Posts Tagged 'Experience'

September 22, 2014

Becoming a SLayer in Hong Kong

When I came on board at SoftLayer, the company was at the beginning of a growth period. IBM had just invested $1.2 billion to build 15 new data centers all over the world including one in Hong Kong—I was excited to get to work there!

Before I joined the Hong Kong data center’s Go Live Team as a server build tech, I went through a lengthy interview process. At the time, I was working for a multinational bank. But after the Chinese New Year, something inside me said it was time to take on a new challenge. Many people in Chinese cities look for new opportunities around the New Year; they believe it will give them luck and fortune.

After much anticipation (and interviews and paperwork), my first day was finally here. When I arrived at the SoftLayer data center, I walked through glass security doors and was met by Jesse Arnold, SoftLayer’s Hong Kong site manager; Russell Mcguire, SoftLayer’s Go Live Team leader whom I met during my interview process; and Shahzad, my colleague who was also starting work that day.

Shahzad and I felt very welcomed and were excited to be joining the team. During our first-day tour, I took a deep breath and said to myself, “You can do this Ying! This is transition, and we never stop learning new things in life.” Learning new things can be challenging. It involves mental, physical, and emotional strength.

Inside the Data Center: Building Racks!

When our team began to build racks and work with cables it was uncharted, but not totally unfamiliar territory for me. For a time, I worked as a seafarer cadet electrician on a container ship. I have worked with cables, electric motors, and generators before—it was just in the middle of the ocean. So, needless to say I know cables, but SFP cables were new. With the help of my colleagues and the power of the Internet, I was on my way and cabling the data center in no time.

When we build a server, we check everything: the motherboard, processors, RAM, hard drives, and most importantly, OS compatibility. After learning those basics, I started to look at it like a big puzzle that I needed to solve.

Inside the Data Center: Strong Communication!

That wasn’t the only challenge. In order to do my job successfully and adhere to data center build procedures, I had to learn the best way to communicate with my colleagues.

In the data center, our team must relay messages precisely and provide all the details to ensure every step in the build-out process is done correctly. Jesse constantly reminds us what is important: communication, communication, communication. He always repeats it three times to emphasize it as a golden rule. To me, this is one sign of a successful leader. I’m glad Jesse has put a focus on communication because it is helping me learn what makes a good leader and SLayer.

Inside the Data Center: Job Satisfaction!

I am so happy to be working at SoftLayer. All the new challenges I’ve been faced with remind me of Nike’s slogan: Just Do It! And our young team is doing just that. We work six days a week for 14 hours a day. And for all of that time, I use my mental and physical strength to tackle my new job.

I’ve learned so much and am excited to expand the knowledge base I already have, so I can be a stronger asset to the SoftLayer team.

I consider myself a SLayer that is still-in-training because there is more to being a SLayer than just building racks. SLayers are the dedicated people that work at SoftLayer, and they’re my colleagues. As my training continues, I look forward to learning more and to continue gaining more skills. I don't want to get old without learning new things!

For all our readers in Asia below you will find the blog in Mandarin translation!

在我刚刚来到SoftLayer的时候,它正处于发展的初级阶段。那时候,IBM公司正投资了120万在世界各地建立数据中心,其中一个在香港。我非常荣幸我可以在这里工作!

在我加入香港数据中心——Go Live Team,成为一个服务器构建技术员以前,我经历了一个很长的面试过程。当时,我正在为一家跨国银行工作。然而,中国农历新年以后,我的内心告诉我,是时候要迎接新的挑战了。很多中国人在新年的时候寻求新的工作机会,他们相信,这会给他们带来好运和财富。

经过一番前期工作(还有采访和文书工作),我终于迎来了新的第一天。当我来到SoftLayer数据中心的时候,我穿过玻璃安全门,见到了SoftLayer香港站的经理——Jesse Arnold,我曾经采访时遇到的SoftLayer里Go Live Team的组长——Russell Mcguire,还有Shahzad,和我一样第一天开始工作的同事。

