Posts Tagged 'Experience'

October 23, 2011

The Importance of a First Impression

How many times have you heard that making a good first impression is everything? This is so true in many circumstances – from a blind date to a job interview to meeting the future in-laws. The first few moments are critical. There are a few things that help when making that first contact:

  • Smile
  • Present yourself honestly and openly
  • Be positive, confident and courteous.

I remember when I applied to SoftLayer back in April of 2010. I was working for one of SoftLayer's competitors at the time, and one of my previous coworkers moved over to SoftLayer. He made mention of what a great company SoftLayer was and that I should think about applying. After submitting my resume, I received a call from the data center manager to come in for an interview at the DAL01 location. I prepared myself to make the best first impression I could. I heeded the words of my father saying, "A firm hand-shake goes a long way." After my initial interview, I was given a tour of the one of the server rooms:

Servers
Servers

I was completely blown away by the organization and structure of the server room. I was overly impressed with how organized the work benches were, how the crash carts all had their place, how everything was labeled, how all the cables were bound up neatly, and how the automation system was in place to do the everyday, menial tasks. Here I was trying to impress the DC Manager with my skills and but I can honestly say I was more impressed with SoftLayer. It left a definite first impression on me.

I drove home after the interview thinking I would LOVE to work for this company. When checking my email a short time later, I found an offer letter from the HR department! I started for SoftLayer a few weeks later as a Customer Support Administrator. My next "first impression" of the company came when I walked into the break room and noticed all of the amazing snacks provided to employees. I opened up the refrigerator to place my lunch bag and realized that SoftLayer provides soft drinks and energy drinks to keep their SLayers hydrated. I joked with the DC manager that "SoftLayer should put this information in the job description as a company benefit."

Although making a good first impression is important, making a lasting impression can set you apart from your competition. SoftLayer is a cut above the rest from the other hosting providers out there. Whether you are a new customer or a long-time customer, you have to agree that SoftLayer makes fantastic first and lasting impressions. And just like this blog post, you can't help but tell other people about the SoftLayer difference.

-Greg

October 22, 2011

Content Streaming = Living Like Kings

As a video gaming and movie addict, I've always followed the latest trends and news in these two areas. Because there always seems to be some "breaking news" every day due to technology advancing so rapidly, sometimes it's tough to keep up.

In gaming, I remember it all started for me back when my parents decided to buy me the first Nintendo console. Pointing that light sensor gun at unsuspecting ducks and watching them fall was all the rage ... It marked a big step in the evolution of home gaming. What initially seemed like a good investment to keep me out of trouble soon turned into a headache for my parents. I frequently begged for more games, and they were not cheap. Look at how much new video games cost these days, and you'll see that not much has changed in that regard. The fire to play all the latest games was never extinguished, so a chunk of my income was always earmarked for the next amazing game I needed.

As for movies, I also found myself collecting as many as possible to rewatch whenever I choose. While each individual movie didn't cost as much as a video game, the aggregate costs definitely built up over time. My family and friends warned me that my "extravagant lifestyle" is reserved for the rich and would only lead me to financial ruin.

Fast forward to today, and I can say that I've learned a lot and found ways to sustainably feed my addiction without driving myself to financial ruin. How is it possible that I am able to live like a king without breaking the bank? It's all thanks to content streaming, made possible by the Internet. I no longer have to buy every single game to have the ability to play whenever I feel like it with services like OnLive that actually streams numerous games to my TV (and a few other supported devices). Beyond the fact that I save money by not buying the game, I don't even need the latest computer hardware to play the more graphics-intensive games like Crysis:

Crysis

You might not be familiar with OnLive just yet, but most people know about content steaming from companies like Netflix and Amazon. You can stream countless movies to your devices to watch movies on demand for a monthly fee or on a per-movie basis. With these services readily available, it's possible for just about anyone have the "kid in the candy store" experience of pulling up essentially any content whenever we want to watch or play.

If either form of entertainment appeals to you, you can agree that our quality of life has improved over time significantly. The streaming services provided by companies like Netflix and OnLive have really taken advantage of the technological capabilities offered by high speed Internet, which also reminds us of the significance of web hosting. To offer customers complete satisfaction, deciding which web hosting company to go with for a business is often a very difficult decision, especially since there are so many out there. It would make complete business sense to find an extremely reliable company to ensure the success of such services and having worked in the industry, and I can assure you with much pride that SoftLayer certainly shines in this area.

