Posts Tagged 'News 2'

January 17, 2014

What's Next? $1.2 Billion Investment. 15 New Data Centers.

SoftLayer was founded in a living room on May 5, 2005. We bootstrapped our vision of becoming the de facto platform for cloud computing by maxing out our credit cards and draining our savings accounts. Over the course of eight years, we built a unique global offering, and in the middle of last year, our long-term vision was validated (and supercharged) by IBM.

When I posted about IBM acquiring SoftLayer last June, I explained that becoming part of IBM "will enable us to continue doing what we've done since 2005, but on an even bigger scale and with greater opportunities." To give you an idea of what "bigger scale" and "greater opportunities" look like, I need only direct you to today's press release: IBM Commits $1.2 Billion to Expand Global Cloud Footprint.

IBM Cloud Investment

It took us the better part of a decade to build a worldwide network of 13 data centers. As part of IBM, we'll more than double our data center footprint in a fraction of that time. In 2006, we were making big moves when we built facilities on the East and West coasts of the United States. Now, we're expanding into places like China, Hong Kong, London, Japan, India, Canada and Mexico City. We had a handful of founders pushing for SoftLayer's success, and now we've got 430,000+ IBM peers to help us reach our goal. This is a whole new ballgame.

The most important overarching story about this planned expansion is what each new facility will mean for our customers. When any cloud provider builds a data center in a new location, it's great news for customers and users in that geographic region: Content in that facility will be geographically closer to them, and they'll see lower pings and better performance from that data center. When SoftLayer builds a data center in a new location, customers and users in that geographic region see performance improvements from *all* of our data centers. The new facility serves as an on-ramp to our global network, so content on any server in any of our data centers can be accessed faster. To help illustrate that point, let's look at a specific example:

If you're in India, and you want to access content from a SoftLayer server in Singapore, you'll traverse the public Internet to reach our network, and the content will traverse the public Internet to get back to you. Third-party peering and transit providers pass the content to/from our network and your ISP, and you'll get the content you requested.

When we add a SoftLayer data center in India, you'll obviously access servers in that facility much more quickly, and when you want content from a server in our Singapore data center, you'll be routed through that new data center's network point of presence in India so that the long haul from India to Singapore will happen entirely on the private network we control and optimize.

Users around the world will have faster, more reliable access to servers in every other SoftLayer data center because we're bringing our network to their front doors. When you combine that kind connectivity and access with our unique hybrid offering of powerful bare metal servers and scalable virtual server instances, it's easy to see how IBM, the most powerful technology company of the last 100 years, is positioned to remain the most powerful technology company in the world for the next century.

Now it's time to get to work.

-@lavosby

January 15, 2014

Keep Spending Most Our Lives Livin' in a Gamer's Paradise

With apologies to Coolio, I couldn't resist adapting a line from the chorus of "Gangsta's Paradise" to be the title of this blog post. While I could come up with a full, cringe-worthy cloud computing version of the song (and perform it), I'll save myself the embarrassment and instead focus on why "Gamer's Paradise" came to mind in the first place. We announced some amazing stats about two gaming customers that use SoftLayer's cloud infrastructure to power popular online games, and I thought I'd share an interesting observation about that news.

More than 130 million gamers rely on SoftLayer infrastructure. SoftLayer is virtually invisible to those gamers. And that's why gaming companies love us.

When would a gamer care where a game is hosted? Simple: When gameplay is unavailable, lagging, or otherwise underperforming. Because we deliver peak cloud performance consistently for our gaming customers, we'll continue to live in the shadows of gamers' collective consciousness (while taking center stage in the minds of game producers and developers).

It's easy to get caught up in discussing the technical merits of our cloud hosting platform. Speeds and feeds provide great metrics for explaining our infrastructure, but every now and then, it's worthwhile to step back and look at the forest for the trees. Instead of talking about how bare metal resources consistently outperform their virtual server equivalents, let's take a look at why our gaming customers need as much server horsepower as we can provide:

As you can see, the games we're hosting for our customers are a little more resource-intensive than Tic-tac-toe and Pong. By leveraging SoftLayer bare metal infrastructure, gaming companies such as KUULUU and Multiplay can seamlessly support high definition gameplay in massive online environments for gamers around the world. When KUULUU launched their wildly popular LP Recharge Facebook game, they trusted our platform all the way from beta testing through launch, daily play, and updates. When Multiplay needed to support 25,000 new users in Battlefield 4, they spun up dedicated SoftLayer resources in less than four hours. If gamers expect a flawless user experience, you can imagine how attentive to infrastructure needs gaming companies are.

