Posts Tagged 'Datacenter'

July 27, 2012

SoftLayer 'Cribs' ≡ DAL05 Data Center Tour

The highlight of any customer visit to a SoftLayer office is always the data center tour. The infrastructure in our data centers is the hardware platform on which many of our customers build and run their entire businesses, so it's not surprising that they'd want a first-hand look at what's happening inside the DC. Without exception, visitors to a SoftLayer data center pod are impressed when they walk out of a SoftLayer data center pod ... even if they've been in dozens of similar facilities in the past.

What about the customers who aren't able to visit us, though? We can post pictures, share stats, describe our architecture and show you diagrams of our facilities, but those mediums can't replace the experience of an actual data center tour. In the interest of bridging the "data center tour" gap for customers who might not be able to visit SoftLayer in person (or who want to show off their infrastructure), we decided to record a video data center tour.

If you've seen "professional" video data center tours in the past, you're probably positioning a pillow on top of your keyboard right now to protect your face if you fall asleep from boredom when you hear another baritone narrator voiceover and see CAD mock-ups of another "enterprise class" facility. Don't worry ... That's not how we roll:

Josh Daley — whose role as site manager of DAL05 made him the ideal tour guide — did a fantastic job, and I'm looking forward to feedback from our customers about whether this data center tour style is helpful and/or entertaining.

If you want to see more videos like this one, "Like" it, leave comments with ideas and questions, and share it wherever you share things (Facebook, Twitter, your refrigerator, etc.).

-@khazard

July 19, 2012

The Human Element of SoftLayer - DAL05 DC Operations

One of the founding principles of SoftLayer is automation. Automation has enabled this company to provide our customers with a world class experience, and it enables employees to provide excellent service. It allows us to quickly deploy a variety of solutions at the click of a button, and it guarantees consistency in the products that we deliver. Automation isn't the whole story, though. The human element plays a huge role in SoftLayer's success.

As a Site Manager for the corporate facility, I thought I could share a unique perspective when it comes to what that human element looks like, specifically through the lens of the Server Build Team's responsibilities. You recently heard how my colleague, Broc Chalker, became an SBT, and so I wanted take it a step further by providing a high-level breakdown of how the Server Build Team enables SoftLayer to keep up with the operational demands of a rapidly growing, global infrastructure provider.

The Server Build Team is responsible for filling all of the beautiful data center environments you see in pictures and videos of SoftLayer facilities. Every day, they are in the DC, building out new rows for inventory. It sounds pretty simple, but it's actually a pretty involved process. When it comes to prepping new rows, our primary focus is redundancy (for power, cooling and network). Each rack is powered by dual power sources, four switches in a stacked configuration (two public network, two private network), and an additional switch that provides KVM access to the server. To make it possible to fill the rack with servers, we also have to make sure it's organized well, and that takes a lot of time. Just watch the video of the Go Live Crew cabling a server rack in SJC01, and you can see how time- and labor-intensive the process is. And if there are any mistakes or if the cables don't look clean, we'll cut all the ties and start over again.



 

In addition to preparing servers for new orders, SBTs also handle hardware-related requests. This can involve anything from changing out components for a build, performing upgrades / maintenance on active servers, or even troubleshooting servers. Any one of these requests has to be treated with significant urgency and detail.



 

The responsibilities do not end there. Server Build Technicians also perform a walk of the facility twice per shift. During this walk, technicians check for visual alerts on the servers and do a general facility check of all SoftLayer pods. Note: Each data center facility features one or more pods or "server rooms," each built to the same specifications to support up to 5,000 servers.



 

The DAL05 facility has a total of four pods, and at the end of the build-out, we should be running 18,000-20,000 servers in this facility alone. Over the past year, we completed the build out of SR02 and SR03 (pod 2 and 3, respectively), and we're finishing the final pod (SR04) right now. We've spent countless hours building servers and monitoring operating system provisions when new orders roll in, and as our server count increases, our team has grown to continue providing the support our existing customers expect and deserve when it comes to upgrade requests and hardware-related support tickets.



 

To be successful, we have to stay ahead of the game from an operations perspective. The DAL05 crew is working hard to build out this facility's last pod (SR04), but for the sake of this blog post, I pulled everyone together for a quick photo op to introduce you to the team.

DAL05 Day / Evening Team and SBT Interns (with the remaining racks to build out in DAL05):
DAL05 DC Ops

DAL05 Overnight Server Build Technician Team:
DAL05 DC Ops

Let us know if there's ever anything we can do to help you!

