Posts Tagged 'Network'

November 21, 2011

The SoftLayer Server Challenge - ad:tech Expertise

If you've visited SoftLayer at a large conference this year, you probably came face-to-rack with our Server Challenge. Your task: Reassemble our miniature rack of SuperMicro servers in the fastest time at the conference. To do this, you need to install twenty drive trays in five servers and connect network cables in the correct switches to mirror the server rack setup on our data centers. If you're able to score the best time, you win an iPad 2!

In the sometimes-boring world of collateral and T-shirts at trade shows, the activity around this competition stands in stark contrast. It's been huge hit everywhere we go, so if you haven't had a chance to try your hand at the challenge, I'm sure we'll bring it to several of our 2012 shows. As a way of rewarding those of you who loyally follow our blog, I thought I could give you an advantage by sharing some tips for when you're in front of the Server Challenge rack ... And to give you an idea of how important these tips can be, look at how close the top two times were at ad:tech NYC:

That's right. 17 hundredths of a second between victory and defeat. Now are you ready to take some notes?

SoftLayer Server Challenge

The Start
When you start the challenge, don't look at the timer to see if your time started ... If it doesn't start, we'll stop you. By focusing your attention on the network cables or drive trays (whichever you choose to start with), you can save yourself a half of a second.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

Network Cables
You don't have to connect the network cables first, but I have to choose something to complete first, so the network cables won the coin flip. When you're connecting the network cables, it's best to grab all three cables of the same color and try to snap them in together. Plugging in the cables one-by-one requires three times the work.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

Hard Drives
When you're tackling the hard drives, the key is to line up the drives and have them installed completely before moving on. My tip for installing the drives is to tilt them in on a sideways angle, not at an upwards angle. If you try and tilt the drives upwards, you'll most likely get the drive tray stuck and have to remove it to try again. If you can do it precisely, picking up two drives at one time has worked well, and our all-time record of around 54 seconds took that approach.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

SoftLayer Server Challenge

SoftLayer Server Challenge

One last pointer: Lock them in place immediately after installing them. If you leave the latch open, it makes it harder to get neighboring drives installed, and it's such a small incremental effort to close the latch that even if you perfect a "close all the latches" technique at the end, you'd still end up spending more time.

SoftLayer Server Challenge

The Finish
Don't forget to put both hands back on the timer to stop your time. :-)

SoftLayer Server Challenge

Now that you're equipped with some of the best Server Challenge tips and tricks, we want you to start training. In 2012, we expect to see someone complete it in under 50 seconds ... And that person probably will carry the all-time record home – along with a new iPad 2!

Keep an eye on our Event Schedule for upcoming shows, and if there's a conference where you really want to see the Server Challenge, let us know and we'll see if we can set it up.

Good Luck!


November 18, 2011

Four Years of SLaying in Seattle

How are we already in mid-November? Did 2011 just fly by us or what? As we approach 2012, I will be celebrating my fourth anniversary with SoftLayer in our Seattle data center. Seattle was SoftLayer's first data center outside of the Dallas area when it opened four years ago, and since then, I've seen the launch of Washington D.C., the Dallas HQ + DAL05, San Jose, Singapore and Amsterdam ... while adding a few data centers in Houston and Dallas after the merger with The Planet last year. We've gone from ~15,000 servers when I started to around 100,000 servers in 13 data centers with 16 network PoPs on three different continents around the world. It's safe to say we've grown.

In the four years since our Seattle facility launched, over 60% of our original team – the folks our Dallas team trained – are still here. Being part of such a huge team and watching the SoftLayer roll out data centers around the world is exciting, and seeing our customers grow with us is even better. In the midst of all of that growth, our team is always trying to figure out new technologies and techniques to share with customers to help them meet their ever-evolving needs. The goal: Give our customers total control.

