Posts Tagged 'NEW'

January 10, 2014

Platform Improvements: VLAN Management

As director of product development, I'm tasked with providing SoftLayer customers greater usability and self-service tools on our platform. Often, that challenge involves finding, testing, and introducing new products, but a significant amount of my attention focuses on internal projects to tweak and improve our existing products and services. To give you an idea of what that kind of "behind the scenes" project looks like, I'll fill you in on a few of the updates we recently rolled out to improve the way customers interact with and manage their Virtual LANs (VLANs).

VLANs play a significant role in SoftLayer's platform. In the most basic sense, VLANs fool servers into thinking they're behind the same network switch. If you have multiple servers in the same data center and behind the same router, you could have them all on the same VLAN, and all traffic between the servers would be handled at the layer-2 network level. For customers with multi-tier applications, zones can be created to isolate specific servers into separate VLANs — database servers, app servers, and Web servers can all be isolated in their own security partitions to meet specific security and/or compliance requirements.

In the past, VLANs were all issued distinct numbers so that we could logically and consistently differentiate them from each other. That utilitarian approach has proven to be functional, but we noticed an opportunity to make the naming and management of VLANs more customer-friendly without losing that functionality. Because many of our customers operate large environments with multiple VLANs, they've had the challenge of remembering which servers live behind which VLAN number, and the process of organizing all of that information was pretty daunting. Imagine an old telephone switchboard with criss-crossing wires connecting several numbered jacks (and not connecting others). This is where our new improvements come in.

Customers now have the ability to name their VLANs, and we've made updates that increase visibility into the resources (servers, firewalls, gateways, and subnets) that reside inside specific VLANs. In practice, that means you can name your VLAN that houses database servers "DB" or label it to pinpoint a specific department inside your organization. When you need to find one of those VLANs, you can easily search for it by name and make changes to it easily.

VLAN List View

VLAN Naming

VLAN Detail Page

VLAN Naming

While these little improvements may seem simple, they make life much easier for IT departments and sysadmins with large, complex environments. If you don't need this kind of functionality, we don't throw it in your face, but if you do need it, we make it clear and easily accessible.

If you ever come across quirks in the portal that you'd like us to address, please let us know. We love making big waves by announcing new products and services, but we get as much (or more) joy from finding subtle ways to streamline and improve the way our customers interact with our platform.

-Bryce

October 9, 2012

Server Challenge II - The Retro Upgrade of a Fan Favorite

Wakka wakka wakka wakka. All your base are belong to us. I'm sorry Mario, but our princess is in another castle. It's dangerous to go alone. Do a barrel roll.

If you can place any of those quotes from the video games of yore, you'll probably love the Server Challenge II. Taking cues from classic arcade games, we've teamed up with Supermicro to build a worthy sequel to our original Server Challenge:

Server Challenge II

If you come across Server Challenge II at a conference, your task is clear. You step up to the full-sized server rack and perform three simple tasks:

  1. Load the data.
  2. Connect the network.
  3. Save the world.

You've got two attempts per day to install twenty-four drive trays into two 2U Supermicro servers and plug eighteen network cables into their correct switches. Get all of that done in the fastest time at the conference, and you walk away with a brand new Macbook Air. During booth setup at GDC Online, we shot a quick video of what that looks like:

The new challenge is sure to garner a lot of attention, and we're excited to see the competition heat up as the show progresses. Beyond being a fun game, the Server Challenge II is also a great visual for what SoftLayer does. When you get to touch servers in a server hosting company's booth, you're probably going to remember us the next time you need to order a new server. You also get to see the Cisco and Supermicro switches that you'd see in all of our thirteen data centers around the world ... It's a tech geek's dream come true.

In honor of the launch of Server Challenge II, we're going to offer some "live" coverage of the competition at GDC Online this week. If you want to watch the Server Challenge II GDC Online 2012 remotely via "challenge-cast," bookmark this blog post and refresh frequently. We'll update the leader board every hour or two so that you can keep track of how the times are progressing throughout the show:

Server Challenge II Leader Board - GDC Online 2012

Game on.

**UPDATE** GDC Online has officially wrapped, and after some last-minute heroics, Derek Manns grabbed the top spot (and the MacBook Air) for his Server Challenge II efforts! If you've been watching the leader board throughout the conference, you saw the top attendee time fall from 1:59.30 all the way down to 1:09.48. We hope you've enjoyed the "challenge-cast" ... Keep an eye on SoftLayer's event schedule to prepare for your next chance to take on the Server Challenge II.

