Posts Tagged 'Interview'

August 31, 2011

Verecloud: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Verecloud, a technology partner that makes it easier for small- and medium-sized businesses to shop for, select, purchase, manage and monitor the performance of their cloud services and related spending.

Cloudwrangler from Verecloud

Ubiquitous Internet access and technological advances in virtualization and IT management have caused an explosion in the availability and adoption of cloud services. Just a few years ago, it would take hours – if not days – to activate a new cloud service for a customer. SoftLayer can now perform this feat with servers in minutes, and other providers of email, CRM and accounting solutions have equally fast turn-up times.

The cloud gives small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) access to enterprise grade technology so that they can compete more effectively with little, if any, capital investment, so those SMBs are prime consumers of cloud services. By moving to cloud services, their businesses gains flexibility and affordable scalability to throttle their infrastructure and services up and down as their business grows, changes, moves locations or becomes more mobile.

Even with all of those benefits, adding a little cloud here and a little cloud there ends up making it difficult for these SMBs to manage all of the disparate services. Who is paying for what? Are they accounted for in expense reports? How can you allocate the costs to your sales, marketing, operations or support departments? Is IT aware of all of the cloud services? What happens if someone leaves the company and you need to deactivate their access and reassign all of their data to other employees?

Verecloud's answer to all of these questions is the Cloudwrangler app store for small businesses. Simply put, it is a single source for SMBs to discover, buy, use and manage their cloud services. This platform makes finance happy since they can properly track and manage costs. IT is happy because they are aware of all the services being used in the company and can manage them from a single control panel. HR is happy because they can monitor and regulate employee access when necessary. Everyone is happy.

Verecloud is proud to feature SoftLayer as a key partner and suppler in the Cloudwrangler marketplace (which also happens to be powered by SoftLayer's CloudLayer Computing). In addition to the infrastructure piece, we offer business class email, backup and recovery, and collaboration capabilities that can be incorporated quickly, seamlessly and affordably into any business:

Cloudwrangler Services

We're staying busy building out more features and functionality to the Cloudwrangler marketplace, and we're excited about the partnerships we'll make as we keep the community growing. If you're interested in learning more about Cloudwrangler, visit at Verecloud.com today.

-Russel Wurth, Verecloud

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
June 29, 2011

Visualize ROI: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Mike Genstil of Visualize ROI, a SoftLayer Tech Marketplace Partner providing a flexible platform for enabling sales and marketing professionals to place ROI models on the web in an engaging format.

Don't Tell Me ... SHOW Me the Numbers

We are living in a new world of increased corporate accountability and frugality. Thanks to unpredictable markets and unscrupulous leaders, the stakes have been raised in corporate decision-making. We have entered an "ROI revolution," where CFOs, CMOs, and CIOs are demanding detailed business cases before they will make a purchase. Questions asked of vendors by executives are, "What is the Return on Investment?" and, "What is my Total Cost of Ownership?"

Based on our research, less than 5% of companies that sell into B2B environments have an effective and efficient way of creating engaging, credible business cases for customers. Most companies that sell to businesses have developed some type of spreadsheet-based "ROI calculator" to help salespeople and customers understand the ROI. Best-in-class companies often have created multiple models – one for a "business case," one for "a competitive comparison," and one for "persona-based selling." Unfortunately, these spreadsheets are not effective for several reasons:

  • They are confusing and not easily modified
  • They suffer from version control issues
  • They don't integrate with existing CRM and marketing automation systems
  • They don't easily enable the creation of scenario comparisons
  • They can't create professional looking reports

VisualizeROI solves these problems ... and more. VisualizeROI is the first SAAS-based approach to business-case selling. We launch web-based Visualizers in days, integrate with existing systems and capture a rich set of prospect data that allows management to do analysis of customers and prospects that just isn't possible today. Salesperson customization options are available, and salespeople can be notified when customers do their own analysis. It's addictive.

To get an idea of the flexibility and functionality a "Visualizer" can provide, check out the Drive vs. Fly? Visualizer I mentioned in the video with Kevin. To see business examples, you can head to www.visualize-roi.com/examples/ to see a few of the Visualizers we created to feature the platform.

If you already have your ROI model and you want to make your own Visualizer, we're ready for you: www.visualize-roi.com/create/!

-Mike Genstil, Visualize ROI

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
June 9, 2011

Postling: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog with David Lifson from our partner Postling. Postling is an ideal social media management tool for small businesses. Postling's dashboard allows the user to take control of their online presence by aggregating all of their social media accounts in one place. David will be sharing some social media tips and tricks in a separate blog in the near future.

