Posts Tagged 'Inventory'

February 10, 2012

Amsterdam Data Center (AMS01): Does it Measure Up?

SoftLayer data centers are designed in a "pod" concept: Every facility in every location is laid out similarly, and you'll find the same network and server hardware connected to the same network. The idea behind it is that this design makes it easier for us to build out new locations quickly, we can have identical operational processes and procedures in each facility, and customers can expect the exact same hosting experience regardless of data center location. When you've got several data centers in one state, that uniformity is easy to execute. When you open facilities on opposite sides of the country, it seems a little more difficult. Open a facility in another country (and introduce the challenge of getting all of that uniformity across an ocean), and you're looking at a pretty daunting task.

Last month, I hopped on a plane from Houston to London to attend Cloud Expo Europe. Because I was more or less "in the neighborhood" of our newest data center in Amsterdam, I was able to take a short flight to The Netherlands to do some investigatory journalism ... err ... "to visit the AMS01 team."

Is AMS01 worthy of the SoftLayer name? ... How does it differ from our US facilities? ... Why is everything written in Dutch at the Amsterdam airport?

The answers to my hard-hitting questions were pretty clear: SoftLayer's Amsterdam facility is absolutely deserving of the SoftLayer name ... The only noticeable differences between AMS01 and DAL05 are the cities they're located in ... Everything's written in Dutch because the airport happens to be in The Netherlands, and people speak Dutch in The Netherlands (that last question didn't get incorporated into the video, but I thought you might be curious).

Nearly every aspect of the data center mirrors what you see in WDC, SEA, HOU, SJC and DAL. The only differences I really noticed were what the PDUs looked like, what kind of power adapter was used on the crash carts, and what language was used on the AMS facility's floor map. One of the most interesting observations: All of the servers and power strips on the racks used US power plugs ... This characteristic was particularly impressive to me because every gadget I brought with me seemed to need its own power converter to recharge.

When you see us talking about the facilities being "the same," that's not a loosely used general term ... We could pull a server from its rack in DAL05, buckle it into an airplane seat for a 10-hour flight, bring it to AMS01 (via any of the unique modes of Amsterdam transportation you saw at the beginning of the video), and slide it into a rack in Amsterdam where we could simply plug it in. It'd be back online and accessible over the public and private networks as though nothing changed ... Though with Flex Images making it so easy to replicate cloud and dedicated instances in any facility, you'll just have to take our word for it when it comes to the whole "send a server over to another data center on a plane" thing.

While I was visiting AMS01, Jonathan Wisler took a few minutes out of his day to give a full tour of the data center's server room, and we've got video and pictures to share with more shots of our beautiful servers in their European home. If there's anything in particular you want to see from AMS01, let us know, and we'll do our best to share it!

-@khazard

P.S. Shout out to the SLayers in the Amsterdam office who offered their linguistic expertise to add a little flair to the start of the video ... From the four employees who happened to be in the office when I was asking for help, we had six fluent-language contributions: English, Italian, French, Dutch, Polish and German!

**UPDATE** After posting this video, I learned that the "US" server power plugs I referred to are actually a worldwide computer standard called C13 (male) and C14 (female).

October 29, 2008

SoftLayer Thinks “Outside the Box”

Now, before a worldwide game of MBA buzz-word bingo breaks out, hear me out. Here at SoftLayer, we really do think “outside the box.” And when I say “box” – I really mean “server.” Since our inception, we have been focused an all things “outside the box.” To say it another way, we have focused on building automation systems that drive the collective datacenter environment that surrounds the server. In its simplest terms – a datacenter operating system. We call it IMS internally – IMS is short for infrastructure management system (yip – techies are ripe with creativity).

For the first couple of years, IMS development has revolved around automating all things in the datacenter including network, inventory, asset tracking, provisioning, monitoring, security, and of course all things directly living on the servers themselves. I mean, if you think about all the capabilities – it’s pretty clear. Add servers on the fly (check), add firewalls on the fly (check), add load balancing on the fly (check), interconnect all servers on the fly (check), interconnect servers in different datacenters (check), add, delete and tag IP addresses on the fly (check), reload, repair, and re-provision servers (check, check and check). We can do anything you can possibly imagine “outside the box” via our control panel or API.

