Posts Tagged 'Hosting'

January 12, 2012

How the Internet Works (And How SOPA Would Break It)

Last week, I explained SoftLayer's stance against SOPA and mentioned that SOPA would essentially require service providers like SoftLayer to "break the Internet" in response to reports of "infringing sites." The technical readers in our audience probably acknowledged the point and moved on, but our non-technical readers (and some representatives in Congress) might have gotten a little confused by the references to DNS, domains and IP addresses.

Given how pervasive the Internet is in our daily lives, you shouldn't need to be "a techie" to understand the basics of what makes the Internet work ... And given the significance of the SOPA legislation, you should understand where the bill would "break" the process. Let's take a high level look at how the Internet works, and from there, we can contrast how it would work if SOPA were to pass.

The Internet: How Sites Are Delivered

  1. You access a device connected in some way to the Internet. This device can be a cell phone, a computer or even a refrigerator. You are connected to the Internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP) which recognizes that you will be accessing various sites and services hosted remotely. Your ISP manages a network connected to the other networks around the globe ("inter" "network" ... "Internet").
  2. You enter a domain name or click a URL (for this example, we'll use http://www.softlayer.com since we're biased to that site).

Internet Basics

  1. Your ISP will see that you want to access "www.softlayer.com" and will immediately try to find someone/something that knows what "www.softlayer.com" means ... This search is known as an NS (name server) lookup. In this case, it will find that "www.softlayer.com" is associated with several name servers.

Internet Basics

  1. The first of these four name servers to respond with additional information about "softlayer.com" will be used. Domains are typically required to be associated with two or three name servers to ensure if one is unreachable, requests for that domain name can be processed by another.
  2. The name server has Domain Name System (DNS) information that maps "www.softlayer.com" to an Internet Protocol (IP) address. When a domain name is purchased and provisioned, the owner will associate that domain name with an authoritative DNS name server, and a DNS record will be created with that name server linking the domain to a specific IP address. Think of DNS as a phone book that translates a name into a phone number for you.

Internet Basics

  1. When the IP address you reach sees that you requested "www.softlayer.com," it will find the files/content associated with that request. Multiple domains can be hosted on the same IP address, just as multiple people can live at the same street address and answer the phone. Each IP address only exists in a single place at a given time. (There are some complex network tricks that can negate that statement, but in the interest of simplicity, we'll ignore them.)
  2. When the requested content is located (and generated by other servers if necessary), it is returned to your browser. Depending on what content you are accessing, the response from the server can be very simple or very complex. In some cases, the request will return a single HTML document. In other cases, the content you access may require additional information from other servers (database servers, storage servers, etc.) before the request can be completely fulfilled. In this case, we get HTML code in return.

Internet Basics

  1. Your browser takes that code and translates the formatting and content to be displayed on your screen. Often, formatting and styling of pages will be generated from a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) referenced in the HTML code. The purpose of the style sheet is to streamline a given page's code and consolidate the formatting to be used and referenced by multiple pages of a given website.

Internet Basics

  1. The HTML code will reference sources for media that may be hosted on other servers, so the browser will perform the necessary additional requests to get all of the media the website is trying to show. In this case, the most noticeable image that will get pulled is the SoftLayer logo from this location: http://static2.softlayer.com/images/layout/logo.jpg

Internet Basics

  1. When the HTML is rendered and the media is loaded, your browser will probably note that it is "Done," and you will have successfully navigated to SoftLayer's homepage.

If SOPA were to pass, the process would look like this:

The Internet: Post-SOPA

  1. You access a device connected in some way to the Internet.
  2. You enter a domain name or click a URL (for this example, we'll use http://www.softlayer.com since we're biased to that site).