Shahzad和我都觉得非常的开心和兴奋能够加入这个组。在我们第一天工作的时候,我深深地吸了一口气,对自己说:你可以做到!这是一个进步的过程。我们从不会停止学习新的东西。学习新的东西是很有挑战性的,它包含了心理、身体和精神的力量。

在数据中心里面:建筑架!
当我们的团队开始构建建筑架和电缆的时候,它们都是新的东西。但不是完全不熟悉它们。以前,我的工作是在集装箱船的海员电工。那时候我的工作和电缆、发动机、发电机打交道,虽然它们都只是在海里,但是,我很确定我了解电缆,我很容易的上手了数据中心的工作。

当我们建立一个服务器的时候,我们得检查每一样东西:主板、处理器、内存、硬盘,还有最重要的,操作系统的兼容性。了解了这些基本的东西以后,我把它当做一个摆在面前的难题,认真地对待。

在数据中心里面:很强的沟通能力!
这并不是唯一的挑战。为了成功地做好我的工作,在建立数据中心的过程中,我必须学会用最佳方式和我的同事沟通。

在数据中心,我们的的团队必须精确地传送信息,并提供所有的细节,以确保扩建过程中每一个步骤正确地完成。Jesse不断地提醒我们,沟通交流是非常重要的。他强调沟通是黄金规则。对我来说,这是一个成功领导者的标志之一。我很高兴Jesse已经把重点放在沟通作为重点,因为它帮助我学习,什么是一名优秀的领导者。

在数据中心里面:工作满意度!
我很高兴可以在SoftLayer工作。面对所以新的挑战,我都度自己说:放手去做!我们年轻的团队都在努力。我们每周工作六天,每天14小时。那段时间内,我把我所有的精力都投入到了我的新工作中。

我从我的经历中学到了很多,增长了很多知识。所以我可以说,我给SoftLayer团队带来了价值。

我把自己当做一个让在学习进步的技术员,因为一个技术员不仅仅要会构架。精英是在SoftLayer执着工作的人们,他们是我的同事。由于我正处于训练学习阶段,我期待学习更多知识和技能。活到老,学到老!

- Ying

January 15, 2014

Keep Spending Most Our Lives Livin' in a Gamer's Paradise

With apologies to Coolio, I couldn't resist adapting a line from the chorus of "Gangsta's Paradise" to be the title of this blog post. While I could come up with a full, cringe-worthy cloud computing version of the song (and perform it), I'll save myself the embarrassment and instead focus on why "Gamer's Paradise" came to mind in the first place. We announced some amazing stats about two gaming customers that use SoftLayer's cloud infrastructure to power popular online games, and I thought I'd share an interesting observation about that news.

More than 130 million gamers rely on SoftLayer infrastructure. SoftLayer is virtually invisible to those gamers. And that's why gaming companies love us.

When would a gamer care where a game is hosted? Simple: When gameplay is unavailable, lagging, or otherwise underperforming. Because we deliver peak cloud performance consistently for our gaming customers, we'll continue to live in the shadows of gamers' collective consciousness (while taking center stage in the minds of game producers and developers).

It's easy to get caught up in discussing the technical merits of our cloud hosting platform. Speeds and feeds provide great metrics for explaining our infrastructure, but every now and then, it's worthwhile to step back and look at the forest for the trees. Instead of talking about how bare metal resources consistently outperform their virtual server equivalents, let's take a look at why our gaming customers need as much server horsepower as we can provide:

As you can see, the games we're hosting for our customers are a little more resource-intensive than Tic-tac-toe and Pong. By leveraging SoftLayer bare metal infrastructure, gaming companies such as KUULUU and Multiplay can seamlessly support high definition gameplay in massive online environments for gamers around the world. When KUULUU launched their wildly popular LP Recharge Facebook game, they trusted our platform all the way from beta testing through launch, daily play, and updates. When Multiplay needed to support 25,000 new users in Battlefield 4, they spun up dedicated SoftLayer resources in less than four hours. If gamers expect a flawless user experience, you can imagine how attentive to infrastructure needs gaming companies are.