As an employee, I see how we're building our network to provide the best experience around the world, and if there's ever a problem, we treat all outages with extreme urgency. Customers get better turnaround times, and they can provide better service for their customers. If some content streaming were to become unavailable, it wouldn't be long before it became available again.

It's pretty safe to say that the Internet has spoiled me ... Now all I need is a crown.

-Danny

Categories: 
October 11, 2011

Building a True Real-Time Multiplayer Gaming Platform

Some of the most innovative developments on the Internet are coming from online game developers looking to push the boundaries of realism and interactivity. Developing an online gaming platform that can support a wide range of applications, including private chat, avatar chats, turn-based multiplayer games, first-person shooters, and MMORPGs, is no small feat.

Our high speed, global network significantly minimizes reliability, access, latency, lag and bandwidth issues that commonly challenge online gaming. Once users begin to experience issues of latency, reliability, they are gone and likely never to return. Our cloud, dedicated, and managed hosting solutions enable game developers to rapidly test, deploy and manage rich interactive media on a secure platform.

Consider the success of one of our partners — Electrotank Inc. They’ve been able to support as many as 6,500 concurrent users on just ONE server in a realistic simulation of a first-person shooter game, and up to 330,000 concurrent users for a turn-based multiplayer game. Talk about server density.

This is just scratching the surface because we're continuing to build our global footprint to reduce latency for users around the world. This means no awkward pauses, jumping around, but rather a smooth, seamless, interactive online gaming experience. The combined efforts of SoftLayer’s infrastructure and Electrotank’s performant software have produced a high-performance networking platform that delivers a highly scalable, low latency user experience to both gamers and game developers.

Electrotank

You can read more about how Electrotank is leveraging SoftLayer’s unique network platform in today's press release or in the fantastic white paper they published with details about their load testing methodology and results.

We always like to hear our customers opinions so let us know what you think.

-@nday91

August 16, 2011

SLDN 2.0 - The Development Network Evolved

SoftLayer is in a constant state of change ... It's not that bad change we all fear; it's the type of change that allows you to stretch the boundaries of your normal experience and run like a penguin ... Because I got some strange looks when coworkers read "run like a penguin," I should explain that I recently visited Moody Gardens in Galveston and saw penguins get crazy excited when they were about to get fed, so that's the best visual I could come up with. Since I enjoy a challenge (and enjoy running around like a penguin), when I was asked to design the new version of SLDN, I was excited.

The goal was simple: Take our already amazing documentation software infrastructure and make it better. A large part of this was to collapse our multi-site approach down into a single unified user experience. Somewhere along the way, "When is the proposal going to be ready?" became "When is the site going to be ready?", at this point I realized that all of the hurdles I had been trampling over in my cerebral site building were now still there, standing, waiting for me on my second lap.

I recently had the honor to present our ideas, philosophy and share some insight into the technical details of the site at OSCON 2011, and KHazzy had the forethought to record it for all of you!

It's a difficult balance to provide details and not bore the audience with tech specs, so I tried to keep the presentation relatively light to encourage attendees (and now viewers) to ask questions about areas they want a little more information about. If you're looking at a similar project in the future, feel free to bounce ideas off me, and I'll steer you clear of a few land mines I happened upon.

-Phil

August 4, 2011

Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Server Challenge

When you're walking down the aisles of an expo hall at a technical conference, what do you expect to see? Stacks of collateral? Maybe a few giveaway T-shirts? A fancy switch-ball or two? How about a crowd of people watching as a fellow attendee slams hard drive trays into a server enclosure and frantically plugs in network cables as a digital clock times them?

Cynical attendees might look at the Server Challenge and think of it as a gimmicky way to draw a crowd to our booth, but when you step up to the server enclosure to compete, you're getting a crash course in SoftLayer's business (along with an exciting tangible experience).

Before your first attempt, you'll learn that SoftLayer is a hosting provider and that you'll be reassembling a miniature version of the larger server racks we have filling data centers around the country (soon to be around the world). You see that one of SoftLayer's biggest differentiators is our network configuration: A public network, a private network and an out-of-band management network connection to every SoftLayer server for free ... And when the clock starts, we can share even more of the SoftLayer story.

