Posts Tagged 'Hosting'

September 15, 2011

PHIL’s DC: HostingCon

HostingCon 2011 in San Diego may have been a huge success for SoftLayer, but I walked away with a different experience following my intense pursuit of building the PHIL's DC brand. Apparently, the hosting industry wants to see my data center succeed before they believe it, and I think it's really just fear rearing its ugly head. People are afraid of what they don't understand, so the uninitiated would probably be terrified as they try to learn what I'm doing.

In an effort to help some of the bigger names in the hosting industry get in on the ground floor of PHIL's DC, I took a stroll down the HostingCon aisles. Vendors like Parallels and cPanel were obvious choices to discuss business partnerships, and I was sure TheWHIR wanted the scoop on the next big thing in hosting, so I made sure to give them all a chance to speak with me. The documentary film team I hired (the guy I met outside the San Diego Convention Center who said he'd follow me with a camera for $3.50/hour) recorded our interactions for posterity's sake:

I'd like send shouts out to thank Candice Rodriguez from TheWHIR, Aaron Phillips from cPanel and John McCarrick from Parallels for agreeing to let us film our organic interactions. They've further inspired me to build a data center that will make these apparent "snubs" and "rejections" a thing of the past. To Summer and Natalie at the SoftLayer booth: Please stop making fun of my Server Challenge attempt every time you see me at the office ... I think I had something in my eye when I was competing, so it wasn't a fair measure of my skillz.

Oh, and if you didn't get a chance to attend our "Geeks Gone Wild" party at HostingCon, you'd probably be interested in seeing video from The Dan Band's performance of "Total Eclipse of the Heart," cPanel posted it here: http://www.vimeo.com/28160105 (NSFW language, The Dan Band take artistic license with profanity)

-PHIL

August 19, 2011

SoftLayer at HostingCon 2011

In my "HostingCon, Here We Come!" blog post, I promised that SoftLayer would be Bigger, Better and Badder at HostingCon 2011, and we made some pretty ambitious plans to be sure that was the case: Six conference panels and speaking sessions, SoftLayer's biggest expo hall presence ever, in-booth presentations about everything from Portal 4 to Social Media, our infamous Server Challenge, and the biggest party in HostingCon history ... Heck, we even let PHIL attend to do some "research" for PHIL's DC. We pulled out all the stops.

Now that the dust has settled and the sunburns have started to heal, I can share a glimpse into SoftLayer's HostingCon experience with anyone who wasn't able to make it to San Diego last week.

HostingCon Expo Hall

When you walked onto the conference floor, you saw SoftLayer, and if you managed to miss our 20'x40' two-story booth or the commotion around it, you were probably in the wrong hall. Each person on our team had a chance to speak with hundreds of attendees, and at the end of every conversation, we gave some swag as parting gifts: Switch balls, foam rockets and limited-edition "Robot" T-shirts:

Robot Shirt

Our in-booth theater was the venue where Marc Jones showed off the private beta of our new Flex Images for dedicated servers, Jeff Reinis talked about how customers can take advantage of our international expansion, Stephen Johnson gave a tour of Portal 4, Kevin Hazard shared some tips and tricks to managing social media, and Phil Jackson dove into the API.

Take a virtual stroll around the conference center with us:

And as you can tell from the pictures, the Server Challenge was a big hit.

The Server Challenge

If you bring a cabinet of servers to a conference full of server geeks, you're going to get some attention. Challenge them to a hardware competition, and you'll be inundated with attendee traffic. If you aren't familiar with the in-booth activity, Kevin's blog about the Server Challenge at OSCON is a perfect place to get your crash course. If you already know all about it (and if you've competed in it), you'll be even more interested in seeing some of the action from the show floor:

At 3:07 in that video, you can see the eventual winner of the HostingCon Server Challenge complete a run on Day 1. His iPad 2-winning time was 1:01.77, and he beat some pretty stiff competition for the title of Server Challenge Champ.

Geeks Gone Wild

Put SoftLayer, cPanel and Resell.biz in a room, and you have a party. Add free drinks, a thousand of our closest friends, The Dan Band and a legendary venue, and you've got yourself the biggest party in HostingCon history:

If you took part in any or all of the above shenanigans, thank you! We owe a great deal of our success at HostingCon to you. Once everyone finally catches up on the sleep they missed last week, we'll get the wheels turning to figure out a way to go even bigger next year in Boston ... Speaking of which, does anyone know where I can get a boat that was in the Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773?

-@gkdog

August 4, 2011

Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Server Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-@khazard

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

July 19, 2011

PHIL's DC: A Tour of the Facility

In the second episode of my self-made documentary series about the birth of a revolution in hosting, I explained how Lance and I mutually decided that a better course of action would be to build a data center for the future's future, and I sketched out the basics of effective data centering. Lance sent the keys to the new non-traditional facility, and I jumped at the chance to give a tour of the amazing digs.

Because I wanted to make sure to document as much of the process as I could for this documentary film (I'm coming for you, The Social Network), you're experiencing the tour as I explore the space for the first time, so I hope you find it as magical as I did. Note: I took the liberty of acquiring suitable transportation to give you the most professional "tour" experience.

