Posts Tagged 'Network'

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.

-Jonathan

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.

Sayonara!

-@toddmitchell

August 16, 2011

SLDN 2.0 - The Development Network Evolved

SoftLayer is in a constant state of change ... It's not that bad change we all fear; it's the type of change that allows you to stretch the boundaries of your normal experience and run like a penguin ... Because I got some strange looks when coworkers read "run like a penguin," I should explain that I recently visited Moody Gardens in Galveston and saw penguins get crazy excited when they were about to get fed, so that's the best visual I could come up with. Since I enjoy a challenge (and enjoy running around like a penguin), when I was asked to design the new version of SLDN, I was excited.

The goal was simple: Take our already amazing documentation software infrastructure and make it better. A large part of this was to collapse our multi-site approach down into a single unified user experience. Somewhere along the way, "When is the proposal going to be ready?" became "When is the site going to be ready?", at this point I realized that all of the hurdles I had been trampling over in my cerebral site building were now still there, standing, waiting for me on my second lap.

I recently had the honor to present our ideas, philosophy and share some insight into the technical details of the site at OSCON 2011, and KHazzy had the forethought to record it for all of you!

It's a difficult balance to provide details and not bore the audience with tech specs, so I tried to keep the presentation relatively light to encourage attendees (and now viewers) to ask questions about areas they want a little more information about. If you're looking at a similar project in the future, feel free to bounce ideas off me, and I'll steer you clear of a few land mines I happened upon.

-Phil

July 26, 2011

Globalization and Hosting: The World Wide Web is Flat

Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain, on August 3, 1492, with the goal of reaching the East Indies by traveling West. He fortuitously failed by stumbling across the New World and the discovery that the world was round – a globe. In The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman calls this discovery "Globalization 1.0," or an era of "countries globalizing." As transportation and technology grew and evolved in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, "Globalization 2.0" brought an era of "companies globalizing," and around the year 2000, we moved into "Globalization 3.0":

The dynamic force in Globalization 3.0 – the force that gives it its unique character – is the newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally. And the phenomenon that is enabling, empowering, and enjoining individuals and small groups to go global so easily and so seamlessly is what I call the flat-world platform.

Columbus discovered the world wasn't flat, we learned how to traverse that round world, and we keep making that world more and more accessible. He found out that the world was a lot bigger than everyone thought, and since his discovery, the smartest people on the planet have worked to make that huge world smaller and smaller.

The most traditional measure of globalization is how far "out" political, economical and technological changes extend. Look at the ARPANET network infrastructure in 1971 and a map of the Internet as it is today.

With every step Columbus took away from the Old World, he was one step closer to the New World. If you look at the growth of the Internet through that lens, you see that every additional node and connection added to the Internet brings connectivity closer to end-users who haven't had it before. Those users gain access to the rest of the Internet, and the rest of the Internet gains access to the information and innovation those users will provide.

Globalization in Hosting

As technology and high speed connectivity become more available to users around the world, the hosting industry has new markets to reach and serve. As Lance explained in a keynote session, "50% of the people in the world are not on the Internet today. They will be on the Internet in the next 5-10 years."

Understanding this global shift, SoftLayer can choose from a few different courses of action. Today, 40+% of our customers reside outside the United States of America, and we reach those customers via 2,000+ Gbps of network connectivity from transit and peering relationships with other networks around the world, and we've been successful. If the Internet is flattening the world, a USA-centric infrastructure may be limiting, though.

Before we go any further, let's take a step back and look at a map of the United States with a few important overlays:

US Latency

The three orange circles show the rough equivalents of the areas around our data centers in Seattle, Dallas and Washington, D.C., that have less than 40 milliseconds of latency directly to that facility. The blue circle on the left shows the same 40ms ring around our new San Jose facility (in blue to help avoid a little confusion). If a customer can access their host's data center directly with less than 40ms of latency, that customer will be pretty happy with their experience.

When you consider that each of the stars on the map represents a point of presence (PoP) on the SoftLayer private network, you can draw similar circles around those locations to represent the area within 40ms of the first on-ramp to our private network. While Winnipeg, Manitoba, isn't in one of our data center's 40ms rings, a user there would be covered by the Chicago PoP's coverage, and once the user is on the SoftLayer network, he or she has a direct, dedicated path to all of our data centers, and we're able to provide a stellar network experience.

If in the next 5-10 years, the half of the world that isn't on the Internet joins the Internet, we can't rely solely on our peering and transit providers to get those users to the SoftLayer network, so we will need to bring the SoftLayer network closer to them:

Global Network

This map gives you an idea of what the first steps of SoftLayer's international expansion will look like. As you've probably heard, we will have a data center location in Singapore and in Amsterdam by the end of the year, and those locations will be instrumental in helping us build our global network.

Each of the points of presence we add in Asia and Europe effectively wrap our 40ms ring around millions of users that may have previously relied on several hops on several providers to get to the SoftLayer network, and as a result, we're able to power a faster and more consistent network experience for those users. As SoftLayer grows, our goal is to maintain the quality of service our customers expect while we extend the availability of that service quality to users around the globe.

