Posts Tagged 'Expo'

October 9, 2012

Server Challenge II - The Retro Upgrade of a Fan Favorite

Wakka wakka wakka wakka. All your base are belong to us. I'm sorry Mario, but our princess is in another castle. It's dangerous to go alone. Do a barrel roll.

If you can place any of those quotes from the video games of yore, you'll probably love the Server Challenge II. Taking cues from classic arcade games, we've teamed up with Supermicro to build a worthy sequel to our original Server Challenge:

Server Challenge II

If you come across Server Challenge II at a conference, your task is clear. You step up to the full-sized server rack and perform three simple tasks:

  1. Load the data.
  2. Connect the network.
  3. Save the world.

You've got two attempts per day to install twenty-four drive trays into two 2U Supermicro servers and plug eighteen network cables into their correct switches. Get all of that done in the fastest time at the conference, and you walk away with a brand new Macbook Air. During booth setup at GDC Online, we shot a quick video of what that looks like:

The new challenge is sure to garner a lot of attention, and we're excited to see the competition heat up as the show progresses. Beyond being a fun game, the Server Challenge II is also a great visual for what SoftLayer does. When you get to touch servers in a server hosting company's booth, you're probably going to remember us the next time you need to order a new server. You also get to see the Cisco and Supermicro switches that you'd see in all of our thirteen data centers around the world ... It's a tech geek's dream come true.

In honor of the launch of Server Challenge II, we're going to offer some "live" coverage of the competition at GDC Online this week. If you want to watch the Server Challenge II GDC Online 2012 remotely via "challenge-cast," bookmark this blog post and refresh frequently. We'll update the leader board every hour or two so that you can keep track of how the times are progressing throughout the show:

Server Challenge II Leader Board - GDC Online 2012

Game on.

**UPDATE** GDC Online has officially wrapped, and after some last-minute heroics, Derek Manns grabbed the top spot (and the MacBook Air) for his Server Challenge II efforts! If you've been watching the leader board throughout the conference, you saw the top attendee time fall from 1:59.30 all the way down to 1:09.48. We hope you've enjoyed the "challenge-cast" ... Keep an eye on SoftLayer's event schedule to prepare for your next chance to take on the Server Challenge II.

-@khazard

September 20, 2012

Conferences, Culture and the SoftLayer Server Challenge

I can't begin to tell you how much fun I have when I get to represent SoftLayer at conferences. The days may be long, and my feet may go numb by the end of the day from so much standing, but the time seems to fly as I get to meet new people, give out SoftLayer swag and introduce/explain the (in)famous SoftLayer Server Challenge.

I've observed that at most tech conferences, attendees will wander up and down the aisles, avoiding eye contact and looking preoccupied with emails or Angry Birds on their phones. When they walk by the SoftLayer booth, something changes. They stop. They pay attention. They get engaged. It's hard to passively navigate around a crowd of people cheering on a Server Challenge competitor, and if you see another attendee your peripheral vision "wowing" us with his/her three-switch-ball juggling skills, you're going to get distracted from your Angry Birds game. The SoftLayer booth is a snapshot of SoftLayer's culture, and SoftLayer's culture is magnetic.

When we catch the eye of that previously disinterested attendee, we get to tell the SoftLayer story: "Oh this? It's a small version of a SoftLayer server rack with five SuperMicro servers in it. We've got more than 100,000 servers like these in 13 data centers around the world. Want to try and race to put it back together?" "This is called a switch-ball ... SoftLayer is an infrastructure as a service provider, so it doesn't really have a direct tie-in with SoftLayer's business, but it's the coolest giveaway you'll see at the conference." Whether the attendee is interested in the competition, hosting, servers or cool swag, we've started a conversation that we might not have had if we were just shaking hands and passing out brochures.

As the conference goes on, most booths see traffic decline. That's when the Server Challenge is usually getting the most competitive. Several of our competitions have been decided by tenths or even hundredths of seconds, and a few have been won by the last competitor on the last day as the PA announcement notifies attendees that the expo hall is closing. At Cloud Connect Chicago, I recorded three competitors who each had the potential to walk away victorious:

All three of those competitors had fun in the SoftLayer booth. The other attendees who stepped up to the Server Challenge enjoyed themselves, too. That's huge. That's extremely rare. That's why I love being a part of the rag-tag group SLayers who have the opportunity to spread the word about SoftLayer.

