Posts Tagged 'Data Centers'

July 24, 2013

Deconstructing SoftLayer's Three-Tiered Network

When Sun Microsystems VP John Gage coined the phrase, "The network is the computer," the idea was more wishful thinking than it was profound. At the time, personal computers were just starting to show up in homes around the country, and most users were getting used to the notion that "The computer is the computer." In the '80s, the only people talking about networks were the ones selling network-related gear, and the idea of "the network" was a little nebulous and vaguely understood. Fast-forward a few decades, and Gage's assertion has proven to be prophetic ... and it happens to explain one of SoftLayer's biggest differentiators.

SoftLayer's hosting platform features an innovative, three-tier network architecture: Every server in a SoftLayer data center is physically connected to public, private and out-of-band management networks. This "network within a network" topology provides customers the ability to build out and manage their own global infrastructure without overly complex configurations or significant costs, but the benefits of this setup are often overlooked. To best understand why this network architecture is such a game-changer, let's examine each of the network layers individually.

SoftLayer Private Network

Public Network

When someone visits your website, they are accessing content from your server over the public network. This network connection is standard issue from every hosting provider since your content needs to be accessed by your users. When SoftLayer was founded in 2005, we were the first hosting provider to provide multiple network connections by default. At the time, some of our competitors offered one-off private network connections between servers in a rack or a single data center phase, but those competitors built their legacy infrastructures with an all-purpose public network connection. SoftLayer offers public network connection speeds up to 10Gbps, and every bare metal server you order from us includes free inbound bandwidth and 5TB of outbound bandwidth on the public network.

Private Network

When you want to move data from one server to another in any of SoftLayer's data centers, you can do so quickly and easily over the private network. Bandwidth between servers on the private network is unmetered and free, so you don't incur any costs when you transfer files from one server to another. Having a dedicated private network allows you to move content between servers and facilities without fighting against or getting in the way of the users accessing your server over the public network.

It should come as no surprise to learn that all private network traffic stays on SoftLayer's network exclusively when it travels between our facilities. The blue lines in this image show how the private network connects all of our data centers and points of presence:

SoftLayer Private Network

To fully replicate the functionality provided by the SoftLayer private network, competitors with legacy single-network architecture would have to essentially double their networking gear installation and establish safeguards to guarantee that customers can only access information from their own servers via the private network. Because that process is pretty daunting (and expensive), many of our competitors have opted for "virtual" segmentation that logically links servers to each other. The traffic between servers in those "virtual" private networks still travels over the public network, so they usually charge you for "private network" bandwidth at the public bandwidth rate.

Out-of-Band Management Network

When it comes to managing your server, you want an unencumbered network connection that will give you direct, secure access when you need it. Splitting out the public and private networks into distinct physical layers provides significant flexibility when it comes to delivering content where it needs to go, but we saw a need for one more unique network layer. If your server is targeted for a denial of service attack or a particular ISP fails to route traffic to your server correctly, you're effectively locked out of your server if you don't have another way to access it. Our management-specific network layer uses bandwidth providers that aren't included in our public/private bandwidth mix, so you're taking a different route to your server, and you're accessing the server through a dedicated port.

If you've seen pictures or video from a SoftLayer data center (or if you've competed in the Server Challenge), you probably noticed the three different colors of Ethernet cables connected at the back of every server rack, and each of those colors carries one of these types of network traffic exclusively. The pink/red cables carry public network traffic, the blue cables carry private network traffic, and the green cables carry out-of-band management network traffic. All thirteen of our data centers have the same colored cables in the same configuration doing the same jobs, so we're able to train our operations staff consistently between all thirteen of our data centers. That consistency enables us to provide quicker service when you need it, and it lessens the chance of human error on the data center floor.

The most powerful server on the market can be sidelined by a poorly designed, inefficient network. If "the network is the computer," the network should be a primary concern when you select your next hosting provider.

-@khazard

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.

February 22, 2012

An Insider's Look at SoftLayer's International Success

It's been a long time since I put fingers to keyboard to write a blog, so I reckoned it was about time that I resurfaced on the interwebs. While this post won't announce any huge news like my last post about SoftLayer going live in Amsterdam, it might provide an interesting insight into what it's like to work for a dynamic, growing company.

My time at SoftLayer has been marked by change at rapid pace — more revolution than evolution, I suppose. This has been true both in terms of my professional development and the trajectory the company has taken in the past 18 months: I have gone through a merger that more than tripled the size of the company, watched the expansion of our footprint in the United States (a new data center in San Jose and new pods in Washington, D.C. and Dallas) and participated in our expansion overseas when I worked on the Amsterdam launch ... And if that list wasn't action-packed enough, I've been a part of some fantastic product launches (Flex Images and Object Storage being the two most recent examples).

