Posts Tagged 'Innovation'

June 28, 2012

Never Break Up with Your Data Again

Wouldn't it be nice if you could keep the parts of a relationship that you like and "move on" from the parts you don't? You'd never have to go through the awkward "getting to know each other" phase where you accidentally order food the other person is allergic to, and you'd never have to experience a break up. As it is, we're faced with a bit of a paradox: Relationships are a lot of work, and "Breaking up is hard to do."

I could tell you story after story about the break ups I experienced in my youth. From the Ghostbuster-jumpsuited boyfriend I had in kindergarten who stole my heart (and my barrettes) to until it was time to take my had-to-have "My Little Pony" thermos lunchbox to another table at lunch after a dramatic recess exchange to the middle school boyfriend who took me to see Titanic in the theater four times (yes, you read that correctly), my early "romantic" relationships didn't pan out in the "happily ever after" way I'd hoped they would. Whether the result of an me unwelcome kiss under the monkey bars or a move to a different school (which might as well have been on Mars), I had to break up with each of the boys.

Why are you reading about my lost loves on the SoftLayer Blog? Simple: Relationships with IT environments — specifically applications and data — are not much different from romantic relationships. You might want to cut ties with a high maintenance piece of equipment that you've been with for years because its behavior is getting erratic, and it doesn't look like it'll survive forever. Maybe you've outgrown what your existing infrastructure can provide for you, and you need to move along. Perhaps you just want some space and need to take a break from a project for six months.

If you feel like telling your infrastructure, "It's not you, it's me," what are your options? Undo all of your hard work, schedule maintenance and stay up in the dead of a weeknight to migrate, backup and restore all of your data locally?

When I talk to SoftLayer customers, I get to be a relationship therapist. Because we've come out with some pretty innovative tools, we can help our customers avoid ever having to break up with their data again. Two of the coolest "infrastructure relationship"-saving releases: Flex Images (currently in public beta) and portable storage volumes for cloud computing instances (CCIs).

With Flex Images, customers using RedHat, CentOS or Windows systems can create and move server images between physical and virtual environments to seamlessly transition from one platform to the other. With about three clicks, a customer-created image is quickly and uniformly delivered to a new dedicated or cloud server. The idea behind Flex Images is to blur the line between physical and virtual environments so that if you feel the need to break up with one of the two, the other is able to take you in.

Portable storage volumes (PSVs) are secondary CCI volumes that can be added onto any public or private CCI. Users can detach a PSV from any CCI and have it persist in the cloud, unattached to any compute resource, for as long as necessary. When that storage volume is needed again, it can be re-attached as secondary storage on any other CCI across all of SoftLayer's facilities. The best relationship parallel would be "baggage," but that's got a negative connotation, so we'll have to come up with something else to call it ... "preparedness."

We want to help you avoid break ups and provide you easy channels to make up with your old infrastructure if you have a change of heart. The result is an infrastructure that's much easier to manage, more fluid and less dramatic.

Now if I can only figure out a way to make Flex Images and portable storage volumes available for real-life relationships .... I'd make millions! :-)

-Arielle

June 13, 2012

SoftLayer Private Clouds - A Cloud to Call Your Own

Those of us who've been in this industry for years have seen computing evolve pretty significantly, especially recently. We started with dedicated servers running a single operating system, and we were floored by innovations that allowed dedicated servers to run a hypervisor with many operating systems. The next big leap brought virtual machine "cloud" instances into the spotlight ... And the resulting marketing shenanigans have been a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, the approachable "cloud" term is a lot easier to talk about with a nontechnical audience, but on the negative side, we see uninformative TV commercials that leverage cloud as a marketing term, and we see products that further obfuscate what cloud technology actually means:

Cloud Phone?

To make sure we're all on the same page, as we continue to talk about "cloud," our definition is pretty straightforward:

  • It's an operations model.
  • It provides capacity on demand.
  • It offers consumption-based pricing.
  • It features self-service provisioning.
  • It can be accessed and managed via an API.

Understanding those characteristics, when you hear about cloud in the hosting industry, you're usually hearing about cloud computing instances in a public cloud environment. An instance in a public cloud is one of many instances operating on a shared cloud infrastructure alongside other similar instances that aren't managed by you. Your data is still secure, and you can still get good performance in a public cloud environment, but you're not managing the cloud infrastructure on which your instance resides ... You're using a piece of a cloud.

What we announced at Cloud Expo East is the next step in the evolution of technology in our industry ... We're providing a turnkey, on-demand way for our customers to provision their own Private Clouds with Citrix CloudPlatform, powered by Apache CloudStack.