-Joshua

April 16, 2012

TechStars Cloud @ SoftLayer - DAL05 Data Center Tour

Last week was HUGE for the inaugural class of companies in the TechStars Cloud accelerator in San Antonio. The program's three-month term concluded with "Demo Day" on Wednesday where all of the participating companies presented to more than 300 venture capitalists and investors, and given our relationship with TechStars, SoftLayer was well represented ... We were even honored to present a few of the companies we've been working with over the past few months. All of the 20-hour days, mentor sessions and elevator pitches culminated in one pitch, and while I can't talk much about the specifics, I can assure you that the event was a huge success when it came to connecting the teams to (very interested) investors.

Demo Day wasn't the end of the fun, though. After the post-pitch celebrations (and a much-needed night of sleep), the teams had one more item on their agenda for the week: A visit to SoftLayer.

On Thursday, the teams piled into a bus and made their way from San Antonio to Dallas where we could continue the celebration of their successful completion of the program ... And so many of the teams could see the actual hardware powering their businesses. After a nice little soiree on Thursday evening at the House of Blues in Dallas, we put the teams up in a hotel near our Alpha headquarters promised them an informative, interesting and fun Friday.

After a few hours of sleep, the teams were recharged on Friday morning and ready to experience some SoftLayer goodness so...

TechStars Cloud Data Center Tour

They loaded up the bus and took a 10-minute ride to our corporate headquarters.

TechStars Cloud Data Center Tour

Given our security and compliance processes, each visitor checked in at our front desk, and they were divided into smaller groups to take a quick data center tour.

I could tell that going on a data center tour wasn't the most exciting prospect for a few of the visitors, but I asked them to forget everything they thought they knew about data centers ... This is SoftLayer. Yes, that's pretty bold, but when each team walked out of SR01.DAL05, I could see in their eyes that they agreed.

TechStars Cloud Data Center Tour

The tour started innocently enough at a window looking into Server Room 01 (the first data center pod we built in DAL05). In the picture above, Joshua Daley, our DAL05 site manager, is explaining how all of SoftLayer's facilities are built identically to enable us to better manage the customer experience and our operational practices in any facility around the world. After a few notes about security and restrictions on what can/can't be done in the server room the group was led through the first set of secured doors between the facility's lobby and the data center floor.

TechStars Cloud Data Center Tour

From the next hallway, the tour group observed the generators and air conditioning units keeping DAL05 online 24x7. Josh explained the ways we safeguard the facility with n+1 redundancy and regular maintenance and load testing, and the group was led through two more stages of secured doors ... the first with badge access, the second requiring fingerprint authentication. When they made it through, they were officially in SR01.DAL05.

TechStars Cloud Data Center Tour

Josh explained how our data center CRAC units work, how each server row is powered and how we measure and optimize the server room environment. While that aspect of the data center could seem like "blocking and tackling," he talked about our continued quest to improve power efficiency as he shared a few of the innovative approaches we've been testing, and it was clear that the tour understood it to be easier than, "Plug in server. Turn on air conditioner."

TechStars Cloud Data Center Tour

The teams got a chance to get up close and personal (No Touching!) with a server rack, and they learned about our unique network-with-a-network topology that features public, private and out-of-band management functionality. Many "oohs" and "ahhhs" were expressed.

TechStars Cloud Data Center Tour

The tour wrapped up outside of the data center facility in front of the Alpha HQ's Network Operations Center. From here, the TechStars could see how our network team observes and responds to any network-related events, and they could ask questions about anything they saw during the tour (without having to shout over the air conditioning hum).

When the final tour concluded, the full group reconvened in one of our conference rooms. They'd seen the result of our hard work, and we wanted them to know where all that hard work started. Because SoftLayer was started in a Dallas living room a few short years ago, we knew our story would be interesting, inspirational and informative, and we wanted to provide as much guidance as possible to help these soon-to-grow businesses prepare for their own success. After a brief Q&A period, a few of the TechStars Cloud participants (and some of their Dallas-based Tech Wildcatters cousins) presented a little about their businesses and how they've grown and evolved through the TechStars program, and we got to ask our own questions to help them define their business moving forward.

After the presentations at the office, we knew we couldn't just load the bus up to send the teams back to San Antonio ... We had to bid them farewell SoftLayer style. We scheduled a quick detour to SpeedZone Dallas where a few hours of unlimited eats, drinks, games and go-kart races were waiting for them.

