Posts Tagged 'Cloudlayer'

November 28, 2011

Brisket and BYOC

With all of the cooking and eating going on around Thanksgiving, Summer's Truffle Mac and Cheese blog inspired me to think back on any of the "expertise" I can provide for SoftLayer customers in the kitchen. One of the first things my mother taught me to cook was brisket. While it might not be as exotic as 3 Bars Barbeque, it's pretty easy to make. Everyone who tastes it sings its praises and thinks it took forever to prepare, and while it does have to cook in the oven for about four hours, there are only five ingredients, so the "preparation" time is actually only around ten minutes. Since it's not exactly a family secret, I don't think I'll get into any trouble for sharing it:

Easy-To-Make Brisket Ingredients

  • 1 Brisket - I'd recommend having the majority (not all) of the fat trimmed off at the store
  • 2 1/2 Cups of Ketchup - Buy the largest ketchup bottle and plan on using a little more than half
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Water
  • 1 Packet of Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 Can of Tomato Paste (Optional, adds flavor)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Mix all of the non-brisket ingredients and pour them on top of the brisket in a large roaster (one with a lid would be preferable)
  3. Make sure the entire brisket is covered. Pick it up to get your other ingredients underneath.
  4. Pop it into the oven for four hours at 300 degrees.
  5. Take it out, let it cool, and enjoy!

That's the basic, original recipe, but I've found a few ways to make it juicier along the way. One tip is to pull the brisket from the oven after about three and a half hours and slice it against the grain. If you have an electric knife, this is the perfect chance to use it, and if you don't, this could be an excuse to get one. Put the brisket back in the roaster for another half hour, and you'll love the results. Because ovens differ, just make sure it's moist before you take it out to serve.

At this point, you're probably asking yourself what a brisket recipe has to do with SoftLayer. If you've used our Build Your Own Cloud wizard, you might already see the similarity: You can put something together that seems dauntingly time consuming quickly and without breaking a sweat ... And the end result is amazing. There are a few simple steps to making an impressive brisket, and it takes a few clicks to build a customized cloud instance with all the benefits of SoftLayer's global network and support.

Too often, selecting a cloud instance involves more limitations than it does choices, so we wanted to make sure the BYOC service enabled customers the granularity to choose CPU, RAM, and storage configurations on newer, more powerful servers than our competition. Just like my tweak of the original recipe, we want customers to have the ability to tweak their cloud platform to provide the best application performance, cost efficiency, and availability for their specific needs.

If this blog left you hungry, you've got everything you need to make an amazing brisket. If you don't have the ingredients (or the four hours) you need to make one now, you can try the quicker BYOC recipe:

SoftLayer Cloud Ordering Ingredients

  • The device you're using to read this blog.
  • A list of what you want on your cloud instance.

Instructions

  1. Visit SoftLayer's Build Your Own Cloud page.
  2. Select the options you want and submit your order.
  3. Start using your custom cloud instance in less than 20 minutes!

Happy Building! :-)

-Rachel

Categories: 
July 25, 2011

Under the Hood of 'The Cloud'

When we designed the CloudLayer Computing platform, our goal was to create an offering where customers would be able to customize and build cloud computing instances that specifically meet their needs: If you go to our site, you're even presented with an opportunity to "Build Your Own Cloud." The idea was to let users choose where they wanted their instance to reside as well as their own perfect mix of processor power, RAM and storage. Today, we're taking the BYOC mantra one step farther by unveiling the local disk storage option for CloudLayer computing instances!

Local Disk

For those of you familiar with the CloudLayer platform, you might already understand the value of a local disk storage option, but for the uninitiated, this news presents a perfect opportunity to talk about the dynamics of the cloud and how we approach the cloud around here.

As the resident "tech guy" in my social circle, I often find myself helping friends and family understand everything from why their printer isn't working to what value they can get from the latest and greatest buzzed-about technology. As you'd probably guess, the majority of the questions I've been getting recently revolve around 'the cloud' (thanks especially to huge marketing campaigns out of Redmond and Cupertino). That abstract term effectively conveys the intentional sentiment that users shouldn't have to worry about the mechanics of how the cloud works ... just that it works. The problem is that as the world of technology has pursued that sentiment, the generalization of the cloud has abstracted it to the point where this is how large companies are depicting the cloud:

Cloud

As it turns out, that image doesn't exactly illicit the, "Aha! Now I get it!" epiphany of users actually understanding how clouds (in the technology sense) work. See how I pluralized "clouds" in that last sentence? 'The Cloud' at SoftLayer isn't the same as 'The Cloud' in Redmond or 'The Cloud' in Cupertino. They may all be similar in the sense that each cloud technology incorporates hardware abstraction, on-demand scalability and utility billing, but they're not created in the same way.

