Posts Tagged 'Network'

July 12, 2012

An Insider's Look at SoftLayer's Growth in Amsterdam

Last week, SoftLayer was featured on the NOS national news here in the Netherlands in a segment that allowed us to tell our story and share how we're settling into our new Amsterdam home. I've only been a SLayer for about nine months now, and as I watched the video, I started to reflect on how far we've come in such a surprisingly short time. Take a second to check it out (don't worry, it's not all in Dutch):

To say that I had to "hit the ground running" when I started at SoftLayer would be an understatement. The day after I got the job, I was on a plane to SoftLayer's Dallas headquarters to meet the team behind the company. To be honest, it was a pretty daunting task, but I was energized at the opportunity to learn about how SoftLayer became largest privately owned hosting company in the world from the people who started it. When I look back at the interview Kevin recorded with me, I'm surprised that I didn't look like a deer in the headlights. At the time, AMS01 was still in the build-out phase, so my tours and meetings in DAL05 were both informative and awe-inspiring.

When I returned to Europe, I was energized to start playing my role in the company's new pursuit of its global goals.

It didn't take long before I started seeing the same awe-inspiring environment take place in our Amsterdam facility ... So much so that I'm convinced that at least a few of the "Go Live Crew" members were superhuman. As it turns out, when you build identical data center pods in every location around the world, you optimize the process and figure out the best ways to efficiently use your time.

By the time the Go Live Crew started packing following the successful (and on-time) launch of AMS01, I started feeling the pressure. The first rows of server racks were already being filled by customers, but the massive data center space seemed impossibly large when I started thinking of how quickly we could fill it. Most of my contacts in Europe were not familiar with the SoftLayer name, and because my assigned region was Europe Middle East and Africa — a HUGE diverse region with many languages, cultures and currencies — I knew I had my work cut out for me.

I thought, "LET'S DO THIS!"

EMEA is home to some of the biggest hosting markets in the world, so my first-week whirlwind tour of Dallas actually set the stage quite nicely for what I'd be doing in the following months: Racking up air miles, jumping onto trains, attending countless trade shows, meeting with press, reaching out to developer communities and corresponding with my fellow SLayers in the US and Asia ... All while managing the day-to-day operations of the Amsterdam office. As I look back at that list, I'm amazed how the team came together to make sure everything got done.

We have come a long way.

As I started writing this blog, BusinessReview Europe published a fantastic piece on SoftLayer in their July 2012 magazine (starting on page 172) that seems to succinctly summarize how we've gotten where we are today: "Innovation Never Sleeps."

BusinessReview Europe

Our first pod is almost full of servers humming and flashing. When we go to tradeshows and conferences throughout Europe, people not only know SoftLayer, many of them are customers with servers in AMS01. That's the kind of change we love.

The best part of my job right now is that our phenomenal success in the past nine months is just a glimmer of what the future holds. Come to think of it, we're going to need some more people.

-@jpwisler

July 5, 2012

Bandwidth Utilization: Managing a Global Network

SoftLayer has over 1,750 Gbit/s of network capacity. In each of our data centers and points of presence, we have an extensive library of peering relationships and multiple 10 Gbit/s connections to independent Tier 1 carriers. We operate one of the fastest, most reliable networks on the planet, and our customers love it:

From a network operations standpoint, that means we have our work cut out for us to keep everything running smoothly while continuing to build the network to accommodate a steady increase in customer demand. It might be easier to rest on our laurels to simply maintain what we already have in place, but when you look at the trend of bandwidth usage over the past 18 months, you'll see why we need to be proactive about expanding our network:

Long Term Bandwidth Usage Trend

The purple line above plots the 95th percentile of weekly outbound bandwidth utilization on the SoftLayer network, and the red line shows the linear trend of that consumption over time. From week to week, the total usage appears relatively consistent, growing at a steady rate, but when you look a little deeper, you get a better picture of how dynamic our network actually is:

SoftLayer Weekly Bandwidth Usage

The animated gif above shows the 2-hour average of bandwidth usage on our entire network over a seven-week period (times in CDT). As you can see, on a day-to-day basis, consumption fluctuates pretty significantly. The NOC (Network Operations Center) needs to be able to accommodate every spike of usage at any time of day, and our network engineering and strategy teams have to stay ahead of the game when it comes to planning points of presence and increasing bandwidth capacity to accommodate our customers' ever-expanding needs.

