Posts Tagged 'Cloud Storage'

August 1, 2012

SoftLayer + Open Source + OSCON

While a handful of SoftLayer employees made their way to Boston for HostingCon, another ragtag group of SLayers journeyed to Portland to attend OSCON &mdash: the Open Source CONvention. OSCON attracts 2,500+ passionate members of the open source community, so the conference sessions and expo hall are filled with the most creative and innovative people on the Web. That's where we want to be.

Over the past few years, we've built a great reputation at OSCON as not only a great hosting provider, but also as the operator of one of the best booths on the expo hall floor. As usual, the switchballs were crowd pleasers, and we sponsored the show's Massage Booth, so we had great traffic through our booth all conference. When attendees left our booth, they were considerably more relaxed, they had the coolest swag at the show, and they had a better understanding of where SoftLayer fits in the open source space.

In addition to the conversations on the expo hall floor, we got to share a little expertise in a conference session. Senior Software Architect Harold Hannon presented an engaging educational session about how we implemented elasticsearch, Apache-based code that allows for scalable search for all kinds of documents in near real-time. At the moment, SoftLayer uses elasticsearch internally for hardware and ticketing, and we hope to extend this feature-rich scalable searching to our customers in an upcoming release of the customer portal. Because SoftLayer has built a great reputation for executing scalability well, Harold ended up presenting to a packed house (which you can see in the last few pictures of the slide show above).

SoftLayer's significant investment in open source platforms like OpenStack Swift Object Storage and CloudStack-based Private Clouds wound up being a big topic of discussion throughout the conference. Harold's elasticsearch presentation was a great conversation bridge to talk about the incredible search-and-retrieve functionality we implemented in our Object Storage service, and we were able to share and demonstrate how that functionality helps our customers manage large quantities of static data in cloud environments in an automated way.

The open source community has matured significantly over the past few years, and it's exciting to see that evolution. We aren't just talking about the incredibly popular open source operating systems like CentOS, Debian, Fedora, FreeBSD and Ubuntu that customers can get on a dedicated or cloud server ... We're talking about game-changing, innovative platforms that are redefining how the Internet works.

We want to thank the OSCON team for another phenomenal show, and if you attended the show but didn't get a switchball from us, I'm sure you'll have another chance at OSCON 2013. If you don't think you can wait that long, come find us at one of our other upcoming events!

-Summer

Categories: 
February 15, 2012

SoftLayer + OpenStack Swift = SoftLayer Object Storage

Since our inception in 2005, SoftLayer's goal has been to provide an array of on-demand data center and hosting services that combine exceptional access, control, scalability and security with unparalleled network robustness and ease of use ... That's why we're so excited to unveil SoftLayer Object Storage to our customers.

Based on OpenStack Object Storage (codenamed Swift) — open-source software that allows the creation of redundant, scalable object storage on clusters of standardized servers — SoftLayer Object Storage provides customers with new opportunities to leverage cost-effective cloud-based storage and to simultaneously realize significant capex-related cost savings.

OpenStack has been phenomenally successful thanks to a global software community comprised of developers and other technologists that has built and tweaked a standards-based, massively scalable open-source platform for public and private cloud computing. The simple goal of the OpenStack project is to deliver code that enables any organization to create and offer feature-rich cloud computing services from industry-standard hardware. The overarching OpenStack technology consists of several interrelated project components: One for compute, one for an image service, one for object storage, and a few more projects in development.

SoftLayer Object Storage
Like the OpenStack Swift system on which it is based, SoftLayer Object Storage is not a file system or real-time data-storage system, rather it's a long-term storage system for a more permanent type of static data that can be retrieved, leveraged and updated when necessary. Typical applications for this type of storage can involve virtual machine images, photo storage, email storage and backup archiving.

One of the primary benefits of Object Storage is the role that it can play in automating and streamlining data storage in cloud computing environments. SoftLayer Object Storage offers rich metadata features and search capability that can be leveraged to automate the way unstructured data gets accessed. In this way, SoftLayer Object Storage will provide organizations with new capabilities for improving overall data management and storage efficiency.

File Storage v. Object Storage
To better understand the difference between file storage and object storage, let's look at how file storage and object storage differ when it comes to metadata and search for a simple photo image. When a digital camera or camera-enabled phone snaps a photo, it embeds a series of metadata values in the image. If you save the image in a standard image file format, you can search for it by standard file properties like name, date and size. If you save the same image with additional metadata as an object, you can set object metadata values for the image (after reading them from the image file). This detail provides granular search capability based on the metadata keys and values, in addition to the standard object properties. Here is a sample comparison of an image's metadata value in both systems:

File Metadata Object Metadata
Name:img01.jpg Name:img01.jpg
Date: 2012-02-13 Date:2012-02-13
Size:1.2MB Size:1.2MB
Manufacturer:CASIO
Model:QV-4000
x-Resolution:72.00
y-Resolution:72.00
PixelXDimension:2240
PixelYDimension:1680
FNumber:f/4.0
Exposure Time:1/659 sec.

