Posts Tagged 'Customers'

April 26, 2013

Catalyst at SXSW 2013: The Startups Speak

SoftLayer listens to customers. There's no marketing spin or fluff on that statement ... I'm a former client, so I can attest to that from a customer perspective and from an internal perspective. When I joined the company as part of the community development team to work with startups in Catalyst, I knew my role was going to be more relationship-based than project-oriented, and that was one of the most exciting aspects of the job for me.

In my last blog about mentorship and meaningfulness, you heard from George Karidis and Paul Ford about the vision to make Catalyst a part of the startup ecosystem, committing to helping participating teams with more than just their hosting needs. While we attended SXSW Interactive, I ran into a few of our phenomenal customers and had the opportunity to sit down with them and talk about their businesses, their connection to SoftLayer and what the future holds:

Over the next few weeks, we'll add video interviews to that YouTube playlist to show off all of the startups that stopped by the Catalyst Startup Lounge at SXSW 2013. When a new video is published, it'll be added to the embedded playlist above, and we'll send some social media shout-outs via Twitter and Facebook.

With SoftLayer's 7th birthday coming up on May 5, we still feel like a startup, and a lot of that has to do with how closely we work with our customers ... Their energy is contagious, and it only encourages us to keep innovating and building our platform for the future. That's why entrepreneurs like the ones you meet in these videos choose SoftLayer. The fact that we have better technology and provide a more powerful cloud infrastructure winds up being a fringe benefit.

A big "Thanks!" goes out to the folks from Epic Playground, Flowmio, Medved, Urbane, YouNoodle, KeenIO, Cloudability and Preferred Return for taking time out of their busy SXSW schedules to chat with me. We love you guys!

-@JoshuaKrammes

August 9, 2012

Startup Series: Dudepins

The Catalyst startup incubator has been running at full-throttle for a while now, and I've been blown away by the killer startups that have joined the program. The best part of my job is meeting entrepreneurs who see a need in the marketplace and have a vision for how to meet that need in a targeted way, and the story behind Dudepins — one of the startups in Catalyst — is a perfect example of that kind of thinking. Their goal: Macho visual bookmarking.

Dudepins: Dudes like sharing stuff. Man up. Sign up. Pin up.

Pinterest has been getting a lot of attention since 2011, but it still hasn't really been able to penetrate the male demographic; maybe because it's been so effective at cultivating content around fashion, recipes, DIY home ideas and cute puppies (Watch College Humor's "The Fall of Pinterest," and you'll see what I mean). The Dudepins team noticed an unmet demand for a male-oriented visual bookmarking site, and they seized the opportunity to build that platform.

Their Formula: 2 dudes + 2 computers + 1 idea + infinite scotch – non-infinite income = Dudepins!

Dudepins: Dudes like sharing stuff. Man up. Sign up. Pin up.

I fired off a few questions to the Dudes at Dudepins to get a little insight into how they built their business and what they'd recommend to other entrepreneurs in the same position ... They did not disappoint:

Q: How do you describe what Dudepins does?

Dudepins is a collection of montages — or personal boards — of pictures and videos, sorted into various categories. Dudepins is a place where you can easily save, share and collect everything that you find on the Internet, and you're able to organize that content into different montages (i.e. cars, style, watches, cigars, planes, food, travel, etc.). When you want to see the stuff thousands of other Dudes just like you have uploaded, we make that easy as well.

More simply: Dudes, Gentlemen, Guys, Sirs and whatever else a Man might call himself can use Dudepins to collect, save, view and browse everything associated with being a Dude.

Q: How did you find out about SoftLayer?

A: We were initially contacted by two seriously awesome Dudes: Josh Krammes and Kelley Hilborn. Both Josh and Kelley were in Vancouver on business, and fortunately, we were able to get together with them for some dinner. Sparks flew, and Dudepins was invited to join Catalyst.

Q: What has your experience been since you signed up?