But wait. There's more.

Let's go one level deeper and look a graph of the 95th percentile bandwidth usage on 5-minute intervals from one week in a single data center:

Long Term Bandwidth Usage Trend

The variations in usage are even more dramatic. Because we have thirteen data centers geographically dispersed around the world with an international customer base, the variations you see in total bandwidth utilization understate the complexity of our network's bandwidth usage. Customers targeting the Asian market might host content in SNG01, and the peaks in bandwidth consumption from Singapore will counterbalance the valleys of consumption at the same time in the United States and Europe.

With that in mind, here's a challenge for you: Looking at the graph above, if the times listed are in CDT, which data center do you think that data came from?

It would be interesting to look at weekly usage trends, how those trends are changing and what those trends tell us about our customer base, but that assessment would probably be "information overload" in this post, so I'll save that for another day.

-Dani

P.S. If you came to this post expecting to see "a big truck" or "a series of tubes," I'm sorry I let you down.

July 4, 2012

Cedexis: Tech Partner Spotlight

This guest blog features Cedexis, a featured member of the SoftLayer Technology Partners Marketplace. Cedexis a content and application delivery system that offers strategies and solutions for multi-platform content and application delivery to companies focused on maximizing web performance. In this video we talk to Cedexis Co-Founder Julien Coulon.

Company Website: www.cedexis.com
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/cedexis

A Multi-Cloud Strategy - The Key to Expansion and Conversion

Web and mobile applications have collapsed geographic barriers to business, bringing brand and commerce experiences ever-closer to increasingly far-flung customers. While web-based business models are powerful enablers for global expansion, they also create new a new challenge in managing availability and performance across diverse and distributed markets: How do you ensure consistent web performance across all markets without investing in physical infrastructure in all of those markets?

Once a business gets its core business on a consistent and reliable provider like SoftLayer, we typically recommend that they consider a multi-cloud strategy that will spread availability and performance risk across a global infrastructure of public and private data centers, delivery networks and cloud providers. Regardless of how fantastic your core SoftLayer hosting is, the reality is that single-source dependency introduces significant business risk. Fortunately, much of that business risk can be mitigated by adding a layer of multi-cloud architecture to support the application.

Recent high-profile outages speak to the problem that multi-sourcing solves, but many web-based operations remain precariously dependent on individual hosting, CDN and cloud providers. It's a lot like having server backups: If you never need a backup that you have, that backup probably isn't worth much to you, but if you need a backup that you don't have, you'd probably pay anything to have it.

A multi-cloud strategy drives revenue and other conversions. Why? Because revenue and conversions online correlate closely with a site's availability and performance. High Scalability posted several big-name real-world examples in the article, "Latency is Everywhere and it Costs You Sales." When an alternative vendor is just one click away, performance often makes a difference measured in dollars.

How Cedexis Can Help

Cedexis was founded to help businesses see and take advantage of a multi-cloud strategy when that strategy can provide better uptime, faster page loads, reliable transactions, and the ability to optimize cost across a diverse network of platforms and providers. We built the Cedexis Radar to measure the comparative performance of major cloud and delivery network providers (demo), and with that data, we created Openmix to provide adaptive automation for cloud infrastructure based on local user demand.

In order to do that effectively, Cedexis was built to be provider-agnostic, community-driven, actionable and adaptive. We support over 100 public cloud providers. We collect performance data based on crowd-sourced user requests (which represent over 900 million measurements per day from 32,000 individual networks). We allow organizations to write custom scripts that automate traffic routing based on fine-grained policies and thresholds. And we go beyond rules-driven traffic routing, dynamically matching actual user requests with the most optimal cloud at a specific moment in time.

Getting Started with Cedexis

  1. Join the Community
    Get real-time visibility into your users' performance.
  2. Compare the Performance of Your Clouds and Devliery Network
    Make informed decisions to optimize your site performance with Radar
  3. Leverage Openmix to optimize global web performance
    Optimize web and mobile performance to serve global markets

The more you can learn about your site, the more you can make it better. We want to help our customers drive revenue, enter new markets, avoid outages and reduce costs. As a SoftLayer customer, you've already found a fantastic hosting provider, and if Openmix won't provide a provable significant change, we won't sell you something you don't need. Our simple goal is to make your life better, whether you're a geek or a suit.