We couldn't have had a better time with the participating teams, and we're looking forward to seeing the amazing things they'll continue doing in the near future. If you want to see even more data center coverage from Friday, be sure to check out "TechStars Cloud Visits SoftLayer" on Flickr!

-@PaulFord

January 16, 2012

What I've Learned About Leading

What does it take to be a good leader? What kind of leader do you want to follow? Throughout my life, I've gravitated toward leadership positions. Even when I was young, I tended to take charge of a group to achieve a goal or accomplish a mission ... though most of the "missions" in my younger days happened to be some sort of mischief. Having participated in the Boy Scouts and JROTC, I joined the Marine Corps where I served for seven years, and throughout my life, I've been fortunate to have more than my fair share of incredible mentors.

When my service in the Marine Corps concluded, I "enlisted" at SoftLayer as a data center technician. My primary responsibilities included building severs to order and installing software for our customers in four hours or less, and it was all pretty foreign to me. I had a lot to learn about the technical side of operating a data center, but based on my impression of the company, I was confident that I'd be in good hands.

Because I always find myself asking for more challenges and additional responsibility, I transitioned into a Customer Systems Administrator role. The CSA position required a lot more learning (at a breakneck pace), and in addition to the technical aspect of the job, I found myself learning just as much about the 'soft skills' required to provide the great customer service. Equipped with that knowledge (and a bit more experience), I pursued a leadership role on the team, and I made it my goal to use what I'd learned in the data center and in support to lead my team. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a challenge, but I've never backed down from one before.

I don't mean to make this post all about me ... my goal in sharing a little of my background is to give a little context for what I've learned about leadership. It goes without saying that I've been fortunate, both in the Marine Corps as well as with SoftLayer, to have some of the most intelligent, talented and sometimes downright enigmatic leaders. I've managed to pick up advice, tips and tricks for handling all of the curveballs that are thrown on a daily basis, and over my years as a leader, I've developed a few philosophies (an amalgam of some of the key points I absorbed from all of those who have led me in the past) that I try to abide by daily:

Lead by Example.

I make it a point to never ask someone to do something that I've never done or something that I'd never be willing to do. This is the keen avoidance of the "do as I say, not as I do" mentality. Failing to do this hands-down one of the easiest ways to lose your team.

Employ Your Team to Their Abilities. Empower Them to do Their Best Work.

It's very important to know your team's strengths and weaknesses and use those to make everyone better. Using the strengths of one team member, I can push another outside of his or her comfort zone to improve his or her overall skill set. I've also seen amazing results from providing freedom for my teams to make decisions. Not only does that freedom build trust, it also gives some real "ownership" to every person, and with that sense of ownership, each team member does better work. I've been a little surprised to notice this empowerment coming from the coffee juggernaut Starbucks: Starbucks baristas and store employees are encouraged to make real-time decisions in the interest of taking care of their customers.1

Keep Learning.

Leading a team requires that you stay on top of what they're doing. Always ask questions. Continue to research so you can be a resource for your team. Find opportunities to learn and take advantage of every one of them.

Most Importantly: Learn how to Have Fun.
I see this cliché often, so when you see, "Have Fun," I wouldn't be surprised if you just rolled your eyes. I'd be lying if I said that things were great all of the time ... Realistically in any business, there's going to be a time or two when the *&#@ is going to hit the fan. It's important to find opportunities to cut loose and relax a bit. Cooking steaks for the group during a long overnight shift, grabbing a bite after work or a providing a happy hour once in a while builds a great deal of cohesion outside the office walls. Providing a relaxed environment does not prevent your team from doing stressful work ... It actually builds camaraderie, and it will help the team get through those tough times. The brutal honesty is that if people aren't enjoying where they're at, they'll look elsewhere – leaders have to help foster an environment that enables success.

At the end of the day, these tips may not work for everyone. There are a plethora of studies out there pertaining to the different leadership styles, the different types of leaders and how they influence teams. What's important is that leaders need to be intentional about bettering their teams (and ultimately bettering their businesses).

Along the lines of continuous education, I'd love to hear the leadership philosophies you've learned in your experience as a leader. Leave a comment on this article to share what you think has made you successful.

-Matthew

1This comes from both observation and talking to current and past employees. I've never worked for Starbucks, so I can't cite a specific company policy to back this up, but that evident organic culture is probably worth more than a million company policies that would try to create that culture.