You'll note that the facility features several important characteristics of the best data center environments:

  • Heightened Exterior Security
  • Data Center Operations Area
  • Weather Tracking Station
  • Tech Support Center
  • CEO Suite
  • Redundant Bandwidth Providers
  • Multi-phase Power
  • Power Generator
  • Built-in Cooling
  • Crash Cart Station
  • Vaulted Ceilings (for warm air circulation)

Now that I've got the lay of the land, it's just a matter of drawing up some plans for server racks, plugging in some servers and getting some customers to experience the newest wave of hosting innovation!

-PHIL

July 11, 2011

Texas House Bill 1841: Hosting and Taxes

Okay, so you've read the title and passed out already ... but wait – this is good stuff! Well, maybe not "good," but at least it's relevant. The esteemed governor of Texas with the big Texas hair (and aspirations of taking his big hair out of Texas) recently signed House Bill 1841 (HB1841) into law, and that law is significant to many of SoftLayer's customers.

Last year, the Texas Comptroller's Office amended a regulation and stated that the use of a server in Texas was adequate to establish a nexus, so an e-commerce vendor who used a Texas web host was required to collect sales tax from their customers even if the vendor had no other presence in the state of Texas. This amendment immediately created issues for web hosts with data centers in Texas: Why would customers get servers from a host in Texas and have to worry about this tax obligation, when they could do business with another host outside of Texas and not have this obligation?

Well, the Comptroller's Office started to realize the effect of this regulation and began to backpedal and say that they didn't really mean what they said.

HB1841 puts the Texas hosting industry back where it was before the Comptroller made those changes: The use of a server located in Texas without any other presence is not considered a substantial nexus for collecting sales taxes. HB1841 specifically states that "A person whose only activity in this state is conducted as a user of Internet hosting is not engaged in business in this state." Note: You may be wondering if this bill applies to Amazon in Texas, but HB1841 doesn't cover Amazon because they had a physical presence in Texas (albeit one operating under a different affiliate with a different name), requiring them to pay sales taxes.

Our very own Brenk Johnson was involved in the effort to pass HB1841. He attended a couple of committee hearings, and he'll tell you his mere presence got this out of committee and in front of our governor. He is quoted as saying, "I can sit in a meeting with the best of them."

At the risk of making this blog sound like an Academy Awards reception speech, we would like to thank Jeff Clark and the crew over at TechAmerica for helping to get this bill passed. TechAmerica is a technology advocacy group that we recently joined, and they have a cracker-jack lobby group. Our CFO and I were on the verge of hiring a lobbyist for the 2009 Texas session, but we ended up not doing so. Two years later, we decided to go with this industry group, and the verdict is that TechAmerica has been a great investment ... It was also through this group that Lance became a Cloud Commissioner! We also want to thank our competitors over at RackSpace, especially their General Counsel Alan Schoenbaum, for getting us involved and for leading and spearheading the passage of this bill ... What was good for the goose was good for the gander on this one.

Because we are back to where we were a couple of years ago in the definition of nexus with relationship to hosts with data centers in Texas, this was not really a game-changing bill. It was important to clarify and undo the damage caused by the waffling that occurred in the State's Comptroller's Office, so in that sense this was a good bill for the industry. Next session we're going to aim for the game-changer: Margin taxes!

-@badvizsla

July 1, 2011

PHIL's DC: Fine-Tuning the Idea

When Lance opened the floor for SoftLayer employees to present their ideas for "innovative" approaches to the Internet, I put together a pretty ambitious proposal. As it turns out, the idea wasn't as fully baked as I may have wanted it to be, but I came to the decision to change gears a little and take a different approach.

Completely unrelated to that personal decision to adjust the direction of the project, I had a nice little chat with Lance on the phone. We decided that the world was underready for a revolution and that a more traditional nontraditional approach was in order:

The Internet needs data centers to hold all of your pictures. SoftLayer does a great job at being a data center, but I feel like there's still an opportunity for a revolution in data center design. I have a few ideas about how the world of web hosting can be completely redefined, and with the unique resources Lance has put at my disposal, I'm fairly confident that I'll be able to create a stellar hosting platform with an unbeatable discount price structure. PHIL's DC is the future of web hosting.

- PHIL

June 16, 2011

An Exercise in Innovation

Some of the best ideas come from people who think "outside of the box." SoftLayer was born in a living room six years ago when we decided to look at the staid hosting industry from a new perspective. We said, "We don't want to build a company to meet customers' current needs. We want to build a company to meet the needs our customers don't even know they have yet," and that's one of the biggest reasons the SoftLayer platform has IPv6, KVM over IP, private network, out-of-band management and standardized pod-based data centers.

Only people with a certain level of "crazy" can recognize opportunities for innovation, and because SoftLayer's motto is "Innovate or Die," to incubate innovation, we have to create an environment that enables employees to take their "crazy" and run with it. Speaking of "crazy," meet Phil.

Phil plays guitar, tests software in non-standard ways, and has a bobble-head of himself. Some would say he marches to the beat of a different drummer – a drummer that may or may not be overdosing on caffeine.