A: We knew we'd get solid hosting when we signed on with SoftLayer, but we were most surprised by how far the support and benefits of Catalyst go beyond the infrastructure actually running Dudepins. The SoftLayer team has been a great resource for technical questions, and they've helped us meet several industry experts who, in turn, have provided a lot of amazing feedback about what can help us take Dudepins to the next level.

You guys (Josh, Kelley, Paul and John) are rockstars, and we highly recommend Catalyst to any startup looking for a bulletproof hosting infrastructure and network of brilliant advisers.

Q: What advice would you give to other startups?

A: It's extremely important to stay focused, motivated, goal-oriented and (most importantly) driven. Don't get married to your ideas, and don't let passions overrule logic ... especially when the sky gets cloudy.

Check out Dudepins at dudepins.com, and make sure you visit their "about us" page ... Trust me, it's awesome.

I hate to cut the Q&A short, but TechStars Boulder Demo Day is starting, and I have to go meet the next class of future SoftLayer customers!

If you've got a brilliant, creative, innovative or otherwise awesome startup, and you think Catalyst could be a good fit for you, make sure you hit us up from the "Apply" page on the SoftLayer Catalyst site.

-@PaulFord

July 11, 2012

Mandrill: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog with Chad Morris from our partner Mandrill. Mandrill is an email delivery platform built on and managed by MailChimp. Created for developers to set up and manage with minimal coding effort, Mandrill offers advanced tracking, easy-to-understand reports and hundreds of template options. In this video interview, Chad goes into detail about the history of the company as well as the major differences between Mandrill and MailChimp. In the near future, you'll see a separate guest blog from the Mandrill team with best practices for managing your email systems.

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
July 5, 2012

Bandwidth Utilization: Managing a Global Network

SoftLayer has over 1,750 Gbit/s of network capacity. In each of our data centers and points of presence, we have an extensive library of peering relationships and multiple 10 Gbit/s connections to independent Tier 1 carriers. We operate one of the fastest, most reliable networks on the planet, and our customers love it:

From a network operations standpoint, that means we have our work cut out for us to keep everything running smoothly while continuing to build the network to accommodate a steady increase in customer demand. It might be easier to rest on our laurels to simply maintain what we already have in place, but when you look at the trend of bandwidth usage over the past 18 months, you'll see why we need to be proactive about expanding our network:

Long Term Bandwidth Usage Trend

The purple line above plots the 95th percentile of weekly outbound bandwidth utilization on the SoftLayer network, and the red line shows the linear trend of that consumption over time. From week to week, the total usage appears relatively consistent, growing at a steady rate, but when you look a little deeper, you get a better picture of how dynamic our network actually is:

SoftLayer Weekly Bandwidth Usage

The animated gif above shows the 2-hour average of bandwidth usage on our entire network over a seven-week period (times in CDT). As you can see, on a day-to-day basis, consumption fluctuates pretty significantly. The NOC (Network Operations Center) needs to be able to accommodate every spike of usage at any time of day, and our network engineering and strategy teams have to stay ahead of the game when it comes to planning points of presence and increasing bandwidth capacity to accommodate our customers' ever-expanding needs.

But wait. There's more.

Let's go one level deeper and look a graph of the 95th percentile bandwidth usage on 5-minute intervals from one week in a single data center:

Long Term Bandwidth Usage Trend

The variations in usage are even more dramatic. Because we have thirteen data centers geographically dispersed around the world with an international customer base, the variations you see in total bandwidth utilization understate the complexity of our network's bandwidth usage. Customers targeting the Asian market might host content in SNG01, and the peaks in bandwidth consumption from Singapore will counterbalance the valleys of consumption at the same time in the United States and Europe.

With that in mind, here's a challenge for you: Looking at the graph above, if the times listed are in CDT, which data center do you think that data came from?

It would be interesting to look at weekly usage trends, how those trends are changing and what those trends tell us about our customer base, but that assessment would probably be "information overload" in this post, so I'll save that for another day.

-Dani

P.S. If you came to this post expecting to see "a big truck" or "a series of tubes," I'm sorry I let you down.

