Posts Tagged 'Construction'

February 8, 2013

Data Center Power-Up: Installing a 2-Megawatt Generator

When I was a kid, my living room often served as a "job site" where I managed a fleet of construction vehicles. Scaled-down versions of cranes, dump trucks, bulldozers and tractor-trailers littered the floor, and I oversaw the construction (and subsequent destruction) of some pretty monumental projects. Fast-forward a few years (or decades), and not much has changed except that the "heavy machinery" has gotten a lot heavier, and I'm a lot less inclined to "destruct." As SoftLayer's vice president of facilities, part of my job is to coordinate the early logistics of our data center expansions, and as it turns out, that responsibility often involves overseeing some of the big rigs that my parents tripped over in my youth.

The video below documents the installation of a new Cummins two-megawatt diesel generator for a pod in our DAL05 data center. You see the crane prepare for the work by installing counter-balance weights, and work starts with the team placing a utility transformer on its pad outside our generator yard. A truck pulls up with the generator base in tow, and you watch the base get positioned and lowered into place. The base looks so large because it also serves as the generator's 4,000 gallon "belly" fuel tank. After the base is installed, the generator is trucked in, and it is delicately picked up, moved, lined up and lowered onto its base. The last step you see is the generator housing being installed over the generator to protect it from the elements. At this point, the actual "installation" is far from over — we need to hook everything up and test it — but those steps don't involve the nostalgia-inducing heavy machinery you probably came to this post to see:

When we talk about the "megawatt" capacity of a generator, we're talking about the bandwidth of power available for use when the generator is operating at full capacity. One megawatt is one million watts, so a two-megawatts generator could power 20,000 100-watt light bulbs at the same time. This power can be sustained for as long as the generator has fuel, and we have service level agreements to keep us at the front of the line to get more fuel when we need it. Here are a few other interesting use-cases that could be powered by a two-megawatt generator:

  • 1,000 Average Homes During Mild Weather
  • 400 Homes During Extreme Weather
  • 20 Fast Food Restaurants
  • 3 Large Retail Stores
  • 2.5 Grocery Stores
  • A SoftLayer Data Center Pod Full of Servers (Most Important Example!)

Every SoftLayer facility has an n+1 power architecture. If we need three generators to provide power for three data center pods in one location, we'll install four. This additional capacity allows us to balance the load on generators when they're in use, and we can take individual generators offline for maintenance without jeopardizing our ability to support the power load for all of the facility's data center pods.

Those of you who are in the fondly remember Tonka trucks and CAT crane toys are the true target audience for this post, but even if you weren't big into construction toys when you were growing up, you'll probably still appreciate the work we put into safeguarding our facilities from a power perspective. You don't often see the "outside the data center" work that goes into putting a new SoftLayer data center pod online, so I thought it'd give you a glimpse. Are there an topics from an operations or facilities perspectives that you also want to see?

-Robert

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 29, 2011

Global Expansion: Singapore Ready for Launch

Are you familiar with the "slow clap" phenomenon?

It's basically a crescendo of applause in a crowd that starts with a single hand clap. A few seconds after that first clap, you hear the second. A slow rhythm takes shape. A few people join in. The rhythm is contagious, and it starts to spread through the crowd. As more people join in, the natural tendency is for the pace to speed up as the volume increases, and within about a minute, a single hand clap becomes a huge roar of applause. In the movie Rudy, one character starts a "slow clap" on the sideline of a football game, and the cheer ends up filling the entire stadium ... And that's the visual that comes to mind when I think about the upcoming "go live" date for our Singapore data center.

Start a slow clap in your mind and think of each successive milestone getting faster and exponentially louder applause:

If you imagined correctly, the applause in your mind should be borderline deafening ... And I didn't even mention the fact that we enabled pre-orders on select servers in Singapore last week with a Triple Double special exclusively for servers in the new SNG01 facility.

AND I haven't said anything about the progress of our first European data center in Amsterdam. We already have a team of people there working to get that facility ready, and it's coming together just as quickly. Don't be surprised to see a few sneak peeks at the build-out process there in the next few weeks.

It's almost unfathomable that we're so close to the launch of our first facility outside the United States, and when you consider how quickly Amsterdam will come online after Singapore, you probably think you're taking crazy pills ... Or that we are. I don't want to take any of the wind out of the sales of our launch day, so I'm just going to share a few more glimpses into the data center.