Using the rich metadata and search capability enabled by object storage, you would be able to search for all images with a dimension of 2240x1680 or a resolution of 72x72 in a quick/automated fashion. The object storage system "understands" more about what is being stored because it is able to differentiate files based on characteristics that you define.

What Makes SoftLayer Object Storage Different?
SoftLayer Object Storage features several unique features and ways for SoftLayer customers to upload, access and manage data:

  • Search — Quickly access information through user-defined metadata key-value pairs, file name or unique identifier
  • CDN — Serve your content globally over our high-performance content delivery network
  • Private Network — Free, secure private network traffic between all data centers and storage cluster nodes
  • API — Access to a full-feature OpenStack-compatible API with additional support for CDN and search integration
  • Portal — Web application integrated into the SoftLayer portal
  • Mobile — iPhone and Android mobile apps, with Windows Phone app coming soon
  • Language Bindings — Feature-complete bindings for Java, PHP, Python and Ruby*

*Language bindings, documentation, and guides are available on SLDN.

We think SoftLayer Object Storage will be attractive to a broad range of current and prospective customers, from web-centric businesses dependent on file sharing and content distribution to legal/medical/financial-services companies which possess large volumes of data that must be stored securely while remaining readily accessible.

SoftLayer Object Storage significantly extends our cloud-services portfolio while substantially enriching the storage capabilities that we bring to our customers. What are you waiting for? Go order yourself some object storage @ $0.12/GB!

-Marc

February 14, 2012

Open Source, OpenStack and SoftLayer

The open-source model has significantly revolutionized not only the IT industry but the business world as well. In fact, it was one of the key "flatteners" Thomas Friedman covered in his tour de force on globalization — The World is Flat. The trend toward collaborating on online projects — including open-source software, blogs, and Wikipedia — remains one of "the most disruptive forces of all."

The success of open-source projects like Linux, Ruby on Rails, and Android reveals the strength and diversity of having developers around the world contributing and providing feedback on code. The community becomes more than the sum of its parts, driving innovation and constant improvement. The case has been made for open source in and of itself, but a debate still rages over the developing case for businesses contributing to open source. Why would a business dedicate resources to the development of something it can't sell?

The answer is simple and straightforward: Contributing to open source fosters a community that can inspire, create and fuel the innovation a business needs to keep providing its customers with even better products. It makes sense ... Having hundreds of developers with different skills and perspectives working on a project can push that project further faster. The end result is a product that benefits the open-source community and the business world. The destiny of the community or the product cannot be defined by a single vendor or business; it's the democratization of technology.

Open-Source Cloud Platforms
Today, there are several open-source cloud platforms vying for industry dominance. SoftLayer has always been a big proponent and supporter of open source, and we've been involved with the OpenStack project from the beginning. In fact, we just announced SoftLayer Object Storage, an offering based on OpenStack Object Storage (code-named Swift). We'll provide code and support for Swift in hopes that it continues to grow and improve. The basic idea behind Swift Object Storage is to create redundant, scalable object storage using clusters of standardized servers to store petabytes of accessible data. I could go on and on about object storage, but I know Marc Jones has a blog specifically about SoftLayer Object Storage being published tomorrow, and I don't want to steal too much of his thunder.

We have to acknowledge and embrace the heterogeneous nature of IT industry. Just as you might use multiple operating systems and hypervisors, we're plan on working with a variety of open-source cloud platforms. Right now, we're looking into supporting initiatives like Eucalyptus, and we have our ear to the street to listen to what our customers are asking for. Our overarching goal is to provide our customers with much-needed technologies that are advancing the hosting industry, and one of the best ways to get to that end is to serve the needs of the open-source community.

As I write this blog post, I can't help but think of it in terms of a the Lord of Rings reference: "One ring to rule them all." The idea that "one ring" is all we need to focus on as a hosting provider just doesn't work when it comes to the open-source community ... It all comes down to enabling choice and flexibility. We'll keep investing in innovation wherever we can, and we'll let the market decide which ring will rule where.

What open-source projects are you working on now? How can SoftLayer get involved?