As more and more users sign on to play games online with Multiplay, KUULUU, and other gaming customers on our platform, we'll celebrate crossing even bigger (and more astounding) milestones like the 130 million mark we're sharing today. In the meantime, I'm going to go "check on our customers' servers" with a few hours of gameplay ... You know, for the good of our customers.

-@khazard

More Info: Multiplay and KUULUU Launch Games with SoftLayer, an IBM Company - Gaming companies flock to SoftLayer’s cloud, adding to 130 million players worldwide

Categories: 
April 15, 2013

The Heart of SoftLayer: People

When I started working for SoftLayer as a software engineer intern, I was skeptical about the company's culture. I read many of the culture posts on the blog, and while they seemed genuine, I was still a little worried about what the work atmosphere would be for a lowly summer intern. Fast-forward almost a year, and I look back on my early concerns and laugh ... I learned quickly that the real heart of SoftLayer is its employees, and the day-to-day operations I observed in the office consistently reinforced that principle.

It's easy to think about SoftLayer as a pure technology company. We provide infrastructure as a service capabilities for businesses with on-demand provisioning and short-term contracts. Our data centers, portal, network and APIs get the spotlight, but those differentiators wouldn't exist without the teams of employees that keep improving them on a daily basis. By focusing on the company culture and making sure employees are being challenged (but not overwhelmed), SoftLayer was indirectly improving the infrastructure we provide to customers.

When I walked into the office for my first day of work, I imagined that I'd be working in a cramped, dimly lit room in the back of the building where I'd be using hand-me-down hardware. When I was led to a good-sized, well-lit room and given a Core i3 laptop with two large monitors and a full suite of software, I started realizing how silly my worries were. I had access to the fully stocked break room, and within about a week, I felt like part of a community rather than a stale workplace.

My coworkers not only made me feel welcome but would frequently go out of their way to make sure I am comfortable and have the resources I needed to succeed. While the sheer amount of new information and existing code was daunting, managers assigned projects that were possible to complete and educational. I was doing useful work building and improving a complex production system rather than the busy work offered by many other employers' internship programs. I learned several new techniques and solidified my understanding of software engineering theory through practice. The open-door policy and friendly people around me not only created a strong sense of community but also allowed more efficient problem solving.

You may have noticed early in this post that I joined the company on a summer internship and that I also told you it's been about a year since I started. While summers in Texas feel long, they don't actually last a full year ... After my internship, I was offered a part-time position as a software engineer, and I'm going to be full-time when I graduate in May.

It's next to impossible to find a company that realizes the importance of its employees and wants to provide an environment for employees to succeed. The undeniable runaway success of the company is proof that SoftLayer's approach to taking care of employees is working.

-John

November 21, 2012

Risk Management: The Importance of Redundant Backups

You (should) know the importance of having regular backups of your important data, but to what extent does data need to be backed up to be safe? With a crowbar and shove, thieves broke into my apartment and stole the backups I've used for hundreds of gigabytes of home videos, photo files and archives of past computers. A Dobro RAID enclosure and an external drive used by Apple Time Machine were both stolen, and if I didn't have the originals on my laptop or a redundant offsite backup, I would have lost all of my data. My experience is not uncommon, and it's a perfect example of an often understated principle that everyone should understand: You need redundant backups.

It's pretty simple: You need to back up your data regularly. When you've set up that back up schedule, you should figure out a way to back up your data again. After you've got a couple current backups of your files, you should consider backing up your backups off-site. It seems silly to think of backing up backups, but if anything happens — failed drives, theft, fire, flood, etc. — those backups could be lost forever, and if you've ever lost a significant amount of data due to a hard drive failure or experience like mine, you know that backups are worth their weight in gold.