July 3, 2012

SoftLayer Asia - A Technology Market Full of Opportunity

The last few months have been extremely busy for SoftLayer Asia. SLayers from our Singapore office have been participating in all kinds of events — from small developer group meetups to massive conferences like CommunicAsia 2012 that brought in 35,000+ attendees from the APAC region's major markets, and our goal has been the same throughout: SoftLayer has the platform on which our customers can build the future.

Web Hosting Days 2012 - Bangkok
Web Hosting Days 2012 - Bangkok, Thailand

While our goal to help our customers "build the future" might seem like a tall order, the market in Asia needs the capabilities that only SoftLayer is able to provide. With the recent boom in smartphones and the growth of the region's huge network of connectivity infrastructure, Asian companies with global customer bases are facing an exciting market with a great deal of promise. In 2012 alone, analyst group Canalys forecasts:

  • An estimated 253.57 million smartphones in APAC in 2012 alone (compared to 224.08 million in North America).
  • APAC smartphone penetration is expected to exceed that of North America by 13%.

While that technology market is attractive, many business owners find that it can be equally intimidating. That sentiment is one the biggest reasons our customers share when we ask why they chose to to trust SoftLayer's SNG01 data center with their data. They need a platform that provides stability and on-demand scalability at an affordable price point, and they've seen SoftLayer deliver on all of those needs.

SoftLayer at Cloud Asia
SoftLayer CMO Simon West presenting at Cloud Asia 2012

You might think that having a foundation of the best technology platform in a technology-focused market guarantees success when it comes to launching social and Internet-based businesses, but that's only part of the story. The most important aspect of our customers' successes have been the creative, innovative solutions that they've been able to build because they're not worried about whether their infrastructure can keep up with their ideas. In Asia's crowded technology-centric market, a company's primary concern should be continuously meeting the needs of its rapidly evolving and growing customer base, and that's what we want to empower. Here are a few examples of SoftLayer customers we've seen that embody that mentality:

  • Tandif is an Indonesian based company that provides accurate and efficient auto-moderation of any web property connected to the Internet. Tandif's service is available in English and Bahasa Indonesia, one of the most vibrant internet and social media growth markets on a regional and global scale.
  • Wildby is a start up from the Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (regional affiliate of the Techstars program) that launched an application to addresses a region's unique technology need. Many parents are "guilty" of handing over their tablets or smartphones to entertain their kids in the car as they sit out the many crazy traffic jams in our major cities. Wildby's "edu-tainment" app allows children aged 3 to 7 yrs visually interact and learn new words and concepts anywhere they have access to the app.
  • Qyro — another JFDI graduate — was founded by an international team of entrepreneurs to build a patent-pending enterprise-based solution called Stubb, which provides users full-featured virtual document sharing and controls over both hard and soft copies.

Each of these companies has been very successful in their respective markets, and they're looking to SoftLayer to help them expand their business footprint in Asia to reach customers in North America and Europe. They absolutely love what our private network means for those goals: Geographic boundaries are blurred. Why is that important? Just how global is the Asian market?

Southeast Asia alone takes center stage when it comes to global adoption of the world's most popular Internet properties:

  • Indonesia, India and Philippines are part of the top 10 markets for Facebook users' growth, with Indonesia ranking #2 worldwide.
  • 21% of Indonesian online users visited Twitter.com in January 2011, making it the fourth highest country in terms of Twitter reach.
  • Malaysia is the #1 country in Southeast Asia when it comes to Foursquare user base (the USA is 167 positions lower)!

Needless to say, given the opportunity here and the passionate entrepreneurs trying to take advantage of it, SoftLayer Asia is going to be extremely busy for a long time.

-Dionne

June 27, 2012

Cloudability: Tech Partner Spotlight

This guest blog comes to us from Cloudability, a featured member of the SoftLayer Technology Partners Marketplace. Cloudability is a cloud budget management service that helps companies manage their cloud spending, prevent overages, reduce waste and save money. In this video we talk to Cloudability Founder and CEO Mat Ellis about how the company developed, and we hear examples of how Cloudability is supporting and businesses money.