When I joined SoftLayer, I kicked off fledgling analyst relations program, transitioned to corporate communications, and then seized the opportunity to serve as SoftLayer's EMEA general manager (temporarily until I found Jonathan Wisler to run the ship). Today, I'm responsible for driving our international operations in Amsterdam and Singapore, and so far, the work has gone according to the plan. Both facilities are up and running, and we have in-region folks in place to run the data centers and drive the region's business. As with every other DC under the SoftLayer hood, the Ops teams continue to knock it out of the park, and our business teams are just getting wound up.

Our early success in the new international markets speaks volumes about the support our customer base has given us as we've expanded, and now that we've got fully fledged dedicated teams to run in-region sales and marketing in Amsterdam and Singapore, we're expecting the result to be akin to throwing gasoline on an already-roaring fire. Users in Europe and Asia can look forward to seeing a lot more from SoftLayer over the coming months as we ramp up our events schedule and start to push the SoftLayer message throughout both geographies.

Suffice it to say, I am very excited about what lies ahead ... I suspect our competitors might not share the same enthusiasm.

-@quigleymar

October 24, 2011

NOT Lost in Translation

When I attend conferences, I always try to make sure that I communicate what we do the best way I can. With our new data centers opening up in Singapore and Amsterdam, I was curious to see what a SoftLayer message would look like in the two countries' most prominent languages. With the gracious help from local representatives, we have our English message translated into Mandarin, Malay and Dutch.

English
We are the largest private hosting company in the world, providing cloud, dedicated, managed and integrated computing environments to over 25,000 customers around the world. We have recently added additional data centers and now have facilities in Amsterdam, Dallas, Houston, San Jose, Seattle, Singapore and Washington D.C., and network Points of Presence worldwide. On top of that, we have automated every part of our platform, giving our customers complete control, security, scalability and ease-of-management through the best Customer Portal and Open API in the industry.

Mandarin
我们是世界上最大的私人网站住办有限公司,带给全球超过25000客户的服务包括云计算,专用主机,主机托管和综合计算。最近,我们增加了额外的数据中心,现在已在阿姆斯特丹,达拉斯,休斯顿,圣何塞,西雅图,新加坡,华盛顿等拥有设施,网点遍布全球。最重要的是,我们自动化了每一个平台的部分,用同行业最好的客户门户和开放的API体系为客户提供完整的控制,集安全性,可扩展性,和易于管理与一体的服务。

Malay
Kami adalah syarikat swasta yang terbesar di dunia yang menyediakan pengkomputeran awan (cloud), hos berdedikasi yang diurus dan diintegrasikan ke dalam infrastruktur pengkomputeran untuk lebih daripada 25,000 pelanggan kami di seluruh dunia. Kami baru-baru ini telah menambah pusat data tambahan dan kini mempunyai kemudahan-kemudahan di Amsterdam, Dallas, Houston, San Jose, Seattle, Singapura dan Washington DC dan juga rangkaian "Points of Presence" di seluruh dunia. Selain itu, Kami telah mengautomatikkan setiap bahagian platform kami, memberikan para pelanggan kami penuh kuasa dan kawalan, keselamatan, kemampuan yang luas dan kemudahan pengurusan menggunakan pelanggan portal kami yang terbaik dan API terbuka (Open API) di dalam industri ini.

Dutch
Wij zijn het grootste, private hosting bedrijf in de wereld dat voorziet in cloud, dedicated, managed and integrated computing-omgevingen voor meer dan 25.000 klanten wereldwijd. We hebben recent extra datacenters toegevoegd en hebben nu vestigingen in Amsterdam, Dallas, Houston, San Jose, Seattle, Singapore en Washington DC en netwerk Points of Presence over de hele wereld. Bovendien hebben we elk deel van ons platform geautomatiseerd, waardoor wij onze klanten volledige controle, beveiliging, schaalbaarheid en gemak van beheer bieden met behulp van het beste Customer Portal en Open API in deze bedrijfstak

Back to English
While I might not be able to communicate those translations in conversation (yet), it's an incredible visualization of how SoftLayer is growing and changing. It's also exciting to think about how many more languages we'll need to include next year!

-Summer

September 5, 2011

How Scalable Are You?