On Monday, you can light your first server at the end of this Singaporean hallway:

SoftLayer Singapore Data Center

All of the racks are powered:

SoftLayer Singapore Data Center

The server rails are installed:

SoftLayer Singapore Data Center

And we thought it might be a good idea to go ahead and install a few servers:

SoftLayer Singapore Data Center

Now all we need to do is flip the switch ... Are you ready?

-@toddmitchell

September 9, 2011

Global Expansion: More Singapore!

Last week, I shared an early glimpse of our Singapore data center pods and office space. What a difference a week makes. A week after the first batch of pictures were taken, I made my way back through the facility to document some of the progress, and you'll be amazed by how quickly everything is coming together.

You'd probably be even more amazed if you knew how many people (literally) around the world were working hard every day to keep the build-out moving forward so quickly ... Some of the most visible folks in the process are the guys we have on the ground in Singapore:

SoftLayer Singapore

We weren't able to use SoftLayer's fancy new truck to get our gear to the Singapore facility. I think it had something about having to travel over the Pacific Ocean ... I guess there weren't enough gas stations? We had all of our DC gear shipped down (literally) in ocean containers, and when the skids were all moved into the storage area, it was almost like Christmas.

SoftLayer Singapore

I say "almost like Christmas" because we happened to know everything we'd be unwrapping, and if we were surprised by anything we opened, it probably wouldn't be a good surprise. Luckily, we got exactly what we needed. Meanwhile, the Singapore data center pods have been coming along nicely. Here's a look inside Pod 1.

SoftLayer Singapore

And while we do our best to mirror the build-out of our data center pods regardless of their location, you can see that a few exceptions are made. In the pods we're building in the United States, we have at least two fewer languages on signs like the ones you see here:

SoftLayer Singapore

If we walk next door to Pod 1, you'll see the progress we're making in Pod 2. I know the pictures look similar ... But that's the point. Given the demand we've heard from customers, we're building both pods at the same time, hoping to keep up with demand while we start building our next facilities.

SoftLayer Singapore

While the pod progress is impressive, the progress on the office space is almost unbelievable. Where you previously saw ladders and cement, you now see desks, chairs and carpet. We've been hiring in Singapore for a few weeks now, and when we officially get the keys to move in, this place will be abuzz with new SLayers.

SoftLayer Singapore

We've posted a few more pictures in our Singapore DC Construction Flickr photo album, enjoy them! Soon after these pictures were taken, the team started assembling the racks in the DC, so the next update you'll see from me will probably include a lot more server goodness.

If you happen to live in Singapore and want to join our team, be sure to visit SoftLayer Careers for our current opportunities. As of right now, we have positions available in inventory, channel development, inside sales, enterprise account management, network engineering, sales engineering, systems administration and server building ... And if you don't fit in any of those positions, we can probably find another role for you to fill!

-@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 6, 2011

Cabling a SoftLayer Server Rack

A few weeks ago, SamF posted "Before They Were SoftLayer Data Centers," a virtual scrapbook from the San Jose data center construction process, and based on the surge of traffic we saw to the post, our customers loved it. It's incredible to see an open warehouse-looking space transformed into an enterprise data center environment, and there's more amazingness where that came from.

In addition to the pre-"Truck Day" pictures we posted on the blog and in the San Jose DC Construction album on Flickr, we trained a video camera on a row in the data center to capture the cabling process.

What's so interesting about plugging in cables?

Consider the fact that each of the network switches we use in a rack has at least 48 ports. Now consider that each rack has two public network switches, two private network switches and one out-of-band management network switch that need to be connected to every SoftLayer server in the rack. That's 240 pre-measured network cables that need to be labeled and routed to specific heights in each rack ... without getting tangled and knotted up (see: behind your TV or under your computer desk).

The cabling process is so precise that if a single cable is out of place, the zip-tie on an entire bundle will be cut, and the process is started from scratch. The process is time-consuming, but the results speak for themselves:

SoftLayer Server Rack

Without further ado, here's the SJ data center team in action. The video is playing at 20x normal speed, and given the amount of time it takes to complete the cabling process for each rack, we enlisted the help of Spongebob SquarePants in our use of the "Two Hours Later" cut:

Impressed? Amazed?

Just wait until you see the time-lapse from Truck Day.

-Kevin

April 18, 2011

Before They Were SoftLayer Data Centers

Ever wonder what a SoftLayer data center looked like before it became a SoftLayer data center? Each one of our facilities is built from a "pod" concept: You can walk into any of our server rooms in any of our facilities around the country (soon to be "around the world"), and you'll see same basic layout, control infrastructure and servers. By building our data center space in this way, we're able to provide an unparalleled customer experience. Nearly every aspect of our business benefits from this practice, many in surprising ways.

