Posts Tagged 'History'

February 8, 2008

Outsource It: Part II

Wow, I like all of this feedback guys! Really! I had been chewing on that blog for a while. I was basically trying to decide how to write it and apparently the format worked and got some juices flowing on our forums. I was going to post this on the Forums but I think it is a bit too long and isn't using the forums standards. So here is my follow up to TheRabbit in Blog format.

A bit about me; I am an old guy (shh don't tell the guys I play Racquetball with) and I have been in LOTS of different companies of various sizes and types of business. Back when the internet was young and dial-up was the name of the game, I played in that field. In fact, I see a lot of familiar faces here every day. They all stayed in that field and honed their skills and are the guts behind SoftLayer today.

I went out into the world to see what it was all about. I decided I wanted to be technical and since I was a Windows guy it would have to be Microsoft. So I took the tests and got my MCSE and then worked for Alliance Data Systems, a Cargo Airline, A college in Dallas, Cement Company, and a small Outsourced IT company, then I met back up with these guys and here I sit.

So I used some of my experiences with all of those places to write the last blog. Here are a few of those experiences so you can see where it came from.

Alliance Data Systems had great DC's and lots of cash, they didn't need to outsource because they spent the money to do things correctly and had their own raised floor DC's and connectivity, etc. It was a cool place to work and I learned quite a bit. They did things right.

Cargo Airline - Well they tried. We built out a new office building at the airport and we had an office with no carpet, and extra cooling for our server "room". We had some old boat anchor HP equipment and a single IBM server for the JD Edwards accounting box and boy was it slow. We were using Windows 2000 with AD and DHCP to hand out IP's. Funny story, we merged with a really "smart" software company and part of the merger was that the powers from that company got the reigns and could run our IS department. Maybe they are reading this... (evil grin) - So the first thing they did was pulled DHCP out of the mix and went all static IP's because they were easier to track. "You can just enter them in a spreadsheet!" I was told. "Then you know that a 10.x.1.x is accounting, and a 10.x.2.x is sales, etc, etc." I still laugh about that decision today. Ok, back to the real subject. This company didn't spend the kind of money needed to have a good core of systems, and network and therefore the applications suffered. Most of the apps they wrote or used were Web apps and could have been housed in an outsourced facility.

College in Dallas - Believe it or not, the college had some pretty cool DC's on the Campus. They were secure and if I forgot my jacket I froze my butt off. They used Compaq 1u's like sliced bread. Server after server for student access, student records and it was all Citrix apps that students and faculty could connect to. To me it SCREAMED outsource. Think of the electric bills they paid to freeze my butt off, think of the purchasing department that had to buy all those machines. Think of how much they paid me to un-box those servers and rack them, and cable them, and install the OS from CD, and install Citrix and the apps. Then the accounting department had to track them and make sure they were paid for and depreciate them. Granted, even if they outsourced them the purchasing group still has to order them online and the accounting department has to give us a Visa but that is the extent of it. We have Truck days of joy and do all the manual labor for you and we automate the OS install. Then it is just down to the Tech installing Citrix and the apps from the comfort of his desk remotely.

Cement Company, one of my favorite places to work. I was in charge of the Citrix farm, Exchange and RightFax. Oh what fun. They had over 40 home built apps that ran on Citrix. We had 3 DC's, Dallas, Midlothian, and Virginia. They were Top of the line! If you were a rat and liked chewing through cables and you are into Liebert cooling systems from the early 60's! Ok, it might not have been the 60's but they were old. The DC in Midlothian was the best. We finally boarded up the windows facing west because we figured a lot of the extra heat was due to the Texas sun baking them. Ok, funny story #2. While un-boxing and racking a few Dell 1U servers (again they paid me a pretty good salary for my Citrix and Exchange skills, and here I am un-boxing and racking again) my helper decided that it was time to drop test a Dell. I was behind the rack and there was really nothing I could do except watch this brand new Dell server go crashing to the floor from above his head. After reseeding all the cards, CPU, and memory, we crossed our fingers and it fired up. It was a bit warped and bent but we strategically jammed it in between 2 straight servers and it took some of the flex out of the bent box and it worked great, might even still be working today. As you can tell some outsourcing by them would be good as well; Even if it is just the Development and test systems. We lined up like ants at a sugar sack begging for servers for Dev and Test but they were NEVER in the budget. Another great point I think, Capital Expense vs Monthly Expense. For a huge company it is MUCH easier to get them to sign off on a monthly expense.