-Julien Coulon, Cedexis

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 25, 2012

Tips from the Abuse Department: Part 2 - Responding to Abuse Reports

If you're a SoftLayer customer, you don't want to hear from the Abuse department. We know that. The unfortunate reality when it comes to hosting a server is that compromises can happen, mistakes can be made, and even the most scrupulous reseller can fall victim to a fraudulent sign-up or sly spammer. If someone reports abusive behavior originating from one of your servers on our network, it's important to be able to communicate effectively with the Abuse department and build a healthy working relationship.

Beyond our responsibility to enforce the law and our Acceptable Use Policy, the Abuse department is designed to be a valuable asset for our customers. We'll notify you of all valid complaints (and possibly highlight security vulnerabilities in the process), we'll assist you with blacklist removal, we can serve as a liaison between you and other providers if there are any problems, and if you operate an email-heavy platform or service, we can help you understand the steps you need to take to avoid activity that may be considered abuse.

At the end of the day, if the Abuse department can maintain a good rapport with our customers, both our jobs can be easier, so I thought this installment in the "Tips from the Abuse Department" series could focus on some best practices for corresponding with Abuse from a customer perspective.

Check Your Tickets

This is the easiest, most obvious recommendation I can give. You'd be surprised at how many service interruptions could be avoided if our customers were more proactive about keeping up with their open tickets. Our portal is a vital tool for your business, so make sure you are familiar with how to access and use it.

Keep Your Contact Information Current

Our ticket system will send notifications to the email address you have on file, so making sure this information is correct and current is absolutely crucial, especially if you aren't in the habit of checking the ticket system on a regular basis. You can even set a specific address for abuse notifications to be sent to, so make use of this option. The quicker you can respond to an abuse report, the quicker the complaint can be resolved, and by getting the complaint resolved quickly, you avoid any potential service interruption.

If we are unable to reach you by ticket, we may need to call you, so keep your current phone numbers on file as well.

Provide Frequent Updates

Stay in constant communication in the midst of responding to an abuse report, and adhere to the allotted timeline in the ticket. If we don't see updates that the abusive behavior is being addressed in the grace period we are able to offer, your server is at risk of disconnection. By keeping us posted about the action you're taking and the time you need to resolve the matter, we're able to be more flexible.

If a customer on your servers created a spamming script or a phishing account, taking immediate steps to mitigate the issue by suspending that customer is another great way to respond to the process while you're performing an investigation of how that activity was started. We'll still want a detailed resolution, but if the abuse is not actively ongoing we can work with you on deadlines.

Be Concise ... But Not Too Concise

One-word responses: bad. Page long responses: also not ideal. If given the option we would opt for the latter, but your goal should be to outline the cause and resolution of any reported abusive activity as clearly and succinctly as possible in order to ease communication and expedite closing of the ticket.

Responding to a ticket with, "Fixed," is not sufficient to for the Abuse department to consider the matter resolved, but we also don't need a dump of your entire log file. Before the Abuse team can close a ticket, we have to see details of how the complaint was resolved, so if you don't provide those details in your first response, you can bet we'll keep following up with you to get them. What details do we need?

Take a Comprehensive Approach

In addition to stopping the abusive activity we want to know:

  1. How/why the issue occurred
  2. What steps are being taken to prevent further issues of that nature

We understand that dealing with abuse issues can often feel like a game of Whack-A-Mole, but if you can show that you're digging a bit deeper and taking steps to avoid recurrence, that additional work is very much appreciated. Having the Abuse department consider you a proactive, ethical and responsible customer is a worthy goal.

Be Courteous

I'm ending on a similar note to my last blog post because it's just that important! We understand getting an abuse ticket is a hassle, but please remember that we're doing our best to protect our network, the Internet community and you.

Unplugging your server is a last resort for us, and we want to make sure everyone is on the same page to prevent us from getting to that last resort. In the unfortunate event that you do experience an abuse issue, please refer back to this blog — it just might save you some headaches and perhaps some unnecessary downtime.