The Northeastern part of the United States saw two natural disasters within the span of five days of each other. The first was in the Washington, D.C. area: A 5.8 earthquake on August 23, 2011. On August 28, Hurricane Irene made her way up the east coast, leaving nearly 5.5 million people without power. We do everything we can to prepare our facilities for natural disasters (generator power backup, staffing, redundant bandwidth links and providers, etc.), and given the recent events, now might be a good time to start thinking about how your servers respond when something out of the ordinary happens ... Let's look at two relatively easy ways you can set your business up to scale and recover.

The first option you may consider would be to set up a multi-tiered environment by deploying multiple servers in various geographical locations. Your servers in each location could be accessed via load balancing or round robin DNS. In this kind of high-availability environment, your servers could handle the incoming requests more quickly with the load being split amongst the multiple data centers. The failover would be just a few seconds should you lose connectivity to one of the locations.

The second option to consider would be the private image repository for our CloudLayer Computing. This options allows you to save a private image template in different data centers, each ready for quick deployment without having to install and configure the same operating system and applications. Should you need additional resources or lose connectivity to your instance in one facility, you can deploy the saved image in another facility. The failover time would be only in the provisioning process of the Computer Instance ... which doesn't take too long.

Scalability makes sense no matter what situation you may be facing – from natural disaster to hitting the front page of Reddit. If you have any questions about these scalability options, "Click to Chat" on our site or give us a call and a sales rep can help you get prepared. Your infrastructure may have come through these recent events unscathed, but don't let that lull you into a false sense of security. The "It's better to be safe than sorry" cliche is a cliche for a reason: It's worth saying often.

-Greg

July 26, 2011

Globalization and Hosting: The World Wide Web is Flat

Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain, on August 3, 1492, with the goal of reaching the East Indies by traveling West. He fortuitously failed by stumbling across the New World and the discovery that the world was round – a globe. In The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman calls this discovery "Globalization 1.0," or an era of "countries globalizing." As transportation and technology grew and evolved in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, "Globalization 2.0" brought an era of "companies globalizing," and around the year 2000, we moved into "Globalization 3.0":

The dynamic force in Globalization 3.0 – the force that gives it its unique character – is the newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally. And the phenomenon that is enabling, empowering, and enjoining individuals and small groups to go global so easily and so seamlessly is what I call the flat-world platform.

Columbus discovered the world wasn't flat, we learned how to traverse that round world, and we keep making that world more and more accessible. He found out that the world was a lot bigger than everyone thought, and since his discovery, the smartest people on the planet have worked to make that huge world smaller and smaller.

The most traditional measure of globalization is how far "out" political, economical and technological changes extend. Look at the ARPANET network infrastructure in 1971 and a map of the Internet as it is today.

With every step Columbus took away from the Old World, he was one step closer to the New World. If you look at the growth of the Internet through that lens, you see that every additional node and connection added to the Internet brings connectivity closer to end-users who haven't had it before. Those users gain access to the rest of the Internet, and the rest of the Internet gains access to the information and innovation those users will provide.

Globalization in Hosting

As technology and high speed connectivity become more available to users around the world, the hosting industry has new markets to reach and serve. As Lance explained in a keynote session, "50% of the people in the world are not on the Internet today. They will be on the Internet in the next 5-10 years."

Understanding this global shift, SoftLayer can choose from a few different courses of action. Today, 40+% of our customers reside outside the United States of America, and we reach those customers via 2,000+ Gbps of network connectivity from transit and peering relationships with other networks around the world, and we've been successful. If the Internet is flattening the world, a USA-centric infrastructure may be limiting, though.

Before we go any further, let's take a step back and look at a map of the United States with a few important overlays:

US Latency

The three orange circles show the rough equivalents of the areas around our data centers in Seattle, Dallas and Washington, D.C., that have less than 40 milliseconds of latency directly to that facility. The blue circle on the left shows the same 40ms ring around our new San Jose facility (in blue to help avoid a little confusion). If a customer can access their host's data center directly with less than 40ms of latency, that customer will be pretty happy with their experience.

When you consider that each of the stars on the map represents a point of presence (PoP) on the SoftLayer private network, you can draw similar circles around those locations to represent the area within 40ms of the first on-ramp to our private network. While Winnipeg, Manitoba, isn't in one of our data center's 40ms rings, a user there would be covered by the Chicago PoP's coverage, and once the user is on the SoftLayer network, he or she has a direct, dedicated path to all of our data centers, and we're able to provide a stellar network experience.

If in the next 5-10 years, the half of the world that isn't on the Internet joins the Internet, we can't rely solely on our peering and transit providers to get those users to the SoftLayer network, so we will need to bring the SoftLayer network closer to them:

Global Network

This map gives you an idea of what the first steps of SoftLayer's international expansion will look like. As you've probably heard, we will have a data center location in Singapore and in Amsterdam by the end of the year, and those locations will be instrumental in helping us build our global network.