5 Things You Need to Know to Control Variable Infrastructure Costs

If you have on premise equipment, then your costs are fixed — you paid your money and now you own a fixed amount of hardware and software. The cloud, on the other hand, has variable costs due to two important features — you only pay for the services you use and it's scalable, providing the resources you need at any given time. By using a cloud infrastructure, you end up with what we call Variable Infrastructure Costs (VICs).

Most of SoftLayer's services meet the criteria for a VIC. You need an extra cloud server for a few hours? No problem. More disk? Done.

With great power, comes great responsibility, and the biggest problem with VICs is that they are just like a faucet: Leave it running, and the water bill can add up fast ... Not to mention all that waste! Unless you keep a close eye on VICs, you could find yourself in front of your CFO, pleading for your budget's life.

Cloudability was created to keep those costs under control, and in the course of working with our customers, we've come up with a simple five-point checklist of best practices:

1. Collation

Make sure you have insight to all your costs, create a single contract database, and review it regularly. Don't forget to include total cloud spending alongside your fixed contracts. Talk to your finance department, then drill your employees and tech teams to make sure you REALLY know the whole truth. There can be — and usually is — a disconnect in the organization about how much cloud is really being used.

2. Analysis

Get into the weeds to see why each project is spending what they are spending. Try to calculate some tangible metrics like cost per thousand web pages served or cost per new customer, and benchmark these against public data and common sense.

3. Organization and Rebalancing

Put each of your projects into one of four quadrants:

  1. High Spend/Low Efficiency
  2. High Spend/High Efficiency
  3. Low Spend/Low Efficiency
  4. Low Spend/High Efficiency.

Focus on the High Spend/Low Efficiency quadrant first. That's where you will find the easiest wins. Then, move onto the High Spend/High Efficiency quadrant where you'll find best practices to use for other projects. Then, if you have the time/resources, focus on the low spend projects and repeat.

4. Renegotiation

Contact your colleagues outside your department and compare unit prices, especially for things like bandwidth, co-lo and staff costs. Make sure you're in the top quartile for value (i.e. lowest costs). Renegotiate with vendors if you aren't, and plan to change vendors and staff when you can't the best value with your current resources.

5. Alignment

Understand your business objectives and get your roadmap tightly aligned. If you need some CAPEX to reduce operational expenses, then ask for it as part of the planning. You've got to spend money to make money right?

VICs can be easily manage once you understand where they're all coming from. After applying these five best practices into the way your business approaches cloud spending, you'll be well on your way. Cloudability's business was built to make the process a little easier and more automated for you, so if you want to use our tool to help you "cover your *aas," we'd love for you to try it out for free: https://app.cloudability.com/signup

-Mat Ellis, Cloudability

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
May 31, 2012

The Few. The Proud. The Red Herring Top 100.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending Red Herring's Top 100 North America Tech Award ceremony in Santa Monica. If you're not familiar with Red Herring, it harkens back to the headier days of the of the dot-com era in the late 90's and early 00's. While the markets have fluctuated quite a bit in the last dozen years, the startup scene has survived, and the optimism of the dot-com boom is still alive and well, albeit via more focused entrepreneurs that intentionally practice cold hard pragmatism and have bootstrap mentalities.

Today, the Red Herring Top 100 still serves as a great barometer for identifying promising new companies and entrepreneurs. The publication's editors are quick to point out that they were among the first to recognize that companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Skype, Salesforce.com, YouTube and eBay would change the way we live and work. That's the start to a pretty nice little "alumni" list if you ask me.

How does a company make the cut?

The Top 100 were judged on both quantitative and qualitative criteria, such as financial performance, technology innovation, quality of management, IP creation, CAGR, execution of strategy, and disruption in their respective industries.