*The Change*

  1. Before your ISP runs an NS lookup, it would have to determine whether the site you're trying to access has been reported as an "infringing site." If http://www.softlayer.com was reported (either legitimately or illegitimately) as an infringing site, your ISP would not process your request, and you'd proceed to an error page. If your ISP can't find any reference to the domain an infringing site, it would start looking for the name server to deliver the IP address.
  2. SOPA would also enforce filtering from all authoritative DNS provider. If an ISP sends a request for an infringing site to the name server for that site, the provider of that name server would be forced to prevent the IP address from being returned.
  3. One additional method of screening domains would happen at the level of the operator of the domain's gTLD. gTLDs (generic top-level domains) are the ".____" at the end of the domain (.com, .net, .biz, etc.). Each gTLD is managed by a large registry organization, and a gTLD's operator would be required to prevent an infringing site's domain from functioning properly.
  4. If the gTLD registry operator, your ISP and the domain's authoritative name server provider agree that the site you're accessing has not been reported as an infringing site, the process would resume the pre-SOPA process.

*Back to the Pre-SOPA Process*

  1. The domain's name server responds.
  2. The domain's IP address is returned.
  3. The IP address is reached to get the content for http://www.softlayer.com.
  4. HTML is returned.
  5. Your browser translates the HTML into a visual format.
  6. External file references from the HTML are returned.
  7. The site is loaded.

The proponents of SOPA are basically saying, "It's difficult for us to keep up with and shut down all of the instances of counterfeiting and copyright infringement online, but it would be much easier to target the larger sites/providers 'enabling' users to access that (possible) infringement." Right now, the DMCA process requires a formal copyright complaint to be filed for every instance of infringement, and the providers who are hosting the content on their network are responsible for having that content removed. That's what our abuse team does full-time. It's a relatively complex process, but it's a process that guarantees us the ability to investigate claims for legitimacy and to hear from our customers (who hear from their customers) in response to the claims.

SOPA does not allow for due process to investigate concerns. If a site is reported to be an infringing site, service providers have to do everything in their power to prevent users from getting there.

-@toddmitchell

January 6, 2012

SOPA: Bad for Hosting

SoftLayer manages more than 100,000 servers in thirteen data centers around the world. We have more than 23,000 customers, and those customers are responsible for millions of websites (which get billions of pageviews every month). We're one of the largest hosting providers in the world, and we want to talk a little about the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261 or "SOPA").

Many in our industry have already commented (and in some cases, "changed their minds") on SOPA and its equally evil twin, the PROTECT IP Act ("PIPA") in the Senate, but we wanted to share our perspective on the legislation. Even with these Dudley-Do-Right, Goody-Two-Shoes titles and their ambitious goals, SoftLayer opposes these bills in their current forms because they expose innocent and law-abiding hosting companies to uncertain liabilities.

Because this legislation has gotten quite a bit of attention in the past few months, you're probably already familiar with it, but if you haven't paid much attention, we can give you a quick summary: As you can read in the name of the bill, SOPA is being proposed to "Stop Online Piracy." SOPA is under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee, and its intent is to provide additional enforcement tools to combat foreign 'rogue' websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting. That's a great goal, and SoftLayer does not oppose the intent of the Act ... As you saw from Kevin Hazard's blog post a few weeks ago, we have a team of people working all the time to track down and immediately address any violations of our terms of service (including copyright infringement), so we wholeheartedly agree that copyright infringement and counterfeiting are bad.

The way SOPA tries to address the problem is where we disagree with the bill, so let's talk about the most pertinent part of the bill for a service provider like SoftLayer. If SOPA were to pass, when a case of infringement is reported, we would have to "take such measures as [we determine] to be the least burdensome, technically feasible, and reasonable means designed to prevent access by [our] subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site that is subject to the order."

What that means: We would be forced to turn off our customers' access to a small piece of the Internet.

How are we to do that? Well the "least burdensome, technically feasible, and reasonable means designed to prevent access" are not made clear, but most of the discussions about the bill have focused on changing the way the Doman Name System (DNS) resolves to an "infringing site." We'd be more or less ordered to break DNS ... DNS was designed to simply, accurately and quickly match a domain name with the IP address that domain's owner provides, and if SOPA were to pass, we'd have to tell DNS to behave correctly for every site EXCEPT the reported infringing sites. Again, that's not spelled out in the legislation, so it's like being given a job by someone who has no idea how to do the job nor whether the job is even possible to successfully complete.