As more and more users sign on to play games online with Multiplay, KUULUU, and other gaming customers on our platform, we'll celebrate crossing even bigger (and more astounding) milestones like the 130 million mark we're sharing today. In the meantime, I'm going to go "check on our customers' servers" with a few hours of gameplay ... You know, for the good of our customers.

-@khazard

More Info: Multiplay and KUULUU Launch Games with SoftLayer, an IBM Company - Gaming companies flock to SoftLayer’s cloud, adding to 130 million players worldwide

Categories: 
October 3, 2013

Improving Communications for Customer-Affecting Events

Service disruptions are never a good thing. Though SoftLayer invests extensively in design, equipment, and personnel training to reduce the risk of disruptions to our customers, in the technology world there are times where scheduled events or unplanned incidents are inevitable. During those times, we understand that restoring service is top priority, and almost as important is communicating to customers regarding the cause of the incident and the current status of our work to resolve it.

To date we've used a combination of tickets, emails, forum posts, portal "yellow" notifications, as well as RSS and Twitter feeds to provide status updates during service-affecting events. Many of these methods require customers to "come and get it," so we've been working on a more targeted, proactive approach to disseminating information.

I'm excited to report that our Development and Operations teams have collaborated on new functionality in the SoftLayer portal that will improve the way we share information with customers about unplanned infrastructure troubles or upcoming planned maintenances. With our new Event Communications toolset, we're able to pinpoint the accounts affected by an event and update users who opt-in to receive notifications about how these events may impact their services.

Notifications

As the development work is finalized, we plan to roll out a few phases of improvements. The first phase of implementation, which is ready today, enables email alerts for unplanned incidents, and any portal user account can opt-in to receive them. These emails provide details about the impact and current status of an unplanned incident in progress (UIP). In this phase, notifications can be sent for devices such as physical servers, CCIs and shared SLB VIPs, and we will be adding additional services over time.

In future phases of this project, we plan to include:

  • A new "Event" section of the Customer Portal which will allow customers to browse upcoming scheduled maintenances or current/recent unplanned incidents which may impact their services. In the past, we generated tickets for scheduled maintenances, so separating these event notifications will improve customer visibility.
  • Enhanced visibility for events in our mobile apps (phone/tablet).
  • Updates to affected services for a given event as customers add / change services.
  • Notification of newly added or newly updated events that have not been read by the user (similar email "inbox" functionality) in the portal.
  • Identification of any related current or recent events as a customer begins to open a ticket in the portal.
  • Reminders of upcoming scheduled maintenances along with progress updates to the event notification throughout the maintenance in some cases.
  • Improved ability to correlate specific incidents to customer service troubles.
  • Dissemination of RFO (reason-for-outage) statements to customers following a post-incident review of an unplanned service disruption.

Since we respect our customers' inboxes, these notifications will only be sent to user accounts that have opted in. If you'd like to receive them, simply log into the Customer Portal and navigate to "Notification Subscriptions" under the "Administration" menu (direct link). From that page, individual users can control event subscriptions, and portal logins that have administrative control over multiple users on the account can control the opt-in for themselves and their downstream users. For a more detailed walkthrough of the opt-in process, visit the KnowledgeLayer: "Update Subscription Settings for the Event Management System"

The Network Operations Center has already begun using this customer notification toolset for customer-affecting events, so we recommend that you opt-in as soon as possible to benefit from this new functionality.

-Dani

December 18, 2012

2012 at SoftLayer: A Year-End Review

It's already December 18, so you've probably read a few dozen "Best of 2012" and "Looking Back on 2012" articles around the web by now. I hope that you indulge me as I add one more tally to that list ... I can't suppress the urge to take a nostalgic look back on all of SoftLayer's successes this year.

As Director of Communications, the easiest milestones for me to use as I look back are our product announcements and press releases, so I'll use those as landmarks to help tell the story of SoftLayer in 2012. Instead of listing those points chronologically, it might make a little more sense to categorize them topically so you can see the bigger picture of what's happening at the company when it comes to product innovation, growth, the startup community and industry recognition.