Our goal is to let you experience SoftLayer while you're just hearing about other companies. As it turns out, the experience draws people in:

One of the coolest parts of pulling together that time lapse video from OSCON was seeing the reactions on the faces of the participants when they finished. The challenge sparks a surge of adrenaline, so when competitors stop the clock, they expectantly check to see how they fare against the conference's Top 10 times.

In the last conference alone, no fewer than five other companies (who don't even have a connection with the hosting industry) approached us to ask how they could build their own Server Challenge. Needless to say, the Server Challenge is becoming a SoftLayer conference staple ... And we're looking forward to the hottest competition ever at HostingCon 2011 next week!

Between your study of server schematics and your dissection of the winning run's strategy from the end of the OSCON video, make sure you click through to George's HostingCon preview so you can learn where to find SoftLayer in San Diego.

-@khazard

P.S. Space is limited for the HostingCon Party, so if you'll be in town, make sure to let us know so we can give you a promo code for free admission!

July 27, 2011

ClickTale: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Shmuli Goldberg of ClickTale, an industry leader in customer experience analytics, providing businesses with revolutionary insights into their customers' online behavior.

Understanding the User Experience with In-Page Analytics

Since ClickTale's start back in 2006, we understood that engaging visitors on a website is the first step to increase conversions. Although traditional web analytics are great for delivering general statistics such as number of visitors or pages per visit, they leave a big black hole when it comes to understanding what happens inside the pages themselves.

ClickTale's In-Page Analytics feature set enables you to identify, observe, aggregate and analyze visitors' actual interaction inside your site, so you know exactly what page elements work, what to optimize and how to increase visitor engagement.

Our wide range of web optimization tools include Mouse Tracking, Heatmap Suite and Conversion Analytics solutions, but was our Visitor Recordings feature that started it all. Giving you a front row seat to your visitors' browsing sessions and delivering a thorough, in-depth view into what your visitors are focusing on and interacting with inside the pages themselves. All you need to do is grab the popcorn.

Our Heat maps are aggregated reports that visually display what parts of a webpage are looked at, clicked on, focused on and interacted with by your online visitors. See exactly what images, text and call to action buttons your visitors' think are hot and what's not!

Both these features allow you to instantly see how to go about optimizing your website instantly so you don't have to guess.

As a fully hosted subscription service, ClickTale is quick and easy to set up. We believe our wide range of heatmaps, behavioral analytics and full video playback make ClickTale the perfect way to round out your traditional web analytics suite. For more information, please visit www.clicktale.com.

- Shmuli Goldberg, ClickTale

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
May 23, 2011

Behind SoftLayer's Growth

SoftLayer isn't a publicly traded company, but in the interest of transparency, we do our best to share as much information about the business as we can with our customers. Earlier this week, we released our revenue and operations growth for the first quarter of 2011, and while we're happy to reach so many amazing milestones, we can't take any time to rest on our laurels.

It's no secret that we've gotten to where we are today because our 26,000+ customers trust us with their businesses. We can quantify success with revenue numbers and server counts, but at the end of the day, our business will be successful when we provide a platform for our customers to be successful. The growth of our customer base is a testament to the hard work the team has put in behind the scenes, and it also presents an interesting challenge: We need to continue to meet the needs of 26,000+ different businesses in 140+ countries around the world.

Given the amount of hair-pulling you might encounter by something as simple as setting up dinner with a group of friends, it's a pretty daunting task to incorporate thousands of disparate perspectives in our road map as we move forward, but with that challenge comes great opportunity to build SoftLayer into an even better business. Whether the request is for something as straightforward as a hardware product or as complex as geographic expansion into specific international markets, the feedback we get from our customers shapes our internal conversations (and ultimately our long-term plans).

Understanding that need for constant feedback, we're doing our best to listen to what our customers have to say. We're listening to conversations on our forums, watching updates from our customers on various social media platforms, and monitoring our sales and support customer experiences to ensure we're moving in the right direction. Recently, we incorporated a Get Satisfaction widget on our site to give our customers a platform to share their ideas, questions, problems and praises. Additionally, users can vote on existing suggestions to give us a sense of our customer base's priorities.

