Posts Tagged 'Cars'

September 30, 2013

The Economics of Cloud Computing: If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is

One of the hosts of a popular Sirius XM radio talk show was recently in the market to lease a car, and a few weeks ago, he shared an interesting story. In his research, he came across an offer he came across that seemed "too good to be true": Lease a new Nissan Sentra with no money due at signing on a 24-month lease for $59 per month. The car would as "base" as a base model could be, but a reliable car that can be driven safely from Point A to Point B doesn't need fancy "upgrades" like power windows or an automatic transmission. Is it possible to lease new car for zero down and $59 per month? What's the catch?

After sifting through all of the paperwork, the host admitted the offer was technically legitimate: He could lease a new Nissan Sentra for $0 down and $59 per month for two years. Unfortunately, he also found that "lease" is just about the extent of what he could do with it for $59 per month. The fine print revealed that the yearly mileage allowance was 0 (zero) — he'd pay a significant per-mile rate for every mile he drove the car.

Let's say the mileage on the Sentra was charged at $0.15 per mile and that the car would be driven a very-conservative 5,000 miles per year. At the end of the two-year lease, the 10,000 miles on the car would amount to a $1,500 mileage charge. Breaking that cost out across the 24 months of the lease, the effective monthly payment would be around $121, twice the $59/mo advertised lease price. Even for a car that would be used sparingly, the numbers didn't add up, so the host wound up leasing a nicer car (that included a non-zero mileage allowance) for the same monthly cost.

The "zero-down, $59/mo" Sentra lease would be a fantastic deal for a person who wants the peace of mind of having a car available for emergency situations only, but for drivers who put the national average of 15,000 miles per year, the economic benefit of such a low lease rate is completely nullified by the mileage cost. If you were in the market to lease a new car, would you choose that Sentra deal?

At this point, you might be wondering why this story found its way onto the SoftLayer Blog, and if that's the case, you don't see the connection: Most cloud computing providers sell cloud servers like that car lease.

The "on demand" and "pay for what you use" aspects of cloud computing make it easy for providers to offer cloud servers exclusively as short-term utilities: "Use this cloud server for a couple of days (or hours) and return it to us. We'll just charge you for what you use." From a buyer's perspective, this approach is easy to justify because it limits the possibility of excess capacity — paying for something you're not using. While that structure is effective (and inexpensive) for customers who sporadically spin up virtual server instances and turn them down quickly, for the average customer looking to host a website or application that won't be turned off in a given month, it's a different story.

Instead of discussing the costs in theoretical terms, let's look at a real world example: One of our competitors offers an entry-level Linux cloud server for just over $15 per month (based on a 730-hour month). When you compare that offer to SoftLayer's least expensive monthly virtual server instance (@ $50/mo), you might think, "OMG! SoftLayer is more than three times as expensive!"

But then you remember that you actually want to use your server.

You see, like the "zero down, $59/mo" car lease that doesn't include any mileage, the $15/mo cloud server doesn't include any bandwidth. As soon as you "drive your server off the lot" and start using it, that "fantastic" rate starts becoming less and less fantastic. In this case, outbound bandwidth for this competitor's cloud server starts at $0.12/GB and is applied to the server's first outbound gigabyte (and every subsequent gigabyte in that month). If your server sends 300GB of data outbound every month, you pay $36 in bandwidth charges (for a combined monthly total of $51). If your server uses 1TB of outbound bandwidth in a given month, you end up paying $135 for that "$15/mo" server.

Cloud servers at SoftLayer are designed to be "driven." Every monthly virtual server instance from SoftLayer includes 1TB of outbound bandwidth at no additional cost, so if your cloud server sends 1TB of outbound bandwidth, your total charge for the month is $50. The "$15/mo v. $50/mo" comparison becomes "$135/mo v. $50/mo" when we realize that these cloud servers don't just sit in the garage. This illustration shows how the costs compare between the two offerings with monthly bandwidth usage up to 1.3TB*:

Cloud Cost v Bandwidth

*The graphic extends to 1.3TB to show how SoftLayer's $0.10/GB charge for bandwidth over the initial 1TB allotment compares with the competitor's $0.12/GB charge.

Most cloud hosting providers sell these "zero down, $59/mo car leases" and encourage you to window-shop for the lowest monthly price based on number of cores, RAM and disk space. You find the lowest price and mentally justify the cost-per-GB bandwidth charge you receive at the end of the month because you know that you're getting value from the traffic that used that bandwidth. But you'd be better off getting a more powerful server that includes a bandwidth allotment.