Outsourced IT - Here is the one that wins it all. My job was to go around Dallas to small and medium sized businesses and be their IT guy. My main focus of course was Citrix and Exchange but you just never knew what you were going to walk in on. One plumbing company had their servers in a barn. An auto parts supplier had theirs in the back of a storage building behind the restroom. Use your imagination. But the ones that got me the most were Doctors offices. Broom Closets, Office Managers offices, just in the hall out in the open, you name it and I saw servers there. Most of the offices already had a T1 in place so connectivity wasn't the real issue. An interesting point is that I always had to sign a Hipaa form to be legal to work on the systems. It amazed me that these systems were so accessible to anyone that might have had access to the office. I wonder if the maid service had to sign Hipaa forms since the servers were right in the open. Sometimes right behind the trash cans. 90% of the medical software I came in contact with was WEB software which is easily outsourceable. And the number 1 complaint I heard from office managers and Doctors was, "I want to connect from home. Can you help me?" So of course we would setup remote access. But it never failed. During Storms they would lose power or connectivity. Or the building power would drop for construction, or a car would hit a pole. There were always issues. I swayed a few high tech Docs to finally consider and try outsourcing and they loved it. A few even use thin clients in the office now and everything happens in a DC. They love it.

I still say that no matter what size business you have OUTSOURCE IT! Maybe not all of it, but for DEV and Test, a hot site AD controller, Web App Servers, Giant DB Servers that live behind those web app servers, Web Farms...etc be the ball and give it a try. We won't argue!

-Skinman

January 29, 2008

Where is All the Noise?

Earlier in the week, Shawn Boles wrote a post that included some nostalgic feelings for old-fashioned computers. As I read it, I was thinking of my own experiences with the grandfathers of our desktop computers. I vividly remember getting the floppy disks out of the big dusty box, sliding them into the drive, and listening as the drive began its slow, crunching march towards the data I needed. That’s when it hit me. I can’t hear my computer! Sure, there’s a cooling fan in it, and if I stick my head under my desk I can hear not only the fan, but my coworkers quietly asking each other why my head is under my desk in the middle of the day. Other than that, there’s nothing! No drive heads moving, no crunching, no system beeping, no modem noises, and certainly no death rattles.

That’s right, death rattles. Those of you unfamiliar with the dinosaurs we used to call computers don’t know about the death rattles. The large floppy drives were the worst offenders. Every faulty sector on those disks caused a loud grinding sound that you could FEEL, indicating that the pencil-sized drive head was none too happy with encountering the data equivalent of a marching band at a funeral. Now that we’ve moved away from media that comes in physical contact with the drive head, we’ve moved away from the death rattles. However, hard drives can occasionally produce them, even to this day. When a hard drive goes bad, it emits this high-pitched chirping sound, akin to what you would expect a robotic sparrow to make.

When I was in high school, my best friend’s dad was a programmer. One day we were working on a bad hard drive for a friend and had a brilliant idea. We took a microphone and recorded the sounds the hard drive was making. With some Mp3 editing tools, we added roughly 10 minutes of silence in front of that sound. Then, we made the sound into his dad’s windows startup sound. So upon turning on his computer, he would work for 10 minutes and then hear the DEATH RATTLE. Watching his pasty frame lunge for the power button was hilarious for a good 24 hours after it happened.

Browsing computer message boards (yes, I’m a nerd, that’s why I work here as a developer) I occasionally come across people who are still cursed by dial-up modems, and they invariably ask how they can disable the noises their modem makes when it connects. I want to scream to them “DON’T! You’ll destroy your last audible connection to your machine!” The noises a modem makes are iconic, and a sufficiently trained guru can tell the connection speed simply by listening to the connection noises. From the industrial clanking of the 2400 baud to the sci-fi whooshing of the 56k, each remaining hardware noise is precious.