-Jennifer

June 20, 2012

How Do You Build a Private Cloud?

If you read Nathan's "A Cloud to Call Your Own" blog, and you wanted to learn a little more about private clouds in general or SoftLayer Private Clouds specifically, this post is for you. We're going take a little time to dive deeper into the technology behind SoftLayer Private Clouds, and in the process, I'll talk a little about why particular platforms/hardware/configurations were chosen.

The Platform: Citrix CloudPlatform

There are several cloud infrastructure frameworks to choose from these days. We have surveyed a number of them and actively work with several of them. We are active members of the happenings around OpenStack and we have working implementations of vSphere, Nimula, Eucalyptus and other stacks in our data centers. So why CloudPlatform by Citrix?

First off, it's one of the most mature of these options. It's been around for several years and now has the substantial backing of Citrix. That backing includes investment, support organizations and the multitude of other products managed by Citrix. There are also some futuristic ideas we have regarding how to leverage products like CloudBridge and Netscaler with Private Clouds. Second, CloudPlatform operates in accordance with how we believe a private cloud should work: It's simple, it doesn't have a huge management infrastructure and we can charge for it by the CPU per month, just like all of our other products. Finally, CloudPlatform has made good inroads with enterprise customers. We love the idea that an enterprise ops team could leverage CloudPlatform as the management platform for both their on-premise and their off-premise private cloud.

So, we selected CloudPlatform for a multitude of reasons; not just one.

Another huge key was our ability to integrate CloudPlatform into the SoftLayer portals/mobile apps/API. Because many SoftLayer customers manage their environments exclusively through the SoftLayer API, we knew that a seamless integration there was an absolute necessity. With the help of the SoftLayer dev team and the CloudStack folks, we've been able to automate private clouds the same way we did for public cloud instances and dedicated servers.

The Hardware

When it came to choosing what hardware the private clouds would use, the decision was pretty simple. Given our need for automation, SoftLayer Private Clouds would need to be indistinguishable from a standard dedicated server or CloudLayer environment. We use the latest and greatest server hardware available on the market, and every month, you can see thousands of new SuperMicro boxes being delivered to our data centers around the world. Because we know we have a reliable, powerful and consistent hardware foundation on which we can build the private clouds product, it makes the integration of the system even easier.

When it comes to the specs of the hardware provided for a private cloud environment, we provide as much transparency and flexibility as we can for a customer to build exactly what he or she needs. Let's look into what that means...

The Hardware Configurations

A CloudPlatform environment can be broken down into these components:

  • A single management server (that can manage multiple zones across layer 2 networks)
  • One or more zones
  • One or more clusters in a zone
  • One or more hosts in a cluster
  • Storage shared by a cluster (which can be a single server)

A simple diagram of a two-zone private cloud might look like this:

SoftLayer Private Clouds

We've set a standard "management server" configuration that we know will be able to accommodate all of your needs when it comes to running CloudPlatform, and how you build and configure the rest of your private cloud infrastructure is up to you. Whether you want simple dual proc, quad core Nehalem box with a lot of local disk space for a dev cloud or an environment made up of quad proc 10-core Westmeres with SSDs, you have the freedom to choose exactly what you want.

Oh, and everything can be online in two to four hours, and it's offered on a month-to-month contract.

The Network Configuration

When it comes to where the hardware is provisioned, you have the ability to deploy zones in multiple geographies and manage them all through a single CloudPlatform management node. Given the way the SoftLayer three-tier network is built, the management node and host nodes do not even need to be accessible by our public network. You can choose to make accessible only the IPs used by the VMs you create. If your initial private cloud infrastructure is in Dallas and you want a node online in Singapore, you can just click a few buttons, and the new node will be provisioned and configured securely by CloudPlatform in a couple of hours.

Imagine how long it would have taken you to build this kind of infrastructure in the past:

SoftLayer Private Clouds

It doesn't take days or weeks now. It takes hours.

As you can see, when we approached the challenge of bringing private clouds to the SoftLayer platform, we had to innovate. In Texas, that would be roughly translated as "Go big or go home." Given the response we've seen from customers and partners since the announcement of SoftLayer Private Clouds, we know the industry has taken notice.

