Posts Tagged 'Exhibit'

April 23, 2013

Server Challenge II: How SoftLayer Saves the World

SoftLayer made our way to San Francisco for another great year of digital marketing fun at ad:tech. This event is always a blast because it allows us trade show roadies to change up our usual dialogue and talk about SoftLayer in a unique way ... Instead of fielding technical questions about our platform, we get to talk about our cloud hosting solutions from a "big picture" perspective. This year, the bridge between those "big picture" discussions and the hardware and technical side of our business was the Server Challenge II.

This isn't the first time the advertising-focused crowd at ad:tech has seen the Server Challenge, but with the competition's new retro arcade game design, it was much more of a focal point this year than it has been in years past ... And it didn't hurt that we were in an awesome location right at the entrance of the expo floor:

Server Challenge II - ad:tech

Given the fact that most people who stopped at our booth were drawn to us as part of a crowd around the Server Challenge, the first question we heard was subtly different than the "What does SoftLayer do?" question we're used to answering at ad:tech. This year, most of my conversations started with an attendee asking, "What in the world does this game have to do with SoftLayer?" Luckily, the graphic on the front of the Server Challenge with three simple objectives provides a great outline for the competition's relevance to our business:

  1. Load the Data
  2. Connect the Network
  3. Save the World

1. Load the Data

Game Application: Insert all 24 of the drive trays into the drive bays of two Supermicro servers.
SoftLayer Significance: We have more than 100,000 Supermicro servers in our 13 data centers around the world. When you walk into one of our facilities in Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Washington, D.C., San Jose, Amsterdam or Singapore, you'll see racks filled with servers just like the ones in the Server Challenge II, and those servers are loaded up with the hard drives you choose when you order from us.

2. Connect the Network

Game Application: Connect the 18 network cables into the three network switches.
SoftLayer Significance: The three different colors of network cables are the same colors you'll see in our data centers. The red cables carry public network traffic, the blue cables carry private network traffic, and the green cables carry out-of-band management network traffic. This is a huge differentiator for SoftLayer because those three physical networks allow for much greater flexibility for our customers. While the public network is serving public traffic to your websites, games and apps, you could be running an off-site backup of your database over the private network (where you don't incur bandwidth charges), and you can manage your server over SSL, PPTP and IPSEC connections via the out-of-band management network carried by the green cables.

3. Save the World

Game Application: Win a MacBook Air!
SoftLayer Significance: SoftLayer provides the flexible, scalable platform on which you can build your application, run your game or push an advertising campaign. The fact that all of our servers are racked, networked and ready for your order means that we're ready to "Save the World" for you by provisioning on-demand bare metal cloud servers and virtual cloud computing instances.

At least four or five times per show, I hear attendees talking about how the Server Challenge is the most fun game at the conference (even at GDC ... where the entire expo hall is filled with gaming companies). While it draws crowds for being fun, the best part of the competition is that it helps us tell our story and creates memories at the same time. When Server Challenge competitors hear that their companies need a new server, they're going to have a flashback to stepping up to a SoftLayer server rack and learning what makes SoftLayer the best choice as a cloud hosting provider. With the crowds we see at every show, that means we've got a lot of future customers:

Server Challenge II - ad:tech

Thanks to all of the ad:tech attendees who took on the Server Challenge II this year. The show actually had one of the most dramatic conclusions of any we've ever had before! Yuki Matsumoto broke the one-minute mark early on Day 2 of the expo with his first attempt of the day, and John Li managed to squeak by him with a time of 0:58.05 less than five minutes before the show floor closed:

Yuki had one shot at redemption as the last competitor of the show, but he wasn't able to beat John's 58-second completion, so the MacBook Air went to John Li! Keep practicing your server-building skills and come look for SoftLayer (and the Server Challenge) in an expo hall near you!

-Summer

March 8, 2013

Server Challenge II: Strata Conference 2013

If you want to find the Server Challenge II on an exhibit hall floor, just look for a crowd in one of the aisles and listen for cheers. When SoftLayer partnered with Supermicro to build a retro upgrade for our original Server Challenge, we knew the results would be phenomenal, and we haven't been disappointed. Other booths are chatting with one or two attendees while we've got the attention of 20+ as we explain what the Server Challenge II is all about and how it relates to what we do.

Strata Conference

About a dozen Strata Conference attendees asked where the Server Challenge II would show up next, and upon hearing that we'd have it at SXSW next week, one (semi-jokingly) begged us to let him rent the unit so he could practice beforehand. It almost seems like the competition is getting a cult following. And we love it.