Driving Product Innovation

When your company motto is "Innovate or Die," there's a lot of pressure to stay on the bleeding edge of technology. In this calendar year alone, we launched some pretty amazing products and capabilities that have the potential of reshaping the competitive landscape:

  • Flex Images – In February, we announced Flex Images — an amazing tool that blurs the line between "cloud" and "dedicated." Users can easily replicate servers and move them between physical and virtual platforms to quickly meet their changing requirements. None of our competitors can match that level of flexibility.
  • High Performance Computing – In April, we launched high-performance computing (HPC) options powered by NVIDIA Tesla GPUS to provide an on-demand, consumption-based platform for users with the most compute-intensive environments.
  • SoftLayer Private Clouds – In June, we unveiled Private Clouds based on CloudStack and Citrix CloudPlatform. A Private Cloud is a an optimized environment that enables quick provisioning of cloud instances on dedicated infrastructure, and because we've automated the provisioning and expansion of the Private Cloud architecture, customers can order and configure full private cloud deployments on demand.
  • Big Data: MongoDB – Our most recent product release, an optimized MongoDB environment, was the amazing result of a strategic partnership with the team at 10gen. This flexible pay-as-you-go solution simplifies the big data buying process and enables organizations to swiftly deploy highly scalable and available production-grade systems. Big data developers don't have to settle for lower-performance virtualized platforms, and they don't have to hassle with building, configuring and tweaking their own dedicated environments (since we did all the work for them).

Expanding in Key Vertical Markets

Beyond the pure "product innovation" milestones we've hit this year, we've also seen a few key vertical markets do their own innovating on our platform. With a paintbrush and a little creativity, Pablo Picasso popularized Cubism, so when our creative customers are provided with a truly scalable platform that delivers unparalleled performance and control across both physical and virtual devices, they do their own world changing. Several top online gaming providers and cutting-edge tech companies chose SoftLayer to do their "painting" this year, and their stories have been pretty amazing:

  • Broken Bulb Studios - This social gaming developer uses SoftLayer's public and private cloud infrastructure with RightScale cloud management to easily deploy, automate and manage its rapidly expanding computing workloads across the globe.
  • KIXEYE, Storm8, and East Side Games - These online gaming companies rely on SoftLayer to provide a platform of dedicated, virtualized and managed servers from which they can develop, test, launch and run their latest games.
  • AppFirst, Cloudant and Struq - These hot tech companies moved to SoftLayer to achieve the scalability, performance and the time-to-market they need to continue meeting global market demand for their services.
  • Huge Wins in Europe, Middle East and Africa - Companies like Binweevils, Boxed Ice, Crazymist, Exit Games, Ganymede, Hotwire Financial, Mangrove, Multiplay, Peak Games and Zamzar are just some of organizations that choose SoftLayer to deliver the cloud infrastructure for their killer applications and games.

Supporting the Startup Community

2012 was the first full year of activity for the Catalyst Startup Program. Catalyst is geared toward furthering innovation by investing time and hosting resources in helping entrepreneurs build their businesses, and as an extension of that program, we also supported several high-profile incubators, accelerators and startup-related events this year:

Earning Industry Recognition

All of this innovation and effort didn't go unnoticed in 2012. SoftLayer's growth and accomplishments throughout the year resulted in some high-profile recognition:

  • SoftLayer won the Red Herring "Top 100 North America Tech Award," a mark of distinction for identifying promising new companies and entrepreneurs. With this award, we join the ranks of past recipients like Facebook, Twitter and Google.
  • SoftLayer was listed in the Top 10 on Business Insider's Digital 100 list of 2012's Most Valuable Private Tech Companies in the world, alongside Twitter, Square and Dropbox.

Beyond that "official" recognition of what we're doing to shake up the market, the best barometer for our success is our customer base. According to an amazing hosting infographic from HostCabi.net, we're the most popular hosting provider among the 100,000 most visited websites in the world. We easily beat out all other service providers — almost doubling the number of sites hosted by the second-place competitor — and we're not slowing down. We're using the momentum we've continued building in 2012 to propel us into 2013, and we encourage you to watch this space for even more activity next year.