Admittedly, there is a point of diminishing return when it comes to how much redundancy is needed — it's not worth the time/effort/cost to back up your backups ad infinitum — so here are the best practices I've come up with over the course of my career in the information technology industry:

  • Plan and schedule regular backups to keep your archives current. If your laptop's hard drive dies, having backups from last June probably won't help you as much as backups from last night.
  • Make sure your data exists on three different mediums. It might seem unnecessary, but if you're already being intentional about backing up your information, take it one step further to replicate those backups at least one more time.
  • Something might happen to your easy onsite backups, so it's important to consider off-site backups as well. There are plenty of companies offering secure online backups for home users, and those are generally easy to use (even if they can be a little slow).
  • Check your backups regularly. Having a backup is useless if it's not configured to back up the correct data and running on the correct schedule.
  • RAID is not a backup solution. Yes, RAID can duplicate data across hard drives, but that doesn't mean the data is "backed up" ... If the RAID array fails, all of the hard drives (and all of the data) in the array fail with it.

It's important to note here that "off-site" is a pretty relative term when it comes to backups. Many SoftLayer customers back up a primary drive on their server to a secondary drive on the same server (duplicating the data away from the original drive), and while that's better than nothing, it's also a little risky because it's possible that the server could fail and corrupt both drives. Every backup product SoftLayer offers for customers is off-site relative to the server itself (though it might be in the same facility), so we also make it easy to have your backup in another city or on a different continent.

As I've mentioned already, once you set up your backups, you're not done. You need to check your backups regularly for failures and test them to confirm that you can recover your data quickly in the event of a disaster. Don't just view a file listing. Try extracting files or restore the whole backup archive. If you're able to run a full restore without the pressure of an actual emergency, it'll prove that you're ready for the unexpected ... Like a fire drill for your backups.

Setting up a backup plan doesn't have to be scary or costly. If you don't feel like you could recover quickly after losing your data, spend a little time evaluating ways to make a recovery like that easy. It's crazy, but a big part of "risk management," "disaster recovery" and "business continuity" is simply making sure your data is securely backed up regularly and available to you when you need it.

Plan, prepare, back up.

-Lyndell

November 5, 2012

O Canada! - Catalyst, Startups and "Coming Home"

I was born and raised in Brockville, Ontario, and I've always been a proud Canadian. In 2000, I decided to leave my homeland to pursue career options south of the 49th parallel, so I became an active participant in Canada's so-called "brain drain." It's never easy starting over, but I felt that my options were limited in Canada and that I wouldn't find many opportunities to make an impact on a global stage.

Fast-forward to 2012. Early in the year, we were introduced to GrowLab — a leading Vancouver based accelerator — by our friends at East Side Games Studio. They seemed to have a lot of incredible stuff going on, so I planned an exploratory mission of sorts ... In June, I'd visit a few Canadian cities with an open mind to see what, if anything, had changed. With the Catalyst Program's amazing success in the US, I hoped we could hunt down one or two Canadian startups and accelerators to help out.

I was very pleasantly surprised at what I found: A vibrant, thriving Canadian community of entrepreneurs that seemed to match or exceed the startup activity I've seen in Silicon Valley, Boulder, Boston, New York, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, and Dubai. How times have changed! Investing in the Canadian startup scene was a no-brainer.

Canada Approved

The Catalyst team hit the ground running and immediately started working with GrowLab and several other incredible organizations like Communitech, Ryerson University Digital Media Zone (DMZ), Innovation Factory, Extreme Startups and the Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE).

We'll enroll startups participating in those organizations into the Catalyst Program, and we'll provide infrastructure credits (for servers, storage and networking), executive mentoring, engineering resources and limited financial support. SoftLayer wants to become the de facto Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider for Canadian startups and startups worldwide, so this is a huge first step onto the international stage. More importantly — and on a personal level — I'm excited that we get to help new companies in Canada make a global impact with us.

