Posts Tagged 'Build Out'

March 12, 2015

Sydney’s a Go

Transforming an empty room into a fully operational data center in just three months: Some said it couldn’t be done, but we did it. In less than three months, actually.

Placing a small team on-site and turning an empty room into a data center is what SoftLayer refers to as a Go Live. Now, of course there is more to bringing a data center online than the just the transformation of an empty room. In the months leading up to the Go Live deployment, there are details to work out, contracts to sign, and the electrical fit out (EFO) of the room itself. During my time with SoftLayer I have been involved in building several of our data centers, or SoftLayer pods as we call them. Pods are designed to facilitate infrastructure scalability, and although they have evolved over the years as newer, faster equipment has become available, the original principles behind the design are still intact—so much so that a data center technician could travel to any SoftLayer data center in the world and start working without missing a beat. And the same holds true to building a pod from the ground up. This uniformity is what allows us to fast track the build out of a new SoftLayer pod. This is one of the reasons why the Sydney data center launch was such a success.

Rewind Three Months

When we landed in Sydney on December 11, 2014, we had an empty server room and about 125 pallets of gear and equipment that had been carefully packed and shipped by our inventory and logistics team. First order of business: breaking down the pallets, inspecting the equipment for any signs of damage and checking that we received everything needed for the build. It’s really quite impressive to know that everything from screwdrivers to our 25U routers to even earplugs had been logged and accounted for. When you are more than 8,500 miles away from your base of operations, it’s imperative that the Go Live team has everything it needs on hand from the start. Something seemingly inconsequential as not having the proper screws can lead to costly delays during the build. Once everything’s been checked off, the real fun begins.


(From Left) Jackie Vong, Dennis Vollmer, Jon Bowden, Chris Stelly, Antonio Gomez, Harpal Singh, Kneeling - Zachary Schacht, Peter Panagopoulos, and Marcelo Alba

Next we set up the internal equipment that powers the pod: four rows of equipment that encompass everything from networking gear to storage to the servers that run various internal systems. Racking the internal equipment is done according to pre-planned layouts and involves far too many cage nuts, the bane of every server build technician’s existence.

Once the internal rows are completed, it’s time to start focusing on the customer rows that will contain bare metal and virtual servers. Each customer rack contains a minimum of five switches—two for the private network, two for the public network, and one out-of-band management switch. Each row has two power strips and in the case of the Sydney data center, two electrical transfer switches at the bottom of the rack that provide true power redundancy by facilitating the transfer of power from one independent feed to another in the case of an outage. Network cables from the customer racks route back to the aggregate switch rack located at the center of each row.

Right around the time we start to wrap up the internal and customer rows, a team of network engineers arrive on-site to run the interconnects between the networking gear and the rest of the internal systems and to light up the fiber lines connecting our new pod to our internal network (as well as the rest of the world). This is a big day because not only do we finally get Wi-Fi up in the pod, but no longer are we isolated on an island. We are connected, and teams thousands of miles away can begin the process of remotely logging in to configure, deploy, and test systems. The networking team will start work on configuring the switches, load balancers, and firewalls for their specific purposes. The storage team will begin the process of bringing massive storage arrays online, and information systems will start work on deploying the systems that manage the automation each pod provides.


(From Left) Zach Robbins, Grayson Schmidt, Igor Gorbatok and Alex Abin

During this time, we start the process of onboarding the newest members of the team, the local Sydney techs, who in a few short months will be responsible for managing the data center independently. But before they fully take over, customer racks are prepped and are waiting to house the final piece of the puzzle: the servers. They arrive via truck day [check out DAL05 Pod 2 truck day]; Sydney’s was around the beginning of February. Given the amount of hardware we typically receive, truck days are an event unto themselves—more than 1,500 of the newest and fastest SuperMicro servers of various shapes and sizes that will serve as the bare metal and virtual servers for our customers. Through a combination of manpower and automation, these servers get unboxed, racked, checked in, and tested before they are sold to our customers.

Now departments involved in bringing the Sydney data center online wrap up and sign off. Then we go live.

Bringing a SoftLayer pod online and on time is a beautifully choreographed process and is one of my greatest professional accomplishments. The level of coordination and cohesion required to pull it off, not once, not twice but ten times all over the world in the last year alone can’t be overstated enough.

-Dennis

December 9, 2011

Earn Your Bars

In less than six years, SoftLayer has grown pretty drastically. We started as a small company with ten people crammed into a living room, brainstorming how to build one innovative data center in Dallas. Now we have more than six hundred employees managing thirteen data centers on three different continents. It's insane to see how far we've come when you read those two sentences, and as I think back, I remember the sacrifices employees have made to help our business get where it is today.

