slim chance of success. As a company so keenly focused on innovation ourselves, we find that other innovators are drawn to us, and because I've had the unique opportunity to work with many of our extremely successful companies, I thought I'd put together a few simple questions you might ask yourself as you transition from inspiration to action:

  1. Is your idea possible to execute? Will it be easy for the market to understand and adopt?
  2. Are there technologies available to deliver the idea or will you need to build your own?
  3. Are the resources you're using to build the product the best you can leverage?

If you answered, "No," to the first question, you might want to hit the drawing board to come up with a new strategy or approach as you aim to meet the unmet needs of the market. Don't get discouraged at this point ... By spending more time simplifying and clarifying your idea, you're saving an exponentially greater amount of time that you'd waste having to redefine or reposition your product down the road. If you answered, "Yes," move on to Question 2.

Question 2 will start setting a baseline of the amount of effort required to get your idea to a functional state. You might hang on Question 2 for a while as you learn more about available technologies or lay the groundwork for your project, but by doing so, you'll have a more concrete estimate of the timeline you can expect. Once you feel confident and comfortable with the answers to Question 1 and Question 2, the last step you need to take is to Question 3.

Question 3 can be pretty far-reaching — people, technologies and even hardware/software. These are some of the "knowns" that I referenced earlier. Note that "the best you can leverage" is not necessarily going to be "the best available." Startup ideas generally are equipped with startup resources. Cost, expertise and comfort are going to play a huge role in the adoption of resources.

One of the big roadblocks many budding entrepreneurs run into is that they have trouble preparing for success. Build your product with the expectation that it will be successful. Know what you can do to accommodate the spike in demand you'll see when Oprah and Bono give you a shout-out.

SoftLayer has been successful because we did our best to answer with those three questions, and as we continue to grow and succeed, we live and breathe innovation. We'd like to think that we're some of "the crazy ones" Apple referenced in its epic "Think Different" campaign, and we want to empower our customers to be a little crazy themselves.

-Clayton

*If you haven't seen Field of Dreams yet, you should find a way to watch it immediately, if not sooner.

February 10, 2012

Amsterdam Data Center (AMS01): Does it Measure Up?

SoftLayer data centers are designed in a "pod" concept: Every facility in every location is laid out similarly, and you'll find the same network and server hardware connected to the same network. The idea behind it is that this design makes it easier for us to build out new locations quickly, we can have identical operational processes and procedures in each facility, and customers can expect the exact same hosting experience regardless of data center location. When you've got several data centers in one state, that uniformity is easy to execute. When you open facilities on opposite sides of the country, it seems a little more difficult. Open a facility in another country (and introduce the challenge of getting all of that uniformity across an ocean), and you're looking at a pretty daunting task.

Last month, I hopped on a plane from Houston to London to attend Cloud Expo Europe. Because I was more or less "in the neighborhood" of our newest data center in Amsterdam, I was able to take a short flight to The Netherlands to do some investigatory journalism ... err ... "to visit the AMS01 team."

Is AMS01 worthy of the SoftLayer name? ... How does it differ from our US facilities? ... Why is everything written in Dutch at the Amsterdam airport?

The answers to my hard-hitting questions were pretty clear: SoftLayer's Amsterdam facility is absolutely deserving of the SoftLayer name ... The only noticeable differences between AMS01 and DAL05 are the cities they're located in ... Everything's written in Dutch because the airport happens to be in The Netherlands, and people speak Dutch in The Netherlands (that last question didn't get incorporated into the video, but I thought you might be curious).

Nearly every aspect of the data center mirrors what you see in WDC, SEA, HOU, SJC and DAL. The only differences I really noticed were what the PDUs looked like, what kind of power adapter was used on the crash carts, and what language was used on the AMS facility's floor map. One of the most interesting observations: All of the servers and power strips on the racks used US power plugs ... This characteristic was particularly impressive to me because every gadget I brought with me seemed to need its own power converter to recharge.