As a Canadian expat, having the opportunity to give something back means a great deal to me. I see an incredible opportunity to nurture and help some of these Canadian startups take flight. SoftLayer is still an entrepreneurial company at heart, and we have a unique perspective on what it takes to build and scale the next killer app or game, so we feel especially suited to the task.

One of the Canadian entrepreneurs we've been working with sent us this great video produced by the Vancouver-based GROW Conference about entrepreneurship, and it immediately resonated with me, so I wanted to be sure to include it in this post:

We've already started working with dozens entrepreneurs in Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton and Waterloo who embody that video and have kindred spirits to my own. SoftLayer has a few Canadian ex-pats on our team, and as Catalyst moves into Canada officially, we're all extremely proud of our heritage and the opportunity we have to help.

Some have called our foray into the Canadian market an "international expansion" of sorts, I think of it more as a "coming home party."

-@gkdog

Canada Approved

August 31, 2012

The Dragon SLayers

It's been a couple weeks since we last posted blog post featuring what SLayers are doing outside the office, so I thought I'd share my experience from a couple months ago when SoftLayer competed in the 2012 Annual DFW Dragon Boat Festival. As you may remember, Cassandra posted about SoftLayer's participation in the Houston-area Dragon Boat Festival, so I'm taking it upon myself to share the Dallas experience.

Let me start off by admitting to you that I'm no expert when it comes to dragon boat racing. In fact, when I was asked to join the team, I was reluctant ... I'd never done anything like a dragon boat competition before, and I didn't want to make a fool of myself. It took a bit of convincing from my coworkers, but I ended up signing on to represent SoftLayer as one of the twenty people in our boat.

As it turns out, I wasn't the only rookie. In fact, this was the first year we've had a boat full of newbies, so we all learned the ropes (or oars) of dragon boat racing together. We had practice on Home Depot buckets in the hallway for about two weeks before we actually hit the water, and by the time our on-the-water practice came, we already had a good feel for the basics of the race. Until then, I had no idea how small the boat was and how soaked we'd get while we were paddling. What had I gotten myself into?

My son was home from college over the race weekend, so I managed to get him signed him up as a backup rower. When we got to the lake, the SLayers were all very noticeable ... Our team was sporting the "Dragon SLayer" shirts, and the SoftLayer tent was abuzz with activity. There were other big companies there like AT&T, Sprint, the Dallas SWAT team, Penny's and Samsung, but we weren't intimidated — even when the other teams started talking smack when we broke out our Home Depot buckets to get some last-minute practice.

When we set sail — er... paddle — we were nervous. The gun sounded, and in a flurry of synchronized rowing, we found ourselves at the finish before everyone else in our heat. First race, first place. Obviously, we were excited by that outcome, so we were probably even more antsy when it came time to run the second race. We piled into the boat, made our way to the starting line, and after another flurry of activity, we won the second race! We were in the finals.

You can probably guess what happened next:

We won it all!

In the video, you can see that we started out slow but came from behind to take the victory (The video gets better at the end of the race). The eagle eyes in the audience will probably also notice that we rowed so hard that the dragon head came off of the boat.

Our practice on the Home Depot cans turned out to be pretty effective. My son Jeremy wound up playing a key role on the boat — the drummer — and he headed back to college with quite a story to tell his friends. All of the SLayers stuck around to accept our trophy, and we made sure to snap a few pictures:

I am proud to call myself a SLayer (and a Dragon SLayer)!

-Fabrienne

Categories: 
August 29, 2012

Demystifying Social Media: Get Involved

A few weeks back, Kevin handed me The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk and said we should give it a read. I'm only halfway through it, but I thought I should share some of Vaynerchuk's insights on social media with the SoftLayer blog audience while they are still fresh in my mind.

The best summary of The Thank You Economy comes straight from its pages:

"The Thank You Economy explains how businesses must learn to adapt their marketing strategies to take advantage of platforms that have completely transformed consumer culture and society as a whole."