-Andre

Categories: 
November 2, 2012

The Trouble with Open DNS Resolvers

In the last couple of days, there's been a bit of buzz about "open DNS resolvers" and DNS amplification DDoS attacks, and SoftLayer's name has been brought up a few times. In a blog post on October 30, CloudFlare explained DNS Amplification DDoS attacks and reported the geographic and network sources of open DNS resolvers that were contributing to a 20Gbps attack on their network. SoftLayer's AS numbers (SOFTLAYER and the legacy THEPLANET-AS number) show up on the top ten "worst offenders" list, and Dan Goodin contacted us to get a comment for a follow-up piece on Ars Technica — Meet the network operators helping to fuel the spike in big DDoS attacks.

While the content of that article is less sensationalized than the title, there are still a few gaps to fill about when it comes to how SoftLayer is actually involved in the big picture (*SPOILER ALERT* We aren't "helping to fuel the spike in big DDoS attacks"). The CloudFlare blog and the Ars Technica post presuppose that the presence of open recursive DNS resolvers is a sign of negligence on the part of the network provider at best and maliciousness at worst, and that's not the case.

The majority of SoftLayer's infrastructure is made up of self-managed dedicated and cloud servers. Customers who rent those servers on a monthly basis have unrestricted access to operate their servers in any way they'd like as long as that activity meets our acceptable use policy. Some of our largest customers are hosting resellers who provide that control to their customers who can then provide that control to their own customers. And if 23 million hostnames reside on the SoftLayer network, you can bet that we've got a lot of users hosting their DNS on SoftLayer infrastructure. Unfortunately, it's easier for those customers and customers-of-customers and customers-of-customers-of-customers to use "defaults" instead of looking for, learning and implementing "best practices."

It's all too common to find those DNS resolvers open and ultimately vulnerable to DNS amplification attacks, and whenever our team is alerted to that vulnerability on our network, we make our customers aware of it. In turn, they may pass the word down the customer-of-customer chain to get to the DNS owner. It's usually not a philosophical question about whether DNS resolvers should be open for the greater good of the Internet ... It's a question of whether the DNS owner has any idea that their "configuration" is vulnerable to be abused in this way.

SoftLayer's network operations, abuse and support teams have tools that flag irregular and potentially abusive traffic coming from any server on our network, and we take immediate action when we find a problem or are alerted to one by someone who sends details to abuse@softlayer.com. The challenge we run into is that flagging obvious abusive behavior from an active DNS server is a bit of a cat-and-mouse game ... Attackers cloak their activity in normal traffic. Instead of sending a huge amount of traffic from a single domain, they send a marginal amount of traffic from a large number of machines, and the "abusive" traffic is nearly impossible for even the DNS owner to differentiate from "regular" traffic.

CloudFlare effectively became a honeypot, and they caught a distributed DNS amplification DoS attack. The results they gathered are extremely valuable to teams like mine at SoftLayer, so if they go the next step to actively contact the abuse channel for each of the network providers in their list, I hope that each of the other providers will jump on that information as I know my team will.

If you have a DNS server on the SoftLayer network, and you're not sure whether it's configured to prevent it from being used for these types of attacks, our support team is happy to help you out. For those of you interested in doing a little DNS homework to learn more, Google's Developer Network has an awesome overview of DNS security threats and mitigations which gives an overview of potential attacks and preventative measures you can take. If you're just looking for an easy way to close an open recursor, scroll to the bottom of CloudFlare's post, and follow their quick guide.

If, on the other hand, you have your own DNS server and you don't want to worry about all of this configuration or administration, SoftLayer operates private DNS resolvers that are limited to our announced IP space. Feel free to use ours instead!

-Ryan

June 13, 2012

SoftLayer Private Clouds - A Cloud to Call Your Own

Those of us who've been in this industry for years have seen computing evolve pretty significantly, especially recently. We started with dedicated servers running a single operating system, and we were floored by innovations that allowed dedicated servers to run a hypervisor with many operating systems. The next big leap brought virtual machine "cloud" instances into the spotlight ... And the resulting marketing shenanigans have been a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, the approachable "cloud" term is a lot easier to talk about with a nontechnical audience, but on the negative side, we see uninformative TV commercials that leverage cloud as a marketing term, and we see products that further obfuscate what cloud technology actually means:

Cloud Phone?

To make sure we're all on the same page, as we continue to talk about "cloud," our definition is pretty straightforward:

  • It's an operations model.
  • It provides capacity on demand.
  • It offers consumption-based pricing.
  • It features self-service provisioning.
  • It can be accessed and managed via an API.