Will all of our customers need their own private cloud infrastructure? Probably not. But will the customers who've been looking for this kind of functionality be ecstatic with the CloudPlatform environment on SoftLayer's network? Absolutely.

-Duke

June 18, 2012

Tips from the Abuse Department: Part 1 - Reporting Abuse

SoftLayer has a dedicated team working around the clock to address complaints of abuse on our network. We receive these complaints via feedback loops from other providers, spam blacklisting services such as Spamcop and Spamhaus, various industry contacts and mailing lists. Some of the most valuable complaints we receive are from our users, though. We appreciate people taking the time to let us know about problems on our network, and we find these complaints particularly valuable as they are non-automated and direct from the source.

It stands to reason that the more efficient people are at reporting abuse, the more efficient we can be at shutting down the activity, so I've compiled some tips and resources to make this process easier. Enjoy!

Review our Legal Page

Not only does this page contain our contact details, there's a wealth of information on our policies including what we consider abuse and how we handle reported issues. For starters, you may want to review our AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) to get a feel for our stance on abuse and how we mitigate it.

Follow Proper Guidelines

In addition to our own policies, there are legal aspects we must consider. For example, a claim of copyright infringement must be submitted in the form of a properly formatted DMCA, pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Our legal page contains crucial information on what is required to make a copyright claim, as well as information on how to submit a subpoena or court order. We take abuse very seriously, but we must adhere to the law as well as our privacy policy in order to protect our customers' businesses and our company from liability.

Include Evidence

Evidence can take the form of any number of things. A few common examples:

  • A copy of the alleged spam message with full headers intact.
  • A snippet from your log file showing malicious activity.
  • The full URL of a phishing page.

Without evidence that clearly ties abusive activity to a server on our network, we are unable to relay a complaint to our customer. Keep in mind that the complaint must be in a format that allows us to verify it and pass it along, which typically means an email or hard copy. While our website does have contact numbers and addresses, email is your best bet for most types of complaints.

Use Keywords

We use a mail client specifically developed for abuse desks, and it is configured with a host of rules used for filtering and prioritization. Descriptive subject lines with keywords indicating the issue type are very useful. Including the words "Spam," "Phishing" or "Copyright" in your subject line helps make sure your email is sent to the correct queue and, if applicable, receives expedited processing. Including the domain name and IP address in the body of the email is also helpful.

Follow Up

We work hard to investigate and resolve all complaints received however, due to volume, we typically do not respond to complaining parties. That said, we often rely on user complaints to determine if an issue has resumed or is ongoing so feel free to send a new complaint if activity persists.

Be Respectful

The only portion of your complaint we are likely to relay to our customer is the evidence itself along with any useful notes, which means that paragraph of profanity is read only by hardworking SoftLayer employees. We understand the frustration of being on the receiving end of spam or a DDOS, but please be professional and try to understand our position. We are on your side!

Hopefully you've found some of this information useful. When in doubt, submit your complaint to abuse@softlayer.com and we can offer further guidance. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I'll offer suggestions for SoftLayer customers about how to facilitate better communication with our Abuse department to avoid service interruption if an abuse complaint is filed against you.

-Jennifer

June 11, 2012

"World IPv6 Launch Day" and What it Means for You

June 6, 2012, marked a milestone in the further advancement of the Internet: World IPv6 Launch Day. It was by no means an Earth-shattering event or a "flag day" where everyone switched over to IPv6 completely ... What actually happened was that content providers enabled AAAA DNS records for their websites and other applications, and ISPs committed to providing IPv6 connectivity to at least 1% of their customers by this date.

What's all of this fuss about the IPv6 transition about? The simplest way to explain the situation is that the current Internet can stay working as it does, using IPv4 addresses, forever ... if we're okay with it not growing any more. If no more homes and businesses wanted to get on the Internet, and no more new phones or tablets were produced, and no more websites or applications were created. SoftLayer wouldn't be able to keep selling new servers either. To prevent or lose that kind of organic growth would be terrible, so an alternative had to be created to break free from the limitations of IPv4.

IPv4 to IPv6

The long-term goal is to migrate the entire Internet to the IPv6 standard in order to eliminate the stifling effect of impending and inevitable IP address shortages. It is estimated that there are roughly 2.5 billion current connections to the Internet today, so to say the transition has a lot of moving parts would be an understatement. That complexity doesn't lessen the urgency of the need to make the change, though ... In the very near future, end-users and servers will no longer be able to get IPv4 connections to the Internet, and will only connect via IPv6.