You don't get a piece of the cloud. You have your own cloud, provisioned in a matter of hours on a month-to-month contract.

For those who have looked into building a private cloud for their business in the past, it's probably worth reiterating: With SoftLayer and CloudStack, you can have a geographically distributed, secure, private cloud environment provisioned in a matter of hours (not months). Given the complexity of a private cloud environment — involving a management server, private cloud zones, host servers and object storage — this is no small feat.

SoftLayer Private Clouds

Those unbelievable provisioning times are only part of the story ... When that cloud infrastructure is deployed quickly, it's fully integrated into the SoftLayer platform, so it leverages our global private network alongside your existing bare metal, dedicated and virtual servers. Want to add public cloud instances to your private cloud as web heads? You'll log into one portal or use a singular API to have that done in an instant.

Your own cloud infrastructure, fully integrated into SoftLayer's global infrastructure. If you're chomping at the bit to try it out for yourself, email us at privateclouds@softlayer.com, and we'll get you on the "early access" list.

Before I sign off, I want to be sure to thank everyone at SoftLayer and Citrix who worked so hard to make SoftLayer Private Clouds such an amazing new addition to our platform.

-@nday91

May 31, 2012

The Few. The Proud. The Red Herring Top 100.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending Red Herring's Top 100 North America Tech Award ceremony in Santa Monica. If you're not familiar with Red Herring, it harkens back to the headier days of the of the dot-com era in the late 90's and early 00's. While the markets have fluctuated quite a bit in the last dozen years, the startup scene has survived, and the optimism of the dot-com boom is still alive and well, albeit via more focused entrepreneurs that intentionally practice cold hard pragmatism and have bootstrap mentalities.

Today, the Red Herring Top 100 still serves as a great barometer for identifying promising new companies and entrepreneurs. The publication's editors are quick to point out that they were among the first to recognize that companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Skype, Salesforce.com, YouTube and eBay would change the way we live and work. That's the start to a pretty nice little "alumni" list if you ask me.

How does a company make the cut?

The Top 100 were judged on both quantitative and qualitative criteria, such as financial performance, technology innovation, quality of management, IP creation, CAGR, execution of strategy, and disruption in their respective industries.

Before the Top 100 are selected, each finalist has an opportunity to pitch their business model and share why they think they should be included. I heard one entrepreneur say, "I have over a million dollars invested from my family and friends, so this can't fail." These businesses may have started as simple ideas, but they're fueled by an entrepreneurial passion that have pushed them to become truly remarkable. Many of the finalists had already reached a certain level of success and were trying to build and scale-out their ideas — everything from new mobile apps, open source and storage offerings to cloud and big data optimized solutions.

While preparing a little bit of information for SoftLayer's presentation, I was pleasantly surprised to see that more than 20 finalists for Red Herring's Top 100 Americas Award were active SoftLayer customers!

10gen, AppFirst, Backupify, BrightRoll, Clickable, Cloudant, Cloudera, CVision Technologies, MedAvante, OPOWER, Optify, PageFreezer Software, Refinery29, richrelevance, RingRevenue, SAY Media, TagMan, VigLink and Zencoder

After the editors made the tough decisions to narrow down the finalists to the Top 100 winners, SoftLayer was honored and excited to join 10gen, Backupify, Cloudera, CVision Technologies, MedAvante, PageFreezer Software, RingRevenue, VigLink and Zencoder. At least 10% of the 2012 Red Herring Americas Top 100 companies are using SoftLayer.

Red Herring Americas Award

Early in my tenure at SoftLayer, a colleague told me, "We aren't looking to be the next big thing, we are looking to enable it." That's probably not going to stop us from throwing our hat in the ring to be considered for the Global 100 this fall, though.

-Andre

May 30, 2012

What Does Automation Look Like?

Innovation. Automation. Innovation. Automation. Innovation. Automation. That's been our heartbeat since SoftLayer was born on May 5, 2005. The "Innovation" piece is usually the most visible component of that heartbeat while "Automation" usually hangs out behind the scenes (enabling the "Innovation"). When we launch a new product line like Object Storage, add new functionality to the SoftLayer API, announce a partnership with a service provider like RightScale, or simply receive and rack the latest and greatest server hardware from our vendors, our automated platform allows us to do it quickly and seamlessly. Because our platform is built to do exactly what it's supposed to without any manual intervention, it's easily overlooked.