To all of our customers, thank you for trusting SoftLayer with your business. In response to your past requests, we've opened a new data center in San Jose, christened new pods in Dallas and Washington, D.C., launched our managed hosting service and released servers powered by the latest and greatest Intel Xeon "Sandy Bridge" and "Westmere EX" processors ... And all of those accomplishments have come since we closed the books on the success we shared from Q1.

As we continue to improve our feedback loops, you're going to see even more impressive numbers from SoftLayer, and that success will fuel our ability to continue growing the business to meet more of our customers' requests. Because we officially completed our integration with The Planet in Q1, we're able to shift our focus completely to maintaining and growing the combined business. By the end of the year, you'll see SoftLayer data centers in Europe and Asia, and as new products and technologies are released, you'll see them first from SoftLayer.

What else can we do for you? (And no, that's not a rhetorical question.)

-@gkdog

May 5, 2011

Giving Customers More Than They Expect

Giving a customer the ability to do something that they didn't know they could (or even know was possible) can make for an exceptional customer experience.

I've had a season mini-pack of Dallas Mavericks tickets for a handful of years now and have always gotten the exact experience that I expected: The same seats every time, consistent food and drink, great entertainment, and a quality team on the court that wins considerably more often than not.

However, this year it's been a little different. This year, they have thrown in several perks that cost them nothing or next to nothing but have made a huge difference in the overall experience.

One game in particular sticks out in my mind. A couple of weeks before a game against the Wizards, I got an email about a no-cost chance for me and one other person to stand in a high five line to give fives to the players as they came out for warmups. I had no idea fans actually got to do this, so I gladly signed up and took my 5 year-old son to the game. I had also received an invite from the sales rep to choose a date to spend the first half of a game in one of the suites, so I made it the same night.

That night, we joined a small group of people down by the tunnel before the game, and we got to give all the players, Mark Cuban, the Mavs Maniacs and even a few security guards high fives. My son was over-the-moon to "meet" his favorite players - Dirk, Kidd, and Jet - could hardly contain himself.

This game also happened to be the week before the Super Bowl. I only mention it because on the way to our suite, I was blinded by the biggest ring I had ever seen. It turned out to be a Super Bowl ring and the guy wearing it was James Harrison (the linebacker for Steelers that lost a bunch of money to fines for helmet to helmet hits last season), so I got to meet him and wish him luck for the big game.

Oh, and and I can't forget to mention the free hats, shirts, and Roddy B. bobblehead.

Long story short, I probably couldn't tell you who won the other ten games I went to this year, but I don't think I'll forget anything about this particular game.

The thing I took away from this experience is when you give a customer something above and beyond what is expected, however seemingly insignificant, you can monumentally improve their customer experience.

To bring it back around to SoftLayer, we give customers a great API - a REST API at that. We give them VPN, a private network, IPv6, and a fully provisioned server in a couple of hours. Each of these differentiators enables us to provide products and services that our competitors can only hope to imitate.

The first time the customer uses the API to automatically create a new Cloud Instance from their own program, it'll be a Maverick-game experience. When they transfer data from Washington, D.C., to San Jose, CA, on our private network with zero bandwidth charge, they'll feel like they're high-fiving Dirk Nowitski. When they access their server over the free KVM over IP, they're walking up to the suite and meeting a Super Bowl champion. And all of that is on top of a stable, speedy server environment!

What can we do to improve your customer experience?

-Brad

May 3, 2011

SoftLayer's Android Client Gets an Extreme Makeover

One of the things you expect when you merge two organizations in the same vertical space is for your talent pool to get deeper. SoftLayer had a seriously talented bunch of developers before the merger - I should know, I consider myself one of them - and as I was promised would be the case, after the merger, we were joined by an equally talented group of engineers from The Planet. Where we had two low-level developers, now we have four. Where we had a dozen guys with .NET experience, now we have twenty. It's better for us employees, and better for our customers too.

What I didn't expect as part of the merger was that our talent pool would get wider. No, I don't mean we now employ an army of body builders and Siamese twins. I mean as result of the merger, we ended up with an entirely new group of folks here unlike any SL previously had on the payroll. This new and exotic breed of folks - new and exotic at least from my perspective - are collectively known as "user experience" engineers.