The primary transition plan is to "dual-stack" all current devices by adding IPv6 support to everything that currently has an IPv4 address. By adding native IPv6 functionality to devices using IPv4, all of that connectivity will be able to speak via IPv6 without transitional technologies like NAT (Network Address Translation). This work will take several years, and time is not a luxury we have with the dwindling IPv4 pool.

Like George mentioned in a previous post, I see World IPv6 Launch day as a call-to-action for a "game changer." The IPv6 transition has gotten a ton of visibility from some of the most recognizable names on the Internet, but the importance and urgency of the transition can't be overstated.

So, what does that mean for you?

To a certain extent, that depends on what your involvement is on the Internet. Here are a few steps everyone can take:

  • Learn all you can about IPv6 to prepare for the work ahead. A few good books about IPv6 have been published, and resources like ARIN's IPv6 Information Wiki are perfect places to get more information.
  • If you own servers or network equipment, check them for IPv6 functionality. Upgrade or replace any software or devices to ensure that you can deliver native IPv6 connectivity end-to-end without any adverse impact to IPv6 users. If any piece of gear isn't IPv6-capable, IPv6 traffic won't be able to pass through your network.
  • If you are a content provider, make your content available via IPv6. This starts with requesting IPv6 service from your ISP. At SoftLayer, that's done via a zero-cost sales request to add IPv6 addresses to your VLANs. You should target 100% coverage for your services or applications — providing the same content via IPv6 as you do via IPv4. Take an inventory of all your DNS records, and after you've tested extensively, publish AAAA records for all hostnames to start attracting IPv6 traffic.
  • If you are receiving Internet connectivity to your home or business desktops, demand IPv6 services from your upstream ISP. Also be sure to check your access routers, switches and desktops to ensure they are running the most recent code with stable IPv6 support.
  • If you are running equipment such as firewalls, load balancers, IDS, etc., contact your vendors to learn about their IPv6 support and how to properly configure those devices. You want to make sure you aren't limiting performance or exposing any vulnerabilities.

Starting now, there are no more excuses. It's time to get IPv6 up and running if you want to play a part in tomorrow's Internet.

-Dani

June 7, 2012

Meet Catalyst, SoftLayer's Startup Incubator Program

catalyst [kat-l-ist] noun - A person or thing that precipitates an event or change. also SoftLayer's killer startup incubator program.

It's official, Catalyst has launched on the SoftLayer website:

Catalyst Startup Program

You've heard us talk about SoftLayer's ongoing involvement with entrepreneurs, incubators, accelerators and startup events, but for the most part, we've been flying "under the radar" without an official presence on SoftLayer's website. The Catalyst team has been busy building relationships with more than 50 of the world's best startup-focused organizations, and we've been working directly with hundreds of startups and entrepreneurs to provide some pretty unique resources:

$1,000/month Hosting Credit

SoftLayer is the world's most advanced cloud, dedicated and hybrid hosting company. We integrate best-in-class technology and connectivity into the industry's only fully-automated platform, empowering startups with complete access, control, security and scalability. Startups in Catalyst get a $1000/month credit for hosting for one full year. That includes dedicated servers, cloud servers or a hybrid compute environment.

Mentorship from SoftLayer Innovation Team

You'll get connected with SoftLayer's award-winning Innovation Team. These are the über smart guys who created the SoftLayer Automated Platform. They're our most senior technology team, and they're experts at things like massively scalable software and hardware architectures, cloud, globally distributed computing, security, "Big Data" databases and all the other crazy new "best and next" practices in modern and forward-looking compute.

Increased Market Visibility

Catalyst startups receive marketing opportunities with SoftLayer like guest blog posts on the InnerLayer, video interviews, white papers and use cases to help you tell the world about the cool stuff you're doing. When you're out of Beta, ask about our Technology Partners Marketplace, which exposes you to thousands of our customers.