But what if we wanted to show what automation actually looks like?

It seems like a silly question to ask. If our automated platform is powered by software built by the SoftLayer development team, there's no easy way to show what that automation looks like ... At least not directly. While the bits and bytes aren't easily visible, the operational results of automation are exceptionally photogenic. Let's take a look at a few examples of what automation enables to get an indirect view of what it actually looks like.

Example: A New Server Order

A customer orders a dedicated server. That customer wants a specific hardware configuration with a specific suite of software in a specific data center, and it needs to be delivered within four hours. What does that usually look like from an operations perspective?

SoftLayer Server Rack

If you want to watch those blinking lights for two or three hours, you'll have effectively watched a new server get provisioned at SoftLayer. When an order comes in, the automated provisioning system will find a server matching the order's hardware requirements in the requested data center facility, and the software will be installed before it is handed over to the the customer.

Example: Server Reboot or Operating System Reload

A customer needs to reboot a server or install a new operating system. Whether they want a soft reboot, a hard reboot with a full power cycle or a blank operating system install, the scene in the data center will look eerily familiar:

SoftLayer Server Rack

Gone are the days of server build technicians wheeling a terminal over to every server that needs work done. From thousands of miles away, a customer can remotely "unplug" his or her server via the rack's power strip, initiate a soft reboot or reinstall an operating system. But what if they want even more accessibility?

Example: What's on the Screen?

When remotely rebooting or power cycling a server isn't enough, a customer might want someone in the data center to wheel over to their server in the rack to look at any of the messages that can only be read with a monitor attached. This would generally happen behind the server, but for the sake of this example, we'll just watch the data center technician pass in front of the servers to get to the back:

SoftLayer Server Rack

Yeah, you probably could have seen that one coming.

Because KVM over IP is included on every server, physical carts carrying "keyboard, video and mouse" are few and far between. By automating customers' access to their server and providing as much virtual access as we possibly can, we're able to "get out of the way" of our technical users and only step in to help when that help is needed.

I could go on and on with examples of cloud computing upgrades and downgrades, provisioning a firewall or adding a load balancers, but I'll practice a little restraint. If you want the full effect, you can scroll up and watch the blinking lights a little while longer.

Automation looks like what you don't see. No humanoid robots or needlessly complex machines (that I know of) ... Just a data center humming along with some beautiful flashing server lights.

-Duke

P.S. If you want to be able to remotely bask in the glow of some blinking server lights, bookmark the larger-sized SoftLayer Rack animated gif ... You could even title the bookmark, "Check on the Servers."

May 1, 2012

SoftLayer, Entrepreneurship and the White House

The past two weeks have been HUGE for the SoftLayer community development team and our Catalyst Program. In addition to the typical insanity of crisscrossing the country to attend startup events and scheduled "office hours" in Boulder, San Francisco, Boston and New York City, I was invited to visit a pretty noteworthy address in Washington, D.C.: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Yes ... SoftLayer was invited to the White House!

I was honored and humbled to be recognized as one of 5 Entrepreneurs in Residence for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. As a part of the Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative, I joined the other private sector participants in the Secretary of War Suite on April 26 for an EIR roundtable meeting. I'd describe the meeting as "historic," but given the "history" at the White House, I might have to choose a different word:

SoftLayer at the White House

The USCIS is looking to make it easier for entrepreneurs and innovators to get to the United States to have the opportunity and resources they need to build the next Google or Facebook ... or SoftLayer. It's no coincidence that the Entrepreneurs in Residence roundtable discussion harkened to a few hundred similar conversations I've had with startups, startup accelerators and incubator programs so far this year. On the topic of startups, I wasn't just an empty suit ... though I was wearing a suit (for a change).

SoftLayer at the White House

When it comes to credibility in the startup space, SoftLayer has become quite an authority. Beyond our own growth and success as a startup a few short years ago, we've spent the last year investing in relationships with startup communities and the organizations fueling innovation in the US and around the world. For a perfect example of that investment, just look at today's news: SoftLayer Gives Next Generation of Entrepreneurs Foundation for Success with TechStars National Sponsorship.

You've heard us say it a million times, and you'll probably hear us say it a million more: SoftLayer loves startups, and we want to do everything we can to inspire, mentor and cultivate the next wave of world-changing businesses. From providing mentorship and hosting credits to participating in the conversations that will shape the startup landscape in the US for years to come, SoftLayer's representing.