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
June 2, 2011

3 Bars | 3 Questions: SoftLayer Culture

In the first 7 episodes of the 3 Bars | 3 Questions series, you've had the chance to meet some interesting people who work for SoftLayer. In the last installment, Paul Ford chose "The Mitch" as the next participant, and that's a bit of a curve ball. "The Mitch" isn't exactly a SoftLayer employee, but he is a character born out of the Softlayer culture, so he qualifies for an interview:

Given our company culture and the time our team spends together in the office, these kinds of jokes are pretty common, and works is a lot more fun as a result. If you want to join the "tens" of fans referenced in the video, find "The Mitch" on Facebook and "Like" accordingly.

If you want to get your very own (extremely rare and valuable) personalized copy of "The Mitch," mail your head shot to "The Mitch" c/o SoftLayer Technologies, 4849 Alpha Road, Dallas, TX 75244. And yes, employees who haven't been lucky enough to receive a print are eligible to participate as well.

-@toddmitchell

EDIT: "The Mitch" is in high demand at the cPanel office: http://sftlyr.com/a9. They might need a limited-edition cPanel-specific run.

June 1, 2011

Startup Series: Teens in Tech Labs

In my 3 Bars 3 Questions interview with Kevin a few weeks ago, I touched on the Community Development groups goals as we work with startups, incubators and customers in our Technology Partners Marketplace, and last week I had the chance to visit a young, up-and-coming incubator in the Bay Area: Teens in Tech Labs. Among some of their other projects, Teens in Tech is launching the Teens in Tech Incubator – a program built on the idea that entrepreneurship doesn't have a start age.

The incubator program lasts a little over eight weeks and is very hands on, in terms of mentor and adviser involvement. Each team invited to participate will be paired up with a group of mentors and advisers that will help during the process.

At the end of each week of the eight week program, the Teens in Tech staff will meet with each company to go over how their week went and what they think will help further build their business. Every other week, Teens in Tech will organize a dinner and have a guest speaker present to the teams ... And it gives the teams a chance to interact with each other outside of building their product.

At the end of the eight weeks, the teams will present their startups to a group of Venture Capitalists, influencers, members of the press and others at an event called "Demo Day."

Teens in Tech CEO Daniel Brusilovsky invited me to join him on a quick tour of their brand new office space in Mountain View, CA, and I made sure to grab my camera to capture the environment before the team and the incubator participants moved their stuff in:

We're happy to support Teens in Tech, and we're looking forward to seeing some of the amazing companies that'll come from the best and brightest entrepreneurs under 18 years old!

-@PaulFord

May 18, 2011

Panopta: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Jason Abate of Panopta, a SoftLayer Tech Marketplace Partner specializing in monitoring your servers and managing outages with tools and resources designed to help minimize the impact of outages to your online business.

5 Server Monitoring Best Practices

Prior to starting Panopta, I was responsible for the technology and operations side of a major international hosting company and worked with a number of large online businesses. During this time, I saw my share of major disasters and near catastrophes and had a chance to study what works and what doesn't when Murphy's Law inevitably hits.

Monitoring is a key component of any serious online infrastructure, and there are a wide range of options when it comes to monitoring tools — from commercial and open-source software that you install and manage locally to monitoring services like Panopta. The best solution depends on a number of criteria, but there are five major factors to consider when making this decision.

1. Get the Most Accurate View of Your Infrastructure
Accuracy is a dual-edged sword when it comes to monitoring that can hurt you in two different ways. Check too infrequently and you'll miss outages entirely, making you think that things are rosy when your customers or visitors are actually encountering problems. There are tools that check every 30 minutes or more, but these are useless to real production sites. You should make sure that you can perform a complete check of your systems every 60 seconds so that small problems aren't overlooked.

I've seen many people setup this high-resolution monitoring only to be hit with a barrage of alerts for frequent short-lived problems which were previously never detected. It may hurt to find this, but at least with information about the problem you can fix it once and for all.

The flip side to accuracy is that your monitoring system needs to verify outages to ensure they are real in order to avoid sending out false alerts. There's no faster way to train an operations team to ignore the monitoring system than with false alerts. You want your team to jump at alerts when they come in.

High-frequency checks that are confirmed from multiple physical locations will ensure you get the most accurate view of your infrastructure possible.

2. Monitor Every Component of Your Infrastructure
There are lots of components that make up a modern website or application, and any of them could break at any time. You need to make sure that you're watching all of these pieces, whether they're inside your firewall or outside. Lots of monitoring providers focus purely on remotely accessible network services, which are important but only one half of the picture. You also want an inside view of how your server's resources are being consumed, and how internal-only network devices (such as backend database servers) are performing.

