Posts Tagged 'Improvement'

December 19, 2012

SoftLayer API: Streamline. Simplify.

Building an API is a bit of a balancing act. You want your API to be simple and easy to use, and you want it to be feature-rich and completely customizable. Because those two desires happen to live on opposite ends of the spectrum, every API finds a different stasis in terms of how complex and customizable they are. The SoftLayer API was designed to provide customers with granular control of every action associated with any product or service on our platform; anything you can do in our customer portal can be done via our API. That depth of functionality might be intimidating to developers looking to dive in quickly and incorporate the SoftLayer platform into their applications, so our development team has been working to streamline and simplify some of the most common API services to make them even more accessible.

SoftLayer API

To get an idea of what their efforts look like in practice, Phil posted an SLDN blog with a perfect example of how they simplified cloud computing instance (CCI) creation via the API. The traditional CCI ordering process required developers to define nineteen data points:

Hostname
Domain name
complexType
Package Id
Location Id
Quantity to order
Number of cores
Amount of RAM
Remote management options
Port speeds
Public bandwidth allotment
Primary subnet size
Disk size
Operating system
Monitoring
Notification
Response
VPN Management - Private Network
Vulnerability Assessments & Management

While each of those data points is straightforward, you still have to define nineteen of them. You have all of those options when you check out through our shopping cart, so it makes sense that you'd have them in the API, but when it comes to ordering through the API, you don't necessarily need all of those options. Our development team observed our customers' API usage patterns, and they created the slimmed-down and efficient SoftLayer_Virtual_Guest::createObject — a method that only requires seven data points:

Hostname
Domain name
Number of cores
Amount of RAM
Hourly/monthly billing
Local vs SAN disk
Operating System

Without showing you a single line of code, you see the improvement. Default values were established for options like Port speeds and Monitoring based on customer usage patterns, and as a result, developers only have to provide half the data to place a new CCI order. Because each data point might require multiple lines of code, the volume of API code required to place an order is slimmed down even more. The best part is that if you find yourself needing to modify one of the now-default options like Port speeds or Monitoring, you still can!

As the development team finds other API services and methods that can be streamlined and simplified like this one, they'll ninja new solutions to make the API even more accessible. Have you tried coding to the SoftLayer API yet? If not, what's the biggest roadblock for you? If you're already a SLAPI coder, what other methods do you use often that could be streamlined?

-@khazard

March 29, 2012

SoftLayer Singapore - The Impact of Automation

We hosted our first quarterly networking event in Singapore yesterday, and as I spoke with the partners, prospects, customers and SLayers in attendance, I heard some incredible stories about struggles with scaling infrastructure and how SoftLayer has revolutionized the way our customers look at their physical and virtual infrastructure. As we talked about our experiences, one of my own "war stories" came to mind, and I got to share it:

On on a Sunday afternoon in March 2002, an earthquake hit Taiwan. It measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, and it shook buildings across the island, flattening some of them and wreaking general havoc in cities. Beyond the visible damage it caused, it took out the fiber landing stations in Taiwan, cutting off Asia Pacific Internet traffic from the US. Typically when a fiber cable system is cut, telcos will scramble to re-route their traffic to the next available path, but because North Asia was crippled by the quake, all Internet traffic in Asia was being routed through Australia, causing major congestion down under, resulting in virtually zero Internet connectivity to the rest of the world.

At that time, I was VP of Sales for a leading Singapore-based hosting company. I received a call on my sales hotline at 7am on the morning after the earthquake. The caller was the CEO of a major gaming company in Australia, and he sounded desperate. All his servers — hosted in the US at the time — were unreachable, and he had been calling hosting companies all over Asia to buy some dedicated servers to host the game for his Asian customers. While I couldn't help him when it came to getting connectivity to his servers in the US, I thought it would be easy to accommodate his request for hardware based in Asia.

I asked him what server configurations he needed, and he detailed 20 identical servers that needed to be up and running for his gaming application within 24 hours, highlighting that he was losing thousands in revenue by the day. He explained that the projected revenue loss would exponentially increase to thousands per hour if the game remained offline for 24 hours more. He gave me his RAM, hard disk, OS and Database requirements, and he added, "We need all of them to be on Woodcrest!"

I remember vividly saying, "Woodcrest what? Oh, yes, yes, we have those!" I told him I'd get back to him, hung up the phone and went straight to our provisioning manager. We stock to provide 20 servers, but we didn't have any Woodcrest CPUs. There was no way we could locate, rack and provision the requested servers 24 hours ... The best we could commit to was 10 days. Obviously, that wasn't going to work, but I wasn't discouraged. I was going to solve the problem.