The book looks at how human nature hasn't changed, but everything else has. The rise of social media is as game-changing as the radio and the television were, and that presents a combination of challenge and opportunity for businesses. In Vaynerchuk's words, "What we call social media is not media, nor is it even a platform. It is a massive cultural shift that has profoundly affected the way society uses the greatest platform ever invented, the Internet."

I've been "in the trenches" with SoftLayer's social media presences for over a year now, and I realized that I take advantage of the fundamental openness of the company. Vaynerchuk urges businesses to dive into social media, and he shares some of most common reasons companies aren't getting involved — I could list all eleven reasons here, but you'd probably recognize them all as excuses you've heard.* The common theme: People (and companies) fear uncertainty, and while that fear is understandable, it shouldn't be paralyzing. The opportunity and necessity of engagement outweigh the excuses.

When you clear all the hurdles preventing your entrance to the world of social media, you need to execute. Vaynerchuk explains how "Cultural Building Blocks" of a company dictate that company's success in social media, and while they aren't exactly an Easy Bake Oven recipe to viral success, they are profound in their simplicity:

  1. Begin with Yourself
  2. Commit Whole Hog
  3. Set the Tone
  4. Invest in Employees
  5. Trust Your People
  6. Be Authentic

The "trust your people" and "be authentic" building blocks resonated the most when I thought of how SoftLayer's social media is managed. The level of trust my boss has in me is both refreshing and challenging, and I find myself working harder to prove I deserve it. A cynic might read that sentence and scoff at its over-the-top positivity, but I'm as honest as I can be ... And that's an example of the challenge of being authentic. SoftLayer employees are passionate about their responsibilities and the company culture, and that kind of enthusiasm is so rare that there's a tendency to assume that it's manufactured.

If I see someone talking to us via social media about a bad experience at SoftLayer, I'm more concerned about changing their experience than I am about what they share with their social network. Often, when I follow up with those customers, when the problem is resolved, it's amazing how surprised people are that someone actually took the time to make things right. I want to hear if someone has a bad experience because I take pride in turning it around. Are we "in control" of what people say about SoftLayer on social media? No. We are in control of how SoftLayer responds to what people are saying about us, though.

Your business needs to be active in social media.

You don't need a "social media team" or a budget or a strategy ... You need to be passionate about your employees, customers and products, and you need to make time to reach out to your community — wherever they are.

What roadblocks have you run into when it comes to your business's social media engagement? If you've been successful, what tips could you share with me (and the rest of the SoftLayer audience)?

-Rachel

*If you're toying with the idea of social media engagement or you're working for a company that hasn't embraced it yet, it's worth it for you to buy The Thank You Economy to read how @garyvee dismantles those excuses.

August 6, 2012

SoftLayer in the Community - Tour de Pink 2012

Every year, SoftLayer commits to raising money and giving support to a number of charities, and SLayers are all encouraged to submit the organizations and causes that are important to them. Not long after coming to work here, I found myself in a position to pitch one of my favorite charities — Tour de Pink — to Lance and the charity team.

Tour de Pink is one of the major fundraising efforts for The Pink Ribbons Project, a Houston based organization that raises money to fight breast cancer through awareness and educational outreach initiatives. The Pink Ribbons Project supports proper screening for the medically under-served and under-insured population in the Greater Houston Area, and Tour de Pink is the first bike ride in Texas solely benefiting breast cancer awareness and education.

I have been involved with the ride since its inception in 2005, and I manage the logistical support for all of the Pink Pit Stops. The first year of the ride, "support" consisted of me and a guy named Bear, my 1995 Ford Ranger pickup truck, a 25' moving truck with a lift, and 400 pounds of ice. By 2011, we had grown the logistics team to nine dedicated people, four route vans, a roamer and 4000 pounds of ice to support the 2000+ riders traveling seven routes.

Last year was Tour de Pink's seventh, and an opportunity opened up for a company to step in as the presenting sponsor for the ride ... After about six months of official employment with SoftLayer, I knew one thing for sure: If you have an idea, a plan or a cause that matters to you, it's your responsibility to take that idea / plan / cause wherever it needs to go to get addressed — whether it's an opportunity to improve a compliance process or a community cause. I stepped up and brought the idea to SoftLayer's CEO.