Completeness also means that it's economically feasible to watch everything. If the pricing structure of your monitoring tool is setup in a way that makes it cost prohibitive to watch everything then the value of your monitoring setup is greatly diminished. The last thing you want to run into when troubleshooting a complex problem is to find that you don't have data about one crucial server because you weren't monitoring it.

Make sure your monitoring system is able to handle all of your server and network components and gives you a complete view of your infrastructure.

3.Notify the Right People at the Right Time
You know when the pager beeps or the phone rings about an outage, your heart beats a little faster. Of course, it's usually in the middle of the night and you're sleeping right?! As painful as it may be, you want your monitoring system to get you up when things are really hitting the fan - it's still better than hearing from angry customers (and bosses!) the next morning.

However, not all outages are created equally and you may not want to be woken up when one of your clustered webservers briefly goes down and then corrects itself a few minutes later. The key to a successful monitoring solution is to have plenty of flexibility in your notification setup including being able to setup different notification types based on the criticality of the service.

You also want to be able to escalate a problem, bringing in additional resources for long-running problems. This way outages don't go unnoticed for hours while the on-call admin who perpetually sleeps through pages gets more shut-eye.

Make sure that when it comes to notification, your monitoring system is able to work with your team's preferred setup, not the other way around.

4. Don't Just Detect Problems, Streamline Fixing Them
Sending out alerts about a problem is important, but it's just the first step in getting things back to normal. Ideally after being alerted an admin can jump in and solve whatever the problem is and life goes on. All too often though, things don't go this smoothly.

You've probably run into situations where an on-call admin is up most of the night with a problem. That's great, but when the rest of the team comes in the next morning they have no idea what was done. What if the problem comes up again? Are there important updates that need to be deployed to other servers?

Or maybe you have a big problem that attracts interest from your call center and support staff (your monitoring system did alert you before they walked up, right?) Or management from other departments interrupt to get updates on the problem so they can head off a possible PR disaster.

These are important to the operation of your business, but they pull administrators away from actually solving the problem, which just makes things worse. There should be a better way to handle these situations. Given it's central role in your infrastructure management, your monitoring system is in a great position to help streamline the problem solving process.

Make sure your monitoring system gives you tools to keep everyone on the same page by letting everyone easily communicate and log what was ultimately done to resolve the problem.

5. Demonstrate how Your Infrastructure is Performing
Your role as an administrator is to keep your infrastructure up and running. It's unfortunately a tough spot to be in - do your job really well and no one notices. But mess up, and it's clearly visible to everyone.

Solid reporting capabilities from your monitoring system give you a tool to help balance this situation. Be sure to get summary reports that can demonstrate how well things are running or make the argument for making changes and then following up to show progress. Availability reports also let you see a "big picture" view of how your infrastructure is performing that often gets lost in the chaos of day-to-day operations.

Detailed reporting gives you the data you need to accurately assess and promote the health of your infrastructure.

The Panopta Difference
There are quite a few options available for monitoring your servers, each of which come with trade offs. We've designed Panopta to focus on these five criteria, and having built on top of SoftLayer's infrastructure from the very beginning are excited to be a part of the SoftLayer Technology Marketplace.

I would encourage you to try out Panopta and other solutions and see which is the best fit to the specific requirements for your infrastructure and your team - you'll appreciate what a good night's sleep feels like when you don't have to worry about whether your infrastructure is up and running.

-Jason Abate, Panopta

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
May 4, 2011

3 Bars | 3 Questions: Community Development

I've been on the hook for a 3 Bars | 3 Questions interview for a few weeks now, and I finally found a few minutes to chat with Kevin about what's going on in the world of SoftLayer Community Development. In the past two months, we've cranked everything up to 11 with the unveiling of our Technology Incubator Program and the Technology Partners Marketplace. Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about:

Over the past few weeks, we've posted video interviews and guest blogs from a few of our featured Technology Partner Marketplace participants, and you can expect to see more where that came from as we sign on new partners with killer applications and services that we can share with our customers. If you want to be one of those new partners, fill out our quick application, and we'll get the ball rolling!

I'm looking forward to the next installment of "3 Bars | 3 Questions" because "The Mitch" - the man, the myth, the legend - will be in the hot seat.

The Mitch

-@PaulFord

April 27, 2011

AppFirst: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from AppFirst, a SoftLayer Tech Marketplace Partner specializing in managing servers and applications with a SaaS-based monitoring solution.