As I put together the quick video to show the competition from Cloud Connect Chicago, I wondered how the times compared with the other shows that have featured the Server Challenge this year. My "wondering" wound up becoming "researching," and this is what I found:

NAME SHOW TIME
Roger Weber GDC Europe 0:57.62
Rany Grinberg ad:tech San Franscisco 0:58.34
Dejian Fang Cloud Expo East 0:59.08
Darin Goldman HostingCon 0:59.28
Joseph Waite Internet World London 1:03.68
Scott Fossen Cloud Connect Chicago 1:05.51
EJ Fernald GDC San Francisco 1:06.06
Kenny Liao Web 2.0 Expo 1:06.41
Matthew Downing Cloud Expo Europe 1:08.16
Gary Barclay TFM&A 1:10.08

Every conference seems to be competitive, and it's amazing to see how close the times are between all of the conference winners in 2012. Server Challenge World Championship? While I start drawing up plans to try and make that a reality, I recommend you all print out blueprints and start training for the next time you come across a SoftLayer booth at an event.

-@khazard

Categories: 
April 13, 2012

Looking at the Big Picture

Last week, the SoftLayer team attended ad:tech San Francisco. It's pretty unbelievable to think that it's only April, and this show was the seventh I've attended this year. 2012 has already been a HUGE year for SoftLayer in terms of growth, and our trade show and conference schedule has provided a fantastic outlet to share some of the good news. In addition to the seven shows I've attended, SoftLayer has exhibited at six more, and each has it's own unique focus and audience — ad:tech in particular.

At most shows, the conversations I have can be best described as "technical." I'll field questions about our network capacity, hybrid environments, API functionality and data center pod architecture. The attendees that stop by and talk to us are typically technical members of IT teams familiar with their hosting needs and interested in learning about our cloud and dedicated environments. At ad:tech, the attendees that I talked to were more interested in "big picture" differentiators and the non-technical value that SoftLayer provides, so I got to tell the SoftLayer story in a fresh way.

Most of our ad:tech conversations were in a theme of managed hosting, flexibility, short-term resource availability and scalability. The attendees that stopped by our booth were no less qualified as customers than the IT administrators we might meet at other shows, but they couldn't be won over with the industry-leading numbers we would normally share ... They were more interested in hearing about the Super Bowl campaigns we've supported, the streaming media services we host and some of the high-profile clients that attest to platform's ability to handle anything they can throw at us.

The messaging on our booth graphic set the stage perfectly:

Our Platform.
Your Vision.
Build on a global cloud infrastructure at Internet scale. Blur the lines between physical and virtual. Bend infrastructure to your imagination. We've created the platform on which you'll create tomorrow.
Build the future.

The most surprising observation I made at ad:tech was that despite the "big picture" conversations I tended to have with attendees, they were all equally (if not MORE) interested in our Server Challenge:

ad:tech Server Challenge

During the two-day conference, these "non-technical" attendees completed the challenge with an average time of 1:37, and this show's Server Challenge champion, Rany Grinberg, walked away with a "new iPad" after recording a blazingly fast 0:58.34 time. They might not have been able to tell you what all the pieces in our server rack did, but they could definitely put it back together quickly.

I had a blast meeting all the attendees who stopped by our booth. If you happen to be one of those people, thank you for visiting us ... Now start studying and practicing to take on the Server Challenge again at our next show!

-Summer

Categories: 
November 21, 2011

SLaying at Cloud Expo West 2011

A month ago, Summer talked about how SoftLayer defies the laws of physics by being in several different places at the same time. With a worldwide network and data center footprint, that's always going to be the case, but when we have several events going on in a given week, we're even more dispersed. As Summer mentioned in her Server Challenge blog this morning, she traveled east to New York City for ad:tech with a few SLayers, and I joined a team that headed west for Cloud Expo West in Santa Clara, California.

We set up shop on the expo floor and had the opportunity to meet with interesting and interested attendees between session. In addition to our exhibit hall presence, SoftLayer had three SLayers featured in presentations, and the response to each was phenomenal.

Our first presenter was none other than SoftLayer CTO Duke Skarda. His presentation, "Not Your Grandpa's Cloud," was about dedicated servers and whether cloud computing may be surpassing that "grandpa" of the hosting industry. Joined by RightScale CEO Michael Crandell, Duke also announced our SoftLayer's new relationship with RightScale. If you didn't have a chance to join us, we have a treat for you ... You can download Duke's presentation from Sys-con!

Five minutes after Duke left the stage, SoftLayer Director of Product Innovation Marc Jones spoke to Cloud Expo attendees about "Building at Internet Scale in a Hosted Environment." His focus was how businesses could enable technologies, design and architecture of Internet scale solutions in a hosted environment. He shared trends from SoftLayer customers and partners, explained what SoftLayer believes Internet-scale is from a technology perspective, and the products and services in the market that create a scalable solution.

On Day 3, SoftLayer Director of Corporate Analytics Francisco Romero presented a question to attendees: "How Smart is it to Build Your Own Cloud?" With concerns around security, hardware, software and flexibility, is a business better off going with a hosted solution over building its own cloud infrastructure. Spoiler alert: He showed how the hosted environment was head-and-shoulders over the in-house environment in most cases.

All in all, Cloud Expo West was an exemplary tradeshow for SoftLayer ... Three fantastic speakers in two days driving traffic to our booth where we could share how SoftLayer has built our cloud and how our approach is part of a bigger effort to drive innovation in the world of hosting.