And that's all assuming that the order to suspend access to an "infringing site" is legitimate. Many of the organizations that oppose SOPA have explained possible scenarios where orders could be filed under the guise of preventing copyright infringement. A competing site/business could claim:

"the operator of the site operates the site with the object of promoting, or has promoted, its use to carry out acts that constitute a violation of section 501 or 1201 of title 17, United States Code, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster such violation."

In another scenario, a copyright holder could pull the trigger on an order simply at the thought that a user could infringe on a copyright on/via the "infringing site."

When the United States House of Representatives reconvenes after its winter recess, we will be watching intently with hopes that the Internet's response to the bill has effectively derailed it in its current form. As SoftLayer General Council Suzy Fulton mentioned in her post about Texas House Bill 1841, we've been working with an industry group called TechAmerica which submitted a letter to Congress about SOPA and many of the issues that could negatively affect our industry. Additionally, we've gotten involved with SaveHosting.org to speak out against laws that can hurt our customers.

As discussions continue about SOPA, we'll look for opportunities to share more of our insight with you here on our blog. Please let us know your thoughts about the legislation below.

-@toddmitchell

December 14, 2011

Startup Series: Tech Wildcatters

Tech Wildcatters is a mentor-driven technology startup accelerator led by entrepreneurs in the Dallas area. The 12-week "boot camp" runs every spring and fall, providing experience and exposure to the 8-10 companies selected to participate in each class. Dennis Dayman, a Tech Wildcatters partner and mentor, explains what Tech Wildcatters is all about and why they chose to partner with SoftLayer:

In the coming weeks, you'll meet a few of the startups that have benefited from the Tech Wildcatters program, and we'll share some of their post-accelerator success with you.

If you're interested in learning more about how you can participate in the Tech Wildcatters startup accelerator, visit http://techwildcatters.com. If you already know you want to take advantage of the opportunities Tech Wildcatters can provide, their simple online application is the only thing between you and your soon-to-be-huge business!

This post features an organization involved in the SoftLayer Startup Program. SoftLayer Loves Startups, so we want to help them fuel their success by providing hosting resources and expertise to new and growing businesses. In this series, you'll meet a few of the startups and incubators SoftLayer supports to learn more about the amazing things they're doing.
December 6, 2011

Go, Tell it on the Mountain

Because SoftLayer is now a global hosting company and the holidays are upon us, I thought I'd tweak another Christmas classic with some SoftLayer-specific content ... We're going to need a few more tracks to add to SoftLayer is Coming to Town if we hope to compile an album that'll compete with Justin Bieber.

Go, Tell it on the Mountain

While SLayers kept their watching
O'er customer servers by night,
Another DC opened,
and SoftLayer's now worldwide.

Go, tell it on Facebook
Over on Reddit and everywhere
Go, tell it on LinkedIn
That SoftLayer hosts your site!

Our competitors feared and trembled
When lo! around the earth
Rang out the three bars chorus
That hailed of SoftLayer's worth.

Go, tell it on Facebook
Over on Reddit and everywhere
Go, tell it on LinkedIn
That SoftLayer hosts your site!

From in a lowly basement
Our humble business came;
Innovation and Automation
Would change the hosting game.

Go, tell it on Facebook
Over on Reddit and everywhere
Go, tell it on LinkedIn
That SoftLayer hosts your site!

Before I was a SLayer
I searched both day and night
For a company that was perfect,
And SoftLayer turned out right.

Go, tell it on Facebook
Over on Reddit and everywhere
Go, tell it on LinkedIn
That SoftLayer hosts your site!

I was made a SLayer
A few short years ago,
And since I joined SoftLayer
I've seen us really grow, sooooo...

Go, tell it on Facebook
Over on Reddit and everywhere
Go, tell it on LinkedIn
That SoftLayer hosts your site!