October 27, 2011

SoftLayer Features and Benefits - Data Centers

When we last talked, I broke down the differences between features and benefits. To recap: a feature is something prominent about a person, place or thing, while a benefit is a feature that is useful to you. In that blog, I discussed our customer portal and the automation within, so with this next installment, let's move into my favorite place: the data center ... Our pride and joy!

If you have not had a chance to visit a SoftLayer data center, you're missing out. The number one response I get when I begin a tour through any of our facilities is, "I have been through several data centers before, and they're pretty boring," or my favorite, "We don't have to go in, they all look the same." Then they get a glimpse at the SoftLayer facility through the window in our lobby:

Data Center Window

What makes a SoftLayer DC so different and unique?

We deploy data centers in a pod concept. A pod, or server room, is a designed to be an identical installation of balanced power, cooling and redundant best-in-class equipment in under 10,000 square feet. It will support just about 5,000 dedicated servers, and each pod is built to the same specifications as every other pod. We use the same hardware vendor for servers, the majority of our internal network is powered by Cisco gear and edge equipment is now powered by Juniper. Even the paint on the walls matches up from pod to pod, city to city and now country to country. That's standardization!

That all sounds great, but what does that mean for you? How do all these things benefit you as the end user?

First of all, setting standards improves our efficiency in support and operations. We can pluck any of our technicians in DAL05 and drop him into SJC01, and he'll feel right at home despite the outside world looking a bit different. No facility quirks, no learning curve. In fact, the Go Live Crews in Singapore and Amsterdam are all experienced SoftLayer technicians from our US facilities, so they help us make sure all of the details are exactly alike.

Beyond the support aspect, having data centers in multiple cities around the world is a benefit within itself: You have the option to host your solution as close or as far away from you as you wish. Taking that a step further, disaster recovery becomes much easier with our unique network-within-a-network topology.

The third biggest benefit customers get from SoftLayer's data centers is the quality of the server chassis. Because we standardize our SuperMicro chassis in every facility, we're able to troubleshoot and resolve issues faster when a customer contacts us. Let's say the mainboard is having a problem, and your Linux server is in kernel panic. Instead of taking time to try and fix the part, I can hot-swap all the drives into an identical chassis and use the portal to automatically move all of your IP addresses and network configurations to a new location in the DC. The server boots right up and is back in service with minimal downtime.

Try to do that with "similar" hardware (not "identical"), and see where that gets you.

The last obvious customer benefit we'll talk about here is the data center's internal network performance. Powered by Cisco internal switches and Juniper routers on the edge, we can provide unmatched bandwidth capacity to our data centers as well as low latency links between servers. In one rack on the data center floor, you can see 80Gbps of bandwidth. Our automated, high-speed network allows us to provision a server anywhere in a pod and an additional server anywhere else in the same pod, and they will perform as if they are sitting right next to each other. That means you don't need to reserve space in the same rack for a server that you think you'll need in the future, so when your business grows, your infrastructure can grow seamlessly with you.

In the last installment of this little "SoftLayer Features and Benefits" series, we'll talk about the global network and learn why no one in the industry can match it.

-Harold

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

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 21, 2011

Global Expansion: Singapore Nearing Completion

In early September I shared with you a progress report on our first international data center in Singapore. It should be no surprise that our build out has been moving at breakneck speeds. In the last couple of weeks we've:

  1. Completed the construction of our new regional office in Singapore
  2. Built out 3 network PoPs (Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore)
  3. Unloaded 4 x 40 foot ocean containers
  4. Received over 100 pallets of equipment and gear – with more to come
  5. Assembled 220 custom server cabinets
  6. Installed 120 customer facing switches (5,760 switch ports)
  7. Provisioned petabytes of new shared storage waiting for your data

We're also ecstatic to have our new Singaporean employees burning the midnight oil with us. We spent countless hours interviewing for a number of positions in Singapore and we've only hired the most talented, brightest stars that we could find. Everyone has fit right in, loves the culture and they're rocking it. We still have a bunch of open positions – if you're interested, drop us a note.

As our go-live date approaches we're putting the final touches on the data center. One last check to ensure all cables are seated correctly in their ports, double check the configurations on our internal equipment, light the network and have our first ever international truck day – although, we might have to call it ocean container day. :)

I've included some pictures below that I took over the last couple of days showing the progress of the data center build out. Expect a full set of pictures once everything is live.

Singapore Sep 20

Singapore Sep 20

Singapore Sep 20

-@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

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