From an operations perspective, our staff can work in any facility without having to be retrained and the data center construction process becomes a science that can be replicated quicker with each subsequent build-out. From a sales perspective, every product and technology can be made available from all of our locations. From a network perspective, the network architecture doesn't deviate significantly from place to place. From a finance perspective, if we're buying the same gear from the same vendors, we get better volume pricing. From a marketing perspective ... I guess we have a lot of really pretty data center space to show off.

We try to keep our customers in the loop when it comes to our growth and expansion plans by posting pictures and updates as we build new pods, and with our newest facility in San Jose, CA, we've been snapping photos throughout the construction progress. If you've been patiently reading this part of the blog before scrolling down to the pictures, you get bonus points ... If you looked at the pictures before coming back up to this content, you already know that I've included several snapshots that show some of the steps we take when outfitting new DC space.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

The first look at our soon-to-be data center is not the flashiest, but it shows you how early we get involved in the build-out process. The San Jose facility is brand new, so we have a fresh canvas for our work of art. If I were to start talking your ear off about the specifics of the space, this post would probably go into next week, so I'll just show you some of the most obvious steps in the evolution of the space.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

The time gap between the first picture and the second picture is pretty evident, but the drastic change is pretty impressive. Raised floor, marked aisles, PDUs ... But no racks.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

Have no fear, the racks are being assembled.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

They're not going to do much good sitting in the facility's office space, though. Something tells me the next picture will have them in a different setting.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

Lucky guess, huh? You can see in this picture that the racks are installed in front of perforated tiles (on the cold aisle side) and on top of special tiles that allow for us to snake cabling from under the floor to the rack without leaving open space for the cold air to sneak out where it's not needed.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

The next step in the process requires five very expensive network switches in each rack. Two of the switches are for public network traffic, two are for private network traffic and one is for out-of-band management network traffic.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

Those switches won't do much good for the servers if the servers can't be easily connected to them, so the next step is to attach and bind all of the network cable from the switches to where the servers will be. As you'll see in the next pictures, the cabling and binding is done with extreme precision ... If any of the bundles aren't tightly wound, the zip ties are cut and the process has to be restarted.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

While the cables are being installed, we also work to prepare our control row with servers, switches, routers and appliances that mirror the configurations we have in our other pods.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

When the network cables are all installed, it's a pretty amazing sight. When the cables are plugged into the servers, it's even more impressive ... Each cable is pre-measured and ready to be attached to its server with enough length to get it to the port but not too much to leave much slack.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

One of the last steps before we actually get the servers installed is to install the server rails (which make installing the server a piece of cake).

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

The servers tend to need power, so the power strips are installed on each rack, and each power strip is fed from the row's PDU.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

Every network and power cable in the data center is labeled and positioned exactly where it needs to be. The numbers on the cables correspond with ports on our switches, spots in the rack and plugs on the power strip so we can immediately track down and replace any problem cables we find.

SoftLayer San Jose Data Center Construction

If you've hung around with me for this long, I want to introduce you to a few of the team members that have been working night and day to get this facility ready for you. While I'd like to say I could have done all of this stuff myself, that would be a tremendous lie, and without the tireless efforts of all of these amazing SoftLayer folks, this post would be a whole lot less interesting.

A funny realization you might come to is that in this entire "data center" post, there's not a single picture of a customer server ... Is it a data center if it doesn't have data yet?

-SamF

June 8, 2010

Core Construction

While constructing a storage building with a friend of mine I came to several realizations the first and less important was I really didn’t know what I was doing and was glad my friend was there. The next and most important thing was that the further into the construction we got the more I noticed from looking at the structure of the building from top to bottom there was a definite change in the need for structural support. I know what you are thinking at this point well duh, but for some reason when you actually step back and look at the framed structure the way that each layer depends on the previous is even more pronounced. A perfect example of this concept can be seen in every human and most animals of the world for as you peel back layers you eventually end up at a core that is the skeletal structure.

Something to ponder on when considering the layout of your IT infrastructure is the software is only as good as the under lying server and the server is only as good as the under lying network which is intern only as good as the power that feeds it and so for and so on. This is the core reason that here at SoftLayer we strive to provide the best we can from the ground up to help ensure our clients that they have the tools and foundation to compete in the world of online services.

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