If you sing this carol in front of the house of one of our 26,000+ customers, I can almost guarantee that you'll be invited in for hot chocolate ... Or they'll think you're a crazy stalker because you know about their hosting provider, and they'll call the police.

Either way, thanks for "listening"!

-Natalie

November 17, 2011

#Winning - Celebrating SoftLayer's Awards

To quote Marva Collins, "Success doesn't come to you, you go to it." Since 2005, SoftLayer has consistently grown from $0 annual revenue to $350 million annual revenue, and that success hasn't gone unnoticed. This year, we've been honored to win several awards based on our revenue growth percentage, how great the company is to work for, and the success of our cloud offerings, so I thought I'd share a few of those recognitions with our customers – who have fueled our success.

Trophy Case

Company Growth
Let's start with the awards that recognize SoftLayer for its tremendous financial success in the midst of a tough economic environment. This year, SoftLayer was recognized as one of the fastest growing companies as members of Tech Titan Fast Tech, Inc. 500/5000, Dallas 100, and Deloitte Technology 500.

Tech Titan Fast Tech recognizes the fastest growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and clean technology companies in Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Fast Tech recipients are determined based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth from 2008 to 2010. SoftLayer holds the #2 rank with a revenue growth percentage of 305%, calculated using the following formula [(FY'2010 Revenue- FY'2008)/ FY'2008 revenue] X 100%. SoftLayer won this award in 2008 and 2009 as well ... And based on the way 2011 is looking, we'll get another one next year.

Inc. 500/5000 ranks privately held, for-profit companies based on their revenue growth for the past 3 years. In 2010, SoftLayer ranked #155, and this year, we were #277 with a three-year revenue growth of 1,178%. The Inc 500/5000 list is also broken into industry categories and regions: SoftLayer ranked #21 in the IT Services category and #5 in Dallas.

Deloitte Technology Fast 500 lists North American companies each year based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth over a five-year period. This is the first year for SoftLayer to be on the list, and we couldn't be more excited about it. We're proud to hold #32 in this year's rankings, and we have our sights set on climbing higher.

Dallas 100 winners are selected by the SMU Cox School of Business to recognize privately held companies that headquartered in Dallas Metroplex. Similar to the Inc. 500/5000, the rankings are based on revenue growth over the past three years. In 2010, we ranked #5, and this year, we moved up all the way to #1! (Where we're supposed to be.)

Dallas 100

SoftLayer Culture
The financial success of the company is only one metric of our overall success as a business. We wouldn't be able to reach those amazing numbers without a great team, so when we get recognized for how amazing SoftLayer is to work for, I know we're doing things right. SoftLayer has been recognized twice this year for being one of the Best Places to Work. Not only are we part of the Dallas Morning News "Top 100 Places to Work in DFW," but we are among the "Best Places to Work in Texas." That's the kind of environment we wanted when we started the company a few short years ago. We hold the #10 spot for Mid-Size Companies on the DMN Top 100 Places to Work in DFW, and the "Best Places to Work in Texas" list will be released in February 2012.

Product Recognition
Oh, and as it turns out, amazing employees in a fantastic environment also create some of the most innovative products, so it should come as no surprise that SoftLayer was recognized earlier this year for our cloud offering: We are among the Top 100 Cloud Providers chosen by Alsbridge.

And when it comes to our dedicated hosting platform, you don't have to look very far to see that SoftLayer is "The Best Web Hosting Company" in the industry. If you agree, you can show a little love for us by nominating and voting for us in HostReview's 6th Annual Reader's Choice Awards.

While we want to celebrate our achievements, we also want to use them as fuel to continue the Challenging But Not Overwhelming (CBNO) work that got us to this point. We want to take the #1 spot on all of these lists in the near future, so keep an eye out ... And we'll start looking for a bigger trophy case.

Taking over the world one data center at a time!

-@lavosby

October 15, 2011

Lower Latency: Neutrino Network?

SoftLayer is on the "bleeding edge" of technology, and that's right where I'm comfortable. I love being a part of something new and relevant. I also love science fiction and find that it's mixing together with reality more and more these days. Yay for me and my nerdyness! Beam me up Luke Skywalker! (I wonder how many nerds cringed at that statement!)

