Posts Tagged 'Market'

April 22, 2013

Going Global: How to Approach Expansion into Asia

Asia is an amazing place for business, but companies from outside the region often consider it mysterious and prohibitive. I find myself discussing Asian business customs and practices with business owners from other regions on an almost daily basis, so I feel like I've become an informal resource when it comes to helping SoftLayer customers better understand and enter the Asian markets. As the general manager for SoftLayer's APAC operations, I thought I'd share a few thoughts about what companies outside of Asia should consider when approaching new business in the region.

Before we get too far into the weeds, it's important to take a step back and understand the Asian culture and how it differs from the business cultures in the West. The Asian market is much more relational than the market in the United States or Europe; significant value is placed on the time you spend in the region building new networks and interacting with other your prospective customers and suppliers. Even for small purchases, businesses in Asia are much more comfortable with face-to-face agreements than they are with phone calls or emails. Many of the executives I speak to about entering Asia argue they don't have time to spend weeks and months in the region, and they make whistle-stop trips in various countries to get a snapshot of what they need to know to make informed decisions. Their businesses often fail at breaching the market because they don't invest the time and resources they need to create the relationships required to succeed. Books, blogs (even this one), consultants and occasional visits aren't nearly as important to your success as investing yourself in the culture. Even if you can't physically travel to your target market for some reason, find ways to plug into the community online and become a resource.

Asia is not homogenous. There are 20 distinct countries and cultures, dozens of languages and hundreds of dialects. There are distinct legal systems, currencies, regulatory frameworks and cultural norms. From a business perspective, that means that what you do to appeal to an audience in Singapore won't be as effective for an audience in Japan ... This is not the United States of Asia nor is there an Asian Union. Having partners in Hong Kong does not get you into China; if you want to access markets in China, you need to build relationships with partners and customers in China. One of the biggest reasons for this in-country presence to understand and avoid a "death by a thousand cuts" situation where minor, seemingly insignificant questions and problems cumulatively prevent a business from successfully entering the market. Take these questions from customers as an example:

  • When I buy from your office in Bangkok, where is the contract jurisdiction?
  • I'm in Hong Kong. Can I pay in Hong Kong Dollars? Who takes the currency risk?
  • Corporate credit cards aren't common in Vietnam. Can I pay for my online purchase in cash?
  • If I sign up for a webinar, is it at a time convenient for me (i.e. repeated for other time zones), or do I have to be at my PC at 3am?
  • If you invite me to a meeting on 12/4, is that April 12th, or December 4th?
  • When I print whitepapers from your website, do I need to resize to a different paper size?

The way you handle currencies, time zones and how you present information are barometers of how approachable your business is for users and businesses in a particular market. Most users won't reach out to you to ask those kinds of questions; they'll just move on to a competitor who answers their questions without them asking. You learn about these sticking points by having people on the ground and talking to potential customers and partners. Since globalization is "flattening" the World Wide Web, the mechanics of hosting a site, application or game in a data center in Singapore are identical to hosting the same content in Dallas. It's easy to make your data locally available and have infrastructure available in your target market, but that's only a start. You need to approach Asian countries as unique opportunities to redefine your business in a way that fits the culture of your potential customers and partners.

In my next blog, I plan to share a few best practices about management, responsiveness and responsibility, positioning, operations and marketing in Asia. These posts are intended to get you thinking about how your business can approach expanding into Asia smartly, and if you have any questions or want any advice about your business in particular, please feel free to email me directly: dwebb@softlayer.com.

-@darylwebb

March 31, 2011

The Path to Hosting 19+ Million Domain Names

If you own a business, your goal is to be wildly successful. You might look at financial growth, operational efficiencies or customer satisfaction, but at the end of the day, you want to execute on your vision to continue it. With SoftLayer's management team, company culture, innovative platform and focus on the customer experience, we've managed to become a phenomenally successful and fast-growing company.

I run the Market Intelligence group at SoftLayer, and my team is responsible for reviewing success metrics internally and in comparison with many of our competitors. We have a wealth of data at our fingertips, and one of the most interesting statistics I track is related to market switching data.

Today, I was looking closely at some of our most recent domain name data, and I came across some pretty amazing information. We have millions of data points instantly available for filtering and sorting, so we can produce some pretty insightful market intelligence that can help us make better business and customer decisions.

While reviewing that domain name information, I did a quick pivot exercise in Excel to see the number of domain names hosted by SoftLayer - not just DNS hosted by us, but a pretty comprehensive view of the number of domains hosted on our infrastructure. As of March 1, 2011, we had 19,164,117 domains. Yes, you read that correctly: More than 19 million domains are hosted by SoftLayer. To give that a little context, the total domain name pool was 282,602,796, so we hosts about 6.78% of all domain names on the Internet.

That's impressive, but it's not the end of the story.