One great example of this focus was our recent launch of QuantaStor Storage Servers. We teamed up with industry leader OS Nexus to bring our customers a production-ready mass storage appliance with a combined SAN and NAS storage system built into the Ubuntu Server and provides a number of system features such as snapshots, compression, remote replication and thin provisioning. A customer could use this in a number of environments from virtualized systems to video production to web and application servers, or as a backup based server. If you're looking for a mass storage system, I highly recommend it.

If we've grown this much in my first four years, I can only imagine what the business will look like four years from now. A SoftLayer data center on every corner? Maybe we can get PHIL to figure out how we can put a SoftLayer pod in the space normally occupied by a coffee shop ... making sure to keep as much coffee as possible, obviously.


October 27, 2011

SoftLayer Features and Benefits - Data Centers

When we last talked, I broke down the differences between features and benefits. To recap: a feature is something prominent about a person, place or thing, while a benefit is a feature that is useful to you. In that blog, I discussed our customer portal and the automation within, so with this next installment, let's move into my favorite place: the data center ... Our pride and joy!

If you have not had a chance to visit a SoftLayer data center, you're missing out. The number one response I get when I begin a tour through any of our facilities is, "I have been through several data centers before, and they're pretty boring," or my favorite, "We don't have to go in, they all look the same." Then they get a glimpse at the SoftLayer facility through the window in our lobby:

Data Center Window

What makes a SoftLayer DC so different and unique?

We deploy data centers in a pod concept. A pod, or server room, is a designed to be an identical installation of balanced power, cooling and redundant best-in-class equipment in under 10,000 square feet. It will support just about 5,000 dedicated servers, and each pod is built to the same specifications as every other pod. We use the same hardware vendor for servers, the majority of our internal network is powered by Cisco gear and edge equipment is now powered by Juniper. Even the paint on the walls matches up from pod to pod, city to city and now country to country. That's standardization!

That all sounds great, but what does that mean for you? How do all these things benefit you as the end user?

First of all, setting standards improves our efficiency in support and operations. We can pluck any of our technicians in DAL05 and drop him into SJC01, and he'll feel right at home despite the outside world looking a bit different. No facility quirks, no learning curve. In fact, the Go Live Crews in Singapore and Amsterdam are all experienced SoftLayer technicians from our US facilities, so they help us make sure all of the details are exactly alike.

Beyond the support aspect, having data centers in multiple cities around the world is a benefit within itself: You have the option to host your solution as close or as far away from you as you wish. Taking that a step further, disaster recovery becomes much easier with our unique network-within-a-network topology.

The third biggest benefit customers get from SoftLayer's data centers is the quality of the server chassis. Because we standardize our SuperMicro chassis in every facility, we're able to troubleshoot and resolve issues faster when a customer contacts us. Let's say the mainboard is having a problem, and your Linux server is in kernel panic. Instead of taking time to try and fix the part, I can hot-swap all the drives into an identical chassis and use the portal to automatically move all of your IP addresses and network configurations to a new location in the DC. The server boots right up and is back in service with minimal downtime.

Try to do that with "similar" hardware (not "identical"), and see where that gets you.

The last obvious customer benefit we'll talk about here is the data center's internal network performance. Powered by Cisco internal switches and Juniper routers on the edge, we can provide unmatched bandwidth capacity to our data centers as well as low latency links between servers. In one rack on the data center floor, you can see 80Gbps of bandwidth. Our automated, high-speed network allows us to provision a server anywhere in a pod and an additional server anywhere else in the same pod, and they will perform as if they are sitting right next to each other. That means you don't need to reserve space in the same rack for a server that you think you'll need in the future, so when your business grows, your infrastructure can grow seamlessly with you.

In the last installment of this little "SoftLayer Features and Benefits" series, we'll talk about the global network and learn why no one in the industry can match it.


October 22, 2011

Content Streaming = Living Like Kings

As a video gaming and movie addict, I've always followed the latest trends and news in these two areas. Because there always seems to be some "breaking news" every day due to technology advancing so rapidly, sometimes it's tough to keep up.