In a recent post from New Scientist, a test showed neutrino particles being clocked faster than the speed of light, and a dimension-hop might be the reason. Rather than go into the nerdy parts of the article that I'm sure you read before continuing to this sentence, I want to compare how SoftLayer would use this to our (and more importantly our customers') advantage: A neutrino network! We could have the fastest network in the world, and we could use the technology for faster motherboards and components too. Because that's how we roll.

BanzaiEnter science fiction. Let's say neutrinos were indeed using another dimension to travel. Like, say, the 8th dimension as referred to in "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension." This dimension also happens to be a prison used by the Lectroids of Planet 10 to store criminals. Go figure, right? Obstacles always come up, so if our neutrino network was targeted by those Lectroids, Dody Lira and the abuse team would have no problems taking them down ... After all, Lectroid's fiddling with data can be bad for business (Not to mention the possibility of Lectroid's using our network to come back to this dimension, wreak havoc, and eat all our junk food). Dody would have to upgrade some of the tools his team uses, like a Jet Car with an "Oscillation Overthruster" (which looks eerily similar to the Flux Capacitor) to travel in and out of the 8th dimension to hunt down those pesky Lectroids that won't comply.

Then, after Dody and crew wrangle the Lectroids (as I'm sure they would), we could offer the Lectroids email and Internet service. Bam! More customers on top of a supernatural network!

Coming back to reality (a bit), we have an interesting world ahead of us. Technologies we have only seen in movies and some we haven't even imagined yet are becoming reality! If they fall into the usable realm of SoftLayer, you can bet we'll be one of the first to share them with the world. But not before we get all the bugs (and Lectroids) out.

-Brad

October 13, 2011

Fueling Startups with TechStars

One of the coolest things that we get to do as a company is support the growing and thriving community of technology entrepreneurs.

Programs like TechStars provide us with the perfect opportunity to directly plug into some of the best and brightest tech talent anywhere in the world. As the number one startup accelerator in the world, TechStars receives applications from thousands of companies each year, and they only select the best of the best to be members of the program. Member companies receive perks like top-notch mentorship, free hosting, funding and the chance to present their products to venture capitalists and angel investors at the end of the program.

Several SoftLayer executives serve as mentors for TechStars, which allows us to share some of the knowledge (and some of the mistakes) we've gathered along the way. In fact, the inaugural class of the new TechStars Cloud in San Antonio will have access to SoftLayer's CSO George Karidis, our CTO Duke Skarda and me as Mentors. Not too long ago, SoftLayer was a startup, too — just a bunch of guys with a great vision, a few credit cards, and not much more. We understand how important it is to get good help and advice from others who have traveled the road before.

That's why we created the SoftLayer Startup Program. Companies in our program receive more than just advice, best practices and industry insight from us; we also provide tangible resources. Every selected company gets a free year of hosting with SoftLayer. This includes:

  • A $1,000 per month credit for dedicated hosting, cloud hosting, or any kind of hybrid hosting setup
  • Advanced infrastructure help and advice
  • A dedicated Senior Account Representative
  • Marketing support

The selection process for the SoftLayer Startup Program is pretty competitive as well, but because Tech Stars member companies had to beat the odds to get into that program, they are granted automatic admission to our program. Several of the companies who've gone through TechStars and through the SoftLayer Startup Program have become loyal customers, and you can see many of them in our Technology Partners Marketplace, where we spotlight innovative ways members of the SoftLayer community are building their businesses on our platform.

Calling All Startups!

If you're involved in a startup right now, and you're looking to get the help you deserve, email me, and I'll help you get your application submitted for the SoftLayer Startup Program. If you're focused on Cloud Infrastructure or Cloud Tools development, you have an even bigger opportunity: Priority-consideration applications for the inaugural class of TechStars Cloud are due October 21. The first class will run in San Antonio Texas from January through April of 2012. If you need just a bit more time to apply, the final application deadline is November 2. Head over to TechStars Cloud to get more information and to apply to join the latest, greatest edition of TechStars ... And you get guaranteed admission into our program where you'll enjoy all of the SoftLayer-specific benefits above!