Phil was tasked with a 12-week project: If SoftLayer is built for what our customers are going to need tomorrow, figure out what customers will need after "tomorrow." He'd have access to people and resources up and down the organization to build his idea, and the experiment is set up to incubate his innovation:

  1. Because there are no bad ideas in brainstorming, anyone helping Phil should do so without questioning the logic or "sanity" of what he asking for help with.
  2. Phil can spend up to 20% of his work hours building his idea.
  3. Anyone who helps Phil can spend up to 10% of his/her work hours to build his idea.
  4. Phil can have space in H2 to build his idea.
  5. Regardless of apparent success or failure, the project will conclude at the end of 12 weeks. From there, we'll evaluate the "good" and "not as good" ideas from the experiment.

It'd be impossible to guarantee the success of any kind of project like this because it's a little like catching lightning in a bottle, but I was interested to see what kinds of operational changes he came up with over the course of the three months. We might see the evolution of the next brilliant idea in hosting, or we'd see a lot of hilariously terrible ideas.

Then I saw his first installment:

By the time I got to "circumstantiate," I had the phone in my hand to call off the project. What I didn't expect was Phil's tearful pleading to take the idea down a different path. They say you don't get a second chance to make a first impression, and despite the fact that this first impression was pretty awful, I decided to give him another shot (with a much more limited scope):

  1. Apparently there are bad ideas in brainstorming, but anyone who helps Phil on his "new path" should try to be supportive.
  2. Phil can spend up to 5% of his work hours building his idea.
  3. Phil can't take anyone else from SoftLayer away from their jobs during work hours.
  4. Phil can have space in the Houston office to build his idea.
  5. The project is scheduled to run for 12 weeks. There's no guarantee that it'll make it through next week.

If you have ideas for Phil, feel free to contribute. He'd probably appreciate the help.

-@lavosby

May 10, 2011

SoftLayer's Core Values

On my first day on the job at SoftLayer, I was taught the core values of the company: Innovation, empowerment, automation and integration. Initially, I wasn't sure if this was "marketing talk" or actually the actual driving force behind SoftLayer. Now, almost a year and a half later, I see how these core values really do power SoftLayer's success every day.

In April, I was chatting with companies at Cloud Connections in Las Vegas, and I had the chance to give them some examples of how those core values make SoftLayer so much more than just another hosting provider:

Innovation
We're constantly bringing products to market before others in the industry realize the need for them. One example of this is our early adoption of IPv6. SoftLayer was the very first hosting provider to offer our customers IPv6 and to make sure our entire data centers were IPv6-ready.

Empowerment
We give our customers full root access to their hardware so that they are able to configure their environment exactly how they want it. Beyond that, each server comes with free KVM over IP and out-of-band management network capabilities. We give complete control to our customers so that they can create their own virtual data center experience on demand.

Automation
We've completely automated the provisioning process, so we can deliver fully provisioned, customized dedicated servers in 1-4 hours and fully provisioned cloud instances in 5-25 minutes. Most of SoftLayer's competitors take a few days (sometimes even weeks) to provision what we have online in hours.

Integration
We're the only hosting provider that can offer a truly integrated solution for dedicated servers and cloud computing instances. We offer a single portal and API to manage both of these solutions. We also offer a private network that connects your dedicated servers and cloud computing instances and allows them to communicate without going out over the public network.

If you're familiar with SoftLayer, you know that these core values permeate our business. By innovating, empowering, automating and integrating, we're trying to stay ahead of the game. If you would like to experience a way-better-than-average hosting experience, I am sure SLales would love to hear from you!

3B4L!

-Summer

March 25, 2011

WorldHostingDays 2011

This week, Lance and I hopped over the pond to attend WorldHostingDays 2011 at Europa-Park in Rust, Germany. If you haven't heard of WorldHostingDays, you may be a little more familiar with WebhostingDays, its more narrowly focused predecessor. Because many of the sessions and discussions at the event have evolved and grown significantly from the pure-play "web hosting" market, the name change was a good one ... And it didn't even require tweaking the WHD abbreviation.

Given the ambitious scope of WorldHostingDays, we weren't sure what to expect from the sessions, but we were excited to hear fresh perspectives on the European-centric hosting market. We walked away from the sessions with a few new ideas to implement into SoftLayer's business, and it was interesting to hear the (regionally accented) conversations focus on the same problems and questions the US hosting industry is tackling: Public and private clouds, IPv6, scalability, stability and security.

Many European companies that are relatively new to the hosting scene are experiencing some phenomenal growth (similar to what we've seen at SoftLayer), and the opportunity is growing exponentially beyond their growth as new markets turn up with fresh needs for quality infrastructure. In these developing markets, local events in Europe like WHD will be invaluable to educate and relate how this relatively new industry might change the face of the local business environment ... And when those efforts carry into Asia, the sky is the limit on the opportunity.

We have some pretty huge global plans on the horizon, and we're excited to position ourselves for worldwide recognition. When WorldHostingDays 2012 rolls around, you're going to see an even bigger, badder and better SoftLayer.

-@gkdog

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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