Posts Tagged 'Fun Facts'

June 12, 2007

Being Green

For so many years growing up, I heard the "Sam I Am" / "Green Eggs and Ham" comments when being introduced to other kids. At this point, you would think I would hate the color green. On the contrary - being green is good.

One of the biggest costs in a datacenter is power, and if you're involved in datacenter operations you get to experience first hand the challenges of juggling power, cooling and floor space availability. If you use less power, your electrical costs go down and your cooling costs go down and there is a ripple affect across the entire facility. In an effort to reach that goal, we do everything we can to hone down the power requirements of our servers. We start by using 240v circuits to the rack. Doing so eliminates the need to step down to 110v which is much more efficient and it helps eliminate harmonic feedback in the circuit. Add to that “less heat” which means less wear and tear on the servers and that is a good first step.

Once you get power to the server, it helps to spec your servers properly. A properly sized power supply can save more than 25 Watts per server. When you multiply that by just 1,000 servers, that's a cool 25kW of power savings. When you multiply that by the number of servers in our facilities? Well, it's certainly worth the exercise of making sure we are ordering the proper equipment.

Aside from server equipment and datacenter power, SoftLayer has recently joined the Green Grid (more info). We are looking to use that association to join the likes of AMD, Intel, Dell, HP, IBM, Microsoft and many more to help reduce overall power consumption by datacenters. There are many lessons yet to be learned by IT companies to help reach that goal.

Being green is not confined to datacenter facilities. On SoftLayer Truck Day, we receive hundreds of cardboard boxes. Rather than just throwing those all away, we work with a local vendor to make sure the cardboard and packaging materials inside get recycled. Each server comes with various parts that are not needed (it's cheaper for the vendor to just ship the servers with all misc parts than it is to strip specific parts from specific orders). It would be easiest to just deposit all of those unneeded parts into a dumpster, but being green means doing more than just whatever is easiest. We sort spare power cords and recycle those for the copper. We sort screws and sell them to a local vendor (and use the money to buy Monster). Any spare part that we have not found a specific destination for, gets donated to a group that sells the parts and makes donations to charities.

Being green not only makes good financial sense, but it also makes good ecological sense. And – it keeps us stocked with Monster.


May 21, 2007

Project Funky Trunk

This is probably the single best and worst code name for a project in the history of man.

A little history is in order, so bear with me. When TeamShovel formed SoftLayer, our office consisted of a private residence with lush couches surrounded by card tables and folding chairs (aka executive furniture). During those months, we focused on brainstorming on whiteboards as we began to draft what would eventually become SoftLayer. During periodic breaks, the group would become restless and we needed ways to continue the flow of creative ideas. After our 700th run to Dairy Queen for blizzards, Nathan, our Chief Technology Officer, found a game called Funky Truck and shared it with the group.

Well, twelve propeller heads can’t be in the same room with a dumb little game without someone mastering the game to claim superiority. Then all others need to complete the game so we can rank intelligence and pecking order by how quickly it takes you to master the game. The single greatest obstacle to the creation of Softlayer was Funky Truck. It took several days for the group to complete the game and then of course, high score became an issue, then fastest time, with the final round of "style points" in which the group generated its own scoring procedures (we have charts and graphs if you need them). The game brought levity to our world, allowed the brains to veg and fostered open thinking and innovation when it came to designing SoftLayer.

The summer and fall of 2005 saw many new hosting ideas as the creative minds began to churn. It was inevitable that this project would become code named "Funky Truck" since it was one of our main obsessions and a point of contention at times because of excessive play (if you ask me). Sometime during our whiteboard brainstorming sessions, someone scribbled it on the board and it became official. Project Funky Truck was born.

SoftLayer went live in January 2006 with a handful of features and huge aspirations to become the newest, most innovative, dedicated hosting company in the industry. Funky Truck was our secret sauce and part of it went live on day one with our deployment of the private network. Those first few months were brutal as the private network was used less than my jogging shoes. How could it be possible that the basis of our Funky Truck idea could be so misunderstood? We anguished over the time, effort and cost expended on the private network – but we pressed on.

I remember the first ticket in reference to the private network. It was pretty simple: "What is it?" After a few discussions in the forums, the momentum began to build. First one user, then two, then three …whoa look – there’s 10 people connected to the private network managing their servers!! I felt like the parent of a newborn baby that just took that first step. Our company was growing up.

2006 saw tremendous growth and project Funky Truck got bigger and more complicated each meeting. At one point, I stopped having meetings just so Funky Truck could catch up to the grandiose ideas that everyone had. Even accounting was dreaming up features for Funky Truck; it was that insane. Our goal was a Funky Truck end of year bash, but that came and went. We continued to install thousands of dedicated servers and the feature list grew.

In February 2007, Funky Truck was dubbed "close," so we planned for an April 1 launch. I took it upon myself to post in the forums to build some excitement and anticipation around Funky Truck and then fat fingered the post. I had actually written Funk Trunk – not Truck – D’oh!! Well, it immediately took off in the forums and I was left feeling a little stupid then came to the realization that Funky Truck had merely evolved into Funky Trunk (yea…that’s it).

Needless to say, April came and went (thanks dev team – Lance missed another date), then May 1 was proclaimed the new date for deployment. Well, May 1 came and went and then finally the project was carved down in scope. Funky Trunk was born May 20, 2007.

What is it? Does it live up to the hype? I am not sure anything can by now, but we are still very excited about the possibilities. In layman’s terms, Funky Trunk is an open API for our backend systems. Any of the features and functionality you see in our portal will be available through a direct connection with the API. We launched today with a handful of features so you can grab them, break them and show us how to improve them. After about 60 days, we will add more features and begin to give you complete control over your IT environment.

You must be asking, "How can I use the API?" The simplest answer: lots of ways. You can integrate features directly into your favorite server control panel like cPanel, Plesk or Helm. You will be able to integrate features into commercial software to control the "physical layer" or you can build your own apps or clients to control stuff from your own desktop. Resellers will build their own portals, enterprise users may integrate features back into their intranet or you may do a combination of all of these. The goal is to give you ultimate control and of course, the SL customer portal is still active if you simply don’t care.

Support is available via the SLDN and over time we anticipate users will build plugins and tools and share them with the group (sharing is good). My guys have built a couple to get you rolling. I have seen your servers; I can only imagine what you are going to do with this type of power. At the end of the day, we believe this opens a new door to dedicated hosting and further differentiates our service from the competition.

So – from TeamShovel to you – here comes Funky Truck/Trunk!!


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