As Summer mentioned in her post, we want to see your smiling faces at our booths and in our presentations in the future, so bookmark the SoftLayer Event Calendar and start planning your trips to meet us in 2012!

-Natalie

October 20, 2011

Taking Multitasking to a New Level

Is it possible to be in three places at once? For SoftLayer it is! Last week was an extremely busy one for the SoftLayer team. SLayers from the marketing and sales teams were dispersed to cover three different trade shows in two separate cities where we'd meet a few thousand soon-to-be SoftLayer customers.

I attended Web 2.0 Expo in NYC – a great event where I was able to once again demystify the SoftLayer Switch Ball and explain the awesomeness of SoftLayer. Nothing too crazy to report from the expo floor, but we did have one interesting experience outside of the event where we witnessed a man sleep while standing up. We don't know how he was able to sleep for over two hours without falling over, but his execution was impressive:

NYC Sleeper

While I was in New York City, cPanel Bootcamp was happening closer to home in Austin, Texas. From what I hear, a second annual rocket war broke out, and our booth was rushed by attendees looking to stock up on ammo.

Just down the street from the cPanel conference, GDC Online was up and running in the Austin Convention Center. This was another awesome event for SoftLayer and once again the Server Challenge was a huge hit:

Congrats to Anthony Pecorella for winning with a time of 1:00.84! We know you'll enjoy your new iPad.

After both show floors closed, attendees from both cPanel Bootcamp and GDC Online joined us for some drinks, food and retro games at Maggie Mae's on Sixth Street. Notable attendees included Mario, Princess Peach and our very own Jeff Reinis who happens to be a 1983 Pac-Man record holder!

If you didn't have a chance to join SoftLayer, CoreSite and TeliaSonera at the Time Warp Retro Gaming Party, you can live vicariously via Flickr:

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make sure these three events went off without a hitch, and thanks to all of you who stopped by and said hi! We hope to see you all soon at one of our upcoming events: http://www.softlayer.com/Media/event-schedule

-Summer

Categories: 
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

March 3, 2011

Hosting != Glamorous

Infrastructure. Administration. Interface. Connectivity. Computer Room Air Conditioner. Data Center. Generator. Router.

I know what you're saying to yourself right now: "Hold onto your hat, self ... After that start, this post is going to be wild and crazy!" Actually, you might have literally yawned while reading those words. Why?

Hosting isn't very glamorous.

Go back to that first sentence and substitute exclamation points for each of the periods, then go back and make yourself yawn once between "Interface" and "Connectivity" and then again between "Generator" and "Router." Which one felt more natural? Unless you're on your fifth caffeinated beverage of the day or you happen to work for a hosting provider, the excited response is probably a lot less natural than the sleep-inducing one.

Don't get me wrong ... I'm not insulting hosting. I think it's just hamstrung by terms that reek of lameness to the uninitiated outsider. The closest we've got to an interesting term in the industry is "the cloud," and the industry was so happy about the positive response to that metaphor that everyone started calling everything "cloud" to engender fluffy, happy images in customers' heads. But as Lance said in his Parallels Summit keynote, it has just become a marketing term.

I propose that hosting doesn't need to be glamorous to be awesome. Hosting enables customers to make glamorous things.

In one day on the GDC 2011 expo hall floor, our team has talked to hundreds of attendees that have stopped by SoftLayer's booth (2116) to learn a little more about what SoftLayer does, and I love seeing someone "get it" for the first time. Nine times out of ten, if I'm talking to an attendee without a technical background, a glazed stare will slowly creep across his/her face as I explain a little about private networking and our nationwide MPLS network, but when I start talking about what our customers are doing with those tools, "Eureka!"

One of the most subtle explanations for SoftLayer's monumental growth is that our customers do some amazing things on our platform, and those successes, in turn, legitimize the platform and inspire other customers. Whether the story be about a phenomenally popular social gaming company or a reseller that enables tens of thousands of small businesses to get websites, being able to share a real world example takes our explanation out of the ether ... or maybe it takes the yawn-inducing ether out of our explanation.

SoftLayer's platform was meticulously designed to be spectacularly simple: Make sure everything works together, give customers as much control as possible, and get out of their way to - as Guy Kawasaki puts it - "let a hundred flowers blossom."

If you're at GDC this week and you haven't stopped by SoftLayer's booth yet, you need to listen to Natalie:

When you come by, we'll be happy to tell you anything you want to know about our hosting solutions, but we'll be downright excited to share with you the kinds of things our hosting solutions have done for our customers and could do for you.

-@khazard

P.S. If you're not in San Francisco this week, consider this an open invitation to take us up on the same offer at any of SoftLayer's events in the future.

P.P.S. We sincerely hope that this blog does not offend any "hosters" out there ... especially any that are Warlocks.

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