Posts Tagged 'Overview'

November 4, 2011

Top 10 SoftLayer Facts

At conferences and tradeshows, I have the opportunity to meet hundreds of people. While a good number of attendees at technical conferences will come up to our booth and tell me they're already customers, we still come across a few people who glance at our collateral and our graphics with a puzzled look on their face before they say, "What's Soft ... Layer?" This is where I spring into action!

To give some context, I'll usually explain, "SoftLayer is an on-demand data center provider. We host dedicated servers, cloud computing instances and integrated solutions for customers around the world." When that overview sinks in and the attendee understands that we are an infrastructure provider, I get to share some of SoftLayer's biggest differentiators along with some pretty amazing statistics about our business. With a huge sample pool of conversations to pull from, I thought it would be fun to put together a "Top 10" list of the facts that usually impress attendees the most.

The Top 10 SoftLayer Facts

Based on "oohs" and "ahhs" from attendees

  1. No Hidden Fees: Our pricing is listed on our website and is straight-forward.
  2. Huge Product Catalog: SoftLayer offers load balancers, CDN, firewalls, managed services, and storage. If you need something we don't offer, we can usually find a way to make it work.
  3. No Long-Term Contracts: Dedicated servers are offered on a month-to-month basis, and cloud instances are available on a monthly or hourly basis. We have to earn your business every month.
  4. Built By Geeks For Geeks: We offer a fully programmable API that gives you complete control of your server(s) from your own application or system.
  5. Free Private Network Traffic: Every SoftLayer facility is interconnected via our private network. All private network traffic and inbound public network traffic is provided at no charge – We only charge for outbound public network traffic.

The Top 5 are facts that almost always amaze:

  1. Global Network: We have 13 data centers in Dallas, Houston, Seattle, San Jose, Washington, D.C., Amsterdam, and Singapore. We also operate 16 additional network Points of Presence (PoPs) around the world.
  2. Our Business is Strong: SoftLayer has 24,000+ customers in more than 150 countries. We manage more than 100,000 active servers, hosting more than 20 million domains. Oh, and we're doing about $350 million in annual revenue.
  3. Infrastructure On-Demand: Our dedicated servers can be deployed in less than four hours, and cloud instances can be provisioned in less than 15 minutes.
  4. Everything Works Together: Our dedicated servers and cloud instances are fully integrated. You can have a dedicated server in Seattle and a cloud instance in Singapore, and they're both managed by a single industry-leading portal. The fact that they can communicate with each other over SoftLayer's private network is a huge plus there as well.

And the simple fact that impresses people most: *drum roll*

  1. SoftLayer is the largest privately held hosting provider in the world!

Every time I shock attendees with these facts, I can't help but be even more proud of our accomplishments. Let's keep up the good work! We're taking over the world, one data center at a time."

-Natalie

October 10, 2011

A Manifesto: Cloud, Dedicated and Hosting Computing

We are witnessing a fundamental shift in the IT industry. It is forever changing the way technology is delivered and consumed. The pay-as-you-go model for everything you need in IT is shattering the old computing paradigms, from software licensing models and hardware refresh cycles to budgeting operating costs. This change is bringing about more control and transparency to users while accelerating the commoditization of IT by making it easily available through a new model.

This new model comes in three major "flavors": Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. We incorporate and enable all three by offering a unified, fully automated platform to enable greater customer control over their IT environments. The key tenants of this emerging model for SoftLayer are innovation, empowerment, automation and integration. Here's how we deliver against these four key tenants.

Innovation: We want to lead the industry by offering best of breed and proprietary cloud, dedicated, and managed hosting solutions, based on our own intellectual property. Currently, we have more than 252,000 hours invested and 2.6 million lines of code developed around these solutions. Customers can take charge of every aspect of their IT operations (servers, storage, networking & services) through our fully automated platform. Our Customer Portal and fully featured APIs give customer more control by providing direct access to more than 100 back-end systems and activities — every aspect of IT operations can be managed.

Empowerment: We turn IT operations into a predictable fixed cost. Customers can stay focused on achieving their business goals, not managing IT infrastructure. We offer expert planning and support from a certified, 24/7 support staff. Customers can deploy and scale when they want with one-day and on-demand automated provisioning. They can keep it as long (or short) as needed, with monthly contracts. In addition, customers can choose what they want to manage and what they don't, with the ability to have hybrid IT self-managed and managed environments. This speaks to the flexibility of our platform!

Automation: This is an area that makes SoftLayer stand out from the pack. We automate deployment and management of all services, accelerating provisioning time, streamlining administrative tasks, and making it all on-demand, every day and night. With automation that mitigates the risk for human error, comprehensive security practices and options, and a 24/7 team of certified engineers, we provide greater stability, a 100% Uptime Guarantee, and around the clock support for any issues or service.

Integration: This is the final ingredient to making it ALL work. We seamlessly integrate hardware, software, and networking into a unified service, all conveniently controlled through our easy-to-use Customer Portal and robust APIs. We provide full information, full-time through our Customer Portal and APIs, for every service we provide; there is no data about a system that we keep from our customers, from usage statistics to network performance and beyond. We have complete transparency.