Precious to humans anyway. When I was younger I saved all my money for weeks to buy a 56k modem. I painstakingly researched (at 24,000 baud) all the different kinds of modems I could purchase, and finally decided on a US Robotics 56k modem. I arrived home from my triumphant shopping trip and promptly tore the cover off the family computer to install my new toy. Once installed, I powered up the computer, installed the drivers, and attempted to connect. Sweet, sweet screeching poured out of the modem, to my delight! However, my dog was also in the room. He had, until this point, tolerated the noises the computer had been making in “his” room. However, how there was a new noise. A new, screechier noise. And it was coming from an OPEN COMPUTER CASE. That’s right, in my excitement, I had left the case cover off just in case I had to tinker some more. My dog got up, walked across the room, and promptly ripped the modem right out of the case with one mighty chomp. He threw it on the ground, chomped it once more and then, satisfied that it would no longer disturb his rest, flopped back down onto his bed in the corner. I still cannot hear a connection sequence without bringing up that memory.

Of course, we don’t have to worry about these things at SoftLayer (dogs OR noises). We developers work on silent machines with no rattles or screeches, while the servers in the data center are attended to by dozens of employees, aware of any slight problem. The noise in the data center is substantial. Each employee wears hearing protection, and even with that the noise of thousands of cooling fans will get to you. Each time the developers have to spend a morning in the data center installing new servers, we spend the rest of the day shouting “WHAT?!” to each other. But computers will continue to get quieter, and our connection to them will continue to be less and less physical. Our customers know this already: none of them have even seen their servers, they rely on our skilled datacenter staff to monitor their hardware for them, day and night. But there are no death rattles, no screeches, just cooling fans.

The last of our noisy connection to our computers is starting to fade. Already we’ve stopped using magnetic media like floppy disks, and the noisy CD and DVD drives of yesteryear are being replaced with silent models. Even the hard drives that caused my friend and I so much joy are being replaced with mechanically simple solid state drives, which run much faster and have no noise at all. Come to think of it, I think I can learn to live in the new silent computing future.

-Daniel

Categories: 
January 23, 2008

640K Ought to Be Enough for Everybody

I was talking with a friend about memory on computers. He said he wanted a computer with tons of memory for Photoshop. I said something to the effect that I've never seen a desktop that can handle more than 16 GB, and that most operating systems now don't want to handle more than that... that Windows will only give a process 4 GB max, 2 GB for the application and 2 GB shared with the operating system. He then said "I can't imagine having to use more than 16 GB!" This immediately reminded me of Bill Gates' famous quote, that "640K ought to be more than enough for everybody." Striving for accuracy, I went to the Internet to find when and where he said this.

Interesting fact came up: HE NEVER SAID IT. He vehemently denies having ever uttered this phrase. Every quote I've seen is always un-sourced, so let's give him the benefit of the doubt. So what makes this quote clog the tubes so easily?

First, the irony that a person renowned for his computer visions of the future would say something so backward causes people to smile. Secondly, there is a nugget of truth. In a 1989 speech, Bill Gates said:

"I have to say that in 1981, making those decisions, I felt like I was providing enough freedom for 10 years. That is, a move from 64k to 640k felt like something that would last a great deal of time. Well, it didn't - it took about only 6 years before people started to see that as a real problem."

Bill never said "640K is enough for everybody." He said "640K should keep everyone happy for the next 10 years." Turns out he was wrong. Within less than 6 years we started hitting the "640K limit"... which wasn't a hard limit at all, it was just a limit proposed by the operating system at the time. Mr. Gates thought that 640K was generous, and in the beginning it was. But as the industry marched forward, it started cramping. Pretty soon, we had DOS memory managers, extended and expanded memory, virtual memory... we would do ANYTHING to escape the 640K limit.

So what's the moral of this story? First, you can't believe just anything you read on the Internet. Sometimes something gets into the tubes because it's funny, not because it's accurate. Secondly, predicting the computer industry is hard. To be a successful computer development company (like the portion of SoftLayer I work in), you have to be able to look to the horizon and attempt to spy the most likely location the software industry is moving in. We developers work on projects 3, 6, 9, 12 months before they're used by our users; we have to make predictions at least double that size in advance to give growth room whilst the next tool is developed. And, I dare say, we've done a good job of that around here!