As a buyer, it's important that you make your buying decisions based on your specific use case. Are you going to spin up and spin down instances throughout the month or are you looking for a cloud server that is going to stay online the entire month? From there, you should estimate your bandwidth usage to get an idea of the actual monthly cost you can expect for a given cloud server. If you don't expect to use 300GB of outbound bandwidth in a given month, your usage might be best suited for that competitor's offering. But then again, it's probably worth mentioning that that SoftLayer's base virtual server instance has twice the RAM, more disk space and higher-throughput network connections than the competitor's offering we compared against. Oh yeah, and all those other cloud differentiators.

-@khazard

May 30, 2011

Summer Tips to Clean Your Ride

Snowy Cars

Remember this? Your car does.

Now that Memorial Day officially marks the beginning of summer and the temperature is creeping back up, it's time to take care of that neglected car that battled the cold winter and the spring rains. Outside of work, a lot of fellow SLayers are into cars ... Some show them off, others focus on making them faster. And given the fact that we are professionally obsessive about keeping our data centers clean and tidy, that obsessiveness is pretty evident in how hard we work to keep our cars clean.

Since today is a holiday in the US, I want to take a break from the down-and-dirty server stuff to give you a quick glimpse at what many SLayers are doing today: Cleaning their rides. Like a lot of the technical troubleshooting we do, it's best to stick to a particular flow of steps to cover all the bases and get the best outcome. The following steps are the ones I take to bring back the showroom-floor shine. Since the typical car detail can run anywhere from $50-$300 this is a great way to save money every month ... so you can order another server or upgrade the hardware on an existing one. :-)

What You'll Need

  • Bucket
  • Soap
  • Sponge or Microfiber or Sheepskin Glove
  • Clay Bar
  • Wax and Foam Wax Applicator
  • Quik Detailer
  • Glass Cleaner
  • Tire Shine - Optional
  • Microfiber Towels - The more the merrier
  • Beer (or beverage of choice) - Optional ... also the more the merrier
  • Bonus: Swirl Remover - If you're using a rotary buffer
  • Bonus: Finishing Polish

Note: In all steps where washing is involved, rinse first to get any loose dirt off then gently scrub and rinse off. Car should be parked in the shade to avoid water spots. All steps after clay barring MUST be done in the shade.

Step 1: Washing the Wheels
Make sure your brake rotors have cooled before hitting them with cold water, otherwise you could risk warping them. Because of the dirt and grime wheels get, I recommend using a separate bucket and sponge for this step.

Step 2: Washing the Rest of the Car / Drying
Always work from the top of the car to the bottom, and the best practice is to do one panel at a time.
Frequently rinse your sponge or glove to release the dirt it picks up.
When scrubbing the side panels, it's better to go up and down instead of side to side or in circles.
Drying panels as soon as you've rinsed them helps prevent water spots.

Step 2.1: Tire Shine (Optional)
Try to keep Tire Shine on the tires only. If you get it on the wheel, it'll just allow dirt and/or brake dust to attach to the wheel.
Don't overdo this or it will just splash back onto your car when you start driving.

Step 3: Clay Bar
Spray Quik Detailer onto surface and gently rub the clay bar from side to side.
Fold the clay bar between sprays. This keeps the clay bar surface clean.
Dry leftover Quik Detailer with a microfiber towel.

Step 3.1: Swirl Remover then Finishing Polish (optional)
Best when used with a rotary buffer at high speed.
If doing by hand, using pressure, apply in small circular motions.
Remove with a microfiber towel.

Step 4: Wax
Using either a foam wax applicator or rotary buffer on low speed, apply wax as thinly as possible, otherwise it will be harder to remove.
When the surface looks hazy, remove with a microfiber towel.

Step 5: Quik Detailer & Glass Cleaner
Use Glass Cleaner on windows and mirrors.
Quik Detail the whole car again.
These steps clear off any leftover dust from waxing as well as remove any water spots from water that may have crept out after waxing.

Step 6: That's All!
Crack open a beer and gaze at your beautiful car ... *wipe drool off of face*.

The process can take as long as several hours to complete depending on how bad your car needs a cleaning. If this process has been completed recently, you can skip Steps 3 and 4, as clay barring is only needed ~2-3 times a year and waxing every 2-3 months.