These four key tenets are what set us apart. When SoftLayer started back in 2005, the team's goal was not to be Go Daddy on steroids. We set our sights on being the de facto platform for mainstream businesses to run all their IT operations. This means the complete gamut of applications and workloads with no compromise of performance, security, reliability and access. We are entering into a new IT era, where "connected everything" is the norm. It reminds me of the old phrase "the network is the computer" from Sun Microsystems' slogan. We have the foundation in place, which will make for an unforgettable journey. Let us know what you think.

-@gkdog

April 2, 2011

So ... What Does SoftLayer Do?

In the first quarter of 2011, SoftLayer presented in, exhibited at or sponsored at least thirty different conferences and events. We've globe-trotted to places like Orlando, San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas and Europa Park, Germany, to spread the word about who SoftLayer is and what we do. We've talked about data center pods over beers in Boston and showed some server skin at SxSW in Austin, and in the process, we got to share the SoftLayer story with literally thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people.

It turns out, there might be a few billion people on the planet that haven't heard of SoftLayer (yet), so every event we attend give us an opportunity to meet more people and explain the value SoftLayer can bring to their business. Take this week's Web 2.0 Expo for example: More than 500 people came by the our booth to learn more about us, get some cool swag or grab a beer during the booth crawl, and a hundred of them lined up to try their hand at the Server Challenge.

Server Challenge

Of the attendees who made it to the front of the pack to chat with one of us, it's remarkable to note how consistent some of the conversations were. Since we haven't really done a refresh to catch everyone up on what it is SoftLayer does (and since this blog is being presented in the sponsor section of Techmeme), a reintroduction may be in order.

Since the conversations I had at Web 2.0 Expo are so fresh in my mind, I thought I'd frame this little post around the most common questions we were asked by attendees learning about us for the first time (Warning: The responses to these general questions are SoftLayer's value statements, so they'll come off as very salesy ... Leading you to believe we'd answer any other way would be disingenuous, though):

"What does SoftLayer do?"
Simply put, SoftLayer is a hosting provider. That generalization doesn't do our business justice, though. We have ten data center facilities in Houston, Dallas, Washington D.C. and Seattle, and we host more than 80,000 servers for more than 25,000 customers worldwide. We offer cloud, dedicated and hybrid environments and resources that allow businesses to outsource their IT, so they can focus on their core competencies and give their hosting infrastructure to the experts.

"How are you different from <Hosting Competitor>?"
SoftLayer was built with a focus on a few core values: Innovation, Empowerment, Integration and Automation. Our hosting platform offers a true hybrid experience - dedicated and cloud services are seamlessly integrated - that can be accessed and controlled by customers in a number of ways. Each SoftLayer server supports three different kinds of network traffic (public, private and out-of-band management), and customers have complete access to their server via free KVM over IP included with every server. Everything you can do in our portal can be done with our API, and we're an industry leader in product innovation.

Oh, and you can also spin up a cloud server on our platform in under 15 minutes and a dedicated server with your specs and operating system in 2-4 hours.

"Do you support <XYZ Technology>?"
If <XYZ Technology> is current, legal and useful, you can probably use it on our platform. If we don't directly offer software or services you need, we have droves of customers and partners who probably do, and we're happy to refer you to them. Given the unparalleled access you get to your SoftLayer hosting environment, the world is your oyster.

"Impressive sales pitch, but how do I know it's more than just a pitch?"
Our business is designed around making our customers happy. Our services are offered on month-to-month contracts, so we have to continue to provide great service to you or we lose your business. We can share customer success stories until we're blue in the face, but what really matters is what your experience is when you try us out.

Somewhere in there, you might have written me off as just some public relations guy, but I believe every word in those responses (as I'm sure my 550+ coworkers do). I'm not trying to claim that if you host with SoftLayer you'll never have another problem or that people don't make mistakes on our end, but as a company, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more devoted group of people focused on providing the best experience in the business.

-@quigleymar

January 13, 2011

API Basics: What is the API?

Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces. An API allows a developer to create software that directly interfaces with another system. A simple example would be an online retail site that drop ships products from a distributor. Without an API, the retail site administrator might have to manually update stock availability and product information, but with an API, the retail site administrator can link directly to the distributor's database to display real-time stock and product changes.

SoftLayer has taken this concept to a whole new level. Most APIs are added to an existing system allowing the developer to interact with a small part of the overall architecture. SoftLayer took a different approach. We built our entire system on the API. This means anything you can do from our Portal, you can do via the API.

The breadth of the API can be seen in its current use cases. On one end of the usage spectrum, customers simply incorporate a few API calls to keep track of their hosting account details like bandwidth usage and invoice information. On the other end, users have built the API into complete management systems that allow control over all aspects of their SoftLayer experience - essentially a custom, personalized portal.

What gives an API its true power is its ability to automate. In a standard system, you can plans for any situation, but someone needs to see the situation and react to it. With the API, the system can automatically react. For example, an administrator could design a system that requires a minimum number of IP addresses for every X number of clients on a server. If a new client is added to the server and a new IP address is needed, the administrator's application can use the API to automatically request an additional block of IPs to be provisioned to the server.