I admit (and I suspect most software engineers will concur) when I develop something, it becomes my baby. Each software engineer has his or her own method for inciting that spark of genius ... I start out with some ideas on a yellow pad, refine them until I can whip up an actual spec, code some unit tests and wait to see if my baby takes its first step or falls flat on its digital face. Either way, over time with gentle nudging and TLC, eventually an application grows. And like any loving parent I'm certain that my application can do no wrong.

So when I was told a "usability study" would be done on one of my babies by the user experience, team you can imagine what went through my mind. After all, I was there when the first API call succeeded. I was the one who got up in the middle of the night when the application got cranky and decided to throw an unhandled exception. Who the heck are these user interface specialist and what do they know that I don't?

In retrospect, I couldn't have been more wrong. I am a professional coder with more than a decade of experience under my belt. But I'm often more interested in how I can squeeze a few more CPU cycles out of a sub-routine than how much easier it would be for the user if I rearranged the order of the GUI's a little bit. The user interface review I received really got me thinking from a user's perspective and excited about the application in a way I hadn't been since the early days when I banged out those first few lines of code.

Two weeks ago, we released a new, radically different looking Android client. If you are a current user of the application, you've undoubtedly received an OTA update by now, and I hope you are as pleasantly surprised by the result as I am. For those of you with Android phones who have not installed the SoftLayer client, I encourage you to do so. You can get more info by visiting http://www.softlayer.com/resources/mobile-apps/.

Before I let you go, what kind of father would I be if I didn't take out my wallet and bore you to tears with pictures of my children? Without further ado, I present to you the latest and greatest Android Mobile Client:

SL Android App

SL Android App

SL Android App

SL Android App

-William

Categories: 
April 6, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

If you didn't read the title to this post in the singsong seventh-inning stretch tune, the rest of this post probably won't be for you. For those of you who just got to "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack," as the song kept playing in your head, you're going to love the news we have to share. We'll wait for you to finish belting out "At the old ball game!" first, though.

[Pausing here for everyone to finish the song.]

Now that everyone's back together, I want you to make sure you don't lose any of that late-inning adrenaline because you might need it at the end of this post.

SoftLayer is all about customer experience. Just ask Skinman. If you're a SoftLayer employee and you don't have "the customer" in the top slot of your "work priorities" list, you'll either need to update that list quickly or update your résumé. This post isn't about THE SoftLayer customer experience, though ... It's about A SoftLayer customer experience.

THE SoftLayer customer experience is all about automation, efficiency, service and innovation. A SoftLayer customer experience uses the term in a much more general sense: It's any opportunity we have to give back to our customers in the form of events, contests, and in this case, baseball tickets! If you're a SoftLayer customer, you're entitled to more fun than our competitors' customers ... And if that's not in our terms of service, it probably should be. :-)

SoftLayer Baseball

Throughout the 2011 Major League Baseball season, SoftLayer will be giving away tickets to Texas Rangers home games in Arlington, Texas! We're going to keep you guessing about how/when/where we'll be giving them away, but if you keep your eye on the SoftLayer Blog, follow @SoftLayer on Twitter, subscribe to SoftLayerTube on YouTube and "Like" us on Facebook, you'll be the first to hear.

We're pretty sure customers in the DFW area are going to be the most excited, since they can root for the home team, but as the season progresses, the net may be cast significantly wider ... Reaching out to customers in other parts of the country (world?) who love SoftLayer and want to catch a game while they're in town for a data center tour. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet. Let's give away our first set of tickets!

Texas Rangers v. Anaheim Angels

  • Date: Monday, April 18, 2011
  • Time: 7:05pm
  • Location: Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
  • Seats: 2 - Section 26 (Lower Level, behind Home Plate!)
  • Transportation: You're responsible for transportation to/from the park

How to Enter
Since our first giveaway doesn't include transportation to/from the game, the primary pool of participants will be customers who live within driving distance (or happen to be in the DFW area on April 18). Entry into the competition is simple: Comment on this post about why you love SoftLayer.

When you're entering your email, please use a contact address associated with your SoftLayer account. Submissions will be accepted from now until 10 a.m. CDT on Thursday, April 14, so get to writing! We'll have a quick internal vote for all of the submissions after removing your contact information to obscure on which account goes with which response. If your submission wins, we'll email you on Thursday to arrange for ticket delivery ... You'll have the whole weekend to get excited about the game!

Play Ball!

-@khazard

Subscribe to experience