In true SLayer fashion, he saw how important the cause was to me, and he quickly commitment SoftLayer's support to the 2011 Tour de Pink.

In addition to the a financial commitment, we provided space in our downtown Houston offices for packet stuffing:

Tour de Pink

And the (infamous?) 3-Bars BBQ team towed the smoker down to Houston to cook up some fine "Q" for the annual Tour de Pink Kickoff Party:

Tour de Pink

SoftLayer VP of Business Applications Development DJ Harris even kicked off the opening ceremonies when the ride rolled around!

After an extremely successful 2011, SoftLayer has extended support for Tour de Pink to 2012! This year's ride is scheduled for September 16, and it will starting from and coming back to the Prairie View A&M University campus. While SoftLayer is the major underwriter of this ride, it's still a fundraiser, and that's where the rest of us come in. The monies that go out into the community are raised through registration of individual riders and teams and from their collective fundraising efforts.

If you want to roll with the cool kids (and believe me, SoftLayer IS cool) and you plan on being in the Houston area mid-September, surf on over to www.tourdepink.org and sign up to join us!

I hope to see some of you out on the ride, but until then, may the wind be always at your back ... and 3-Bars for Life!

-Val

Categories: 
August 2, 2012

Meet Memcached: A Developer's Best Friend

Whether you're new to software development or you've been a coder since the punchcard days, at some point, you've probably come across horrendous performance problems with your website or scripts. From the most advanced users — creating scripts so complex that their databases flooded with complex JOINs — to the novice users — putting SQL calls in loops — database queries can be your worst nightmare as a developer. I hate to admit it, but I've experienced some these nightmares first-hand as a result of some less-than-optimal coding practices when writing some of my own scripts. Luckily, I've learned how to use memcached to make life a little easier.

What is Memcached?

Memcached is a free and open source distributed memory object caching system that allows the developer to store any sort of data in a temporary cache for later use, so they don't have to re-query it. By using memcached, a tremendous performance load can be decreased to almost nil. One of the most noteworthy features of the system is that it doesn't cache EVERYTHING on your site/script; it only caches data that is sure to be queried often. Originally developed in 2003 by Brad Fitzpatrick to improve the site performance of LiveJournal.com, memcached has grown tremendously in popularity, with some of the worlds biggest sites — Wikipedia, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and Craigslist — taking advantage of the functionality.

How Do I Use Memcache?

After installing the memcached library on your server (available at http://memcached.org/), it's relatively simple to get started:

<?php
  // Set up connection to Memcached
  $memcache = new Memcached();
  $memcache->connect('host', 11211) or die("Could not connect");
 
  // Connect to database here
 
  // Check the cache for your query
  $key = md5("SELECT * FROM memcached_test WHERE id=1");
  $results = $memcache->get($key);
 
  // if the data exists in the cache, get it!
  if ($results) {
      echo $results['id'];
      echo 'Got it from the cache!';
  } else {
    // data didn't exist in the cache
    $query = "SELECT * FROM memcached_test WHERE id=1");
  $results = mysql_query($query);
  $row = mysql_fetch_array($results);
  print_r($row);
 
  // though we didn't find the data this time, cache it for next time!
  $memcache->set($key, $row, TRUE, 30); 
  // Stores the result of the query for 30 seconds
  echo 'In the cache now!';
 
  }
 
?>

Querying the cache is very similar to querying any table in your database, and if that data isn't cached, you'll run a database query to get the information you're looking for, and you can add that information to the cache for the next query. If another query for the data doesn't come within 30 seconds (or whatever window you specify), memcached will clear it from the cache, and the data will be pulled from the database.

So come on developers! Support memcached and faster load times! What other tools and tricks do you use to make your applications run more efficiently?

-Cassandra

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

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