-@khazard

June 5, 2012

New SoftLayer.com Design: Build the Future

If you've been reading the SoftLayer Blog via an RSS feed or if you find yourself navigating directly to the portal to manage your SoftLayer account, you might not have noticed that the our main website has been updated again — and in dramatic fashion. Last fall we gave the site a slight refresh ... This time, we did a total rework.

We took the site in a new visual direction, with graphics and messaging to complement our mantra of customers using our platform to create their vision — to build the future.

SoftLayer Homepage

The new look — referred to as "SoftLayer at Night" by my fellow SoftLayer developer friend, Seth Thornberry — was designed to reflect our core identity, and it retires the faithful red, white and grey theme that has served us well for more than three years. The new style has received rave reviews from customers, partners and employees, and even if there has been some criticism — everyone has an opinion nowadays — we can generally chalk it up to people simply not liking change.

Highlights of the Redesign:

  • A dramatic new home page design, including visually rich "hero images" (where you see "The InnerLayer" heading if you're reading this on the SoftLayer Blog)
    SoftLayer Homepage Hero Image
  • Expanded main navigation menus at the top of each page
    SoftLayer Homepage Top Nav
  • A new lower-order navigation system on the left of all content pages
  • SoftLayer Homepage Side Nav

  • [For typographically inclined] The new design also leverages web fonts functionality to incorporate "Benton Sans," the corporate font used in print, interactive and other marketing communications.
    SoftLayer Homepage Side Nav

The new design was executed in-house, and our workflow was pretty traditional ... We like to roll up our sleeves. Page templates were created as PSD files and then hand-coded in HTML, PHP, JavaScript and CSS on top of the same framework we use for the SoftLayer Customer Portal.

During the development process, we used our new GIT code repository to facilitate the merging of all of our code onto our staging server. Since it was our first time to use GIT in a major way, there was a bit of a learning curve. The first few merges had to be reworked after finding a few errors in commit messages, but after we got a little practice, the subsequent merges went off without a hitch. The final staging merge was a breeze, and given the struggles we've had with SVN in past projects, this was a huge relief.

When it came time for the design's official launch, we ran into a hiccup related to our automatic regression testing system and problems with cached CSS files, but these issues were quickly resolved, and the new-look SoftLayer.com went live.

It took a lot of hard work from (and a lot of caffeine for) a number of people to get the new site out the door, so I'd like to make sure credit goes where it's due. Our lead designer Carlos ("Los") Ruiz did a majority of the design work, and the implementation of that design fell to Dennis Dolliver (Website Developer), Charles King (SEO Manager) and me. I should also send a shout-out to the entire marketing team who jumped in to help to proof content, test pages and keep everyone sane.

What do you think of the new design? Stay tuned for more website improvements and additions!

-Brad

April 4, 2012

Sharing a Heavy Load - New Load Balancer Options

I always think of Ford, Chevy and Toyota pick-up truck commercials when I think of load balancers. The selling points for trucks invariably boil down to performance, towing capacity and torque, and I've noticed that users evaluating IT network load balancers have a similar simplified focus.

The focus is always about high performance, scalability, failover protection and network optimization. When it comes to "performance," users are looking for reliable load balancing techniques — whether it be round robin, least connections, shortest response or persistent IP. Take one of the truck commericals and replace "towing capacity" with "connections per second" and "torque" with "application acceleration" or "SSL offloading," and you've got yourself one heck of a load balancer sales pitch.

SoftLayer's goal has always been to offer a variety of local and global load balancing options, and today, I get to announce that we're broadening that portfolio.

So what's new?

We've added the capability of SSL offloading to our shared load balancers and launched a dedicated load balancer option as well. These new additions to the product portfolio continue our efforts to make life easier on our customers as they build their own fully operational virtual data center.

What's so great about SSL offloading? It accelerates the processing of SSL encrypted websites and makes it easier to manage SSL certificates. Think of this as adding more torque to your environment, speeding up how quickly certs can be decrypted (coming in) and encrypted (heading out).

Up until now, SoftLayer has offered SSL at the server level. This requires multiple SSL certifications for each server or special certs that can be used on multiple servers. With SSL offloading, incoming traffic is decrypted at the load balancer, rather than at the server level, and the load balancer also encrypts outbound traffic. This means traffic is processed in one place — at the load balancer — rather than at multiple server locations sitting behind the load balancer.