Empowering entrepreneurs and startups is a core principle for SoftLayer, and we're doing everything we can to provide the platform for the next Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. The Catalyst page on our website might be brand new, but the startup companies in Catalyst today are already taking advantage of $100,000+ of free hosting ... every month. How is that possible? We've got friends in the right places:

Catalyst Startup Program

Cultivating a pipeline of amazing startup companies has been easy, thanks to organizations like the TechStars Global Accelerator Network and the other featured partners we're recognizing this month. Without any official "public" presence, we've become a go-to resource in the startup community ... Having a Catalyst site to call "home" is just icing on the cake. If you have a few minutes and you want to learn more about whether SoftLayer may be able to help you build your idea or fuel your startup, head over to the Catalyst startup incubator page and submit a quick application.

Join Catalyst » See Change.

-@PaulFord

March 14, 2012

Game On: SoftLayer + Game Developers + GDC

Last week, I spent a few days at GDC in San Francisco, getting a glimpse into the latest games hitting the market. Game developers are a unique bunch, and that uniqueness goes beyond the unbelievable volume of NOS Energy Drinks they consume ... They like to test and push the IT envelope, making games more diverse, interactive and social.

The new crop of games showcased at GDC is more resource-intensive — it's almost like watching an IT arms race; they're upping the ante for all online gaming companies. The appetite from the public remains relentless, and the pay-off can be huge. Consider that gaming industry research firm DFC Intelligence predicts that worldwide market revenue generated solely from online games is set to reach $26.4 billion in 2015, more than double the $11.9 achieved in 2009.

That's where SoftLayer comes in. We understand the high stakes in the gaming world and have tailored our IaaS offerings for an optimal end-user experience that stretches from initial release to everyday play. Take a look at what game developer OMGPOP (a SoftLayer customer) achieved with Draw Something: Almost overnight it became the #1 application in Apple's App Store, tallying more than 26 million downloads in just a few weeks. To put the volume of gameplay into perspective, the game itself is generating more than 30 hours of drawings per second. That's what what we refer to as "Internet Scale." When YouTube hit one hour of video uploads per second, they came up with a pretty impressive presentation to talk about that scale ... and that's only one hour per second.

Draw Something

Gamers require a high-performance, always on, graphically attractive and quick-responding experience. If they don't get that experience, they move on to the next game that can give it to them. With our core strengths of automation and extensive network reach, game developers come to us to easily enable that experience, and in return, they get a platform where they can develop, test, deploy and yes, play their latest games. True "Internet Scale" with easy consumptive billing ... Get in and out quickly, and use only what you need.

Some of the most interesting and innovative use cases of how customers take advantage of our platform come from the gaming industry. Because we make it easy to rapidly provision resources (deploy dedicated servers in less than two hours and cloud servers in as few as five minutes) in an automated way (our API), many developers have started incorporating cloud-like functions into their games and applications that add dedicated resources to their infrastructure on-demand as you'd only expect to see in a virtual environment. Now that Flex Images are available, we're expecting to see a lot more of that.

As I was speaking with a few customers on the show floor, I was amazed to hear how passionate they were about what one called the "secret ingredient" at SoftLayer: Our network. He talked about his trials and tribulations in delivering global reach and performance before he transitioned his infrastructure to SoftLayer, and hearing what our high-bandwidth and low-latency architecture has meant for his games was an affirmation for all of the work we've put into creating (and continuing to build) the network.

The rapid pace of innovation and change that keeps the gaming industry going is almost electric ... When you walk into a room filled with game developers, their energy is contagious. We ended GDC with an opportunity to do just that. We were proud to sponsor a launch party for our friends at East Side Game Studios as the celebrated the release of two new games — Zombinis and Ruby Skies. Since their NomNom Combo puzzle game is one of the most addicting games on my iPhone, it was a no-brainer to hook up with them at GDC. If you want a peek into the party, check out our GDC photo album on Facebook.

Draw Something

To give you an idea of how much the gaming culture permeates the SoftLayer offices, I need only point out a graffiti mural on one of the walls in our HQ office in Dallas. Because we sometimes get nostalgic for the days of misspent youth in video arcades playing Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Super Mario, we incorporated those iconic games in a piece of artwork in our office:

Retro Gaming Mural

If you are an aspiring game developer, we'd like to hear from you and help enable the next Internet gaming sensation ... Having a good amount of experience with our existing customer base should assure you that we know what we're talking about. For now, though, it's my turn to go "Draw Something."