Understanding those characteristics, when you hear about cloud in the hosting industry, you're usually hearing about cloud computing instances in a public cloud environment. An instance in a public cloud is one of many instances operating on a shared cloud infrastructure alongside other similar instances that aren't managed by you. Your data is still secure, and you can still get good performance in a public cloud environment, but you're not managing the cloud infrastructure on which your instance resides ... You're using a piece of a cloud.

What we announced at Cloud Expo East is the next step in the evolution of technology in our industry ... We're providing a turnkey, on-demand way for our customers to provision their own Private Clouds with Citrix CloudPlatform, powered by Apache CloudStack.

You don't get a piece of the cloud. You have your own cloud, provisioned in a matter of hours on a month-to-month contract.

For those who have looked into building a private cloud for their business in the past, it's probably worth reiterating: With SoftLayer and CloudStack, you can have a geographically distributed, secure, private cloud environment provisioned in a matter of hours (not months). Given the complexity of a private cloud environment — involving a management server, private cloud zones, host servers and object storage — this is no small feat.

SoftLayer Private Clouds

Those unbelievable provisioning times are only part of the story ... When that cloud infrastructure is deployed quickly, it's fully integrated into the SoftLayer platform, so it leverages our global private network alongside your existing bare metal, dedicated and virtual servers. Want to add public cloud instances to your private cloud as web heads? You'll log into one portal or use a singular API to have that done in an instant.

Your own cloud infrastructure, fully integrated into SoftLayer's global infrastructure. If you're chomping at the bit to try it out for yourself, email us at privateclouds@softlayer.com, and we'll get you on the "early access" list.

Before I sign off, I want to be sure to thank everyone at SoftLayer and Citrix who worked so hard to make SoftLayer Private Clouds such an amazing new addition to our platform.

-@nday91

May 31, 2012

The Few. The Proud. The Red Herring Top 100.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending Red Herring's Top 100 North America Tech Award ceremony in Santa Monica. If you're not familiar with Red Herring, it harkens back to the headier days of the of the dot-com era in the late 90's and early 00's. While the markets have fluctuated quite a bit in the last dozen years, the startup scene has survived, and the optimism of the dot-com boom is still alive and well, albeit via more focused entrepreneurs that intentionally practice cold hard pragmatism and have bootstrap mentalities.

Today, the Red Herring Top 100 still serves as a great barometer for identifying promising new companies and entrepreneurs. The publication's editors are quick to point out that they were among the first to recognize that companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Skype, Salesforce.com, YouTube and eBay would change the way we live and work. That's the start to a pretty nice little "alumni" list if you ask me.

How does a company make the cut?

The Top 100 were judged on both quantitative and qualitative criteria, such as financial performance, technology innovation, quality of management, IP creation, CAGR, execution of strategy, and disruption in their respective industries.

Before the Top 100 are selected, each finalist has an opportunity to pitch their business model and share why they think they should be included. I heard one entrepreneur say, "I have over a million dollars invested from my family and friends, so this can't fail." These businesses may have started as simple ideas, but they're fueled by an entrepreneurial passion that have pushed them to become truly remarkable. Many of the finalists had already reached a certain level of success and were trying to build and scale-out their ideas — everything from new mobile apps, open source and storage offerings to cloud and big data optimized solutions.

While preparing a little bit of information for SoftLayer's presentation, I was pleasantly surprised to see that more than 20 finalists for Red Herring's Top 100 Americas Award were active SoftLayer customers!

10gen, AppFirst, Backupify, BrightRoll, Clickable, Cloudant, Cloudera, CVision Technologies, MedAvante, OPOWER, Optify, PageFreezer Software, Refinery29, richrelevance, RingRevenue, SAY Media, TagMan, VigLink and Zencoder

After the editors made the tough decisions to narrow down the finalists to the Top 100 winners, SoftLayer was honored and excited to join 10gen, Backupify, Cloudera, CVision Technologies, MedAvante, PageFreezer Software, RingRevenue, VigLink and Zencoder. At least 10% of the 2012 Red Herring Americas Top 100 companies are using SoftLayer.

Red Herring Americas Award

Early in my tenure at SoftLayer, a colleague told me, "We aren't looking to be the next big thing, we are looking to enable it." That's probably not going to stop us from throwing our hat in the ring to be considered for the Global 100 this fall, though.

-Andre

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.

-@gkdog

September 16, 2011

Social Marketing v. Social Media - And Them Cowboys?