In the early days, we were taking out loans and tapping our bank accounts to buy servers. When customers started asking for more features and functionality in the portal, developers coded non-stop to make it happen. A lot of those sacrifices aren't very obvious from the outside, but we wouldn't be where we are today without them. One of the biggest sacrifices SLayers make is when we need to build new data centers to accommodate customer demand ... A "Go Live Crew" of employees moves away from their friends and family to those facilities to make sure the new SoftLayer data center meets our high expectations.

In the military, a soldier will "earn his/her stripes" by doing something that shows that he or she deserves a particular rank or position. The more stripes on the sleeve of your uniform, the higher your rank. As you've probably gathered from pictures and videos around the office, SoftLayer employees don't wear uniforms, but SLayers love to wear SoftLayer swag, and this "mechanic" shirt has been one of the most popular sellers in our company store:

Earn Your Bars Shirts

We wanted to recognize the employees that have given weeks (and sometimes months) of their time to join a Go Live Crew for a data center build-out, so we took that popular shirt and added a little flair. Following the "earn your stripes" idea, these employees have "earned their bars" for each data center they help build.

Earn Your Bars Shirts

Every employee who was on a Go Live Crew in Seattle, Washington, D.C., San Jose, Singapore or Amsterdam will get shirts with location-specific graphics to recognize their contribution, and their most recent shirt will have the "bars" you see in the picture above.

As a bit of added recognition, here are the shirt recipients for each data center location:

Earn Your Bars Shirts
Seattle Go Live Crew
John E., Edmund G., Robert G., Joe H., Brad L., Charles P., Joshua R., William S., Zane W.
Earn Your Bars Shirts
Washington, D.C. Go Live Crew
Troy D., John E., Reed F., Edmund G., Robert G., Brad L., Charles P., Joshua R., Zane W.
Earn Your Bars Shirts
San Jose Go Live Crew
Kalin D., John E., Chris F., Hector F., Edmund G., Robert G., Tim L., Russ M., Edward R., Brent R., Brandon S., Joshua Z.
Earn Your Bars Shirts
Singapore Go Live Crew
Chris F., Joshua F.. Ryan G., Robert G., Hao H., Tim L., Russ M., Todd M., Kyle S., Eric V.
Earn Your Bars Shirts
Amsterdam Go Live Crew
Raul A., Brian C., Elijah F., Hector F., Edmund G., Robert G., Sydney M., Stephen M., Michael P., Goran P., Mark Q., Edward R., Jason R., Brandon S., Sopheara S., Joshua Z.

And if you happened to compare the names between all five teams, you'll notice that Robert Guerra was on every crew. You know what that means?

Earn Your Bars Shirts

He has a brand new wardrobe.

CBNO.

-@lavosby

October 25, 2011

Global Expansion: Amsterdam Ready to Launch

Where has the time gone? We still have confetti in our hair from the party celebrating the Singapore data center going online, and all of a sudden, we're announcing that SoftLayer servers are available in Amsterdam for presale.

If you saw the epic "SoftLayer is Coming to Town", you may have noticed a clip of the Go Live Crew (GLC) team members in Amsterdam at around the 1:05 mark:

GLC Amsterdam

With pallets of wrapped equipment and a few racks constructed in the background, it's pretty clear that as of October 1, the data center was a long way from calling itself a SoftLayer Pod. A few short weeks ago, I shared an update on the progress of our first European facility, and now we're less than two weeks away from the first customer servers being provisioned in Amsterdam!

Mark your calendar: November 7 - The date your first SoftLayer server in Amsterdam will go live.

In addition to customer servers being provisioned when the data center officially opens its doors, our network points of presence throughout Europe will be humming along nicely. That means if you're a SoftLayer customer in Europe, you should see some fantastic improvements in your network paths and speeds to servers in the United States (and Singapore) since you'll be able to hop onto our network sooner and ride with SoftLayer across the Atlantic.

Amsterdam Server Special
To coincide with the launch of our Singapore facility, we brought back the Triple Double server special to reward early adopters, and we're doing the same thing for customers in Amsterdam. Order a server in AMS with promo code TRIPLE, and you can double your RAM, bandwidth and HDD space for FREE.

The guys on the GLC in Amsterdam have worked tirelessly to ensure that everything is perfect (fueled by daily "Da Bobby G" sandwiches), and we're all ecstatic for customers to start taking advantage of the latest addition to the stellar SoftLayer infrastructure.