In gaming, I remember it all started for me back when my parents decided to buy me the first Nintendo console. Pointing that light sensor gun at unsuspecting ducks and watching them fall was all the rage ... It marked a big step in the evolution of home gaming. What initially seemed like a good investment to keep me out of trouble soon turned into a headache for my parents. I frequently begged for more games, and they were not cheap. Look at how much new video games cost these days, and you'll see that not much has changed in that regard. The fire to play all the latest games was never extinguished, so a chunk of my income was always earmarked for the next amazing game I needed.

As for movies, I also found myself collecting as many as possible to rewatch whenever I choose. While each individual movie didn't cost as much as a video game, the aggregate costs definitely built up over time. My family and friends warned me that my "extravagant lifestyle" is reserved for the rich and would only lead me to financial ruin.

Fast forward to today, and I can say that I've learned a lot and found ways to sustainably feed my addiction without driving myself to financial ruin. How is it possible that I am able to live like a king without breaking the bank? It's all thanks to content streaming, made possible by the Internet. I no longer have to buy every single game to have the ability to play whenever I feel like it with services like OnLive that actually streams numerous games to my TV (and a few other supported devices). Beyond the fact that I save money by not buying the game, I don't even need the latest computer hardware to play the more graphics-intensive games like Crysis:


You might not be familiar with OnLive just yet, but most people know about content steaming from companies like Netflix and Amazon. You can stream countless movies to your devices to watch movies on demand for a monthly fee or on a per-movie basis. With these services readily available, it's possible for just about anyone have the "kid in the candy store" experience of pulling up essentially any content whenever we want to watch or play.

If either form of entertainment appeals to you, you can agree that our quality of life has improved over time significantly. The streaming services provided by companies like Netflix and OnLive have really taken advantage of the technological capabilities offered by high speed Internet, which also reminds us of the significance of web hosting. To offer customers complete satisfaction, deciding which web hosting company to go with for a business is often a very difficult decision, especially since there are so many out there. It would make complete business sense to find an extremely reliable company to ensure the success of such services and having worked in the industry, and I can assure you with much pride that SoftLayer certainly shines in this area.

As an employee, I see how we're building our network to provide the best experience around the world, and if there's ever a problem, we treat all outages with extreme urgency. Customers get better turnaround times, and they can provide better service for their customers. If some content streaming were to become unavailable, it wouldn't be long before it became available again.

It's pretty safe to say that the Internet has spoiled me ... Now all I need is a crown.


October 15, 2011

Lower Latency: Neutrino Network?

SoftLayer is on the "bleeding edge" of technology, and that's right where I'm comfortable. I love being a part of something new and relevant. I also love science fiction and find that it's mixing together with reality more and more these days. Yay for me and my nerdyness! Beam me up Luke Skywalker! (I wonder how many nerds cringed at that statement!)

In a recent post from New Scientist, a test showed neutrino particles being clocked faster than the speed of light, and a dimension-hop might be the reason. Rather than go into the nerdy parts of the article that I'm sure you read before continuing to this sentence, I want to compare how SoftLayer would use this to our (and more importantly our customers') advantage: A neutrino network! We could have the fastest network in the world, and we could use the technology for faster motherboards and components too. Because that's how we roll.

BanzaiEnter science fiction. Let's say neutrinos were indeed using another dimension to travel. Like, say, the 8th dimension as referred to in "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension." This dimension also happens to be a prison used by the Lectroids of Planet 10 to store criminals. Go figure, right? Obstacles always come up, so if our neutrino network was targeted by those Lectroids, Dody Lira and the abuse team would have no problems taking them down ... After all, Lectroid's fiddling with data can be bad for business (Not to mention the possibility of Lectroid's using our network to come back to this dimension, wreak havoc, and eat all our junk food). Dody would have to upgrade some of the tools his team uses, like a Jet Car with an "Oscillation Overthruster" (which looks eerily similar to the Flux Capacitor) to travel in and out of the 8th dimension to hunt down those pesky Lectroids that won't comply.

Then, after Dody and crew wrangle the Lectroids (as I'm sure they would), we could offer the Lectroids email and Internet service. Bam! More customers on top of a supernatural network!