If you have an idea, a business plan or just a brilliantly talented team looking for some direction, take a look at the TechStars 2012 Program Schedule and Apply for TechStars to get in on their fun in San Antonio, Boston, NYC, Boulder or Seattle. If you already have a killer startup that just needs a little help in scaling your success, hit us up at startups@softlayer.com, and we can tell you a little more about the Catalyst Program.

-@PaulFord

April 24, 2012

RightScale + SoftLayer: The Power of Cloud Automation

SoftLayer's goal is to provide unparalleled value to the customers who entrust their business-critical computing to us — whether via dedicated hosting, managed hosting, cloud computing or a hybrid environment of all three. We provide the best platform on the market, delivering convenience, ease of use, compelling return on investment (ROI), significant competitive advantage, and consistency in a world where the only real constant seems to be change.

That value proposition is one of the biggest driving forces behind our partnership with RightScale. We're cloud computing soul mates.

RightScale

RightScale understands the power of automation, and as a result, they've created a cloud management platform that they like to say delivers "abstraction with complete customization." RightScale customers can easily deploy and manage applications across public, private and hybrid cloud environments, unencumbered by the underlying details. They are free to run efficient, scalable, highly available applications with visibility into and control over their computing resources available in one place.

As you know, SoftLayer is fueled by automation as well, and it's one of our primary differentiators. We're able to deliver a phenomenal customer experience because every aspect of our platform is fully and seamlessly automated to accelerate provisioning, mitigate human error and provide customers with access and features that our competitors can only dream of. Our customers get simple and total control over an ever-expanding number of back-end services and functions through our easy-to-use Customer Portal and via an open, robust API.

The compatibility between SoftLayer and RightScale is probably pretty clear already, but if you needed another point to ponder, you can ruminate on the fact that we both share expertise and focus across a number of vertical markets. The official announcement of the SoftLayer and RightScale partnership will be particularly noteworthy and interesting in the Internet-based business and online gaming market segments.

It didn't take long to find an amazing customer success story that demonstrated the value of the new SoftLayer-RightScale partnership. Broken Bulb Game Studios — the developer of social games such as My Town, Braaains, Ninja Warz and Miscrits — is already harnessing the combined feature sets made possible by our partnership with RightScale to simplify its deployment process and scale to meet its customers' expectations as its games find audiences and growing favor on Facebook. Don't take our word for it, though ... Check out the Broken Bulb quote in today's press release announcing the partnership.

Broken Bulb Game Studios

Broken Bulb and other developers of social games recognize the importance of getting concepts to market at breakneck speed. They also understand the critical importance of intelligently managing IT resources throughout a game's life cycle. What they want is fully automated control over computing resources so that they can be allocated dynamically and profitably in immediate response to market signals, and they're not alone.

Game developers of all sorts — and companies in a growing number of vertical markets — will need and want the same fundamental computing-infrastructure agility.

Our partnership with RightScale is only beginning. You're going to see some crazy innovation happening now that our cloud computing mad scientists are all working together.

-Marc

April 17, 2012

High Performance Computing for Everyone

This guest blog was submitted by Sumit Gupta, senior director of NVIDIA's Tesla High Performance Computing business.

The demand for greater levels of computational performance remains insatiable in the high performance computing (HPC) and technical computing industries, as researchers, geophysicists, biochemists, and financial quants continue to seek out and solve the world's most challenging computational problems.

However, access to high-powered HPC systems has been a constant problem. Researchers must compete for supercomputing time at popular open labs like Oak Ridge National Labs in Tennessee. And, small and medium-size businesses, even large companies, cannot afford to constantly build out larger computing infrastructures for their engineers.

Imagine the new discoveries that could happen if every researcher had access to an HPC system. Imagine how dramatically the quality and durability of products would improve if every engineer could simulate product designs 20, 50 or 100 more times.

This is where NVIDIA and SoftLayer come in. Together, we are bringing accessible and affordable HPC computing to a much broader universe of researchers, engineers and software developers from around the world.

GPUs: Accelerating Research

High-performance NVIDIA Tesla GPUs (graphics processing units) are quickly becoming the go-to solution for HPC users because of their ability to accelerate all types of commercial and scientific applications.

From the Beijing to Silicon Valley — and just about everywhere in between — GPUs are enabling breakthroughs and discoveries in biology, chemistry, genomics, geophysics, data analytics, finance, and many other fields. They are also driving computationally intensive applications, like data mining and numerical analysis, to much higher levels of performance — as much as 100x faster.