Now, SoftLayer has moved to thinking “Inside the box.” That’s where virtualization is rapidly gaining ground. The entire industry understands the value of virtualization and the paradigm shift it will bring to computing. It’s quickly maturing and it’s rapidly becoming a common standard across the industry. We shifted gears about six months ago and starting incorporating virtualization technologies into Softlayer. To date, we have implemented Hyper-V and Xen with tremendous success. We have Virtuozzo from Parallels slated to go live in a couple weeks, VMWare will be available soon and then of course – our much anticipated cloud computing offering (it’s a secret). All of these technologies are virtualization and automation at the server and storage layer.

So, here at SoftLayer – we are thinking “inside and outside the box.” We are very excited about continuing to integrate virtualization technologies into our highly automated datacenter environment. It’s the perfect storm – the alignment of all technologies into a single unified backplane that can morph on the fly into any type of compute environment one needs. The question I have is – it’s easy to think inside the box – has the industry also been thinking “outside the box?”

-@lavosby

August 24, 2008

Inventory Envy

Before coming to SoftLayer in February of 2007, I worked for a large format printing company. What does that mean you ask? We printed LARGE signage, not as large as billboards, but think about a mall and all the signs in the windows and inside the stores, this is called POP (point of purchase) and that’s what I did. I was in charge of making sure schedules were met, materials were ordered (all of them, for the entire company), maintained vendor relations (so I could get what I wanted, when I wanted it) and helped start up their online ordering system, those were a few of my jobs.

I’ve been helping out the inventory team in the Dallas DC as we are getting rid of the old and bringing in the new so to speak, saying bye-bye to the legacy servers that use up too much space and too much power. Our COO asked me for my help, knowing I had an inventory background. I had also worked with one of the inventory guys at my last location. He worked in the shipping/fulfillment department, so he was always aware of inventory levels and things like that, and was responsible for letting me know when we needed more of a particular item in his department (he always did an excellent job).

Yesterday I was putting legacy servers back to a basic config and he was scanning all parts back into the portal and back out based on the basic config. I was amazed at the system. I knew our portal for our customers was amazing, but hadn’t really delved into the inventory side of our reporting, etc. until then. We know where every single piece of hardware is in each of our facilities at any given time. Each stick of RAM, each HDD, each RAID card and the list goes on and on and on. It’s simply amazing. I joked with him saying “our old bosses would freak out if they had a real inventory set up like this, wouldn’t they?” he laughed and agreed.

I had to constantly order things last minute and over night, rush delivery because inevitably, someone would not tell me they took the last roll of vinyl, the last pallet of 20” x 40” boxes, whatever it was, it happened all the time. Taking on so many hats at my last job, I didn’t have time to readily go around and check stock all the time, I relied on each department to tell me and inevitably, it failed over and over again. I had complained for years that people could just walk off with whatever they wanted, as there was no sort of tracking system in place at all. Sure, each thing had its place, but an actual inventory count at the end of each month, reports? HAHAHAHAHA.

SoftLayer not only helps our customers every single day but they also built a system so that it would make their employees lives much easier as well. Every single aspect of this business was painstakingly thought out with the amazing team of guys and gals we have here. If a report doesn’t exist, they can make it happen, sometimes in a day, sometimes it’s not so easy, but they can do it. These guys are super heroes; I’ll let them tell you what kind of super powers they have.

-Shawna

July 27, 2008

What if SoftLayer Managed Inventory and Demand Like Apple?

Quick Answer: It would be disastrous!

Consider Apple's rollout of the iPhone 3G. Full disclosure: I'm trying to get my hands on one of those new iPhones, but as yet I have been unsuccessful.