Coming back to reality (a bit), we have an interesting world ahead of us. Technologies we have only seen in movies and some we haven't even imagined yet are becoming reality! If they fall into the usable realm of SoftLayer, you can bet we'll be one of the first to share them with the world. But not before we get all the bugs (and Lectroids) out.


October 11, 2011

Building a True Real-Time Multiplayer Gaming Platform

Some of the most innovative developments on the Internet are coming from online game developers looking to push the boundaries of realism and interactivity. Developing an online gaming platform that can support a wide range of applications, including private chat, avatar chats, turn-based multiplayer games, first-person shooters, and MMORPGs, is no small feat.

Our high speed, global network significantly minimizes reliability, access, latency, lag and bandwidth issues that commonly challenge online gaming. Once users begin to experience issues of latency, reliability, they are gone and likely never to return. Our cloud, dedicated, and managed hosting solutions enable game developers to rapidly test, deploy and manage rich interactive media on a secure platform.

Consider the success of one of our partners — Electrotank Inc. They’ve been able to support as many as 6,500 concurrent users on just ONE server in a realistic simulation of a first-person shooter game, and up to 330,000 concurrent users for a turn-based multiplayer game. Talk about server density.

This is just scratching the surface because we're continuing to build our global footprint to reduce latency for users around the world. This means no awkward pauses, jumping around, but rather a smooth, seamless, interactive online gaming experience. The combined efforts of SoftLayer’s infrastructure and Electrotank’s performant software have produced a high-performance networking platform that delivers a highly scalable, low latency user experience to both gamers and game developers.


You can read more about how Electrotank is leveraging SoftLayer’s unique network platform in today's press release or in the fantastic white paper they published with details about their load testing methodology and results.

We always like to hear our customers opinions so let us know what you think.


October 4, 2011

The Sun Never Sets on SoftLayer

We've always set our sights globally at SoftLayer and this week we've certainly achieved some key milestones. With our data center in Singapore going LIVE, we now have a "digital gateway" for providing our unique cloud, dedicated, and managed hosting solutions to the Asia-Pacific region.

What is even more remarkable is the speed at which we are deploying our new international data centers. In only a few months, all the meticulous planning, logistics and execution were done and customers could place orders. And we're not slowing down. The trajectory path we're on has us expanding faster and farther than we ever thought possible.

Next month we're opening a new data center in Amsterdam, along with network Points of Presence (PoPs) in Amsterdam, London and Frankfurt. Each of these facilities is built and maintained by SoftLayer, and that organic growth is a huge differentiator. We didn't go out and acquire a company to expand our capabilities, and because we're doing the work on the ground, we're able to guarantee the most consistent, best possible service. Every data center - whether it's Singapore or San Jose - is exactly the same. Because of that consistency, our customers don't have to worry about whether the services in the new facilities meet their expectations, and based on the phenomenal provisioning statistics we saw on day one in Singapore, they aren't hesitating to order more.

International Expansion: Currency

Because our global expansion enables us to perform even better for the SoftLayer customers located outside of North America, we wanted to make it easier for those customers to do business with us. As of 8:01 a.m. Central Time today, we support and accept payment in 60+ currencies! This currency support allows our customers to price SoftLayer services in their native currency, and it lets them avoid those pesky exchange fees from their credit card.

Our BYOC (Cloud) and Dedicated Server order forms have been updated with a currency selection on their first page, so once you select a currency, your order form will reload with all pricing displayed in that currency. Existing customers are also able to pay for their existing servers with one-time or recurring payments in our customer portal.