-@PaulFord

P.S. If you want some insight into what it's like to work in a technology incubator, we recommend the TechStars series on BloombergTV that has documented the ups and downs of a few of the participants in TechStars New York.

October 11, 2011

Working on the SoftLayer Dev Team

This post is somewhat of a continuation of a post I made here a little over three years ago: What It's Like to be a Data Center Technician. My career at SoftLayer has been a great journey. We have gone from four thousand customers at the time of my last post to over twenty five thousand, and it's funny to look back at my previous post where I mentioned how SoftLayer Data Center Technicians can perform the job of three different departments in any given ticket ... Well I managed to find another department where I have to include all of the previous jobs plus one!

Recently I took on a new position on the Development Support team. My job is to make sure our customers' and employees' interaction with development is a good one. As my previous post stated, working at SoftLayer in general can be pretty crazy, and the development team is no exception. We work on and release code frequently to keep up with our customers' and employees' demands, and that is where my team comes in.

We schedule and coordinate all of our portal code updates and perform front-line support for any development issues that can be addressed without the necessity for code changes. Our team will jump on and fix everything from the layout of your portal to why your bandwidth graphs aren't showing.

Our largest project as of late is completely new portal (https://beta.softlayer.com/) for our customers. It is the culmination of everything our customers have requested in their management interface, and we really appreciate the feedback we've gotten in our forums, tickets and when we've met customers in person. If you haven't taken the portal beta for a spin yet, take a few minutes to check it out!

SoftLayer Portal

The transition from exclusively providing customer support to supporting both customers and employees has been phenomenal. I've been able to address a lot of the issues I came across when I was a CSA, and the results have been everything I have expected and more. SoftLayer is a well-oiled machine now, and with our global expansion, solid procedures and execution is absolutely necessary. Our customers expect flawless performance, and we strive to deliver it on a daily basis.

One of the old funny tag lines we used was, "Do it faster, Do it better, Do it in Private," and with our latest developments, we'd be remiss if we didn't add, "Do it Worldwide," in there somewhere. If there's anything I can do to help make your customer experience better from a dev standpoint, please let me know!

-Romeo

October 10, 2011

A Manifesto: Cloud, Dedicated and Hosting Computing

We are witnessing a fundamental shift in the IT industry. It is forever changing the way technology is delivered and consumed. The pay-as-you-go model for everything you need in IT is shattering the old computing paradigms, from software licensing models and hardware refresh cycles to budgeting operating costs. This change is bringing about more control and transparency to users while accelerating the commoditization of IT by making it easily available through a new model.

This new model comes in three major "flavors": Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. We incorporate and enable all three by offering a unified, fully automated platform to enable greater customer control over their IT environments. The key tenants of this emerging model for SoftLayer are innovation, empowerment, automation and integration. Here's how we deliver against these four key tenants.

Innovation: We want to lead the industry by offering best of breed and proprietary cloud, dedicated, and managed hosting solutions, based on our own intellectual property. Currently, we have more than 252,000 hours invested and 2.6 million lines of code developed around these solutions. Customers can take charge of every aspect of their IT operations (servers, storage, networking & services) through our fully automated platform. Our Customer Portal and fully featured APIs give customer more control by providing direct access to more than 100 back-end systems and activities — every aspect of IT operations can be managed.

Empowerment: We turn IT operations into a predictable fixed cost. Customers can stay focused on achieving their business goals, not managing IT infrastructure. We offer expert planning and support from a certified, 24/7 support staff. Customers can deploy and scale when they want with one-day and on-demand automated provisioning. They can keep it as long (or short) as needed, with monthly contracts. In addition, customers can choose what they want to manage and what they don't, with the ability to have hybrid IT self-managed and managed environments. This speaks to the flexibility of our platform!