If you're not within 40ms of our network yet, don't worry ... We're globalizing, and we'll be in your neighborhood soon.

-@gkdog

July 22, 2011

Don't Let IPv4 Exhaustion Sneak Up on You

A few months ago, IANA exhausted its unallocated IPv4 address pool when it gave the last /8's to regional registries around the world. That news got a fair amount of buzz. Last month, some of the biggest sites in the world participated in World IPv6 Day to a little fanfare as well. Following those larger flows of attention have been the inevitable ebbs as people go back to "business as usual." As long as ARIN has space available (currently 4.93 /8s in aggregate), no one is losing sleep, but as that number continues decreasing, and the forced transition to incorporate IPv6 will creep closer and closer.

On July 14, I was honored to speak at IPv6 2011: The Time is Now! about how technology is speeding up IPv4 exhaustion and what the transition to IPv6 will mean for content providers. Since the session afforded me a great opportunity to share a high level overview of how I see the IPv4-to-IPv6 transition (along with how SoftLayer has prepared), it might be interesting to the folks out there in the blogosphere:

As time goes by, these kinds of discussions are going to get less theoretical and more practical. The problem with IPv4 is that the entire world is about to run out of free space. The answer IPv6 provides is an allocation pool that is not in danger of exhaustion. The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 isn't as much "glamorous" as it is "necessary," and while the squeeze on IPv4 space may not affect you immediately, you need to be prepared for the inevitability that it will.

-@wcharnock

June 30, 2011

Having a Computer Guy in the House

This SoftLayer Blog entry actually comes to us from Kate Moseley (Age 10), daughter of VP of Network Engineering Ric Moseley.

I think it is cool that my dad is a computer guy that works for SoftLayer because he is always able to fix our computers, TVs, and anything electronic. His job is to order and fix computer networks. He also likes messing with anything technical at home including iPods, iPhones, computers, TVs, etc.

My dad is always working so hard to earn money for our family. Sometimes he's so busy emailing people at work that when you ask him a question, it's like he can't even hear you. I also think that it's cool that he gets to travel to a different state almost every month it seems like. I love going to my dad's office because I get to see what it's like working in an office with so many people in such a busy place.

My dad goes to many meetings with his boss, Lance, and the rest of the staff. When he's not at his office, he's still working really hard at home! Sometimes he stays up till 4 o'clock in the morning to help fix things at his work. One time he got a call while we were on vacation saying that a router was down at the data center and he needed to come back ASAP! So he packed up his bags and headed back to Dallas! Sometimes we don't even get to sit down and have an actual meal as a family because he always misses dinner and sometimes he's on a conference call for more than 2 hours at a time.

My dad used to work at The Planet. He and 9 other people came up with the company called "SoftLayer." SoftLayer recently merged with The Planet, and now they are one big company. His company is always getting bigger, so almost every year they have to move offices to a different location. My dad loves his job because he gets to interact with one of his favorite things: Technology. SoftLayer has given my family an opportunity to do many things in life that we would not ever have had the chance to do.

Someday I hope to be a part of SoftLayer just like my dad is today.

- Kate Moseley

If you share Kate's hope to one day be a part of the SoftLayer team, visit the SoftLayer Careers page. We have more than 50 positions available in Dallas, Houston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Francisco and Amsterdam. As Kate explained, SoftLayer is growing like crazy, so whether your background is in Finance, Technical Support, Facilities, Human Resources, IT, Marketing, Sales or Development, we want you to join us!

May 6, 2011

Cabling a SoftLayer Server Rack

A few weeks ago, SamF posted "Before They Were SoftLayer Data Centers," a virtual scrapbook from the San Jose data center construction process, and based on the surge of traffic we saw to the post, our customers loved it. It's incredible to see an open warehouse-looking space transformed into an enterprise data center environment, and there's more amazingness where that came from.

In addition to the pre-"Truck Day" pictures we posted on the blog and in the San Jose DC Construction album on Flickr, we trained a video camera on a row in the data center to capture the cabling process.

What's so interesting about plugging in cables?

Consider the fact that each of the network switches we use in a rack has at least 48 ports. Now consider that each rack has two public network switches, two private network switches and one out-of-band management network switch that need to be connected to every SoftLayer server in the rack. That's 240 pre-measured network cables that need to be labeled and routed to specific heights in each rack ... without getting tangled and knotted up (see: behind your TV or under your computer desk).

The cabling process is so precise that if a single cable is out of place, the zip-tie on an entire bundle will be cut, and the process is started from scratch. The process is time-consuming, but the results speak for themselves:

SoftLayer Server Rack

Without further ado, here's the SJ data center team in action. The video is playing at 20x normal speed, and given the amount of time it takes to complete the cabling process for each rack, we enlisted the help of Spongebob SquarePants in our use of the "Two Hours Later" cut:

Impressed? Amazed?