Currencies Supported

ALL - Albanian lek
ARS - Argentine peso
AUD - Australian dollar
BSD - Bahamian dollar
BDT - Bangladeshi taka
BBD - Barbados dollar
BMD - Bermudian dollar
BOB - Boliviano
BZD - Belize dollar
CAD - Canadian dollar
CNY - Chinese Yuan
COP - Colombian peso
CRC - Costa Rican colon
HRK - Croatian Kuna
CZK - Czech koruna
DKK - Danish krone
DOP - Dominican peso
GTQ - Guatemalan quetzal
HNL - Honduran lempira
HKD - Hong Kong dollar
HUF - Hungarian forint
INR - Indian rupee
ILS - Israeli new sheqel
JMD - Jamaican dollar
JPY - Japanese yen
KES - Kenyan shilling
KRW - South Korean won
LBP - Lebanese pound
LVL - Latvian lats
LRD - Liberian dollar
LTL - Lithuanian litas
MOP - Macanese pataca
MYR - Malaysian ringgit
MXN - Mexican peso
MAD - Moroccan dirham
NZD - New Zealand dollar
NOK - Norwegian krone
PKR - Pakistani rupee
PEN - Peruvian Nuevo sol
PHP - Philippine peso
QAR - Qatari rial
RUB - Russian rouble
SAR - Saudi riyal
SGD - Singapore dollar
ZAR - South African rand
SEK - Swedish krona/kronor
CHF - Swiss franc
THB - Thai baht
TTD - Trinidad and Tobago dollar
AED - United Arab Emirates dirham
EGP - Egyptian pound
GBP - Pound sterling
YER - Yemeni rial
TWD - New Taiwan dollar
RON - Romanian new leu
TRY - Turkish lira
XCD - East Caribbean dollar
EUR - Euro
PLN - Polish złoty
BRL - Brazilian real

It's amazing to say that we are truly a global company operating on three continents. Our success and future growth are tied to these new international capabilities. We will move aggressively and open more data centers, so stay tuned. With our global aspirations taking flight, I'm reminded of the saying that, "the sun never sets on the British Empire."

Speaking of flights, I've got to get to the airport ... My flight to Amsterdam is leaving in a few hours.


October 3, 2011

Global Expansion: Singapore is LIVE!

I write this message while overlooking the International Business Park in Singapore. The desk I sit at faces east; the sun is now on the opposite side of the building and our new Singapore office is starting to cool off, but it's eerily quiet here on the 6th floor.

SoftLayer Singapore

SoftLayer Singapore

Our new Singapore General Manager Michael Ong is in Dallas meeting the rest of the SoftLayer team, our new Server Build Technicians (SBTs) are on the data center floor assisting the Go Live Crew (GLC) and the inventory team is indexing and organizing of the mountains of gear we have in the Large Parts Room (LPR).

SoftLayer Singapore

Thinking back just 30 days, we were getting early access to our two data center suites. Our four ocean containers were unloaded and waiting for us in the LPR, and the members of the GLC from Dallas, Houston, Seattle and Washington, D.C. had their steel toe boots on, hard hats in place and dragging a little from the 14 hour time change. The GLC has worked tirelessly to get this data center online.

SoftLayer Singapore

SoftLayer Singapore

Our success on the ground was far from a standalone feat, though. The steadfast support, backing and encouragement from everyone back home enabled our successful launch. Many departments and individuals spent tireless nights on the phone and on email helping us through issues. I can't overstate the importance of their support and willingness to step up to get things done. Without their help, the data center certainly wouldn't look like this:

SoftLayer Singapore

SoftLayer Singapore

SoftLayer Singapore

Our first international data center and office are worth celebrating, but it's important to realize that our work doesn't stop today. It's critical that we continue to support the Singapore office like we do our other offices and data centers around the U.S. We are depending on the local team to run the daily operations, and they're depending on us to provide them with the necessary guidance to keep the gears in motion. This is not a fire and forget mission — we are now truly a global company.

While we sweep up the imaginary confetti from the floor in SNG01 (since we'd never let real confetti in the DC), we know that the GLC in Amsterdam is on the ground getting our first European facility ready. The ocean containers have been delivered and racks are being built. It's time to get some rest and sleep fast ... We've got another data center coming online soon.

To all our new Singaporean team members: Welcome to SoftLayer. We're excited and proud to have you join our team. To everyone that supported us: Thank you again from the very bottom of our hearts. To our customers: Enjoy your new SoftLayer servers in Singapore. And to our competition: This is just the start.