When you see us talking about the facilities being "the same," that's not a loosely used general term ... We could pull a server from its rack in DAL05, buckle it into an airplane seat for a 10-hour flight, bring it to AMS01 (via any of the unique modes of Amsterdam transportation you saw at the beginning of the video), and slide it into a rack in Amsterdam where we could simply plug it in. It'd be back online and accessible over the public and private networks as though nothing changed ... Though with Flex Images making it so easy to replicate cloud and dedicated instances in any facility, you'll just have to take our word for it when it comes to the whole "send a server over to another data center on a plane" thing.

While I was visiting AMS01, Jonathan Wisler took a few minutes out of his day to give a full tour of the data center's server room, and we've got video and pictures to share with more shots of our beautiful servers in their European home. If there's anything in particular you want to see from AMS01, let us know, and we'll do our best to share it!

-@khazard

P.S. Shout out to the SLayers in the Amsterdam office who offered their linguistic expertise to add a little flair to the start of the video ... From the four employees who happened to be in the office when I was asking for help, we had six fluent-language contributions: English, Italian, French, Dutch, Polish and German!

**UPDATE** After posting this video, I learned that the "US" server power plugs I referred to are actually a worldwide computer standard called C13 (male) and C14 (female).

October 21, 2011

Why Don't You Work Here Yet?

I started my career with SoftLayer in March 2011 as a Server Build Technician, and after a few short months, I can safely say that coming here was one of the best moves I have ever made in my life. I have worked in a number of different jobs ranging from retail to shipping, but in my heart, I always knew I wanted a career in computer technology. SoftLayer made that dream come true.

When I started, I felt a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information I had to learn all at once. That feeling quickly subsided during the first week as I realized how the work environment and culture is built on employees who take great pride both what they do and the knowledge they are able to pass on to newcomers. I knew I was in good hands. I felt like I was a part of an elite group of intelligent, inspiring, funny, energetic and down to earth people.

Through the interactions I've had with my direct coworkers, my knowledge has grown tremendously, and I feel more confident in meeting and exceeding the expectations and responsibilities in front of me. The original SoftLayer culture is alive and well thanks to the efforts and example of the management team, and it doesn't take long to notice that this company has a passion for customer service, and we strive to be the very best we can be. Because of the encouragement and optimism I have been given, I see a bright future for me here.

As our operations expand, I can't help but get excited for the success in store for the business, our team and our customers. We're ready to embrace new challenges, and though the tasks seem daunting, I know our team can handle them easily. I take great pride in my work, and I'm quick to tell the SoftLayer story to anyone who will listen. The company motto is, "Innovate or Die," and every employee – from Dallas to Amsterdam to San Jose to Singapore – lives and breathes that motto daily. We're pushing the limits of what a "hosting company" can do, and we're having a lot of fun doing it.

I feel honored to say that I am a part of the SoftLayer family, and if you're in the market for a new job for an awesome employer, you should head to SoftLayer Careers to find which of the 50+ positions you'd fit so you can join us in Dallas, Houston, San Jose, Seattle, Singapore, Amsterdam or Washington, D.C.

We are SoftLayer!

-Anthony

September 9, 2011

Global Expansion: More Singapore!

Last week, I shared an early glimpse of our Singapore data center pods and office space. What a difference a week makes. A week after the first batch of pictures were taken, I made my way back through the facility to document some of the progress, and you'll be amazed by how quickly everything is coming together.

You'd probably be even more amazed if you knew how many people (literally) around the world were working hard every day to keep the build-out moving forward so quickly ... Some of the most visible folks in the process are the guys we have on the ground in Singapore:

SoftLayer Singapore

We weren't able to use SoftLayer's fancy new truck to get our gear to the Singapore facility. I think it had something about having to travel over the Pacific Ocean ... I guess there weren't enough gas stations? We had all of our DC gear shipped down (literally) in ocean containers, and when the skids were all moved into the storage area, it was almost like Christmas.

SoftLayer Singapore

I say "almost like Christmas" because we happened to know everything we'd be unwrapping, and if we were surprised by anything we opened, it probably wouldn't be a good surprise. Luckily, we got exactly what we needed. Meanwhile, the Singapore data center pods have been coming along nicely. Here's a look inside Pod 1.