In conclusion, Bill Gates never said "640K should be enough for everybody." That quote is a myth. It's a funny joke, but a joke nonetheless. However, Bill Gates did actually say this at a Macintosh conference:

"To create a new standard, it takes something that's not just a little bit different; it takes something that's really new and really captures people's imagination — and the Macintosh, of all the machines I've ever seen, is the only one that meets that standard."

And this time there's video evidence. And there's the not-quite-quote where Bill Gates implies that Vista isn't really the best thing since 8086 Segmented Physical Memory Models. Aren't real quotes more humorous fake ones? I think so.

-Zoey

Categories: 
January 16, 2008

Where Have All the Gurus Gone?

When I was growing up, computers were these wonderful things that sat at the back of the classroom (usually one, or maybe two if the class was lucky). If the school was lucky, there was a "computer lab" where you could have access to the latest and greatest in government approved hardware.

My favorite of the time was the Apple IIe. Our school district had so many of them, they handed 'em out to classrooms (The school district now uses them as very effective door stops). In fact, I got my start with computers by tinkering with a IIe. My first computer experience was hooking up a printer to a IIe, and the wonder of this experience (plug something in, type a command, and print came out!) completely captured me (I was in first grade), and from that moment on I was completely wrapped up in the wonder of computers.

Anyway, I graduated to PC compatibles and DOS. Trying to get a grasp on this computer thing, I got a copy of DOS for Dummies. Near the beginning of the book, they had a paragraph that had some important words of wisdom. While I don't have the book any more, the message is still with me: "This book will teach you the basics of the computer, what you can do, what you can't do, and what you really shouldn't ever do. However, for anything you don't know, contact your local computer guru."

Computer Guru? What is this "Computer Guru"?

According to Wikipedia, Guru means "Teacher, in a religious or spiritual sense." And as luck would have it, I was able to get into contact with Computer Gurus throughout my life. These were the computer equivalents of the small town mechanic: you pull up for some gas and Harvey the mechanic walks around the corner. "Howdy! I heard you pull up. You've got a bit of a timing issue, and I think one of your spark plugs are bad. I can change 'em out in a few minutes, if you like." It's almost like Harvey has a supernatural connection to vehicles. He can hear issues, he can smell problems... he's one with the Motor Vehicle Force.

The same with the Computer Gurus I knew. You walked in and turned on your machine, they'd make a "Hmm" sound (in computer science, "Hmm" is similar to the Indian sacred syllable "Aum" or "Om". It's ritually chanted by a computer guru whilst contemplating your computer's connection to the Universe), type some sacred symbols into the prompt, then tell you the problem and offer to fix it. Most times they would happily fix your computer in exchange for a pizza; sometimes just getting a cup of coffee from the ever present drip dispenser could net you a small fix. And if you were truly interested in computers, you could even ask to become a follower of the Guru. You'd spend your spare time in his or her office, ask meaningful questions about the nature of the Universe, contemplate ancient tomes and user manuals, and take care of the mundane tasks of life (like formatting floppies or installing software) so the Guru could spend their time connecting with his or her latest project (generally spent looking at an arcane flowchart or design document and saying "Hmm" a lot). You knew, one day, with practice and patience, you too could become a Guru, have followers to format your floppies, and say Hmm.

However, the computer industry started changing. User interfaces became simpler, USB made the promise of true plug-and-play a near reality... the command line all but disappeared. Computers stopped being a specialized device and became a commodity. Computers were EVERYWHERE. And there was this belief that computers will become so "user friendly" that there was no need for the long learning process of the Guru.

And for the most part, this has happened. Programs are very user friendly now. There's tons of documentation, and most don't expect you to have a PhD in Computer Science to understand them. Workflows have become "point and click link" instead of "chant this esoteric string into the command prompt".

However, sometimes I really miss my Guru. For example, just this last week, my roommate's computer (which I built) started randomly crashing. There wasn't a specific program that crashed, and it didn't crash at a set time. I knew something was wrong, so I tried to diagnose. 'Course, Vista being user friendly, the computer would automatically reboot, without showing the Bluescreen, except for the subliminal hint of blue to let you know that the computer had crashed. See, blue screens have "Technical Information" (it says so right on the screen!)... and user friendly computers (1) don't crash, and (2) are NOT technical. So I was stuck with a computer that wouldn't run, and a bored Roommate who just realized he has a $1200 paperweight.