Each of the points of presence we add in Asia and Europe effectively wrap our 40ms ring around millions of users that may have previously relied on several hops on several providers to get to the SoftLayer network, and as a result, we're able to power a faster and more consistent network experience for those users. As SoftLayer grows, our goal is to maintain the quality of service our customers expect while we extend the availability of that service quality to users around the globe.

If you're not within 40ms of our network yet, don't worry ... We're globalizing, and we'll be in your neighborhood soon.

-@gkdog

October 15, 2010

How to Stop Worrying and Love the Network

I have recently discussed the network from a couple of perspectives. I have discussed the fact that traffic continues to grow at a furious pace, and the fact that SoftLayer spends a lot of time thinking about and designing our network to keep ahead of this growth. It makes sense to extend the discussion to the customer - what does any of this mean for me?

An increase in traffic means a couple of things. It means that there are more people joining the community - they might be in places that you have not considered yet (like India), but they are there. It is also true that the services and applications that people are using are getting more varied and sophisticated. There is another Facebook or Twitter waiting to happen. It might be in India or China, but it is going to come. Trust me. The business opportunity ahead is immense.

Whether they are consciously doing it or not, customers will work through a decision tree when they are choosing a hosting partner. Key discussions ought to occur that will address what happens in the data center and what happens in the network.

  • In the Data Center - A lot of what happens in the DC is similar across providers. Hosting companies choose from the same hardware vendors, picking from the same basket of processors, memory, storage and security. I am not so sure there is significant differentiation on the hardware side. However, there are significant differentiation points when it comes to implementation. What is the time frame between ordering a service and having the service live? What happens when I need to add another server? What happens when I become the next Twitter?
  • In the Network - I think that network is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. I also think that is gets overlooked. It does not matter how good the DC is managed, or how great your application is, if your customers cannot get access to your stuff, it does not matter how many or whose processors you use or how much RAM you have onboard or what firewalls are in place or what your storage architecture looks like. The only thing that matters is if YOUR customers can use YOUR app. Nothing else, nobody else matters.

We get it - that's why SoftLayer puts terrific effort into architecting our network. It’s why we have 10 carrier partners with 1000 GB of capacity. It’s why our new Dallas facility has bonded 2X1 Gbps links to both our private and public networks. It’s why we are deploying 10 Gbps servers. And its why we are thinking about next year, not just about tomorrow.

We are ready for whatever comes next. The question is: Are you?

-@quigleymar

May 8, 2009

Interview with the Printer

SL: Hey, The elevator was acting strangely this morning. I wanted your opinion on a few things.
Printer: *whir*

SL: Excellent, I’m glad to hear your enthusiasm. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how the web hosting industry seems to be weathering the storm of the global economic downturn quite well. It seems regardless of the bank bailouts, failed mortgages, and credit crises, there is still a high demand for social networking applications, online shopping and exchange of information via the many forums available. Furthermore, with the reliability of our redundant links, businesses are finding it more affordable to outsource their IT assets, and host with us.
Printer: PAPER_EMPTY

SL: I Get it. By hosting here, you can also begin the transition to a paperless business. Something to the effect of a tech taking an X-Ray, uploading it to an SL server through the private uplink, and instantly having it available to a doctor thousands of miles away. And that’s just one possibility out of the endless uses for a server here. We have a ton of space available, and by design, we use approximately a square foot per server in our Datacenter… How’s that for space efficiency?
Printer: WARMING_UP

SL: Yea, it gets pretty toasty in there, but luckily we have environmental controls in place to mitigate the heat put out by the thousands of servers in the pods. We also have monitoring in place to notify us of any possible situations. As uptime is vital in the web hosting industry, we have a number of features available both internally and externally. We have 24/7/365 monitoring, automatic reboots, and a highly intuitive customer portal. Not to mention the best technicians in the industry
Printer: *beep*

SL: Now that’s just rude. We have staff from every facet of IT working in our NOC every day of the year. With the highly skilled staff holding years upon years of experience, there are few issues that can’t be solved quickly and efficiently.
Printer: PAPER_JAM

SL: Doubtful. We continue to innovate in efficiency and features. Now you’re acting just like the elevator.
Printer: PC_LOAD_LETTER

SL: Ugh, you’re just as bad as the Elevator. What does that mean, anyway?

October 14, 2008

The Great Debate: SLayers

SLayers!