Before the Top 100 are selected, each finalist has an opportunity to pitch their business model and share why they think they should be included. I heard one entrepreneur say, "I have over a million dollars invested from my family and friends, so this can't fail." These businesses may have started as simple ideas, but they're fueled by an entrepreneurial passion that have pushed them to become truly remarkable. Many of the finalists had already reached a certain level of success and were trying to build and scale-out their ideas — everything from new mobile apps, open source and storage offerings to cloud and big data optimized solutions.

While preparing a little bit of information for SoftLayer's presentation, I was pleasantly surprised to see that more than 20 finalists for Red Herring's Top 100 Americas Award were active SoftLayer customers!

10gen, AppFirst, Backupify, BrightRoll, Clickable, Cloudant, Cloudera, CVision Technologies, MedAvante, OPOWER, Optify, PageFreezer Software, Refinery29, richrelevance, RingRevenue, SAY Media, TagMan, VigLink and Zencoder

After the editors made the tough decisions to narrow down the finalists to the Top 100 winners, SoftLayer was honored and excited to join 10gen, Backupify, Cloudera, CVision Technologies, MedAvante, PageFreezer Software, RingRevenue, VigLink and Zencoder. At least 10% of the 2012 Red Herring Americas Top 100 companies are using SoftLayer.

Red Herring Americas Award

Early in my tenure at SoftLayer, a colleague told me, "We aren't looking to be the next big thing, we are looking to enable it." That's probably not going to stop us from throwing our hat in the ring to be considered for the Global 100 this fall, though.

-Andre

May 15, 2012

Addicted to SoftLayer ... And SoftLayer Customers

Chris Gardner (of The Pursuit of Happyness fame) said, "Find something that you love. Something that gets you so excited you can't wait to get out of bed in the morning. Forget about money. Be happy." Now I can't honestly tell you I'm able to "forget about money" or that I'm much of a morning person, but I'm quick to tell people that I love what I do. If you click through a few of the "Culture" posts on this blog, you'll read that I'm not alone. This week, I realized how many non-work interests SoftLayer plays a role in.

Beyond my closet-full of black and red shirts (many of which are visible in Tech Partner Spotlight video interviews on YouTube), even when I'm out of the office I find myself "checking on customers' servers" quite a bit ... I use quotes in there because that the justification I give myself for spending time (that I'd probably spend anyway) on platforms that leverage SoftLayer's infrastructure.

Because SoftLayer operates with an "Innovate or Die" mentality, we tend to attract customers that innovate in their own businesses. Whether that trend is intentional or not, it makes sense: Why would a fast-moving platform or application with massive growth and scaling needs be hosted with a provider taking "enterprise" time to provision a solution that ends up being "enterprise" only in name? "Enterprise Class" is not the same as "Internet Scale," and that distinction is pretty significant when a business might have one visitor on Monday and a million visitors on Tuesday. Platforms and applications that grow like that usually operate with a high level of what I like to call "awesomeness," so when they choose SoftLayer as a hosting provider, I feel like I need to investigate their awesomeness personally ... And that's how I've become a die-hard user of many of SoftLayer's customers.

One of my favorite customers to "check on" is Tumblr. If you aren't familiar with Tumblr, I recommend that you go to their site right now and immerse yourself in their community. I actually remember the day Tumblr signed on as a customer; I was genuinely excited that they'd be hosting on our platform. Even if that excitement was because I could justify having my Tumblr dashboard open in the background at work. I don't think anyone could have expected the platform to grow so phenomenally in a few years, but Tumblr's numbers are pretty staggering these days: 16.7 billion (yes, with a "B") monthly pageviews of 55.7 million blogs with 23.1 billion posts. I wasn't one of the first accounts on Tumblr, but I tell myself I have some kind of Tumblr cred ... And I use my "limited-edition" black background and Japanese dashboard logo to prove it:

Tumblr Dashboard

Another SoftLayer customer who's gotten a lot of press over the past month or two is OMGPOP. OMGPOP scaled "Draw Something" to tens of millions of users on SoftLayer's infrastructure (which you probably know), but what you probably didn't know is that as "Draw Something" started growing in the market, it was also spreading virally in our office. You'd be amazed at how many SLayers caught the bug. Here's one of Steve Kinman's works of art from a recent game:

Draw Something

While Tumblr and OMGPOP manage to snag a good amount of my free time, my most recent obsession has been playing NomNom Combo from Eastside Game Studios. I had a chance to meet a few of the guys from Eastside Games at GDC this year, and George Karidis told me that I should download NomNom Combo to check it out before I went to the launch party we sponsored for them in San Francisco. As it turns out, he created a monster ... By the time the party rolled around, I had to tear myself away from strategizing the best way to move up the game's all-time "Top Score" leader board. Two months later, I can say that all of my efforts have been validated:

Draw Something

I guess if I had to make a long story short, if you have an addictive app or game that you want to move to the SoftLayer platform, it would be brilliant move from a growth and scaling perspective. One request I'd have is that you warn me, though. I want to have time to bury my head in the sand so I don't get hooked on more SoftLayer-powered goodness ... I'm running out of "free time."

-@khazard

March 29, 2012

SoftLayer Singapore - The Impact of Automation

We hosted our first quarterly networking event in Singapore yesterday, and as I spoke with the partners, prospects, customers and SLayers in attendance, I heard some incredible stories about struggles with scaling infrastructure and how SoftLayer has revolutionized the way our customers look at their physical and virtual infrastructure. As we talked about our experiences, one of my own "war stories" came to mind, and I got to share it:

On on a Sunday afternoon in March 2002, an earthquake hit Taiwan. It measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, and it shook buildings across the island, flattening some of them and wreaking general havoc in cities. Beyond the visible damage it caused, it took out the fiber landing stations in Taiwan, cutting off Asia Pacific Internet traffic from the US. Typically when a fiber cable system is cut, telcos will scramble to re-route their traffic to the next available path, but because North Asia was crippled by the quake, all Internet traffic in Asia was being routed through Australia, causing major congestion down under, resulting in virtually zero Internet connectivity to the rest of the world.

At that time, I was VP of Sales for a leading Singapore-based hosting company. I received a call on my sales hotline at 7am on the morning after the earthquake. The caller was the CEO of a major gaming company in Australia, and he sounded desperate. All his servers — hosted in the US at the time — were unreachable, and he had been calling hosting companies all over Asia to buy some dedicated servers to host the game for his Asian customers. While I couldn't help him when it came to getting connectivity to his servers in the US, I thought it would be easy to accommodate his request for hardware based in Asia.

I asked him what server configurations he needed, and he detailed 20 identical servers that needed to be up and running for his gaming application within 24 hours, highlighting that he was losing thousands in revenue by the day. He explained that the projected revenue loss would exponentially increase to thousands per hour if the game remained offline for 24 hours more. He gave me his RAM, hard disk, OS and Database requirements, and he added, "We need all of them to be on Woodcrest!"

I remember vividly saying, "Woodcrest what? Oh, yes, yes, we have those!" I told him I'd get back to him, hung up the phone and went straight to our provisioning manager. We stock to provide 20 servers, but we didn't have any Woodcrest CPUs. There was no way we could locate, rack and provision the requested servers 24 hours ... The best we could commit to was 10 days. Obviously, that wasn't going to work, but I wasn't discouraged. I was going to solve the problem.

I managed to scrape together 20 Woodcrest CPUs from different local electronics retailers, and after wrangling cheques from the finance department and getting the CEO to apply pressure the provisioning manager, I was able to "fast-track" the servers to a four-day provisioning time. When all was said and done, he was able to bring his game back online after losing out on 8 days of business. Despite the losses, being able to turn around that kind of order that "quickly" made me pretty proud.

10 years later, I can't believe how much things have changed.

SoftLayer automates almost all of the manual processes, and we're able to provision a dedicated servers in 2-4 hours. While that's a pretty impressive feat, it's even more amazing when you consider that we can bring up 20, 50 or 100 dedicated servers in the same time frame. Just look at what OMGPOP was able to do when their "Draw Something" app was downloaded 36 million times. That's what automation is all about. Anything that we can automate, we automate, and that makes for an unbeatable user experience.