The GPU's "secret sauce" is its unique ability to provide power-efficient HPC performance while working in conjunction with a system's CPU. With this "hybrid architecture" approach, each processor is free to do what it does best: GPUs accelerate the parallel research application work, while CPUs process the sequential work.

The result is an often dramatic increase in application performance.

SoftLayer: Affordable, On-demand HPC for the Masses

Now, we're coupling GPUs with easy, real-time access to computing resources that don't break the bank. SoftLayer has created exactly that with a new GPU-accelerated hosted HPC solution. The service uses the same technology that powers some of the world's fastest HPC systems, including dual-processor Intel E5-2600 (Sandy Bridge) based servers with one or two NVIDIA Tesla M2090 GPUs:

NVIDIA Tesla

SoftLayer also offers an on-demand, consumption-based billing model that allows users to access HPC resources when and how they need to. And, because SoftLayer is managing the systems, users can keep their own IT costs in check.

You can get more system details and pricing information here: SoftLayer HPC Servers

I'm thrilled that we are able to bring the value of hybrid HPC computing to larger numbers of users. And, I can't wait to see the amazing engineering and scientific advances they'll achieve.

-Sumit Gupta, NVIDIA - Tesla

March 22, 2012

Building. Business. SoftLayer.

"If you build it, he will come."

I hope I'm not alone as I find myself whispering those words in my head as I read them. If you've seen Field of Dreams*, you know that Kevin Costner mysteriously hears and sees things no one else can see, and he seems like a lunatic when he follows the instructions of his invisible guide. He builds a baseball diamond on his farm land, and famous baseball players like Shoeless Joe Jackson come to play from the afterlife. He took a risk to build something with faith that it would yield results.

It's a lot like the way most visionaries and entrepreneurs take risks to make their marks on the world.

Taking an idea from inception to market is much like building a baseball field in the middle of your farmland. You can factor in all the "knowns" (size, shape, materials, etc.), but in the end, you have to trust that consumers will come. Faith in a product or service drives the concept forward, and second-guessing it or working at it halfheartedly can destroy its slim chance of success. As a company so keenly focused on innovation ourselves, we find that other innovators are drawn to us, and because I've had the unique opportunity to work with many of our extremely successful companies, I thought I'd put together a few simple questions you might ask yourself as you transition from inspiration to action:

  1. Is your idea possible to execute? Will it be easy for the market to understand and adopt?
  2. Are there technologies available to deliver the idea or will you need to build your own?
  3. Are the resources you're using to build the product the best you can leverage?

If you answered, "No," to the first question, you might want to hit the drawing board to come up with a new strategy or approach as you aim to meet the unmet needs of the market. Don't get discouraged at this point ... By spending more time simplifying and clarifying your idea, you're saving an exponentially greater amount of time that you'd waste having to redefine or reposition your product down the road. If you answered, "Yes," move on to Question 2.

Question 2 will start setting a baseline of the amount of effort required to get your idea to a functional state. You might hang on Question 2 for a while as you learn more about available technologies or lay the groundwork for your project, but by doing so, you'll have a more concrete estimate of the timeline you can expect. Once you feel confident and comfortable with the answers to Question 1 and Question 2, the last step you need to take is to Question 3.

Question 3 can be pretty far-reaching — people, technologies and even hardware/software. These are some of the "knowns" that I referenced earlier. Note that "the best you can leverage" is not necessarily going to be "the best available." Startup ideas generally are equipped with startup resources. Cost, expertise and comfort are going to play a huge role in the adoption of resources.

One of the big roadblocks many budding entrepreneurs run into is that they have trouble preparing for success. Build your product with the expectation that it will be successful. Know what you can do to accommodate the spike in demand you'll see when Oprah and Bono give you a shout-out.

SoftLayer has been successful because we did our best to answer with those three questions, and as we continue to grow and succeed, we live and breathe innovation. We'd like to think that we're some of "the crazy ones" Apple referenced in its epic "Think Different" campaign, and we want to empower our customers to be a little crazy themselves.

-Clayton

*If you haven't seen Field of Dreams yet, you should find a way to watch it immediately, if not sooner.

March 12, 2012

Quantifying Culture: From Intern to Full-Time SLayer

I've worked two months as a full-time employee at SoftLayer, but if you were to ask anyone here, they'd say I've been a SLayer for much longer. They're half right. I've been around, but not as a full-time employee. I started my SoftLayer journey as an intern in the summer before what was supposed to be my last full year of college. After that brief glimpse at what working at SoftLayer was like, I made the decision to condense my senior year into one semester (packed with 33 course credits and countless nights spent in the library) to get back to Dallas to sign on as an official SoftLayer employee. You might wonder why someone would give up her senior year of college to get into the working world ... To me it wasn't about "giving something up" as much as it was about "gaining an opportunity" to work for a company that fosters a culture I genuinely love! I literally could not wait to be back.

