Posts Tagged 'Cloud Expo'

November 19, 2012

How It's Made (and Won): The Server Challenge II

Every year, we attend more than fifty trade shows and conferences around the world. We want to spread the word about SoftLayer and connect with each conference's technical audience (also known as future SoftLayer customers). That goal is pretty straightforward on paper, but when it comes to executing on it, we're faced with the same challenge as all of our fellow exhibitors: How do we get our target audience to the our booth?

Walk down any aisle of an expo hall, and you'll see collateral and swag beckoning to attendees like a candy bar at the grocery store register. Some exhibitors rely on Twitter to monitor an event's hashtag and swoop in at every opportunity to reach the show's influential attendees. Other exhibitors might send out emails to their clients and prospects in the area to invite them to the show. We see value in each of those approaches, but what we found to be most effective was to bring a SoftLayer data center to our booth ... or at least a piece of one.

The Server Challenge has come a long way over the years. Its meager beginnings involved installing RAM and hard drive cables in a tower server. Shortly thereafter, a rack-mount server replaced the tower server, but you were still tasked with "inside the server" challenges. As we started looking for ways to tell the bigger SoftLayer story with the Server Challenge, we moved to miniature server rack, and the competition really started to pick up steam. This year, we made it our goal to take the Server Challenge to the next level, and when Supermicro stepped in to sponsor the next iteration of the the competition, we started thinking BIG.

Why use a miniature version of a SoftLayer rack when we could use a full-size version? Why have a standalone screen when rack-mount monitors can make the display part of the unit? Why rely on speakers behind the booth to pump "Eye of the Tiger" while attendees are competing when we could easily build those into the next version of the challenge? What was initially intended to be a "tweak" of the first Server Challenge became a complete overhaul ... Hence the new "Server Challenge II" moniker.

Harkening back to the 8-bit glory days of Pac Man and Space Invaders, the Server Challenge II uses a full-size 42U server rack with vintage arcade-style branding, a built-in timer and speakers that blast esoteric video game music. The bread and butter of the challenge is the actual server hardware, though ... Supermicro provided two new 2U servers to replace the previous version's five 1U servers, and we installed the same Cisco (public and private networks) and SMC (out-of-band management network) switches you see in SoftLayer's pods.

Server Challenge II

We had two instances of the original Server Challenge (one in the US, one in Amsterdam), so in order for the Server Challenge II to be bigger and better, we had to increase that total to five — one instance in Europe, one in Asia and three in the United States. Things might get a little crazier logistically, but as a potential conference attendee, it means you're even more likely to encounter the Server Challenge II if you attend any events with us.

The Server Challenge II's Internal Debut

The first instance of the Server Challenge II made its debut at GDC Online in Austin, and we immediately knew we had a hit. By the time the rack got back to our office, we had to get it ready for its next destination (Cloud Expo West), but before we sent it on its way, we gave it an official internal debut ... and raised some money for the American Heart Association in the process.

Server Challenge II at SoftLayer

SLayers at the SoftLayer HQ in Dallas could pay $3 for one attempt or $5 for two attempts to reach the top of the Server Challenge II leader board. Needless to say, it was competitive. If you click on the image above, you'll notice that our fearless leader, Lance Crosby, stopped by and gave tips to (and/or heckled) a few participants. Unsurprisingly, one of our very talented Server Build Technicians — Ellijah Fleites — took home a MacBook Air and bragging rights as SoftLayer champion with a record time of 1:03.79 ... But records are made to be broken.

In Two Places at Once

Immediately after the AHA fundraiser, we crated up the rack and sent it along to Cloud Expo West in Santa Clara. A few days later, we put the finishing touches on the second Server Challenge II rack, and because we got it done quickly, we were able to get it shipped to the other side of the country for ad:tech NYC. We would finally have the competition running in two places at the exact same time!

We weren't disappointed.

On both coasts, the retro style of the Server Challenge II lured some fantastic competitors (excellent!), and started a lot of great conversations (even better!). Here are the final leader boards from the shows:

Server Challenge II
Server Challenge II

You probably notice that the times in the ad:tech leader board are a little higher than the times in the Cloud Expo leader board, and our team figured out why that was in the middle of the second day of the conference ... The way we bound the network cables differed slightly between the two instances, and we were using different switches to time the competition (one that required only one hand to activate/deactivate, the other requiring both hands). In order to have an "apples-to-apples" comparison between all of our shows, we're going to make sure everything is consistent with all of the instances, and we plan on keeping a running list of fastest overall challenge times ... and maybe even a "World Championship" one day.

Given the early success of the Server Challenge II, you can bet that it's not going anywhere any time soon. If we have multiple shows running the challenge at one time, we might even fire up a video chat where you can compete against an attendee at a completely different conference ... so be prepared.

In the next year, we'll have all five of the Server Challenge II instances in rotation across three continents, and with the popularity of the competition growing by leaps and bounds after every show, we hope by next holiday season, a home version of the Server Challenge II is at the top of every wish list on the planet. :-)

For now, though, I'll just leave you with a glimpse at the action from Cloud Expo West (click for more pictures from the show):

Cloud Expo West

-Raleigh

June 21, 2012

New Swag, New Booth, New Product Announcement: SoftLayer at Cloud Expo East 2012

When a SLayers pack their bags and heads to the 'Big Apple,' we go BIG. Our most recent trip to NYC for Cloud Expo East proved that statement over and over again. When I heard I'd be one of the employees representing SoftLayer at the Javits Convention Center, I did a little dance ... Cloud Expo is one of my favorite conferences, and New York City is one of my favorite cities, so I had a lot to be excited about.