If someone came to us today with the an urgent order similar to the one I dealt with in 2002, the entire interaction above would boil down to, "What specs do you need? *typing* Here's your order number. You can expect the machines to be provisioned within 4 hours." We'd be off the phone by about 7:20am, and by noon, all of the servers would be online and hosting the game. The craziest part is that we're not even satisfied with that turnaround time yet. Our commitment is to continue to innovate, automate and empower our customers through our customer portal and APIs, and because our goals are to get better and serve our customers faster, the carrot will always be in front of us ... the same way UPS has a philosophy of "constructive dissatisfaction."

I want to thank everyone who came to our networking event yesterday. I hope you learned a little something about SoftLayer because I certainly learned a lot about our customers in the dozens of conversations I had. If you weren't able to attend and want to see what you missed, we posted a few pictures on Flickr: SoftLayer Singapore - Quarterly Networking Event - March 28, 2012

SoftLayer Singapore

Do you have any infrastructure horror stories from the past like mine?

-Michael

March 16, 2012

SLayer 101: A Whirlwind First Week

Having been client in the past, I already had some idea of how amazing the SoftLayer team was. Every interaction I had with the company was fantastic, and though I've worked with hundreds of service providers in different industries, I can wholeheartedly say that the service I received at Softlayer was better than any I'd ever experienced. As you can imagine, that left a pretty phenomenal impression on me.

When the opportunity came up a couple of months ago to interview with Paul Ford and the Community Development team, my response was almost instinctual: I jumped at the chance. Having met him and several members of the team in San Francisco in the past (picture below), I knew the kinds of individuals he surrounded himself with — incredibly smart, talented, hard-working, and just downright COOL people. That's right ... Seldom do you find a team in a corporate environment where you can actually say the people are all awesome — people you would want to hang out with even if you didn't work with them.

Josh and Paul

After going through the interview process, I hopped on a plane to Dallas to visit the Alpha headquarters. In the whirlwind of introductions and training sessions, I was surprised how productive the trip ended up being. I met most of the folks I'll be working with on a regular basis, and I had the opportunity to learn more and more about what Community Development is doing. And I was blown away at how much of that work was being done for other companies. The impression I get is that the impact Community Development is having on the business community is real, it's measurable and it's making a difference. It's impactful. From mentorship to event sponsorship to expert recommendations about infrastructure and architecture, nowhere in the industry can you find a company that works so hard for its customers. Trust me. I looked. Nowhere.

When I returned to San Francisco (where I live and will be based), I happened upon the Game Developers Conference where SoftLayer was present in a big way. I grabbed lunch with an existing client, I could tell their interaction with our team was no different from mine when I was a customer: Both sides clearly work together to find a solution that works for everyone. The interaction seemed to transcend the traditional "client-vendor" relationship, and it was clear that the Softlayer team was deeply committed to the client's mission and product offering.

Learning all of the different ways Softlayer is helping them (beyond providing server and hosting solutions) was would have been astounding ... If I didn't already kind of expect it from my experience. I couldn't help but be ecstatic about what's to come.

I met with the team at the GDC booth and got some more first-hand perspective about how we're embraced by the community. Walking the show floor and coming back to our almost-always-crowded booth (after seeing so many other booths quiet and empty) reinforced my feeling that I joined one of the most exciting companies in the industry. Our Server Challenge kept the booth BUSY for the entire time I was at the show — both days.

GDC Server Challenge

Observing how our team engaged the visitors drove home a point I touched on earlier: That SoftLayer employees CARE about every client and prospect. They asked questions about the attendee's business, what the business's needs were, and (most impressively to me) held back on "the hard sell." And that's pretty unique in itself.

As I embark on week number two of my employment (and beyond), I can't wait to learn more and more so I can become an integral part of the team. If you're ever on the West Coast and want to talk SoftLayer, hit me up!

-Joshua

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