The number of net new domains coming to SoftLayer on a monthly basis is even more remarkable ... From October 2010 to March 2011 - a 6 month snapshot - the total number of domains hosted on SoftLayer infrastructure had compounded growth of 124%:

Domain Growth

What will the next six months hold? You can bet I'll be refreshing the data to keep an eye on it. Without extrapolating much other information, I'd say that the growth numbers are astounding and they're indicative of an unwavering confidence from our customers.

-Todd

Categories: 
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

December 20, 2010

SoftLayer Market Positioning: Bang v. Buck

SoftLayer's goal is to compete on performance and control, not price. The hosting industry is crowded with competitors undercutting each other on prices, and we don't want run in the race to the bottom.

A few weeks ago, about 18,000 customers officially became SoftLayer customers. Over the past decade, they joined the fold under the banners of The Planet, EV1Servers, RackShack, ServerMatrix and maybe a half-dozen other brands. Each of those brands was positioned to appeal to specific market segments, but they shared the same pursuit of "value" to offer customers the biggest bang for their buck. There are two approaches to providing that kind of value:

  • More bang.
  • Less buck.

In many cases, the "less buck" strategy was adopted. SoftLayer takes the contrary approach by maximizing the "more bang."

If I were to put it more presidentially, I'd say, "The 'less buck' stops here."

I get to chat with customers on Twitter, Facebook, the blog and the forums, and a lot of my interactions have been about pricing: "I used to get X server for Y, but now it costs Z." The trouble is that it's tough to compare many of the offerings apples-to-apples.

If you were to create an apples-to-apples server comparison, you'd see that a SoftLayer server is the equivalent of a server from The Planet with a KVM, a private network, additional geographic network points of presence, increased network capacity, the ability to select where you want your server provisioned, faster provisioning, seamless integration with cloud solutions, and a lot more automation... And these are just the differences that came to me as I was writing.

As a customer of The Planet, you could choose to omit many of the features above. As a customer of SoftLayer, we want you to be able to take advantage of the platform that was designed holistically to making growing and maintaining your hosted environment easier. The platform's architecture was dreamt up in garages and living rooms by folks that live and breathe technology:

"It's not about pop culture, and it's not about fooling people, and it's not about convincing people that they want something they don't. We figure out what we want. And I think we're pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That's what we get paid to do." – Steve Jobs

The reactions I get when I talk about the features included in a SoftLayer server range from, ""Wow. I had no idea," to, "I don't care. I don't need any of that stuff," and as you're reading this post, you may have already decided your stance. If you don't see value in the SoftLayer platform, we might not get your next server-worth of business, but if you have just been looking at the dollars and cents, I'd encourage you to investigate some of the features of the platform and ask questions about how it might make your environment easier to manage.

Along the lines of the platform being built for the future, I have a question for you: What would you change about the SoftLayer platform? What is it missing? What do you want it to do that it doesn't do yet?

-@khazard

November 12, 2010

A Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On

General George S. Patton once said, “A good plan vigorously executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” This statement sums up the SoftLayer philosophy (well some of it anyways) - decisions are made and then quickly executed against – no paralysis by analysis here. Given the speed that the market is moving at, I think this is a good thing.

The events of the past few weeks are great evidence of a market that is moving at a rapid pace with little signs of slowing down.

  • SoftLayer opened our second DC in Dallas at the end of September. In ten days we were pushing 10 GB of traffic. Yesterday we hit 15 GB of sustained traffic.
  • Rackspace announced that they are already hosting 2 million paid users of its hosted email solution.
  • 1 million servers have been announced as registered in Cloudkick.
  • Siemens has revealed that they have 400,000 employees that interact with the HR system for a number of functions including compensation management, performance management ad career development planning via the cloud.
  • The Android version of Angry Birds was downloaded an astonishing 2 million times on its launch day. (Angry Birds publisher, Chillingo was purchased by EA for under $20 million in cash plus other “undisclosed considerations”. I keep thinking that I am in at the wrong end of this business…)
  • The US General Services Administration has announced that its Apps.gov cloud solution is going to add storage, virtualization and hosting to its portfolio. This will impact federal, state, local and tribal governments across the county. This works out to over 19 million employees, spread across thousands of departments (federal, state and local) and tens of thousands of municipalities. (SoftLayer is a part of this with strategic partners, Computer Technologies Consultants, Inc. Check out the PR stuff here.)

My suspicion is that you can pick almost any month over the previous 6 and you would find similar announcements and I suspect that they are going to continue over the next 6 months and beyond as well. The sign post seems pretty clear to me – we are in a rapidly growing market with little signs of a slowdown ahead. I don’t think this is going to be a market for the timid, companies that have a clear vision of what lays ahead and possess the ability to quickly execute against that vision will succeed. The rest will falter and miss the turn ahead. Guess where SoftLayer is going to be?

-@quigleymar

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