Just wait until you see the time-lapse from Truck Day.

-Kevin

March 14, 2011

SoftLayer SxSW Server Challenge

As the doors open to the trade show at South by Southwest (SxSW) Interactive 2011, SoftLayer is poised and ready to greet attendees with a brand new "Server Challenge" in booth 400. In previous iterations, the Server Challenge involved reassembling a single server with about a dozen components. In this challenge, we're going bigger. Literally.

In SoftLayer's booth, we have a 12U rack loaded with five servers and three network switches, and the challenge is to put it all back together as fast as possible. Check it out:

If you're roaming the trade show aisles, swing by and try your hand! Fastest time wins an iPad 2.

-@khazard

February 18, 2011

Is Your Business Ready for World IPv6 Day?

As you may have seen earlier in the week, SoftLayer is joining ISOC's 24-hour IPv6 "test flight" as a part of World IPv6 Day on June 8, 2011.

As I alluded in ISOC's press release, SoftLayer is a hosting provider, but we aren't going to be an effective resource for our customers if we don't adopt the newest technologies and platforms for future growth. Because we've built our business around that idea, you won't see many substantial changes when June 8 rolls around ... We were a little ahead of the curve in December 2008 when we began providing native IPv6 support to our publicly available services. The point of this Internet-wide event is not about getting there first, though ... It's about everyone getting there.

What does World IPv6 day mean to you? Probably little to nothing in the short-run. While there's a unanimous sense of urgency to be prepared, the real deadline is still a little ways into the future. If you're a SoftLayer customer, it's pretty easy for you to take part in your own World IPv6 Day: Provision your free IPv6 /64 on your server and start using them.

I encourage you to set goals for IPv6 functionality for the near future so you don't find yourself scrambling for a solution when you can't get any new IPv4 addresses. Don't let the fact that ARIN still has 5.20 IPv4 /8s in aggregate lull you into inaction ... The well will run dry, and the sooner you're ready for it, the better. Would your business be ready to flip the switch to IPv6 on June 8?

-Will

February 15, 2011

Five Ways to Use Your VPN

One of the many perks of being a SoftLayer customer is having access to your own private network. Perhaps you started out with a server in Dallas, later expanded to Seattle, and are now considering a new box in Washington, D.C. for complete geographic diversity. No matter the distance or how many servers you have, the private network bridges the gaps between you, your servers, and SoftLayer's internal services by bringing all of these components together into a secure, integrated environment that can be accessed as conveniently as if you were sitting right in the data center.

As if our cutting-edge management portal and API weren't enough, SoftLayer offers complimentary VPN access to the private network. This often-underestimated feature allows you to integrate your SoftLayer private network into your personal or corporate LAN, making it possible to access your servers with the same security and flexibility that a local network can offer.

Let's look at a few of the many ways you can take advantage of your VPN connection:

1. Unmetered Bandwidth

Unlike the public network that connects your servers to the outside world, the traffic on your private network is unlimited. This allows you to transfer as much data as you wish from one server to another, as well as between your servers and SoftLayer's backup and network storage devices – all for free.

When you use the VPN service to tap into the private network from your home or office, you can download and upload as much data as you want without having to worry about incurring additional charges.

2. Secure Data Transfer

Because your VPN connection is encrypted, all traffic between you and your private network is automatically secure — even when transferring data over unencrypted protocols like FTP.

3. Protect Sensitive Services

Even with strong passwords, leaving your databases and remote access services exposed to the outside world is asking for trouble. With SoftLayer, you don't have to take these risks. Simply configure sensitive services to only listen for connections from your private network, and use your secure VPN to access them.

If you run Linux or BSD, securing your SSH daemon is as easy as adding the line ListenAddress a.b.c.d to your /etc/ssh/sshd_config file (replace a.b.c.d with the IP address assigned to your private network interface)

4. Lock Down Your Server in Case of Emergency

In the unfortunate event of a security breach or major software bug, SoftLayer allows you to virtually "pull the plug" on your server, effectively cutting off all communication with the outside world.

The difference with the competition? Because you have a private network, you can still access your server over the VPN to work on the problem – all with the peace of mind that your server is completely off-limits until you're ready to bring it back online.

5. Remote Management

SoftLayer's dedicated servers sport a neat IP management interface (IPMI) which takes remote management to a whole new level. From reboots to power supply control to serial console and keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) access, you can do anything yourself.

Using tools like SuperMicro's IPMIView, you can connect to your server's management interface over the VPN to perform a multitude of low-level management tasks, even when your server is otherwise unreachable. Has your server shut itself off? You can power it back on. Frozen system? Reboot from anywhere in the world. Major crash? Feeling adventurous? Mount a CD-ROM image and use the KVM interface to install a new operating system yourself.

This list is just the beginning. Once you've gotten a taste of the infinite possibilities that come with having out-of-band access to your hosted environment, you'll never want to go back.

Now, go have some fun!

-Nick

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