If only there were a cloud-specific Declaration of Independence ...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all clouds are not equal, that they are endowed by their creators with certain distinct characteristics, that among these are storage, processing power and the ability to serve content. That to secure these characteristics, information should be given to users, expressed clearly to meet the the cloud's users;

The Ability to Serve Content
Let's unpack that Jeffersonian statement a little by looking at the distinct characteristics of every cloud, starting with the third ("the ability to serve content") and working backwards. Every cloud lives on hardware. The extent to which a given cloud relies on that hardware can vary, but at the end of the day, you &nash; as a user – are not simply connecting to water droplets in the ether. I'll use SoftLayer's CloudLayer platform as a specific example of that a cloud actually looks like: We have racks of uniform servers – designated as part of our cloud infrastructure – installed in rows in our data centers. All of those servers are networked together, and we worked with our friends at Citrix to use the XenServer platform to tie all of those servers together and virtualize the resources (or more simply: to make each piece of hardware accessible independently of the rest of the physical server it might be built into). With that infrastructure as a foundation, ordering a cloud server on the CloudLayer platform simply involves reserving a small piece of that cloud where you can install your own operating system and manage it like an independent server or instance to serve your content.

Processing Power
Understanding the hardware architecture upon which a cloud is built, the second distinct characteristic of every cloud ("processing power") is fairly logical: The more powerful the hardware used for a given cloud, the better processing performance you'll get in an instance using a piece of that hardware.

You can argue about what software uses the least resources in the process of virtualizing, but apples-to-apples, processing power is going to be determined by the power of the underlying hardware. Some providers try to obfuscate the types of servers/processors available to their cloud users (sometimes because they are using legacy hardware that they wouldn't be able to sell/rent otherwise), but because we know how important consistent power is to users, we guarantee that CloudLayer instances are based on 2.0GHz (or faster) processors.

Storage
We walked backward through the distinct characteristics included in my cloud-specific Declaration of Independence because of today's CloudLayer Computing storage announcement, but before I get into the details of that new option, let's talk about storage in general.

If the primary goal of a cloud platform is to give users the ability to scale instantly from 1 CPU of power to 16 CPUs of power, the underlying architecture has to be as flexible as possible. Let's say your cloud computing instance resides on a server with only 10 CPUs available, so when you upgrade to a 16-CPU instance, your instance will be moved to a server with enough available resources to meet your need. To make that kind of quick change possible, most cloud platforms are connected to a SAN (storage area network) or other storage device via a back-end network to the cloud servers. The biggest pro of having this setup is that upgrading and downgrading CPU and RAM for a given cloud instance is relatively easy, but it introduces a challenge: The data lives on another device that is connected via switches and cables and is being used by other customers as well. Because your data has to be moved to your server to be processed when you call it, it's a little slower than if a hard disk was sitting in the same server as the instance's processor and RAM. For that reason, many users don't feel comfortable moving to the cloud.

In response to the call for better-performing storage, there has been a push toward incorporating local disk storage for cloud computing instances. Because local disk storage is physically available to the CPU and RAM, the transfer of data is almost immediate and I/O (input/output) rates are generally much higher. The obvious benefit of this setup is that the storage will perform much better for I/O-intensive applications, while the tradeoff is that the setup loses the inherent redundancy of having the data replicated across multiple drives in a SAN (which, is almost like its own cloud ... but I won't confuse you with that right now).

The CloudLayer Computing platform has always been built to take advantage of the immediate scalability enabled by storing files in a network storage device. We heard from users who want to use the cloud for other applications that they wanted us to incorporate another option, so today we're happy to announce the availability of local disk storage for CloudLayer Computing! We're looking forward to seeing how our customers are going to incorporate cloud computing instances with local disk storage into their existing environments with dedicated servers and cloud computing instances using SAN storage.