There are so many stories I could divulge about my time at SoftLayer — from company events with amusing endings to very thoughtful nicknames to a boss who has transformed into a friend and mentor. I'm not sure how many of these stories would be appreciated to a non-SLayer, and even if I tried to share them, I know they wouldn't do SoftLayer's culture justice. Honestly, I cannot make you understand what makes SoftLayer "SoftLayer." It's not just a name on a building ... It's the experience of getting a group of passionate people in a room to create and innovate. When you're surrounded by that atmosphere, you challenge yourself to be better ... And this blog is a testament to that atmosphere.

I would not consider myself a writer, and I was very hesitant to write this blog. This will be my first contribution to The Innerlayer, and writing the first words on a blank canvas is always intimidating. As I sat at my desk, wracking my brain for where to begin, it took all of five minutes for a fellow employee to recognize my struggles, pick up her laptop and come over to my desk with her work to help me turn my thoughts into words. I don't know of many other companies where it would be normal (or even allowed) to literally bring your work station to another person's desk to share time so generously.

An opportunity to join a culture like that is worth a lot more than a lighter course load and a longer senior year. And it's only one of many examples I can think of that happen on a regular basis that make working at SoftLayer so enjoyable.

Immediately after having finished this blog, I realized I wasn't stumped on the idea of writing a blog ... I was trying to decide how to adequately convey what SoftLayer's culture feels like to someone who doesn't get to experience it. I realize it's a matter of comprehending the incomprehensible. All I can tell you is that I don't regret giving up anything by accelerating my senior year. Truth be told, I am learning more here than any classroom, professor or project could have taught me.

Want to join us? There are more than forty available positions at SoftLayer in all of our worldwide locations. What are you waiting for?

-Katie (aka "KornFed" aka "Kansas" aka "Pippa")*

*I told you there were thoughtful nicknames.

March 1, 2012

MassChallenge = Massive Opportunity

What would you do if your business received $50,000-$100,000 with no strings attached and no equity given up? Spend it to market to new customers? Invest in your infrastructure to scale your application? Use it lease office space that doesn't sit above a bowling alley? Buy all of your employees puppies? It's a dilemma that every startup on the planet would love to face, and with the launch of this year's MassChallenge Startup Accelerator and Competition, that "dilemma" won't just be theoretical.

MassChallenge

If you haven't heard of MassChallenge before, here's the quick rundown: MassChallenge is the largest startup accelerator and competition in the world, and the first to support high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs with no strings attached. Participants are invited to a three-month accelerator program with world-class mentorship and training, free office space, access to funding, media and more. 15-20 startups are selected as winners of $50,000-$100,000, totaling $1.1M in cash awards. $4M+ in-kind support is provided (including some hosting goodness from SoftLayer). It's open to all: Any startup can enter, from anywhere, in any industry. No equity is taken. No restrictions apply.

Every entrant, not just the winners, will receive access to workshops, mentors, executives, other team members and sources of funding. Experts from the Massachusetts tech ecosystem will identify the highest potential startups, which will receive cash prizes and will qualify for privileged access to funding sources from across Massachusetts.

Why is MassChallenge important to SoftLayer? Well SoftLayer Loves Startups, and as an expression of that love, SoftLayer's Catalyst Program — our technology entrepreneur mentorship initiative will provide $25,000 cash to MassChallenge in addition to $1,000 per month of credit for qualifying participants to use on the SoftLayer platform (servers, cloud instances, storage, etc.) for one full year ... Which is reason enough to participate, right?

We're no strangers to the startup scene, and the reception we've received from organizations like MassChallenge, TechStars Cloud and Beta have only reinforced our commitment to communities created to foster entrepreneurship and innovation. I can't count the number of killer startups I've met in the past month (much less the past year), and I'm blown away by the portfolio of startup companies already in the Catalyst Program ... That's not a reason to be satisfied, though. We're not resting on our laurels; we're speeding up.

What does it mean for you as an entrepreneur? Easy: You need to sign up immediately, if not sooner. The deadline for applications for the 2012 competition is April 11, and if you apply before March 15, you'll be eligible for a $100 discount on the application fee. Visit masschallenge.org to learn more and get the ball rolling.

-@PaulFord

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