I managed to scrape together 20 Woodcrest CPUs from different local electronics retailers, and after wrangling cheques from the finance department and getting the CEO to apply pressure the provisioning manager, I was able to "fast-track" the servers to a four-day provisioning time. When all was said and done, he was able to bring his game back online after losing out on 8 days of business. Despite the losses, being able to turn around that kind of order that "quickly" made me pretty proud.

10 years later, I can't believe how much things have changed.

SoftLayer automates almost all of the manual processes, and we're able to provision a dedicated servers in 2-4 hours. While that's a pretty impressive feat, it's even more amazing when you consider that we can bring up 20, 50 or 100 dedicated servers in the same time frame. Just look at what OMGPOP was able to do when their "Draw Something" app was downloaded 36 million times. That's what automation is all about. Anything that we can automate, we automate, and that makes for an unbeatable user experience.

If someone came to us today with the an urgent order similar to the one I dealt with in 2002, the entire interaction above would boil down to, "What specs do you need? *typing* Here's your order number. You can expect the machines to be provisioned within 4 hours." We'd be off the phone by about 7:20am, and by noon, all of the servers would be online and hosting the game. The craziest part is that we're not even satisfied with that turnaround time yet. Our commitment is to continue to innovate, automate and empower our customers through our customer portal and APIs, and because our goals are to get better and serve our customers faster, the carrot will always be in front of us ... the same way UPS has a philosophy of "constructive dissatisfaction."

I want to thank everyone who came to our networking event yesterday. I hope you learned a little something about SoftLayer because I certainly learned a lot about our customers in the dozens of conversations I had. If you weren't able to attend and want to see what you missed, we posted a few pictures on Flickr: SoftLayer Singapore - Quarterly Networking Event - March 28, 2012

SoftLayer Singapore

Do you have any infrastructure horror stories from the past like mine?

-Michael

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

January 31, 2011

Welcome to SoftLayer 2011

Wow, I can't believe it's already 2011. I vividly remember what a big deal Y2K was and what I was doing that night. Note to self: It might seem like it was just yesterday, but it wasn't, so you should probably stop telling people you're still 29 years old.

Speaking of time flying, I've been at SoftLayer for three and a half years now. I was hired as Customer Service Manager and immediately started looking at ways to help our customers love us even more. I found some notes that I scribbled after my second week here and I notice some pretty interesting goals. Here are a few that I was able to decipher ... some we knocked out of the park, some that are continuous efforts and some that we can still implement:

Completed:

  • Implement ticket rating and survey to monitor and track support quality
  • Build an on-boarding process to help new customers in their first 48 hours
  • Streamline the cancellation process

Continuous Processes:

  • Make sure current customers know they are more important than potential customers
  • Teach our customers about our processes and procedures

To Be Completed:

  • Include a link on the website and in the portal to get immediate feedback from customers
  • Start using webinars to answer customer questions and share technical tutorials
  • Create a customer advisory board to consult as we make business decisions about things like market expansions and new product releases

What does that mean? We still have ways to make our business even better for SoftLayer customers.

Enter my renewed focus: Customer Experience. In the next few weeks, I'll be talking to internal groups and customers alike to find ways that we can improve our service, products, automation ... and everything else for that matter. These discussions will involve every department in the company, so all is fair game.

Over the course of the next few months, we'll share a few of the things we hear and what we think we can do to continue to improve the SoftLayer customer experience.

The main goal is to find the perfect way to incorporate the 4 areas above and others into our daily lives. I have a few ideas now like; the link on the website, ways to teach our customers, marketing and sales and the webinars, and we are well on our way to having customer advisory boards and user group meetings. If you have ideas, I will appreciate anything you have to offer.

-Skinman

August 11, 2008

Knowledge is Power

A few years ago, I once had a few managers who made quite an impression on me… each of them pushed me to learn as much as I could about my given profession. Each of them had a personal guideline that really stuck with me. One’s was to “learn two new things a day”, while the other’s was to “improve yourself at every opportunity”.

To this day, I still strive to learn as much as I can about the different facets of my profession. As time permits I enjoy asking my peers questions regarding the plethora of Operating Systems we use here at SoftLayer. Needless to say, there’s a limitless amount of knowledge here to learn.

Additionally, we have such resources as the local Wiki (er, SLiki – sorry Brad) where we can find almost any answer to any question we can fathom. Between the Wiki, the brain trust here at the NOC, and the wondrous internet, there’s no shortage of resources to get the answers to the questions that baffle me.

Lucky for you, the customer, we have our KnowledgeLayer, in which our team takes their knowledge, and passes it on to you, so that you, too, can benefit and quite possibly learn two new things a day.

Now, of course, I sit around and ponder - Two things per day? Why would he have set his bar so low?

-Matthew

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