Cloud Expo East and Cloud Expo West are two of the biggest shows SoftLayer sponsors every year. Attendees come from various industries — from digital marketing agencies to software as a service providers to hosting resellers — with their own needs and questions about what's happening "in the cloud." Because our Cloud Expo presences usually get a ton of traffic, we decided to unveil our brand new 20' by 20' booth in New York:

SoftLayer at Cloud Expo East

For the last few months, we've been sketching, editing and tweaking our vision of the booth. Naturally, our new "Build the Future" branding was present, and you could see the simple "Our Platform. Your Vision." statement from wherever you were. By the time the design was finalized, we were on pins and needles in anticipation, waiting for the booth leap off the paper. We weren't disappointed, and conference attendees weren't either.

In addition to the hundreds of conversations we had with attendees about SoftLayer's cloud computing capabilities, it was pretty amazing to me that so many people commented on our booth design. Many attendees noticed that our booth gets bigger and bigger every year, and the fact that our booth towered over most of the other booths in the area made that a pretty easy observation. As attendees were moving down the escalators into the exhibition hall, they were greeted by the SoftLayer. Because the booth was designed with an open-concept in mind, we never felt too claustrophobic ... Even when a flood of people would come hunting for the new SoftLayer flexi-frisbees we were giving out after they heard Duke or Marc present.

SoftLayer at Cloud Expo East

Despite the "openness" of the booth design, many attendees were able to gather what SoftLayer is all about from the graphic side panels ... and the Server Challenge:

SoftLayer at Cloud Expo East

That's right. The infamous Server Challenge continued to draw crowds and spark conversations in the new booth. And it was the perfect "finishing touch" to put the new conference presence over the top. While some attendees were hesitant to step up to try their hands at the competition, others were eager to accept the challenge. And as usual, the leader board was impossibly close:

  1. Dejian Fang - 0:59.08
  2. Corjan Bast - 0:59.59
  3. Logan Best - 1:00.49
  4. Jeffrey Abatayo - 1:01.00
  5. Bryan Wong - 1:01.84

The top time of 59.08 seconds was a mere 2.76 seconds faster than the fifth place time!

When conference attendees weren't watching the Server Challenge craziness or ducking to avoid an errant SoftLayer frisbee, we had a few more "oohs" and "ahhs" to share. In the new booth design, we incorporated four iMacs, one in each corner. If an attendee had a question about our portal, our pricing or our API, we could fire up a browser and use the SoftLayer-sponsored conference wifi to take them where they needed to go. If no one was using the computers, the screens would show a flashy video that included some interesting SoftLayer facts and a look at a SoftLayer Truck Day.

SoftLayer at Cloud Expo East

Off the expo floor, SoftLayer CTO Duke Skarda and Vice President of Product Innovation Marc Jones announced our new product, Private Clouds. No big deal. If you didn't see that announcement or you want to learn more, Nathan Day (SoftLayer's Chief Scientist) posted a fantastic blog coinciding with SoftLayer's private clouds release, and Duke followed up with an in depth look at how and why we chose to build private clouds the way we did.

Sad that you missed your chance to see the new 20' x 20' booth in person? Don't cry... If you're in the Silicon Valley for Cloud Expo West (November 5-8), we won't be hard to spot.

-Natalie

Categories: 
April 22, 2010

32K

I know this is old news, but this GoGo inflight wireless is pretty cool. I am 32,000 feet up right now and connected to all my fun, social media toys. I have been tweeting, facebooking, and now I decided to hammer out a blog about it. The really cool thing to me is that I am RDP’d to my desktop at the office and am able to do my email in my native client and have access to all of my different instant messaging networks. I am even going to message our web guys and see if we can have this blog published before I land. I have my power adapter, my seat has a power port and they are serving me a diet coke right now. Man, if I could get this kind of service at the office I might stop traveling because this is the life. No walk up chatting to interrupt my hard working ways, no blenders to tempt me to waste time and blend something, and also no temptation to leave for lunch and go to Rafain’s to eat 6000 calories of fantastic, spicy beef. The snacks on the plane are a bit expensive, so I might even lose a few pounds.

I am in flight back from Cloud Expo in New York and it was amazing how many more people understand the cloud this year than last year. All in all it was a good show. We met a few more of our customers, and once again, we had many compliments. We really like to hear them, so if we end up at a show close to you, please come see us. We will even let you complain if you need to, but we are confident you won’t have to. You can always walk away with a little piece of SoftLayer swag, ranging from a shirt or a cup, to a Frisbee or maybe even a little free computing power.

The next show on my agenda is GDC in Vancouver and then Citrix Synergy in San Francisco. Come by and see me in person! I don’t bite, but I do growl a little. Look out for the upcoming tweets with booth numbers and show times, and as always we might have something special to hand you.

While you are at it - come check us out on Facebook, flickr, twitter and the rest!

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