SoftLayer Singapore

And while we do our best to mirror the build-out of our data center pods regardless of their location, you can see that a few exceptions are made. In the pods we're building in the United States, we have at least two fewer languages on signs like the ones you see here:

SoftLayer Singapore

If we walk next door to Pod 1, you'll see the progress we're making in Pod 2. I know the pictures look similar ... But that's the point. Given the demand we've heard from customers, we're building both pods at the same time, hoping to keep up with demand while we start building our next facilities.

SoftLayer Singapore

While the pod progress is impressive, the progress on the office space is almost unbelievable. Where you previously saw ladders and cement, you now see desks, chairs and carpet. We've been hiring in Singapore for a few weeks now, and when we officially get the keys to move in, this place will be abuzz with new SLayers.

SoftLayer Singapore

We've posted a few more pictures in our Singapore DC Construction Flickr photo album, enjoy them! Soon after these pictures were taken, the team started assembling the racks in the DC, so the next update you'll see from me will probably include a lot more server goodness.

If you happen to live in Singapore and want to join our team, be sure to visit SoftLayer Careers for our current opportunities. As of right now, we have positions available in inventory, channel development, inside sales, enterprise account management, network engineering, sales engineering, systems administration and server building ... And if you don't fit in any of those positions, we can probably find another role for you to fill!

-@toddmitchell

June 1, 2011

Startup Series: Teens in Tech Labs

In my 3 Bars 3 Questions interview with Kevin a few weeks ago, I touched on the Community Development groups goals as we work with startups, incubators and customers in our Technology Partners Marketplace, and last week I had the chance to visit a young, up-and-coming incubator in the Bay Area: Teens in Tech Labs. Among some of their other projects, Teens in Tech is launching the Teens in Tech Incubator – a program built on the idea that entrepreneurship doesn't have a start age.

The incubator program lasts a little over eight weeks and is very hands on, in terms of mentor and adviser involvement. Each team invited to participate will be paired up with a group of mentors and advisers that will help during the process.

At the end of each week of the eight week program, the Teens in Tech staff will meet with each company to go over how their week went and what they think will help further build their business. Every other week, Teens in Tech will organize a dinner and have a guest speaker present to the teams ... And it gives the teams a chance to interact with each other outside of building their product.

At the end of the eight weeks, the teams will present their startups to a group of Venture Capitalists, influencers, members of the press and others at an event called "Demo Day."

Teens in Tech CEO Daniel Brusilovsky invited me to join him on a quick tour of their brand new office space in Mountain View, CA, and I made sure to grab my camera to capture the environment before the team and the incubator participants moved their stuff in:

We're happy to support Teens in Tech, and we're looking forward to seeing some of the amazing companies that'll come from the best and brightest entrepreneurs under 18 years old!

-@PaulFord

May 6, 2011

Cabling a SoftLayer Server Rack

A few weeks ago, SamF posted "Before They Were SoftLayer Data Centers," a virtual scrapbook from the San Jose data center construction process, and based on the surge of traffic we saw to the post, our customers loved it. It's incredible to see an open warehouse-looking space transformed into an enterprise data center environment, and there's more amazingness where that came from.

In addition to the pre-"Truck Day" pictures we posted on the blog and in the San Jose DC Construction album on Flickr, we trained a video camera on a row in the data center to capture the cabling process.

What's so interesting about plugging in cables?

Consider the fact that each of the network switches we use in a rack has at least 48 ports. Now consider that each rack has two public network switches, two private network switches and one out-of-band management network switch that need to be connected to every SoftLayer server in the rack. That's 240 pre-measured network cables that need to be labeled and routed to specific heights in each rack ... without getting tangled and knotted up (see: behind your TV or under your computer desk).

The cabling process is so precise that if a single cable is out of place, the zip-tie on an entire bundle will be cut, and the process is started from scratch. The process is time-consuming, but the results speak for themselves:

SoftLayer Server Rack

Without further ado, here's the SJ data center team in action. The video is playing at 20x normal speed, and given the amount of time it takes to complete the cabling process for each rack, we enlisted the help of Spongebob SquarePants in our use of the "Two Hours Later" cut:

Impressed? Amazed?