Welcome to The Great Debate: Part Deux. The SLayer blog. It is really going to be hard for me to complete this one as I am a SLacker by heart. After my previous blog I found that there might be more SLayers than I thought or so I have been told. All the SLales folks seem to be SLayers. I think they like to believe with their mad skills they can SLay the competition, quite like SoftLayer does as a whole. Some people just don’t want to be associated with the term SLacker because of the unbeknownst to me negative connotation. Who would have thought being a SLacker could be a bad thing. All this SLacking we do around here is great but this blog is about the darn SLayers we have around here.

The SLayers are an interesting bunch; take Doug Jackson in SLales for instance, he is your typical college educated frat boy jock. The bad part is I am not sure if we was in a frat or not, but I would put my money on it that he was. He is a SLayer to the core. He likes getting customers the best deal for their money and the technology they need to succeed. He also has a deep SLayer desire to succeed himself and is the master at the VFB and other moves. Would you expect anything less from a “Type A” super SLales guy who I am guessing spends at least 24 minutes a day on his hair style alone? I wouldn’t.

In our new STAT (SoftLayer Technical Assurance Team) group we have Justin Scott, he is also a SLayer. Ok, I pressed him a little on this and he claims he is a SLacker striving to be s SLayer. Not sure why he would want to switch his stance but it could be that he thinks it makes him tougher to be a SLayer. I just don’t see the thought process there but he is always thinking way outside of the box I tend to live in. I mean, who takes a perfectly good truck and guts it and puts all electric stuff in it to make it go. I guess you could say he is SLaying those gas prices with his electric dreams. Justin’s outside the box thinking is what makes him great for STAT and our customers. If you have a tricky technological nightmare in need of a solution, he can get it SLayed!

We really do have SLayers in every group in Development, Accounting, etc. In the NOC we have SLayers that are Slayer fans and then others that are Slayers fans! That is a quite a range if you ask me.

The great thing about SoftLayer is that be you a SLacker, SLayer, or even a SLoser (like Don) :-) everyone is a team and welcome to come here and show off their smarts! If you are interested in finding out more about our opportunities send your resume to us, but be sure to tell us up front if you are a SLacker or a SLayer!

I am Skinman, and I approve this message.

-Skinman

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September 28, 2008

The Great Debate: SLackers

At SoftLayer we have long been calling each other names (TRUST ME!). There are two that we tend to greet each other with as we walk the halls. You can either throw out “SLacker” or “SLayer”. Why you ask?

If you are an avid fan of all things SoftLayer, the Facebook page, the forums, and The Innerlayer, then by now you have heard the term SLales. We have lots of “SL” terminology here. There is the SLiki, the support wiki, there is the fantasy football league run by operations called SLoperations and the not as popular SLupport team (SLupport is a tongue twister it seems). So along those lines both terms seem to fit nicely.

When I started this blog I decided that I would ask around to see what everyone preferred and you would be amazed, it is about 50/50. The most interesting part is the loud and proud way you receive the response and it is often accompanied by the VFB, an elbow or maybe by the person “throwing three bars”!

Three Bars

I do have to point out that HR gave the canned “no comment” answer, so I will leave it at that, HR is always so professional. So let’s begin the debate and dive into the differences in a two part series. Today we will discuss the SLackers.

Every company has their fair share of Slackers but at SoftLayer we have SLackers! The difference you ask? SLackers are everything SoftLayer. They eat and breathe SoftLayer. They are SLackers to the core. They love to work hard, drink caffeine, work a little more, and play around at the office quite a bit. I would dare say that if you visited our offices or our data centers today you would see more smiles than you have in a while. They crack jokes, and make fun of each other, they blog about each other and the goofiness that they get themselves into and it makes work seem like play. They do that and at the same time respect each other and understand that they are surrounded by some of the best and brightest in this industry and in each individual department as well. They do all of this SLacking for you, the customer!

If you have seen the movie Slackers then take the passion those characters had for slacking off and their passion for beating the system, reverse it, and then apply it to 100% customer satisfaction and you will begin to understand how much they love to SLack! Everything they do is for the customer. If you ever feel like they have done something in error please let any one of them know however you can and they will do their best to take care of you with the utmost SLack.

Our culture might be the coolest around and the best part is we don’t have to talk about it, have endless meetings about it, advertise it, and beg people to drink the SLacker punch like some companies, it just happens. We have fun. We work hard. And we SLack off as much as we can for every customer. You can tell by my blogs that I am one of them; a Red and Black blooded SLacker and I am very proud of that fact.

It is now time for me to quit goofing off writing blogs and get back to SLackin! Next up, The SLayers!

-Skinman

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