-Matt

December 23, 2011

Back up Your Life: In the Clouds, On the Go

The value of our cloud options here at SoftLayer have never been more noticeable than during the holiday seasons. Such a hectic time of the year can cause a lot of stress ... Stress that can lead to human error on some of your most important projects, data and memories. Such a loss could result in weeks or even years of valuable time and memories gone.

In the past few months, I've gone through two major data-related incidents that I was prepared for, and I can't imagine what I would have done if I didn't have some kind of backups in place. In one instance, my backups were not very current, so I ended up losing two weeks worth of work and data, but every now and then, you hear horror stories of people losing (or having to pay a lot to restore) all of their data. The saddest part about the data loss is that it's so easily preventable these days with prevalent backup storage platforms. For example, SoftLayer's CloudLayer Storage is a reliable, inexpensive place to keep all of your valuable data so you're not up a creek if you corrupt/lose your local versions somehow (like dropping a camera, issuing an incorrect syntax command or simply putting a thumb-drive though the washer).

That last "theoretical" example was in fact was one of the "incidents" I dealt with recently. A very important USB thumb-drive that I keep with me at all times was lost to the evil water machine! Because the security of the data was very important to me, I made sure to keep the drive encrypted in case of loss or theft, but the frequency of my backup schedule was the crack in my otherwise well thought data security and redundancy plan. A thumb drive is probably one of the best examples of items that need an automatic system or ritual to ensure data concurrency. This is a device we carry on us at all times, so it sees many changes in data. If this data is not properly updated in a central (secure and redundant) location, then all of our other efforts to take care of that data are wasted.

My the problem with my "Angel" (the name of the now-washed USB drive) was related to concurrency rather than security, and looking back at my mistake, I see how "The Cloud" would have served as a platform to better improve the way I was protecting my data with both of those point in mind. And that's why my new backups-in-the-cloud practices let me sleep a little more soundly these days.

If you're venturing out to fight the crowds of last-minute holiday shoppers or if you're just enjoying the sights and sounds of the season, be sure your memories and keepsake digital property are part of a well designed SRCD (secure, redundant and concurrent data) structure. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when setting up your system:

  • Create a frequent back-up schedule
  • Use at least two physically separate devices
  • Follow your back-up schedule strictly
  • Automate everything you can for when you forget to execute on the previous bullet*

*I've used a few different programs (both proprietary and non-proprietary) that allow an automatic back-up to be performed when you plug your "on the go" device into your computer.

I'll keep an eye out for iPhone, Android and Blackberry apps that will allow for automatic transfers to a central location, and I'll put together a fresh blog with some ideas when I find anything interesting and worth your attention.

Have a happy Holidays!

- Jonathan

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

April 27, 2009

Into the Cloud

You'll see the word "cloud" bouncing around quite a bit in IT nowadays. If you have been following The Inner Layer you'll have seen it a few times here as well. A cloud service is just something that is hosted on the Internet. Typically in a cloud scenario you are not actually doing the hosting but rather using hosted resources someone else is providing. Usually you'll hear it in terms of computing and storage.

This is going to be a brief article on a cloud storage product we are doing here at SoftLayer called CloudLayer™ Storage.

CloudLayer™ Storage is a WebDAV based system which uses client software on the local machine in order to redirect filesystem operations to the storage repository here at SoftLayer. In Windows you end up with a drive letter; on a Unix system you end up with a mount point. In both cases when you create folders and save files on those locations the actions actually happen on our storage repository here. Because the files are located with us you are able to access them wherever you are. Through the CloudLayer™ web UI you're able to also set up files for sharing with others so even if where you are never changes there is still value to using the cloud storage.

Even using a cloud storage system you must maintain proper backups. Hardware, software and human error all happens. Tied in with that concept of "errors happen" ... if you have files on CloudLayer™ that you need for a presentation, download them ahead of time. You don't want to be caught without files simply because the Internet connection at your hotel decided to take a nap the morning of your event.

Now what of security? Well, the connection to the CloudLayer™ endpoint here at SoftLayer is done via an encrypted session so people cannot snoop on your transmissions. This does mean you need to allow 443/tcp outbound communications via your firewall but since that is the normal HTTPS port I'd imagine you already have it open. Within CloudLayer™ you can control with whom you share your files.

Since CloudLayer™ is a filesystem redirected over the Internet the performance you get will be dependent on your local connection speed. Its best to treat CloudLayer™ Storage as simply a file repository. If you find you need some kind of off-machine storage for running applications on your server you could look into our iSCSI product.

So, dear readers, go forth and have a cloudy day.

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