Automation: This is an area that makes SoftLayer stand out from the pack. We automate deployment and management of all services, accelerating provisioning time, streamlining administrative tasks, and making it all on-demand, every day and night. With automation that mitigates the risk for human error, comprehensive security practices and options, and a 24/7 team of certified engineers, we provide greater stability, a 100% Uptime Guarantee, and around the clock support for any issues or service.

Integration: This is the final ingredient to making it ALL work. We seamlessly integrate hardware, software, and networking into a unified service, all conveniently controlled through our easy-to-use Customer Portal and robust APIs. We provide full information, full-time through our Customer Portal and APIs, for every service we provide; there is no data about a system that we keep from our customers, from usage statistics to network performance and beyond. We have complete transparency.

These four key tenets are what set us apart. When SoftLayer started back in 2005, the team's goal was not to be Go Daddy on steroids. We set our sights on being the de facto platform for mainstream businesses to run all their IT operations. This means the complete gamut of applications and workloads with no compromise of performance, security, reliability and access. We are entering into a new IT era, where "connected everything" is the norm. It reminds me of the old phrase "the network is the computer" from Sun Microsystems' slogan. We have the foundation in place, which will make for an unforgettable journey. Let us know what you think.

-@gkdog

September 25, 2011

Learning the Language of Hosting

It's been a little over a month since I started at SoftLayer ... And what a difference a month makes. In the course of applying for the Social Media Coordinator position I now hold, I was asked to write a few sample blogs. One was supposed to be about what SoftLayer does, and I answered it to the best of my abilities at the time. Looking back on my answer, I must admit I had no idea what I was getting into.

On the plus side, comparing what I know now with what I thought I knew then shows how much a person with zero background in hosting can learn in a short period of time. To give you an idea of where I came from, let's look at a few theoretical conversations:

Pre-SoftLayer

Friend: What does SoftLayer do?
Rachel: They are a hosting provider.
Friend: What is a hosting provider?
Rachel: It's sort of like an Internet landlord that rents data space to clients ... I think.

Present Day

Friend: What is it you do?
Rachel: I'm the Social Media Coordinator for SoftLayer Technologies.
Friend: What does SoftLayer do?
Rachel: SoftLayer is a hosting provider, however that is a generalization. We have data centers around the country and are expanding worldwide. The company offers dedicated, cloud and hybrid environments that allow us to handle companies outsourced IT. We are infrastructure experts.

That would be a little bit of a cookie cutter explanation, but it gives a lot more context to the business, and it would probably soar above the head of my non-technical inquisitive friend.

During my first week on the job, I visited one of SoftLayer's data centers ... And that "data center" term turned out to be a little tricky for me to remember. For some reason, I always wanted to call the data center a "database center." It got to the point where Kevin challenged me to a piggy bank deal.

SoftLayer is raising money for the American Heart Association, and everyone has a little piggy bank at their desk. One of the piggy banks essentially became a "swear jar" ... except not for swearing. Every time I said "database center," I had to put a dollar in the piggy bank. The deal was extended when I was trying to remember that 1 byte (big B) = 8 bits (little b):

AHA Piggy Bank

With money on the line, I'm happy to say that I haven't confused "database centers" or bits and bytes again ... And the piggy bank on the left-hand side of the picture above proves it!

Back to the DC (data center!) tour: I learned about how CRAC units are used to pull air underneath the floor and cool the "cold aisles" in the DC. I learned about the racks and how our network architecture provides private, public, and out–of–band management networks on the back end to customers in a way unique to SoftLayer. Most importantly, I learned the difference between managed, dedicated, cloud and hosting environments that incorporate all of those different kinds of hosting. This is a far cry from focusing on getting the terminology correct.

I'm still not an expert on all things SoftLayer, and I'm pretty sure I'll end up with my very own acronym dictionary, but I must admit that I absorbed more information in the past month than I thought possible. I have to thank my ninja sensei, Kevin, for taking the time to answer my questions. It felt like school again ... especially since there was a whiteboard in use!

Kevin, enjoy your empty piggy bank!

-Rachel

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