-@gkdog

February 15, 2012

SoftLayer + OpenStack Swift = SoftLayer Object Storage

Since our inception in 2005, SoftLayer's goal has been to provide an array of on-demand data center and hosting services that combine exceptional access, control, scalability and security with unparalleled network robustness and ease of use ... That's why we're so excited to unveil SoftLayer Object Storage to our customers.

Based on OpenStack Object Storage (codenamed Swift) — open-source software that allows the creation of redundant, scalable object storage on clusters of standardized servers — SoftLayer Object Storage provides customers with new opportunities to leverage cost-effective cloud-based storage and to simultaneously realize significant capex-related cost savings.

OpenStack has been phenomenally successful thanks to a global software community comprised of developers and other technologists that has built and tweaked a standards-based, massively scalable open-source platform for public and private cloud computing. The simple goal of the OpenStack project is to deliver code that enables any organization to create and offer feature-rich cloud computing services from industry-standard hardware. The overarching OpenStack technology consists of several interrelated project components: One for compute, one for an image service, one for object storage, and a few more projects in development.

SoftLayer Object Storage
Like the OpenStack Swift system on which it is based, SoftLayer Object Storage is not a file system or real-time data-storage system, rather it's a long-term storage system for a more permanent type of static data that can be retrieved, leveraged and updated when necessary. Typical applications for this type of storage can involve virtual machine images, photo storage, email storage and backup archiving.

One of the primary benefits of Object Storage is the role that it can play in automating and streamlining data storage in cloud computing environments. SoftLayer Object Storage offers rich metadata features and search capability that can be leveraged to automate the way unstructured data gets accessed. In this way, SoftLayer Object Storage will provide organizations with new capabilities for improving overall data management and storage efficiency.

File Storage v. Object Storage
To better understand the difference between file storage and object storage, let's look at how file storage and object storage differ when it comes to metadata and search for a simple photo image. When a digital camera or camera-enabled phone snaps a photo, it embeds a series of metadata values in the image. If you save the image in a standard image file format, you can search for it by standard file properties like name, date and size. If you save the same image with additional metadata as an object, you can set object metadata values for the image (after reading them from the image file). This detail provides granular search capability based on the metadata keys and values, in addition to the standard object properties. Here is a sample comparison of an image's metadata value in both systems:

File Metadata Object Metadata
Name:img01.jpg Name:img01.jpg
Date: 2012-02-13 Date:2012-02-13
Size:1.2MB Size:1.2MB
Manufacturer:CASIO
Model:QV-4000
x-Resolution:72.00
y-Resolution:72.00
PixelXDimension:2240
PixelYDimension:1680
FNumber:f/4.0
Exposure Time:1/659 sec.

Using the rich metadata and search capability enabled by object storage, you would be able to search for all images with a dimension of 2240x1680 or a resolution of 72x72 in a quick/automated fashion. The object storage system "understands" more about what is being stored because it is able to differentiate files based on characteristics that you define.

What Makes SoftLayer Object Storage Different?
SoftLayer Object Storage features several unique features and ways for SoftLayer customers to upload, access and manage data:

  • Search — Quickly access information through user-defined metadata key-value pairs, file name or unique identifier
  • CDN — Serve your content globally over our high-performance content delivery network
  • Private Network — Free, secure private network traffic between all data centers and storage cluster nodes
  • API — Access to a full-feature OpenStack-compatible API with additional support for CDN and search integration
  • Portal — Web application integrated into the SoftLayer portal
  • Mobile — iPhone and Android mobile apps, with Windows Phone app coming soon
  • Language Bindings — Feature-complete bindings for Java, PHP, Python and Ruby*

*Language bindings, documentation, and guides are available on SLDN.

We think SoftLayer Object Storage will be attractive to a broad range of current and prospective customers, from web-centric businesses dependent on file sharing and content distribution to legal/medical/financial-services companies which possess large volumes of data that must be stored securely while remaining readily accessible.

SoftLayer Object Storage significantly extends our cloud-services portfolio while substantially enriching the storage capabilities that we bring to our customers. What are you waiting for? Go order yourself some object storage @ $0.12/GB!

-Marc

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