September 1, 2011

The Importance of Network Security

On Friday, April 27, 2011, I powered on my Sony Playstaton 3 and prepared to sit down for an enjoyable gaming session. As a Sony customer and a PlayStation Network (PSN) user, I expected my system to be able to connect to a service that I was told would be available. Because I had to sign an agreement to join the PSN, I expected my personal information to be secure. On that morning, I logged in and had no idea that my personal security might be at risk due to a lack of tight-knit practices and possible information redundancy.

My many years of brand loyalty held strong as I was told constantly that the PSN was down as a result of a maintenance. I understand that emergencies happen and proper planning by a professional company is in place to shorten the duration of impact. As it turned out, proper planning for this type of event seemed to have been lost on Sony. A malicious security cracker was able to infiltrate their network to gain access to numerous PSN customers' sensitive personal information. This kind of blunder had every PSN customer wondering what could be done to prevent this kind of event from happening again.

You probably noticed that I used the word "cracker" as opposed to the more common "hacker." A hacker is an extremely knowledgeable person when it comes to computers and programming who knows the ins and outs of systems ... which is completely legal. The typical misconception is that all "hackers" are engaged in illegal activity, which is not true. If the hacker decides to use these skills to circumvent security for the purpose of stealing, altering and damaging (which is obviously illegal), then the hacker becomes a cracker. To put it simply: All crackers are hackers, but not all hackers are crackers.

When I started working at SoftLayer three years ago, I was told to pay very close attention to our company's security policy. Each employee is reminded of this policy very regularly. Proper security practice is essential when dealing with private customer data, and with the advancement of technology comes the availability of even more advanced tools for cracking. As a trusted technology partner, it is our obligation to maintain the highest levels of security.

There is not a day at work that I am not reminded of this, and I completely understand why. Even at a personal level, I can imagine the detrimental consequences of having my information stolen, so multiply that by thousands of customers, and it's clear that good security practices are absolutely necessary. SoftLayer recognizes what is at stake when businesses trust us with their information, and that's one of the big reasons I'm to work here. I've gone through the hassle and stress of having to cancel credit cards due to another company's negligence, and as a result, I'm joining my team in making sure none of our customers have to go through the same thing.


August 30, 2011

Global Expansion: PoP into Asia - Japan

By the end of the year, SoftLayer's global network will include points of presence (PoPs) and data centers throughout Europe and Asia. As George explained in Globalization and Hosting: The World Wide Web is Flat, the goal is to bring SoftLayer's network within 40ms of everyone on the planet. One of the first steps in reaching that goal is to cross both of the "ponds" between our US facilities and our soon-to-open international facilities.

Global Network

The location and relative size of Europe and Asia on that map may not make them viable resources when planning travel (Seattle actually isn't geographically closer to Tokyo than it is to San Jose), but they illustrate the connections we'll make to extend our network advantages to Singapore and Amsterdam.

Since I'm currently on-site in Singapore, I can give you an inside look at our expansion into Asia. The data center is coming along very nicely, but before I share any of the activity from that construction process, I wanted to share a little about a stopover I had on my trip from Dallas to Singapore: Tokyo!

Last week, we began the process of installing and lighting our first Asian point of presence in Tokyo, Japan, and after a few long days of work, it's all racked and stacked. If you're familiar with SoftLayer, you're probably aware that we build our data centers in a pod concept for a number of reasons, and our network points of presence are no different ... One funny aspect of being so familiar with the infrastructure in all of our other locations is that when we walk out the door of the data center facility, we get inundated with culture shock all over again.

SoftLayer VP of Network Operations and Engineering Will Charnock just finished the process of building the network PoP in Hong Kong, and you might see a few (similar looking) pictures from Tokyo and Hong Kong in the near future when we're ready to open those new PoPs to customer traffic. And don't worry ... I'll be sure to sneak a few shots of the Singapore DC progress for you too.



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