Once again the Dallas Cowboys let a game they weren't supposed to win slip away from them in the 4th quarter. Again it was Tony "oops" Romo that had a hand (or "didn't have hands") in the loss. I can't blame it all on him as I saw many problems that led up to the defeat. I, as a master football coach of 4-6 year-old flag football, could write multiple paragraphs on that subject, but because this is a social media blog, I will get back on topic.

After last night's "4th quarter of doom" that probably led to crazy nightmares for my sleeping kids (I may have been yelling loudly and often), I decided to open Twitter to see what everyone in the world thought about the game. I have to admit I was a little shocked at how many Cowboy haters are out in the wild. Of course the game was trending, and the conversation was ... diverse: You had your die-hard Cowboy fans that were saying, "Shake it off, you weren't supposed to win anyway." You had your fair weather fans that were saying, "Great, another season opener loss, I guess I'll follow the Texans instead." You had the fans of other teams that were saying, "Haha, the Cowboys lost again – Go (Insert your team here)!" And, of course you had the pure Cowboy haters who were saying, "#$%^#$%^#$ the Cowboys they #$%#$% and #$%# and then #$%#$%. Eat it!" I would say most were Cowboy haters, and most of the tweets were not even close to being rated PG-13.

Stay with me now ... I'm finally onto the real topic.

Social Media
What I saw on Twitter last night was real Social Media to me. It was current, real time, opinionated, cool and sad all at the same time. It encapsulated the thoughts and reactions of the public to something that was happening or just happened. Why is social media cool? A couple of weeks ago when the earthquake struck the northeast, people were saying that they received tweet updates of the ground shaking and notifications that an earthquake hit seconds before they felt the tremors in their area. Think about that and how many possible uses that has in lots of different industries. X happens, Y needs to know about it right away, Z tweets it or posts it on Facebook (or any of the 2000 other social apps out there), and like magic you have the information almost before you are supposed to. That's viral social media.

Social Marketing
Social Marketing isn't nearly as sexy. It's only and exactly what it sounds like. We do it at SoftLayer: You see tweets from us talking about press releases, new products, our new website, our new international locations and some of the other value we provide to customers because we know how easy it is to miss some of the best stuff in the noisy social sphere. It helps us build our brand and helps with awareness by getting our name in front of people who may not have seen it otherwise. It drives traffic to our website and straight to our order form. It is significant to our bottom line.

The challenge with this kind of engagement is that the volume of content can seem overwhelming to some. Some customers only want to hear the viral social media kind of stuff with up to the minute news (which is our vision for @SoftLayerNotify), but it's tough to abandon the social marketing piece because it's been so measurably successful for us.

With that being said, we want to hear from you about what you like and don't like about our social engagement. What you would like to see more of? What would you like to see less of? Do you like it? Do you hate it? We're definitely listening ... Well as long as we're not busy getting ready for the next flash mob.

-@skinman454

July 25, 2011

Under the Hood of 'The Cloud'

When we designed the CloudLayer Computing platform, our goal was to create an offering where customers would be able to customize and build cloud computing instances that specifically meet their needs: If you go to our site, you're even presented with an opportunity to "Build Your Own Cloud." The idea was to let users choose where they wanted their instance to reside as well as their own perfect mix of processor power, RAM and storage. Today, we're taking the BYOC mantra one step farther by unveiling the local disk storage option for CloudLayer computing instances!

Local Disk

For those of you familiar with the CloudLayer platform, you might already understand the value of a local disk storage option, but for the uninitiated, this news presents a perfect opportunity to talk about the dynamics of the cloud and how we approach the cloud around here.

As the resident "tech guy" in my social circle, I often find myself helping friends and family understand everything from why their printer isn't working to what value they can get from the latest and greatest buzzed-about technology. As you'd probably guess, the majority of the questions I've been getting recently revolve around 'the cloud' (thanks especially to huge marketing campaigns out of Redmond and Cupertino). That abstract term effectively conveys the intentional sentiment that users shouldn't have to worry about the mechanics of how the cloud works ... just that it works. The problem is that as the world of technology has pursued that sentiment, the generalization of the cloud has abstracted it to the point where this is how large companies are depicting the cloud:

Cloud

As it turns out, that image doesn't exactly illicit the, "Aha! Now I get it!" epiphany of users actually understanding how clouds (in the technology sense) work. See how I pluralized "clouds" in that last sentence? 'The Cloud' at SoftLayer isn't the same as 'The Cloud' in Redmond or 'The Cloud' in Cupertino. They may all be similar in the sense that each cloud technology incorporates hardware abstraction, on-demand scalability and utility billing, but they're not created in the same way.