How You Should Approach Monitoring in the Cloud

Monitoring in the cloud may sound like it's easy, but there's one important thing you need to know before you get started: traditional monitoring techniques simply don't work when you're in the cloud.

"But why?" you may ask. "Why can't I use Polling and Byte Code Injection in my cloud infrastructure?"

With Polling, you miss incidents between intervals, you only get the data that you requested, and you can only monitor parts of the application but not the whole thing. If you choose to use Polling for your cloud monitoring, you'll have to deal with missing important data you need.

And with Byte Code Injection, you only get data from within the language run-time, meaning you don't have the real data of what is happening across your application stack. It is inferred.

Using our own product on our production systems, we have learned three lessons about running in the cloud.

Lesson #1: Visibility = Control
By definition, running in the cloud means you are running in a shared environment. You don't have the CPU cycles your operating system reports you have, and sometimes, the hypervisor will throttle you. In our experience, some cloud vendors are much better at managing this than others. When running in some clouds, we've had huge variations in performance throughout the day, significantly impacting our end-users experience. One of the reasons we chose SoftLayer was because we didn't see those kinds of variances.

The reality is until you have visibility into what your application truly needs in terms of resources, you don't have control of your application and your user's experience. According to an Aberdeen study, 68% of the time IT finds out about application issues from end users. Don't let this be you!

Lesson #2: It's Okay to Use Local Storage
The laws of physics reign, so the disk is always the slowest piece. No getting around the fact there are physical elements involved like spindles and disks spinning. And then when you share it, as you do in the cloud, there can be other issues ... It all depends on the characteristics of your application. If it's serving up lots of static data, then cloud-based storage can most likely work for you. However, if you have lots of dynamic, small chunks of data, you are probably best served by using local storage. This is the architecture we had to go with given the nature of our application.

With servers around the world streaming application behavior data to our production system all the time and needing to process it to make it available in a browser, we had to use local storage. In case you are interested in reading more on this and RAM based designs here are some posts:

Lesson #3: Know the Profile of Your Subsystems
Knowing the profile of your subsystems and what they need in terms of resources is imperative to have the best performing application. A cloud-only deployment may not be right for you; hybrid (cloud and dedicated physical servers) might work better.

As we discussed in Lesson #2 you might need to have local, persistent storage. Again, some vendors do this better than others. SoftLayer, in our experience, has a very good, high bandwidth connection between their cloud and physical infrastructure. But you can't make these decisions in a vacuum. You need the data to tell you what parts of your application are network heavy, CPU intensive, and require a lot of memory in certain circumstances. We have learned a lot from using our own application on our production system. It's very quick and easy for you to start learning about the profile of your application too.

We are constantly learning more about deploying in the cloud, NoSQL databases, scalable architectures, and more. Check out the AppFirst blog regularly for the latest.

We'd like to give a special shout out thanks to SoftLayer! We're honored to be one of your launch partners in the new Technology Partners Marketplace.

-AppFirst

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
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March 11, 2011

3 Bars | 3 Questions: SoftLayer Sales

Will Charnock put me in the hot seat at the end of his 3 Bars | 3 Questions interview last week, so I welcomed Kevin into my office virtually to have a quick chat. He came equipped with three good questions about my experience with SoftLayer SLales, and I did my best to give three good answers. Here were the questions:

  1. What makes SoftLayer different from any of the other companies you've worked for?
  2. When you're hiring a new sales representative, what do you look for in that person?
  3. What are you most excited about when it comes to the next few months at SoftLayer from a sales perspective?

This week, we used a High Definition video chat, and the quality is pretty impressive. We're still working to improve and tweak the format and quality of these videos, so you might notice a few blips in the audio recording, but we'll get those ironed out soon.

All in all, the video chat was a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to watching Drew Jenkins enjoy it in the next episode!

-Tom

March 4, 2011

3 Bars | 3 Questions: IPv6

Thanks to Marc's vote, I had the distinct honor of being the third guest on our "3 Bars | 3 Questions" series. The topic of conversation: IPv6.

Are we in a "The sky is falling!" situation yet? How can customers put pressure on their ISPs and software providers to add IPv6 support? How long with ARIN and SoftLayer have IPv4 addresses to give out now that IANA has released their entire free pool? Here's my take:

This video was recorded while Kevin was standing outside the Moscone Center in San Francisco at GDC 2011 over a mobile hotspot connection, so the video quality suffered a little. To silence the street noise, Kevin muted his side of the conversation as I spoke.

-Will

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