If you have questions about whether the SAN or local disk storage option would fit your application best, click the Live Chat icon on SoftLayer.com and consult with one of our sales reps about the benefits and trade-offs of each.

We want you to know exactly what you're getting from SoftLayer, so we try to be as transparent as we can when rolling out new products. If you have any questions about CloudLayer or any of our other offerings, please let us know!

-@nday91

February 25, 2010

When things get hectic, Cloud computing to the rescue!

Nothing’s worse than trying to use someone’s website when you absolutely need information right now, and it’s unavailable. Last semester when attempting to figure out where the heck my classes were located, the school’s website was crippled by the influx of new freshmen that were trying to do the same. Imagine over 20,000 people trying to access this site at the same time, and because of this, the site is rendered practically useless.

We’ve had customers of ours face all sorts of hardships with their sites. Whether they’re featured on a popular TV show, or they’ve seen an unprecedented rise in traffic due to such sites as www.digg.com and www.Slashdot.org (commonly referred to as the Digg effect, or being ‘slashdotted’ <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slashdot_effect> ) it’s often difficult to get a new dedicated server online quickly enough to mitigate this effect. Imagine that instead of tens of thousands of college students, its tens of thousands of dollars! Quite the predicament, right?

Not a problem though! Cloud computing to the rescue! CloudLayer computing instances are able to be rapidly deployed to provide additional resources should they be required. Even better, if you only anticipate a short burst, you can grab a few up, use them while they’re needed, and then toss them, all while only being billed by the hour! With cloud computing administrators can quickly react to changing situations. We offer several solutions in our bag of tricks, including Dedicated, Bare Metal Cloud, and CloudLayer computing. With proper planning and deployment, your site can be profitable regardless of the situation. This includes a popular product, blog, or the first day of college.

September 21, 2009

Hardwhere? - Part Deux: Softwhere (as in soft, fluffy clouds)

I won’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the cloud software we use (okay, maybe a little :),) but I know the gist of it as far as hardware is concerned- redundancy. Entire servers were the last piece of the puzzle needed to complete entire hardware redundancy. In my original article, Hardwhere?, (http://theinnerlayer.softlayer.com/2008/hardwhere/) I talked about using load balancers to spread the load to multiple servers (a service we already had at the time) and eluded to cloud computing.

Now cloud services are a reality.

This is a dream come true for me as the hardware manager. Hardware will always have failures and living in the cloud eliminates customer impact. Words cannot describe what it means to the customer. Never again will a downed server impact service.

Simply put, when you use a SoftLayer CloudLayer Computing Instance, your software is running on one or more servers. If one of these should fail, the load of your software is shifted to another server in the “cloud” seamlessly. We call this HA or High Availability.

If there is a sad part to all of this, it would be that I have spent considerable effort optimizing the hardware department to minimize customer downtime in the even on hardware failures. But I have a rather odd way of looking at my job. I believe the end game of any job I do is complete automation and/or elimination of the task altogether. (Can you say the opposite of job security?) I have a going joke where I say: “Until I have automated and/or proceduralized everything down to perfection with one big red button, there is still work to be done!”

Cloud computing eliminates the customer impact of hardware failures. Bam! Even though this has nothing to do with my hardware department planning, policies and procedures, I have no ego in the matter. If it solves the problem, I don’t care who did the work and was the genius behind it all, as long as it moves us forward with the best products and optimal customer satisfaction!

We have taken the worry out of hosting- no more deciding what RAID is best. No more worrying about how to keep your data available in the event of a hardware failure. CloudLayer does it for you and has all the same service options as a dedicated server and more! One more step to a big red button for the customer!

Now back to working on the DC patrol sharks (they keep eating the techs!) New project- tech redundancy!

June 8, 2009

Instant Gratification!

Wow, where did we come from to get to here?

How many readers remember being your Dad’s remote control for the TV, heating a bit of oil that covered the bottom of a pan till it sizzled to make popcorn, percolating coffee pots, wondering how long it would take for enough hot water to take a shower after your primping older brother hogged it all? What about “fast” forwarding cassette and VCR tapes or thawing a chicken breast for hours on the counter? The list goes on and on.

My absolute favorite was sitting around on a Friday night at about age 10 at the baby sitters with my brother listening to the radio just hoping that “Shake your Booty” would come on the radio so we could record it instead of having to go buy it.