This level of automation can be taken even further: A system is in place that needs to dynamically scale based on traffic. With the power of the API and the use of Cloud Instances, this can be achieved. By designing a system to monitor the current traffic trends, when certain thresholds are reached, the system can automatically request additional instances to be provisioned or excess instances to be removed from the pool and terminated. This system would function without any manual intervention to recognize the issue and react to it. Obviously, the real-time automation saves money because instances are turned up and turned down as they are needed, and it ensures your systems stay up and running. It might even let your systems administrator get a full night of sleep.

There is no limit to the potential applications of the SoftLayer API. Whether you are an individual just starting to program or have a team of developers with years of experience, the API has the tools that you will need to get started.

-Mathew

April 27, 2009

Into the Cloud

You'll see the word "cloud" bouncing around quite a bit in IT nowadays. If you have been following The Inner Layer you'll have seen it a few times here as well. A cloud service is just something that is hosted on the Internet. Typically in a cloud scenario you are not actually doing the hosting but rather using hosted resources someone else is providing. Usually you'll hear it in terms of computing and storage.

This is going to be a brief article on a cloud storage product we are doing here at SoftLayer called CloudLayer™ Storage.

CloudLayer™ Storage is a WebDAV based system which uses client software on the local machine in order to redirect filesystem operations to the storage repository here at SoftLayer. In Windows you end up with a drive letter; on a Unix system you end up with a mount point. In both cases when you create folders and save files on those locations the actions actually happen on our storage repository here. Because the files are located with us you are able to access them wherever you are. Through the CloudLayer™ web UI you're able to also set up files for sharing with others so even if where you are never changes there is still value to using the cloud storage.

Even using a cloud storage system you must maintain proper backups. Hardware, software and human error all happens. Tied in with that concept of "errors happen" ... if you have files on CloudLayer™ that you need for a presentation, download them ahead of time. You don't want to be caught without files simply because the Internet connection at your hotel decided to take a nap the morning of your event.

Now what of security? Well, the connection to the CloudLayer™ endpoint here at SoftLayer is done via an encrypted session so people cannot snoop on your transmissions. This does mean you need to allow 443/tcp outbound communications via your firewall but since that is the normal HTTPS port I'd imagine you already have it open. Within CloudLayer™ you can control with whom you share your files.

Since CloudLayer™ is a filesystem redirected over the Internet the performance you get will be dependent on your local connection speed. Its best to treat CloudLayer™ Storage as simply a file repository. If you find you need some kind of off-machine storage for running applications on your server you could look into our iSCSI product.

So, dear readers, go forth and have a cloudy day.

April 6, 2009

Solid State Drives – In House Performance Stats

I love working at SoftLayer. I get to play with the newest hardware before anyone else. Intel, Adaptec, Supermicro… The list goes on. If they are going to release something new, we get to play with it first. I also like progression. Speed, size, performance, reliability; I like new products and technologies that make big jumps in these areas. I am always looking to push components and complete systems to the limits.

But alas, Thomas Norris stole my thunder! Check out his article “SSD: A Peek into the Future” for the complete skinny on the SSD’s we use. I seem to be a bit to concise for a nice long blog anyways. But not to worry, I’ve got some nifty numbers that will blow the jam out of your toes!

Solid State Drives (SSD) represent a large jump in drive performance. Not to mention smaller physical size, lower power consumption, and lower heat emissions. The majority of drive activity is random read/write. SSD drives have drastically improved in this area compared to mechanical drives. This results in a drastic overall performance increase for SSD drives.

This is a comparison of the Intel 32GB X25-E Extreme drive vs. other drives we carry. Note the massive jump in the random read/write speed of the SSD drive.

No more waiting on physical R/W heads to move around. How archaic!

Chart

Please note that no performance utility should be used to definitively judge a component or system. In the end, only real time usage is the final judge. But performance tests can give you a good idea of how a component or system compares to others.

Single drive performance increases directly translate into big improvements for RAID configurations as well. I have compared two of our fastest SATA and SAS four drive RAID 10 setups to a four drive SSD RAID 10 using an Adaptec 5405 Controller.

Chart

The Adaptec 5405 RAID controller certainly plays a part in the performance increase, on top on the simple speed doubling due to 2 drives being read simultaneously. (See my future blog on the basics or RAID levels, or check Wikipedia) .

Propeller heads read on:

The numbers indicate a multiplied increase if you take the base drive speed (Cheetah – 11.7mbps / X25-E – 64.8mbps) and double it (the theoretical increase a RAID 10 would give): 23.4mbps and 129.6mbps respectively. Actually performance tests show 27.3mbps and 208.1mbps. That means the Cheetahs are getting a 15% performance boost on random read/write and the X25-E a whopping 37% due to the RAID card. Hooray for math!

Once again, this is all performance tests and a bit of math speculation. The only real measure of performance, IMO, is how it performs the job you need it to do.

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