Beyond the simple fact that the Server Challenge II affords us to talk about SoftLayer's differentiators as a cloud infrastructure provider, the competition actually brings flocks of attendees to our booth at the *end* of a show when other booths are already starting to packing up to go home. At Strata, the top four times were set in the last two hours of the show, and the very last attempt (which started right when the lights were flashing to signal the end of the show) was less than five seconds for taking the top spot.

In the end, Jonathan Heyne Galli bested the competition to take home bragging rights and a MacBook Air with a speedy time of 1:04.45. To showcase the winning attempt in a unique way, I grabbed my phone and fired up Vine:

If you have twelve more seconds to watch two other attempts, the Second Place and Third Place attempts were also captured with Vine.

In the midst of all of this competition, I've been blown away at the sportsmanship between competitors. I know how cheesy that sounds given the fact that we're talking about a game with a server rack in an expo hall, but it's true. Carson, the third place finisher, actually beat Jonathan's 1:04.45 toward the end of the show, but one of the drive tray arms wasn't clipped closed when he stopped the timer. We explained that we couldn't give him the top spot but that we could wipe that score and give him one more chance to replicate the result (with no errors), and he was quick to agree. He wouldn't want someone else to win with an "incomplete" build if he were in first place, so he didn't want to win that way.

Here was the final leader board from Strata 2013:

Strata Leader Board

Given the floods of traffic to our booth wherever the Server Challenge II turns up, it's only a matter of time until someone makes a documentary on the Server Challenge like The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. I can see it now ... The Server Sultan: Get in Line to Bring Servers Online.

-@khazard

February 3, 2012

Server Hardware "Show and Tell" at Cloud Expo Europe

Bringing server hardware to a "Cloud Expo" is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Why would anyone care about hardware? Isn't "the cloud" a magical land where servers and data centers cease to exist and all that matters is that your hardware-abstracted hypervisor can scale elastically on demand?

You might be surprised how many attendees at Cloud Expo Europe expressed that sentiment in one way or another when SoftLayer showed up in London with the infamous Server Challenge last week. Based on many of the conversations I had with attendees, some of the most basic distinctions and characteristics of physical and virtual environments are widely misunderstood. Luckily, we had a nice little server rack to use as a visual while talking about how SoftLayer fits in (and stands out) when it comes to "the cloud."

When we didn't have a line of participants waiting to try their hand at our in-booth competition, we were able to use it to "show and tell" what a cloud hardware architecture might look like and what distinguishes SoftLayer from some of the other infrastructure providers in the industry. We're able to show our network-within-a-newtork topology, we explain the pod concept of our data centers and how that streamlines our operations, and we talk about our system automation and how that speeds up the provisioning of both physical and virtual environments. Long-term memory is aided by the use of multiple senses, so when each attendee can see and touch what they're hearing about in our booth, they have a much better chance to remember the conversation in the midst of dozens (if not hundreds) they have before and after they talk to us.

And by the time we finish using the Server Challenge as a visual, the attendee is usually ready to compete. As you probably noticed if you caught the Cloud Expo Europe album at Facebook.com/SoftLayer, the competition was pretty intense. In fact, the winning time of 1:08.16 was set just about twenty minutes before the conference ended ... In the short video below, Phil presents the winner of the Cloud Expo Europe Server Challenge with his iPad 2 and asks for some insight about how he was able to pull off the victory:

Being the international debut of the Server Challenge, we were a bit nervous that the competition wouldn't have as much appeal as we've seen in the past, but given the response we received from attendees, it's pretty safe to say it's not the last time you'll see the Server Challenge abroad.

To all of the participants who competed last week, thanks for stopping by our booth, and we hope you're enjoying your "torch" (if you beat the 2:00.00 flashlight-winning time)!

-@khazard

November 21, 2011

The SoftLayer Server Challenge - ad:tech Expertise

If you've visited SoftLayer at a large conference this year, you probably came face-to-rack with our Server Challenge. Your task: Reassemble our miniature rack of SuperMicro servers in the fastest time at the conference. To do this, you need to install twenty drive trays in five servers and connect network cables in the correct switches to mirror the server rack setup on our data centers. If you're able to score the best time, you win an iPad 2!

In the sometimes-boring world of collateral and T-shirts at trade shows, the activity around this competition stands in stark contrast. It's been huge hit everywhere we go, so if you haven't had a chance to try your hand at the challenge, I'm sure we'll bring it to several of our 2012 shows. As a way of rewarding those of you who loyally follow our blog, I thought I could give you an advantage by sharing some tips for when you're in front of the Server Challenge rack ... And to give you an idea of how important these tips can be, look at how close the top two times were at ad:tech NYC:

That's right. 17 hundredths of a second between victory and defeat. Now are you ready to take some notes?