If you're like us and you love showing off your car, after it gets all dolled up, post a link to a picture of it here in the comments!

-Tommy

September 1, 2010

Ford Mustang and SoftLayer Upgrades

Each morning as I back my car of out the drive way, I ask myself, “I wonder how bad traffic will be this morning?” My commute through Dallas traffic is always a challenge making it to work on time. My 1997 Monte Carlo may not be much to look at, but it always gets me to work in one piece. My car has been through multiple wrecks and its biggest flaw is no air conditioning. Wow does it get hot in Texas! To quote that country song “she aint a Cadillac, and she ain’t a Rolls, but there ain’t nothin’ wrong with the radio.”

Picture 1 - Westmoreland

I finally decided to purchase a new vehicle . Any kind of an upgrade would be a vast improvement. I did not care what it looked like, my main concern was, “does it have air conditioning?” I stopped by a Toyota dealership on the way home one night after work. After getting the run around, I decided to make one last stop at the Ford dealership before they closed. As the salemen asked me what I was looking for, I told him “something reliable and economical.” He pointed out the Ford Fussion and then all of a sudden, something magical caught my eye.

Sitting there, calling out my name, was a 2011 Ford Mustang with a V6 3.7L and all 305 screaming horses. I just had to take it out for a test ride. After just a few moments, I knew I had found my upgrade. Not only did it look good, but it was very economical. With an estimated 31MPG and a reasonable sticker price, it was love at first sight.

The longer I thought about my upgrade, the more it reminded me of some SoftLayer customers. Some of our customers have a “monte carlo” server with only 1 proc, 2 gig of ram, and an older motherboard. It may have worked great at one time, but it is clearly time for an upgrade. For a while I had been content with my Monte Carlo, but there comes a time when we all have to upgrade.

  • The Mustang spedometer shows a top speed of 160. What speed processor are you using?
  • The Mustang has more interior room. What size ram are you using?
  • The Mustang gets a lot of second glances. What type of performance is your server getting?

When people see my old vehicle compared to the 2011 Ford Mustang, they usually comment “wow what an upgrade.” Just think what type of response you will get after a long overdue upgrade!

Mustang - Westmoreland

Categories: 
February 18, 2010

Tools for the Job

Back in my younger days I had taken on a few new hobbies that strike fear into the hearts of most mortals; Auto Mechanics. While working on vehicles, especially your own, can be terrifying imagine placing a necessary part on incorrectly that would eventually lead to failure and possibly serious injury to yourself or others. Luckily I had some backup while working on my truck. The individuals at the auto shop, that I did most of my work at, were knowledgeable and always willing to help (when they could get to you).

One specific experience rings loudly in my head to this day (for more than one reason, as you will soon find out). While driving around San Diego, I noticed a rather unnerving grinding/squeaking noise emanating from one off my wheels. I quickly headed to the local parts store to pick up a new ball joint and proceeded to take on the attempt to fix it.

Long story short, after some nuts, bolts, cuts, and bruises, I finally got to where I needed to remove the part. One of the techs there suggested using a hammer to bang it out of the coupling (or whatever it's seated in). Thirty minutes later, I was tired, frustrated, sore, and deaf. Come to find out there was a perfect tool at my disposal, which cut the job down to approximately five minutes. One of the individuals at the shop told me that "no one had been able to make it work". Needless to say, I made a liar out of him.

Similarly, we provide the resources that allow our customers to quickly and effectively attack a possible situation and fix the problem. Our technicians are the best in the industry and our primary focus is to ensure that customer satisfaction is at its highest. We have several tools at our disposal and offer those tools, and guidance on using them. Also, much like the staff at the auto shop, we try and point our customers to the 'tricks of the trade'. We have an extensive knowledge base that can assist with day to day problems.

Quite on the contrary, though, we never discourage using certain tools because we don't think that they'll work. As anyone in IT can attest to, just because something doesn't work the first time doesn't necessarily mean that it's a lost cause. With the right instructions and a little bit of patience, a little can go a long way. The trick is to use the correct tools for the job. While an ICMP request will tell you that the server's online, it won't give you the reason for outages like output from /var/log/messages or event viewer would.

Luckily, I don't think I'll be changing a ball joint on my car any time soon but I'm always learning new tricks and tools that I can use to further enhance my proficiency and I'll always be happy to share those tricks to you; our loyal customers!

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