With SoftLayer SSL offloading on shared load balancers, customers can start small with few connections and grow on the fly by adding more connections or moving to a dedicated load balancer. This makes it a breeze to deploy, manage, upgrade and scale.

What do the new load balance offerings look like in the product catalog? Here's a breakdown:

Shared Load Balancing
250 Connections with SSL $99.99
500 Connections with SSL $199.99
1000 Connections with SSL $399.99
Dedicated Load Balancer
Standard with SSL $999.00

I'm not sure if load balancing conjures up the same images for you of hauling freight or working on a construction site, but however you think about them, load balancers play an integral part in optimizing IT workloads and network performance ... They're doing the heavy lifting to help get the job done. If you're looking for a dedicated or shared load balancer solution, you know who to call.

-Matt

November 29, 2011

SoftLayer Mobile v. 1.1 on Windows Phone: New Features

I was on a Caribbean cruise during the second week of November, and I kept telling myself that the first thing I needed to taste was a delicious mango. Even though I knew it's out of season, I still had hopes. I had a chance to indulge in that tropical fruit, and I couldn't help but think about a mango that gets tastier with every day: the new Windows Phone OS 7.1, codenamed "Mango."

I'm not going to talk about Mango or its new sensational features, but I do want to share a few of the changes that we pushed out to the Windows Phone Marketplace as a version 1.1 of SoftLayer Mobile. While I could ramble for pages about all of the updates and our strategy in building out and improving the mobile platform, but I'll try to be brief and only share four of the biggest new features the team included in this release.

Verisign Authentication
The first update you'll notice when you fire up SoftLayer Mobile 1.1 on Windows Phone is the security-rich inclusion of VeriSign authentication. You are able to activate an additional layer of security by requiring that users confirm their identity with a trusted third party tool before they get access to your account. In this case, the third party vendor is VeriSign. Every customer looking to bake in additional security on their account will appreciate this addition.

SoftLayer Mobile WP

VeriSign authentication in SoftLayer Mobile on WP7

Device-Based Bandwidth
The next big addition to this Windows Phone app release is the inclusion of device-based bandwidth for two billing cycles – your current cycle and the previous cycle. In v. 1.0 of SoftLayer Mobile, users were only able to see bandwidth data for the current billing cycle ... It's useful, but you don't have a frame of reference immediately available. This release provides that frame of reference. One of the coolest parts is the aesthetically pleasing presentation: our metro-style container, "pivot control." Just slide through and see your billing cycles in one long view!

SoftLayer Mobile WP

Billing cycle view along with a button to view graph for that cycle

Bandwidth Graphs
If you didn't notice from the picture, its caption or the heading of this section, the next big update is the inclusion of bandwidth graphs! The bandwidth graph page gives you a bird's eye view of your bandwidth activity for any selected billing cycle. You'll see the max "Inbound," "Outbound" and "Total" values. Those different marks are very useful if you're tracking which days your device uses the most bandwidth and when those surges subside. The application uses the built-in charting functionality that comes with Silverlight libraries. Since we're taking advantage of those goodies, you can bet it looks beautiful. No, it's not a bitmap image ... it's a real bandwidth chart. As with the other bandwidth update, the graphs are available for both the current and the previous billing cycle.

SoftLayer Mobile WP

Bandwidth chart for a previous billing cycle

Ticket Updates
The next addition to the family is a new way to visually distinguish your unread updates on tickets while viewing a ticket list page. The "toast" notification for the ticket list view gives flags unread ticket updates, and the ticket list will feature bold text on the ticket's subject if that ticket is marked with an "unread update" *ndash; meaning an employee or someone has an update to that ticket which you haven't seen yet. This is very much Outlook-y style and very native to Windows Phone.

SoftLayer Mobile WP

Toast notification along with Outlook-style unread ticket

What's Next?
With this release, we're not resting on our laurels, so what are we doing in our labs? Right now we're working on OS migration to move our existing app from OS 7.0 to the new Mango-flavored Windows Phone 7 version I mentioned a little earlier. Now you see why I was so fixated on mangoes while I was on vacation. The migrated mango app will only be available to devices that are mango-licious (Upgraded to 7.1).