SoftLayer Server Challenge

The Start
When you start the challenge, don't look at the timer to see if your time started ... If it doesn't start, we'll stop you. By focusing your attention on the network cables or drive trays (whichever you choose to start with), you can save yourself a half of a second.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

Network Cables
You don't have to connect the network cables first, but I have to choose something to complete first, so the network cables won the coin flip. When you're connecting the network cables, it's best to grab all three cables of the same color and try to snap them in together. Plugging in the cables one-by-one requires three times the work.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

Hard Drives
When you're tackling the hard drives, the key is to line up the drives and have them installed completely before moving on. My tip for installing the drives is to tilt them in on a sideways angle, not at an upwards angle. If you try and tilt the drives upwards, you'll most likely get the drive tray stuck and have to remove it to try again. If you can do it precisely, picking up two drives at one time has worked well, and our all-time record of around 54 seconds took that approach.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

SoftLayer Server Challenge

SoftLayer Server Challenge

One last pointer: Lock them in place immediately after installing them. If you leave the latch open, it makes it harder to get neighboring drives installed, and it's such a small incremental effort to close the latch that even if you perfect a "close all the latches" technique at the end, you'd still end up spending more time.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

The Finish
Don't forget to put both hands back on the timer to stop your time. :-)

SoftLayer Server Challenge

Now that you're equipped with some of the best Server Challenge tips and tricks, we want you to start training. In 2012, we expect to see someone complete it in under 50 seconds ... And that person probably will carry the all-time record home – along with a new iPad 2!

Keep an eye on our Event Schedule for upcoming shows, and if there's a conference where you really want to see the Server Challenge, let us know and we'll see if we can set it up.

Good Luck!

-Summer

October 16, 2011

Advice for the Non-Experienced Tradeshow Traveler

SoftLayer attends 60+ tradeshows a year. That may not sound like much too some people, but when it means you're only home for six days in a given month, it's pretty daunting. Some think that going to a tradeshow is a "free" min-vacation, but in reality it's exhausting work. You'll get lucky at a few shows where the booth time is only 4-6 hours, but most of the time, you're on the hook for 8 or 9 hours. You never know how much you use your leg muscles by just standing until you do it for nine straight hours. After being on your feet for that long, the first thing you want to do when the show closes is go to dinner just so you can sit down. Now think about doing this for three or four days in a row, and it doesn't sound like a vacation anymore.

Before I turn you off tradeshows altogether, I should admit that they are actually quite fun if you're a people person. I love getting to meet new people and show them what SoftLayer has to offer. It's a rewarding experience to see that light in someone's eyes who has never heard of SoftLayer and then finds out how we can make their business better. I can't help but think to myself, "Yeah, we are kind of a big deal." :-)

Given my extensive experience in the conference and tradeshow realm, here are a few key pieces of advice for the non-experienced SoftLayer tradeshow traveler (adjust for your brand as necessary):

Attire

  • Guys should wear black slacks with a polo or button down. For the more casual shows, nice jeans (no rips, tears or holes) and any kind of SoftLayer shirt is fine.
  • Girls should wear black slacks or a black skirt with a polo or button down ... And now you have the option of a SoftLayer dress.
  • It's always a good idea to wear slacks the first day to "test the waters" of the attire for the show. After that, you can plan your next day's attire accordingly.
  • Always wear black shoes. Girls do NOT wear high heels ... You will regret it 30 minutes into the first day. An great alternative for the ladies are black flats, these will look great with pants, a skirt, or a SoftLayer dress.
  • Sometimes it gets extremely cold in the conference hall, so I suggest bringing a jacket – even if it's 110 degrees outside. When wearing a jacket over your attire, make it one of the branded SoftLayer jackets – a SoftLayer logo should be visible at all times so attendees know you're not a random stranger in the SoftLayer booth.

Behavior

  • I know how easy it can be to get carried away when other attendees get a little wild, but that is NO excuse to be late, completely absent or operating at less than 100% when you get to the booth the next day.
  • You should always have a smile on your face when talking with attendees. You're talking about great stuff when you're talking about SoftLayer, so you should be happy to share it with the next potential SoftLayer customer.
  • This should go without saying, but there should be NO cursing, yelling or arguing with anyone at the booth.

Last but not Least
The number ONE rule for the non-experienced traveler: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS know your stuff before going to a tradeshow. Nothing is more embarrassing for your colleagues (or SoftLayer in general) when you are asked a simple question about what SoftLayer does and you do not know. If you do not know something, ask a colleague or simply look on our website. We have plenty of information there and numerous datasheets that explain in detail the products and services SoftLayer offers.

-Natalie

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