When the first iPhones rolled out in June 2007, it was understandable that Apple had no idea how many to produce in advance of the launch. It was a product that moved the smart phone concept forward in several ways, but it wasn't perfect. Also, buyers set it up at home on their own using iTunes, so the buying process was simple. Get in, pay up, and get out. The long lines moved quickly. There were rumors of overproduction based on realized demand. I bought one for my wife's birthday at the 2007 release. Buying it and setting it up was easy.

This year is very different. Because of aftermarket hacking, you are required to activate and set up the phone with AT&T service in person this time around. So if you want to jailbreak the iPhone 3G, you'll have to pay a cancellation fee to AT&T. There is no get in, pay up, and get out. The buying process is running 20 to 30 minutes at this point, and Apple and AT&T are selling TONS more phones than at last year's rollout. Stock outs are occurring everywhere. But yet, Apple is still selling them on a first come/first served basis. Yes, you can prepay at an AT&T store, but they're quoting a minimum 10 business day wait for your phone.

It would make complete sense if a few months before the launch date, folks could have logged in, paid a deposit, reserved a phone, and set up a time for activation. Apple could have better anticipated demand and tailored phone production and store staffing accordingly.

Suffice it to say that SoftLayer does not manage inventory and customer demand like Apple. We strive to anticipate demand and arrange our inventory and staffing accordingly. We do our best to find that balance to keep our inventory lean so as to not waste money on maintaining unused product, yet have enough on hand so that our customers' businesses can be scalable. In other words, when you need another server or two or two hundred, we've got ‘em for you – and ready for you to use in a few hours, tops.

Yes, you can order enough servers for us to require a few days to call in a shipment. But that would be quite a large order, and you can rest assured that you wouldn't be a nameless "first come, first served" patron.

Bottom line, if we treated the customers who want our services as Apple does their iPhone customers, we'd have a lot less of them. That's customers, not iPhones.

-Gary

Categories: 
April 17, 2008

INFRASTRUCTURE!

Wal-Mart! Champion of Retail! Who else can build a large brick box, paint it blue, stuff it with stuff, and make money hand over fist? What is the source of this power? Many will say it's their sheer size. However, this isn't true! Because what many people forget is that Wal-Mart had to start with one single store, just like every other retailer in America. So what is their secret?

INFRASTRUCTURE!

It's been said that Wal-Mart can track a single apple from the tree to the front of the store. Every piece of inventory is logged and tracked from pickup to delivery. Every single bottle of aspirin, every sock, every donut is duly logged and mashed up in massive data warehouses where giant computers munch the data and produce useful reports. You know what the most popular item is at Wal-Mart? According to an employee friend of mine, in the Cedar Creek Lake Area of North Texas, it's Bananas. They know how many bananas are sold, when they were sold, what the best day of the week is for banana sales, and which cashier is responsible for the most banana sales during a month. They can track banana sales over time, by store, region, trucking company, banana producer, you name it. They know which employee was on duty in the fresh fruit aisle when banana sales were high, and which employee used to be on duty in the fresh fruit aisle when banana sales were low. It's all in there, if you want it.

However, Wal-Mart had to build this technology from scratch. They had to install special data systems in their distribution centers. They had to build their own server farms, lease their own data lines... did you know Wal-Mart has it's own SATELLITE NETWORK?!? The Wal-Mart Satellite Network is one of the largest private satellite systems in the world, carrying real time data from every single Wal-Mart store and distribution center to Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, where it is poured into their massive data warehouse. They can plan, instantly, to take care of overstocks and shortfalls at every store, as soon as it happens.

You don't need to build your own satellite network to get competition crushing infrastructure today. Using the technology solutions provided by SoftLayer, and simple connections to the Internet, you too can have the type of infrastructure necessary to succeed in today's business world. We provide world class servers for your number crunching, huge amounts of networked storage for your data warehouse, geographically diverse datacenters for disaster security, and a private network that allows you to tie it all together as blazing high speeds. Using our awesome API 3.0, you can automate just about every part of maintaining your infrastructure. Leveraging the Internet, you can build data portals that allow your partners to keep you up to date on production, to plan finances, track bananas, whatever you want to do!

We've already taken care of the hard work required to build the infrastructure. Now all you have to do is leverage it.

-Shawn

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