Stay tuned, and you'll see some of the other new features we're working on very soon. If you have a Windows Phone, you need to download SoftLayer Mobile, rate it and give us your feedback!

-Imran

October 25, 2011

Global Expansion: Amsterdam Ready to Launch

Where has the time gone? We still have confetti in our hair from the party celebrating the Singapore data center going online, and all of a sudden, we're announcing that SoftLayer servers are available in Amsterdam for presale.

If you saw the epic "SoftLayer is Coming to Town", you may have noticed a clip of the Go Live Crew (GLC) team members in Amsterdam at around the 1:05 mark:

GLC Amsterdam

With pallets of wrapped equipment and a few racks constructed in the background, it's pretty clear that as of October 1, the data center was a long way from calling itself a SoftLayer Pod. A few short weeks ago, I shared an update on the progress of our first European facility, and now we're less than two weeks away from the first customer servers being provisioned in Amsterdam!

Mark your calendar: November 7 - The date your first SoftLayer server in Amsterdam will go live.

In addition to customer servers being provisioned when the data center officially opens its doors, our network points of presence throughout Europe will be humming along nicely. That means if you're a SoftLayer customer in Europe, you should see some fantastic improvements in your network paths and speeds to servers in the United States (and Singapore) since you'll be able to hop onto our network sooner and ride with SoftLayer across the Atlantic.

Amsterdam Server Special
To coincide with the launch of our Singapore facility, we brought back the Triple Double server special to reward early adopters, and we're doing the same thing for customers in Amsterdam. Order a server in AMS with promo code TRIPLE, and you can double your RAM, bandwidth and HDD space for FREE.

The guys on the GLC in Amsterdam have worked tirelessly to ensure that everything is perfect (fueled by daily "Da Bobby G" sandwiches), and we're all ecstatic for customers to start taking advantage of the latest addition to the stellar SoftLayer infrastructure.

What are you waiting for? Shouldn't you be clicking through to pre-order your Amsterdam server right now?

-@quigleymar

January 4, 2010

What's the Meaning of Family?

To a lot of people when you hear the word family you associate it with your mom, dad, kids, cousins etc. But, have you ever thought about your employer or co-workers being a part of your family? Let’s evaluate this question. You spend on average about 40 to 50 hours per week, which means an estimated amount of 1,920 to 2,400 hours per year, with co-workers. There will be moments where you laugh and cry together; there will also be moments when a long time co-worker will make a decision to advance their career in a new direction with a different company, and new additions will be made. Each family member has their responsibilities and role to play; the same way each department here at Softlayer does.

When I first came aboard in the Accounting department here at SoftLayer I was a little intimidated because I was clueless to the web hosting industry and I didn’t quite understand what SoftLayer actually did. However, I knew I was a whiz in accounting and therefore I could master this. To help shed some light on my job and its responsibilities, my boss decided to take me on a tour of one our data centers located in Dallas, TX. I was expecting to see a large room that stored a lot of servers and computer monitors; boy was I wrong and totally amazed. The SoftLayer Data center was so well organized and structured. There were no loose cables, rather elevated flooring and a state of the art floor cooling system to protect the servers from overheating. I was really impressed with the Hardware Engineers and CSA’s working diligently as a team to ensure all orders were processed 100% accurately. Being able to see the datacenter helped me understand more in depth what my job entailed.

Our Development department plays a huge role as well. They make sure new products are launched to keep us competitive in the web hosting industry. What we are advertising stands up to our name. A lot of behind the scenes testing takes place, which requires multiple departments to work together. Our Sales reps are very knowledgeable about our products and services. They ensure that our customers are happy with their purchases and that they stay happy. They go above and beyond to make sure you are renting a server that benefits your business needs.

Families like to have fun, and so does SoftLayer. We do company BBQ events and holiday parties as well as toy, food, and blood drives. They also make sure we get lots of SL gear, which we love! But most importantly we have monthly meetings with management where we can voice our opinion. After all, a happy employee is what keeps the company’s customer service level up. In conclusion, SoftLayer is a family oriented business and I do consider each of my co-workers a part of a family; because like a family, we all have to pitch in with a helping hand and help one another out.

December 11, 2009

Newly Married

So, for those of you who don’t know, I just got married. It was awesome. It happened on the 21st of November in Tulsa. Mandy and I got a chance to see a bunch of our college friends that we have not seen in a long time. Two weeks have passed, and we are still getting phone calls from different people telling us stories about the night. Everything went well, and now we are back in Dallas living the married life.