As Dr. McCoy would say, "I'm a programmer, not a hardware doctor!" Hardware issues are right outside my realm of experience. I longed for my Guru. I knew how to diagnose; I pulled hardware, changed orders of cards, swapped the memory sticks back and forth... all the standard religious rituals for modern computers. I knew that if I could but approach a Guru, tell him or her my issue, they could give me leads to check. I didn't have the money to buy all new parts at random; I had to work with what I had. I knew I had all the data for a real diagnosis... I simply wasn't able to pick out the error. Working the next day at SoftLayer, I mused about my lack of Guru leadership. At the end of the day, I turned to a coworker and said "Now I get to tinker for a few more hours on this stupid computer. I wish I knew a Computer Guru!"

My coworker smiled and asked what the problem was. I told him and he looked at the ceiling. "Hmm" he said. "Could be a power supply issue. Maybe the power coming out of the supply isn't clean and it's resetting the motherboard." Just then, another coworker walked around the corner.

"What about a power supply?" he asked. The first coworker told him the issue. "Hmm," he said, looking intently at the wall. "I bet it's a RAM issue. I bet your ram is bad. Swap it out with some good RAM and see what happens."

So I went home and crosswired some power supplies. Rebooting the machine, I finally got a bluescreen that crashed itself, locking up the computer and letting me read it. "PAGE_FAULT_IN_NON_PAGED_AREA" "Page Fault?" I thought. "Hmm." My roommate walked in. "What are you doing, meditating? Have you fixed it yet?"

We went to Fry's and bought some new RAM sticks. Going home, I popped 'em in and started the machine. And it worked! It's been running 6 days nonstop. My roommate was really happy. I was finally able to look up the bluescreen message up on the Internet. Sure enough, that specific error almost always pops up when there's bad ram.

So, where have all the Gurus gone? Where else? They all work at SoftLayer! Whenever I've had a software or hardware issue, or an operating system issue, I've found somebody here who knows the issue. They look at the wall, say "Hmm", sip their coffee or Monster (depending on their level of enlightenment), and give me the answer. The guys here are at one with the Network. The DC guys almost seem to be able to FEEL a power issue or a drive problem before it happens. SLales is able to think about your problems and provide a tailor made solution to help. And Development is where all the action takes place; we get to write all the behind the scenes magic.

"You must be some kind of Computer Genius!" shouts my roommate (lucky for me, he's gotten to play some Call of Duty 4, so he's already forgotten the previous week of frustration). "No, not yet." I respond. "I'm working on it, but I'm not a Guru yet."

-Zoey

July 13, 2007

Movin' on Up!

SoftLayer really is movin' on up! We can prove this fact in many different ways (growth in customer base, growth in server numbers, growth in annual revenue, growth in datacenter space/facilities, and more...). However, one other way to look at growth is by taking into account our business offices: previous working conditions, current working conditions, and future working conditions.

Office # 1:

Our first business office was quite interesting. It was basically one, medium-sized room, with a kitchenette and a conference room smack-dab in the middle. Mary Hall and I pulled double-duty as Sales Account Executive & Receptionists. Everyone sat back to back with their boss (within arm reach). There were no offices, no partitions, no privacy - for anyone. It is a bit intimidating to have the weight of the world on your shoulders (the pressure of making our startup company a complete success) and have your managers right beside you watching your every move. Then, there were the creative ring tones on some desk telephones. A few of the "higher-ups" decided to torture the rest of us. Here were a few:

Lance Crosby: "Respect my authority!!!" (Southpark's Cartman repeating this phrase over and over)
Steven Canale: "Quack Quack!" (The sound a ducky makes, obviously)
Mike Jones: Mike had a risqué, swanky music ring tone. I still wonder about that one!
Sean Charnock: "RRRRRRRRRRRING! RRRRRRRRRRRING!" (And kid you not, the yelling human voice recording sounded exactly like Sean)
Sam Fleitman: Sam's ring tone sounded exactly like our sales chat ring, so if we even thought about day dreaming - which of course we NEVER did - that one sure brought us back to reality quickly!