The amount of time we used to sit around waiting for things to happen was huge! Today, it’s all in an instant!

We have five remote controls or at the very least one really smart one that can do it all. Microwave popcorn that takes minutes and no cleanup, instant coffee – just add water, instant hot water heaters that never go cold, mp3 players that you can just click and go from song to song with no waiting; DVD/DVR that you can just go from scene to scene or skip those boring commercials… and you can use that same microwave to thaw your chicken in no time at all.

Today you can be listening to the radio in your car and click a button and it will tell iTunes what song it was and queue it up for your next download, you just have to love technology and the speed at which it happens.

I also remember the days when we had a rotary phone with an 82.5 foot cord that you could string across the house to the bathroom or in front of the TV and keep talking. Then it became the wall phone with the 84 foot stretchy cord and the number keys were on the handset, how cool was that? It never failed though- no matter how long the cord, you always needed more!

Today, you can Facebook, Tweet, chirp, yell, chat, and instant message from just about anywhere, even from a Jet Blue jet flying through the air. That is just pretty cool stuff.

In my previous life before I became a booth babe and a bloghogger I was known for being fairly technical in the world of Microsoft Windows Server and Citrix MetaFrame. They actually worked pretty well for a few of the company apps I had to deal with along my career path. The hardest part was actually setting up the application server to be just perfect and getting it on the wire to allow the employees to do their jobs.

The real challenge was getting more servers added to the pool in a timely fashion at month end for accounting or at rush times of the year for the sales group. It takes time to blast an OS no matter what method you are using, then get the app installed and functioning and then add it to the pool. Sure, I came up with a few tricks on how to image Citrix and they worked but it was still a waiting game trying to procure the hardware, install the image, get the server racked and cabled, etc. It never failed, a week before I had them ready the sales and/or accounting group managers were all over me because it was MY fault that they had slow applications. A few times just about the time I had the servers ready they didn’t need them anymore, I missed the rush.

Welcome to Instant Servification! CloudLayer, oh CloudLayer, I would have paid out of my own pocket back then to have this technology. With the release of hourly billing you can just use them when you need them even if your peak loads are only a fraction of one day. You create your golden image, save it, and push it out to as many as you need for as long as you need, and then when your peak usage is over, cancel them like high interest credit cards!

That is instant Gratification at its best! Welcome to SoftLayer how can we help you?

May 13, 2009

The Data Center is Full of Surprises

After having been in the IT industry in some form or fashion for the last decade or so, I’ve learned that no matter how well you prepare yourself for disaster, you never seem to be surprised by certain issues that present themselves. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about the many surprises our friend Mr. Murphy can throw at us. I’m sure many a tech will anecdotally speak of the time where their server borked on them, their backups failed despite numerous backup audits, and they were up the infamous creek (I’m only assuming at least a few readers are nodding right now). Sometimes painful lessons are the best times to learn, but it’s a bad day when it happens on a production server.

Working in the SoftLayer data center, we take incredible measures to protect our customer’s servers. In a sense, we try to keep Mr. Murphy away. From the biggies (like redundant power and MASSIVE cooling units) to the routine (such as the data center walkthroughs, and proactive RAID alerts), we do our best to keep the servers in the data center running smoothly, and free of surprises.

Beyond the punches our friend Mr. Murphy can throw at us now and again, it’s nice to know there are a few good surprises in store for you, too. You might be surprised at the great deals our SLales team can provide. You might also be surprised at not only the amazing features such as the new Cloudlayer™ Storage, but the incredible rate we keep bringing new features to the table. I’ve also seen customer’s surprise when we rescue their server from the brink of disaster, or when we are able to provide a few tweaks to give THEIR business the edge it needs.

Furthermore, our people keep the data center interesting. SoftLayer sees no shortage of antics. There’s John’s fully automatic Nerf gun. There’s also plenty of jokes played at the expense of someone unfortunate enough to leave their workstation unlocked (call it “security training” – favorite backgrounds include the Care Bears and My Little Pony). We also have that one hardware tech who likes to hide around corners or sneak up behind you, and scare the life out of you while you’re focused on the task at hand.

With so many surprises, SoftLayer continues to be a very interesting place to work, and most certainly a place where one would never get bored!

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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