Just wait until you see the time-lapse from Truck Day.

-Kevin

April 18, 2011

Before They Were SoftLayer Data Centers

Ever wonder what a SoftLayer data center looked like before it became a SoftLayer data center? Each one of our facilities is built from a "pod" concept: You can walk into any of our server rooms in any of our facilities around the country (soon to be "around the world"), and you'll see same basic layout, control infrastructure and servers. By building our data center space in this way, we're able to provide an unparalleled customer experience. Nearly every aspect of our business benefits from this practice, many in surprising ways.

From an operations perspective, our staff can work in any facility without having to be retrained and the data center construction process becomes a science that can be replicated quicker with each subsequent build-out. From a sales perspective, every product and technology can be made available from all of our locations. From a network perspective, the network architecture doesn't deviate significantly from place to place. From a finance perspective, if we're buying the same gear from the same vendors, we get better volume pricing. From a marketing perspective ... I guess we have a lot of really pretty data center space to show off.

We try to keep our customers in the loop when it comes to our growth and expansion plans by posting pictures and updates as we build new pods, and with our newest facility in San Jose, CA, we've been snapping photos throughout the construction progress. If you've been patiently reading this part of the blog before scrolling down to the pictures, you get bonus points ... If you looked at the pictures before coming back up to this content, you already know that I've included several snapshots that show some of the steps we take when outfitting new DC space.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

The first look at our soon-to-be data center is not the flashiest, but it shows you how early we get involved in the build-out process. The San Jose facility is brand new, so we have a fresh canvas for our work of art. If I were to start talking your ear off about the specifics of the space, this post would probably go into next week, so I'll just show you some of the most obvious steps in the evolution of the space.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

The time gap between the first picture and the second picture is pretty evident, but the drastic change is pretty impressive. Raised floor, marked aisles, PDUs ... But no racks.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

Have no fear, the racks are being assembled.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

They're not going to do much good sitting in the facility's office space, though. Something tells me the next picture will have them in a different setting.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

Lucky guess, huh? You can see in this picture that the racks are installed in front of perforated tiles (on the cold aisle side) and on top of special tiles that allow for us to snake cabling from under the floor to the rack without leaving open space for the cold air to sneak out where it's not needed.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

The next step in the process requires five very expensive network switches in each rack. Two of the switches are for public network traffic, two are for private network traffic and one is for out-of-band management network traffic.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

Those switches won't do much good for the servers if the servers can't be easily connected to them, so the next step is to attach and bind all of the network cable from the switches to where the servers will be. As you'll see in the next pictures, the cabling and binding is done with extreme precision ... If any of the bundles aren't tightly wound, the zip ties are cut and the process has to be restarted.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

While the cables are being installed, we also work to prepare our control row with servers, switches, routers and appliances that mirror the configurations we have in our other pods.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

When the network cables are all installed, it's a pretty amazing sight. When the cables are plugged into the servers, it's even more impressive ... Each cable is pre-measured and ready to be attached to its server with enough length to get it to the port but not too much to leave much slack.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

One of the last steps before we actually get the servers installed is to install the server rails (which make installing the server a piece of cake).

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

The servers tend to need power, so the power strips are installed on each rack, and each power strip is fed from the row's PDU.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

Every network and power cable in the data center is labeled and positioned exactly where it needs to be. The numbers on the cables correspond with ports on our switches, spots in the rack and plugs on the power strip so we can immediately track down and replace any problem cables we find.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

If you've hung around with me for this long, I want to introduce you to a few of the team members that have been working night and day to get this facility ready for you. While I'd like to say I could have done all of this stuff myself, that would be a tremendous lie, and without the tireless efforts of all of these amazing SoftLayer folks, this post would be a whole lot less interesting.

A funny realization you might come to is that in this entire "data center" post, there's not a single picture of a customer server ... Is it a data center if it doesn't have data yet?

-SamF

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