Office #2 (current office):

We have never even thought we would be as excited as we were when we received our own cubicles. The privacy! The extra space! No longer did we have to hear silly ring tones. No longer did everyone in the office have to listen to others' phone conversations. Most normal people sit in their cubicles wishing they were anywhere but there, however we sure do appreciate them. There are still a few employees who must endure sitting close to the microwave, which can be distracting. However, we are about to make the big move upstairs...

Office #3:

I have not been up there, but I have seen the layout. I have also heard the construction going on upstairs for the past month, and I know something good is in store. Some more of our VPs and directors will get their own offices. Everyone else will have their own cubicle, comfortably placed away from the annoyances of a microwave or ice maker. We will have more than one conference room, more space for new employees to join, and an all-around nicer facility. All will be peaceful and good with the world, and we can focus even more on making our customers happy.

-Amanda

May 23, 2007

Who is SamF?

Since this is my first blog post, I thought I would take the time to introduce myself and explain my role here at SoftLayer. That way, if you wind up reading any future posts, your first question won’t be “who is this guy and why do I care?”

Like many of you, I’ve been in this business for quite some time. My first job in the industry was back in 1992 when I was working with the CIS department at Texas A&M helping to manage the university Gopher system. I remember going around campus to the various departments helping to convince people that putting information online in Gopher was the end-all/be-all for sharing information. Of course, that evangelizing didn't last long. Shortly after going to GopherCon '94 in Minnesota, our attention started to shift to the Mosaic browser and HTTP protocol. From there, things just steamrolled.

After A&M, I went to work for Oracle Corp where we started work on an online learning website. The goal was to take all Oracle related CBT courses and find ways to put them online under one site. This was before such things were designed for the web and it meant working with the various vendors and all the different CBT formats to find ways to get them online.

Next was an ISP / shared hosting company named Catalog.com (now known as Webhero.com). We provided all the typical Internet services including dial up access, DSL, shared hosting, domain name registration, online storefronts as well as hosting for some extremely large enterprise organizations. We did a lot with that company and it still continues on today with a pretty solid product offering and services.

From there, it was into the enterprise datacenter hosting and dedicated server hosting markets. Now it's all about SoftLayer and the services we can provide customers with our latest and greatest infrastructure.

As COO at SoftLayer, I am basically in charge of day to day operations including support, facilities management, internal systems infrastructure and anything else that gets dreamed up on a daily basis. What's the funnest part of my job? Every bit of it! I love the daily challenges in the support group. Facilities planning and forecasting allow me to really dig into the numbers. And, since I originally started out as a developer and system administrator, I love being involved with internal systems. Now at this point, I’ve got to be honest; we've got some really good people here at SoftLayer that do all of the dirty work (the actual fun stuff), but I do get to stay involved in all of it. However, because these guys are so good at what they do, I don't have to lose sleep over any one particular thing – instead, I get to stay involved in every piece of it. Maybe in future posts I’ll explain how we determine the number of chassis fans that go inside each server (over 35,000 chassis fans in production so far) or how many different types of SAS and SATA cables we need with how many different types of connectors (so many of differing types that it eventually became cheaper and more efficient to just have them custom made), where to put all of these servers, etc.

I guess the point of all that was to introduce myself and to let you know - having been in the industry for so long now and having dealt with everything from Gopher to dial up access to enterprise hosting to being in the dedicated server market now for quite a while, I feel I have a pretty decent understanding of what our customers are looking for and what their pain points are. While overall operations are critical for everyone, enterprise customers running CRM apps, file servers and domain controllers view things from a different standpoint than someone running a personal mail server or even a large shared hosting or VPS business. As I read through tickets on a daily basis, I try to put myself back in the customers’ shoes to make sure that the services we provide cover the needs of all the different types of customers we have. Having been a customer or provider at pretty much every level, I certainly understand the challenges many of you face on a regular basis. It’s our job to help you overcome as many of those as possible.

We have a lot of really cool things going on at SoftLayer and I hope to share some of those in future posts. In my next post, I’ll tell you all about Truck Day at SoftLayer.

-SamF

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!!

-@lavosby

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