The thing that I want to talk about is the fact that Mandy changed her last name to Collins. This concept raised a memory of mine from childhood. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I woke up one day and walked into our family’s living room. My immediate family was there, plus some cousins, uncles etc. They were all over to watch some football.

Well, I made an entrance and just yelled, “I HATE MY NAME! Cody is a stupid name and I do not want to be called this anymore!!!” Then, I ran out of the room to ponder what name I should be called from this point on…

About two minutes later, I came up with my new name. I was set on it. For sure, this was going to be my name! I ran back into the living room and said, “I will no longer respond to people when they call me ‘Cody’. I will only respond if I am called ‘William’!”

So the day went on, and I stayed strong. I would not respond to my brother, sister, mom, dad, or anyone that was over at our house if they called me by my “old name”. So, people ended up giving in and started calling me William for the day. Then the night came, and I became upset and cried to my parents. “I don’t want to be William. I want to be Cody again,” and I ran into my bedroom and went to sleep.

Well, that was my story, and the point is… I hope Mandy is happy with her new last name! I guess she has no choice. Haha. She’s stuck with it!

Categories: 
November 4, 2009

Exposure

Imagine this… You’ve decided to move to a new location, experience a new culture, and try new things. Let’s pretend for this particular instance that you’ve decided to take a trip to Magrathea to get away from it all. After a few weeks you start picking up a few local phrases, learn the native idiosyncrasies, and assimilate yourself into the culture of the Magratheans. Later you notice that you’ve assimilated quite well, and what used to be weird, different, and sort of scary has become second nature to you. You then can talk the talk and walk the walk.

Such is a similar case here at SL. You start, and regardless of the knowledge level coming in (I hadn’t been exposed to the web hosting industry before my tenure began here at SL), you feel a bit overwhelmed. The people, the culture and even the SLanguage is slightly different from the rest of the world. We move faster, work harder, and laugh more than the average technician. While at first glance life here at SL seems overwhelming, soon one realizes that they’re starting to get it together. Soon the pieces start to come together, and it only snowballs from there.

I’ll never forget my training. The new hardware, the IPMI, the automated provisions… it all seemed so unreal, confusing, and at times crazy. After working in depth for some time, I began to get the hang of things, and then I was able to solve more and more complex problems, and eventually teach the trainees the ways of the SLayer, and the cycle would continue. I’ve since taken on new responsibilities, and continue to learn new things every day – all through exposure. I guess what I’m trying to convey here is that regardless of how well you think you know something, nothing teaches like exposure and immersion into a particular topic.

September 28, 2009

Game Time

It’s Sunday morning and I’m leaving the NOC to make my morning rounds of the Washington, D.C. datacenter. Grumpy and tired I walk through the double doors into the fluorescent glare of the server room. In 30 paces the colorful eth bundles of our servers come into view and then I realize. I love the sound of server fans in the morning.

The past year and a half at SoftLayer’s newest datacenter have been incredibly stressful and rewarding. Those who endured have gained my respect. Personal differences have subsided and camaraderie has formed. Of course anyone would wonder how many tech nuts does it take to make a clan? And from the glue of hardship was born Team Orange DOW2.

You might wonder why people who work together so much (sometimes for 12+ hr shifts) want to spend more time with each other. I mean, haven’t you had enough already? The answer is that we already have so much in common and finding a few extra hours to hang out together online is a joy we can’t get enough of. Of course, the entertainment value of an innovative RTS like DOW2 is multiplied immensely when played with friends. Of the other SoftLayer members of Team Orange DOW2 I am the newest to multiplayer gaming and am impressed by how much tech goes into it. Numerous options for in-game chatting (Team Orange uses Mumble, which has the least lag and cleanest interface), hi-powered video cards (1.5GB onboard ram!), dual core procs running on Win7 RC, live-streamed replays with on-demand libraries, and much more.

Everyone has heard the theory that gaming has pushed the boundaries of computing, but I believe it is more likely that datacenters like SoftLayer have pushed the boundaries of networking and helped make advanced tech more affordable to the ravenous mass of online gamers. The number of mega-powered game servers hosted by SoftLayer is a testament to the unholy integration of gaming and networking, and to that all of us closet gamers must say, “moar please!”[sic]

Subscribe to new