What are you waiting for? Shouldn't you be clicking through to pre-order your Amsterdam server right now?

-@quigleymar

October 17, 2011

New Data Centers, Barbara Streisand & "Da Bobby G"

Dealing with jet lag, unfamiliar surroundings, foreign currencies and different languages just begins to describe my hectic life over the past two months. We've been in overdrive, building out SoftLayer's Singapore and Amsterdam data centers in weeks (rather than months).

Our "Go Live Crew" of 16 dedicated SLayers has been working 'round the clock to make sure everything is up and running on time. The biggest challenge has been building out both data centers simultaneously ... With the "Go big or go home" mindset, when we decided to go international, we went all in. Our growing customer base of 23,000 won't stand still, so we need to deliver, whether it be through innovation or expansion. In less than 60 days we've been able to add 31,000+ servers to our network platform, bringing our unique cloud, dedicated and managed hosting solutions closer to our customers around the world.

This accomplishment has been something of a "miracle," and I really need to shout out to my team members on the GLC. Putting in 16-hour days and working weekends while still finding time to go out on the weekends (Jägermeister and Red Bull have been sampled at many a fine pub) has made us a pretty close-knit family. The old "work hard, play hard" saying is an understatement when it comes to the SoftLayer team.

If we're ever dragging a bit in the morning, we can always rely on Duck Sauce to get our pulses racing again by the time we get to the data center. With such a full work schedule, we become creatures of habit, and "Barbara Streisand" is only one example of a staple for the crew. Our daily consistency has even carried over into meal time: My favorite luncheon spot in Amsterdam even named a sandwich after me – Da Bobby G Meat Sandwich. Apparently the combination of meatballs, salami, ham and (a smothering of) ketchup on a bun is not a common order at this establishment, so my innovation needed to be recognized. Nutritional considerations aside, this is one fine sandwich:

Da Bobby G

I've been on the road for a while now, and these are just a few memories I'm taking with me. Jumping around between three continents has definitely had its challenges, but with a great team of focused SLayers, we've been getting the job done. I'm proud to have had a hand in making our international aspirations a reality, and I know that even though this has already been an unbelievable adventure, we're just getting started.

-Robert

October 7, 2011

Global Expansion: On to Amsterdam

Over the course of about a month, you were able to follow the build-out progress of SoftLayer's Singapore data center facility. Todd book-ended his coverage of the process with an early look on September 2 and the official "LIVE" announcement on October 3, and given the fantastic response from customers to those updates, we're going to keep them going from Amsterdam.

If you follow SoftLayer on Twitter or keep an eye on our Flickr account, the last time you saw the Amsterdam facility, it looked pretty empty. You might assume that with all the attention on Singapore, Amsterdam wasn't getting much attention, but you'd be wrong ... Folks have been working non-stop in Europe as well, and the facility looks beautiful:

SoftLayer Amsterdam

It's pretty obvious with the racks you see pictured that our go-live team has been on the ground and working hard in the new facility. We shipped loads of gear across a different ocean to get it to Amsterdam, but things will probably look pretty familiar.

SoftLayer Amsterdam

SoftLayer Amsterdam

SoftLayer Amsterdam

When Singapore went live on Monday, customers were ecstatic. We've already provisioned a few hundred servers in the new facility, and the chorus of users anxious about our European expansion has gotten louder as a result. As you can see, Amsterdam is coming along nicely, so you'll have a SoftLayer server in Amsterdam before you know it.

SoftLayer's growth internationally has been fueled by customer demand, so while we're working on Amsterdam, we'd love to hear where you'd like to see us next. Leave a comment with the country/region you think could best benefit from a local SoftLayer facility ... And if you agree with any of the ideas, be sure to post your agreement as well so we get an even clearer picture of customer demand.

More to come!

-@quigleymar

October 3, 2011

Global Expansion: Singapore is LIVE!

I write this message while overlooking the International Business Park in Singapore. The desk I sit at faces east; the sun is now on the opposite side of the building and our new Singapore office is starting to cool off, but it's eerily quiet here on the 6th floor.

SoftLayer Singapore

SoftLayer Singapore

Our new Singapore General Manager Michael Ong is in Dallas meeting the rest of the SoftLayer team, our new Server Build Technicians (SBTs) are on the data center floor assisting the Go Live Crew (GLC) and the inventory team is indexing and organizing of the mountains of gear we have in the Large Parts Room (LPR).