If only there were a cloud-specific Declaration of Independence ...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all clouds are not equal, that they are endowed by their creators with certain distinct characteristics, that among these are storage, processing power and the ability to serve content. That to secure these characteristics, information should be given to users, expressed clearly to meet the the cloud's users;

The Ability to Serve Content
Let's unpack that Jeffersonian statement a little by looking at the distinct characteristics of every cloud, starting with the third ("the ability to serve content") and working backwards. Every cloud lives on hardware. The extent to which a given cloud relies on that hardware can vary, but at the end of the day, you &nash; as a user – are not simply connecting to water droplets in the ether. I'll use SoftLayer's CloudLayer platform as a specific example of that a cloud actually looks like: We have racks of uniform servers – designated as part of our cloud infrastructure – installed in rows in our data centers. All of those servers are networked together, and we worked with our friends at Citrix to use the XenServer platform to tie all of those servers together and virtualize the resources (or more simply: to make each piece of hardware accessible independently of the rest of the physical server it might be built into). With that infrastructure as a foundation, ordering a cloud server on the CloudLayer platform simply involves reserving a small piece of that cloud where you can install your own operating system and manage it like an independent server or instance to serve your content.

Processing Power
Understanding the hardware architecture upon which a cloud is built, the second distinct characteristic of every cloud ("processing power") is fairly logical: The more powerful the hardware used for a given cloud, the better processing performance you'll get in an instance using a piece of that hardware.

You can argue about what software uses the least resources in the process of virtualizing, but apples-to-apples, processing power is going to be determined by the power of the underlying hardware. Some providers try to obfuscate the types of servers/processors available to their cloud users (sometimes because they are using legacy hardware that they wouldn't be able to sell/rent otherwise), but because we know how important consistent power is to users, we guarantee that CloudLayer instances are based on 2.0GHz (or faster) processors.

Storage
We walked backward through the distinct characteristics included in my cloud-specific Declaration of Independence because of today's CloudLayer Computing storage announcement, but before I get into the details of that new option, let's talk about storage in general.

If the primary goal of a cloud platform is to give users the ability to scale instantly from 1 CPU of power to 16 CPUs of power, the underlying architecture has to be as flexible as possible. Let's say your cloud computing instance resides on a server with only 10 CPUs available, so when you upgrade to a 16-CPU instance, your instance will be moved to a server with enough available resources to meet your need. To make that kind of quick change possible, most cloud platforms are connected to a SAN (storage area network) or other storage device via a back-end network to the cloud servers. The biggest pro of having this setup is that upgrading and downgrading CPU and RAM for a given cloud instance is relatively easy, but it introduces a challenge: The data lives on another device that is connected via switches and cables and is being used by other customers as well. Because your data has to be moved to your server to be processed when you call it, it's a little slower than if a hard disk was sitting in the same server as the instance's processor and RAM. For that reason, many users don't feel comfortable moving to the cloud.

In response to the call for better-performing storage, there has been a push toward incorporating local disk storage for cloud computing instances. Because local disk storage is physically available to the CPU and RAM, the transfer of data is almost immediate and I/O (input/output) rates are generally much higher. The obvious benefit of this setup is that the storage will perform much better for I/O-intensive applications, while the tradeoff is that the setup loses the inherent redundancy of having the data replicated across multiple drives in a SAN (which, is almost like its own cloud ... but I won't confuse you with that right now).

The CloudLayer Computing platform has always been built to take advantage of the immediate scalability enabled by storing files in a network storage device. We heard from users who want to use the cloud for other applications that they wanted us to incorporate another option, so today we're happy to announce the availability of local disk storage for CloudLayer Computing! We're looking forward to seeing how our customers are going to incorporate cloud computing instances with local disk storage into their existing environments with dedicated servers and cloud computing instances using SAN storage.

If you have questions about whether the SAN or local disk storage option would fit your application best, click the Live Chat icon on SoftLayer.com and consult with one of our sales reps about the benefits and trade-offs of each.

We want you to know exactly what you're getting from SoftLayer, so we try to be as transparent as we can when rolling out new products. If you have any questions about CloudLayer or any of our other offerings, please let us know!

-@nday91

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