SoftLayer Singapore

Thinking back just 30 days, we were getting early access to our two data center suites. Our four ocean containers were unloaded and waiting for us in the LPR, and the members of the GLC from Dallas, Houston, Seattle and Washington, D.C. had their steel toe boots on, hard hats in place and dragging a little from the 14 hour time change. The GLC has worked tirelessly to get this data center online.

SoftLayer Singapore

SoftLayer Singapore

Our success on the ground was far from a standalone feat, though. The steadfast support, backing and encouragement from everyone back home enabled our successful launch. Many departments and individuals spent tireless nights on the phone and on email helping us through issues. I can't overstate the importance of their support and willingness to step up to get things done. Without their help, the data center certainly wouldn't look like this:

SoftLayer Singapore

SoftLayer Singapore

SoftLayer Singapore

Our first international data center and office are worth celebrating, but it's important to realize that our work doesn't stop today. It's critical that we continue to support the Singapore office like we do our other offices and data centers around the U.S. We are depending on the local team to run the daily operations, and they're depending on us to provide them with the necessary guidance to keep the gears in motion. This is not a fire and forget mission — we are now truly a global company.

While we sweep up the imaginary confetti from the floor in SNG01 (since we'd never let real confetti in the DC), we know that the GLC in Amsterdam is on the ground getting our first European facility ready. The ocean containers have been delivered and racks are being built. It's time to get some rest and sleep fast ... We've got another data center coming online soon.

To all our new Singaporean team members: Welcome to SoftLayer. We're excited and proud to have you join our team. To everyone that supported us: Thank you again from the very bottom of our hearts. To our customers: Enjoy your new SoftLayer servers in Singapore. And to our competition: This is just the start.

3BFL.

-@toddmitchell

September 2, 2011

Global Expansion: An Early Look at Singapore

Based on the blog's traffic analytics, customers are very interested in SoftLayer's global expansion, and in my update from Tokyo, I promised a few sneak peeks into the progress of building out the Singapore data center. We've been talking about our move into Asia for a while now, but we haven't showed much of the progress. The cynics in the audience will say, "I'll believe it when I see it," and to them, I say:

These pictures were actually taken a few weeks ago before our Server Build Technicians came on site, and it looks even more amazing now ... But you'll have to check back with us in the coming weeks to see that progress for yourself. Both the Singapore and Amsterdam facilities are on track to go live by the middle of Q4 2011, and we're already starting to hear buzz from our customers as they prepare to snatch up their first SoftLayer server in Asia.

If you want to have a little fun, you should compare these build-out pictures with the ones we've posted from the completed San Jose facility and the under-construction Amsterdam data center. As we've mentioned in previous posts, SoftLayer uses a data center pod concept to create identical hosting environments in each of our locations. Even with the data centers' varying floor plan layouts and sizes, the server room similarities are pretty remarkable.

Stay tuned for updates on the build-out process and for information about when you can start provisioning new servers in Singapore. If you have any questions about the build-out process, leave a comment below or hit us up on Twitter: @SoftLayer.

-@toddmitchell

May 28, 2009

Hardware Heros

The techs that build the servers here at SoftLayer are known as Server Build Engineers or SBE’s. These guys are on the front line of Operations. They are responsible for building out customer server orders, maintenances, fixing cranky provisions, and many other hardware related tasks.

One might think that a hardware tech is a simple job. Well, not the SBE position at SoftLayer. Not only are they responsible for time sensitive hardware builds and provision troubleshooting, but they work directly with all the other departments. We don’t have bazillion hardware techs like other companies might. We train ours up to be one man hardware machines.

Sometimes a provision might have a weird error that needs to be escalated to development. The SBE will work directly with the dev team to resolve the issue.

Sales might have questions about some hardware they are trying to sell. SBE’s answer the call.

SBE’s even jump in to help CSA’s (Customer Service Administrators) when the ticket load or phones get hectic.

SBE’s do numerous projects, too. From helping with large scale hardware compatibility testing to troubleshooting hardware, they are the jack of all trades at SoftLayer.

We have a pseudo paramilitary way of doing things in the hardware department. It’s all in fun, but we get down and dirty and have a “can do” and “yes sir” attitude. We pride ourselves in being able to tackle any problem. If we are asked to do it, we do it, regardless of whether or not it’s our job, we are too busy, or whatever the obstacle.

Be all you can be? Join the army. Be more than you expect you can be? Join the SoftLayer Hardware Team.

The few, the badass, the SBE’s!

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