Posts Tagged 'Provision'

December 19, 2012

SoftLayer API: Streamline. Simplify.

Building an API is a bit of a balancing act. You want your API to be simple and easy to use, and you want it to be feature-rich and completely customizable. Because those two desires happen to live on opposite ends of the spectrum, every API finds a different stasis in terms of how complex and customizable they are. The SoftLayer API was designed to provide customers with granular control of every action associated with any product or service on our platform; anything you can do in our customer portal can be done via our API. That depth of functionality might be intimidating to developers looking to dive in quickly and incorporate the SoftLayer platform into their applications, so our development team has been working to streamline and simplify some of the most common API services to make them even more accessible.

SoftLayer API

To get an idea of what their efforts look like in practice, Phil posted an SLDN blog with a perfect example of how they simplified cloud computing instance (CCI) creation via the API. The traditional CCI ordering process required developers to define nineteen data points:

Hostname
Domain name
complexType
Package Id
Location Id
Quantity to order
Number of cores
Amount of RAM
Remote management options
Port speeds
Public bandwidth allotment
Primary subnet size
Disk size
Operating system
Monitoring
Notification
Response
VPN Management - Private Network
Vulnerability Assessments & Management

While each of those data points is straightforward, you still have to define nineteen of them. You have all of those options when you check out through our shopping cart, so it makes sense that you'd have them in the API, but when it comes to ordering through the API, you don't necessarily need all of those options. Our development team observed our customers' API usage patterns, and they created the slimmed-down and efficient SoftLayer_Virtual_Guest::createObject — a method that only requires seven data points:

Hostname
Domain name
Number of cores
Amount of RAM
Hourly/monthly billing
Local vs SAN disk
Operating System

Without showing you a single line of code, you see the improvement. Default values were established for options like Port speeds and Monitoring based on customer usage patterns, and as a result, developers only have to provide half the data to place a new CCI order. Because each data point might require multiple lines of code, the volume of API code required to place an order is slimmed down even more. The best part is that if you find yourself needing to modify one of the now-default options like Port speeds or Monitoring, you still can!

As the development team finds other API services and methods that can be streamlined and simplified like this one, they'll ninja new solutions to make the API even more accessible. Have you tried coding to the SoftLayer API yet? If not, what's the biggest roadblock for you? If you're already a SLAPI coder, what other methods do you use often that could be streamlined?

-@khazard

November 28, 2011

Brisket and BYOC

With all of the cooking and eating going on around Thanksgiving, Summer's Truffle Mac and Cheese blog inspired me to think back on any of the "expertise" I can provide for SoftLayer customers in the kitchen. One of the first things my mother taught me to cook was brisket. While it might not be as exotic as 3 Bars Barbeque, it's pretty easy to make. Everyone who tastes it sings its praises and thinks it took forever to prepare, and while it does have to cook in the oven for about four hours, there are only five ingredients, so the "preparation" time is actually only around ten minutes. Since it's not exactly a family secret, I don't think I'll get into any trouble for sharing it:

Easy-To-Make Brisket Ingredients

  • 1 Brisket - I'd recommend having the majority (not all) of the fat trimmed off at the store
  • 2 1/2 Cups of Ketchup - Buy the largest ketchup bottle and plan on using a little more than half
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Water
  • 1 Packet of Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 Can of Tomato Paste (Optional, adds flavor)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Mix all of the non-brisket ingredients and pour them on top of the brisket in a large roaster (one with a lid would be preferable)
  3. Make sure the entire brisket is covered. Pick it up to get your other ingredients underneath.
  4. Pop it into the oven for four hours at 300 degrees.
  5. Take it out, let it cool, and enjoy!

That's the basic, original recipe, but I've found a few ways to make it juicier along the way. One tip is to pull the brisket from the oven after about three and a half hours and slice it against the grain. If you have an electric knife, this is the perfect chance to use it, and if you don't, this could be an excuse to get one. Put the brisket back in the roaster for another half hour, and you'll love the results. Because ovens differ, just make sure it's moist before you take it out to serve.

At this point, you're probably asking yourself what a brisket recipe has to do with SoftLayer. If you've used our Build Your Own Cloud wizard, you might already see the similarity: You can put something together that seems dauntingly time consuming quickly and without breaking a sweat ... And the end result is amazing. There are a few simple steps to making an impressive brisket, and it takes a few clicks to build a customized cloud instance with all the benefits of SoftLayer's global network and support.

Too often, selecting a cloud instance involves more limitations than it does choices, so we wanted to make sure the BYOC service enabled customers the granularity to choose CPU, RAM, and storage configurations on newer, more powerful servers than our competition. Just like my tweak of the original recipe, we want customers to have the ability to tweak their cloud platform to provide the best application performance, cost efficiency, and availability for their specific needs.

If this blog left you hungry, you've got everything you need to make an amazing brisket. If you don't have the ingredients (or the four hours) you need to make one now, you can try the quicker BYOC recipe:

SoftLayer Cloud Ordering Ingredients

  • The device you're using to read this blog.
  • A list of what you want on your cloud instance.

Instructions

  1. Visit SoftLayer's Build Your Own Cloud page.
  2. Select the options you want and submit your order.
  3. Start using your custom cloud instance in less than 20 minutes!

Happy Building! :-)

-Rachel

Categories: 
October 27, 2011

SoftLayer Features and Benefits - Data Centers

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

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

Data Center Window

What makes a SoftLayer DC so different and unique?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Harold

September 21, 2011

Global Expansion: Singapore Nearing Completion

In early September I shared with you a progress report on our first international data center in Singapore. It should be no surprise that our build out has been moving at breakneck speeds. In the last couple of weeks we've:

  1. Completed the construction of our new regional office in Singapore
  2. Built out 3 network PoPs (Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore)
  3. Unloaded 4 x 40 foot ocean containers
  4. Received over 100 pallets of equipment and gear – with more to come
  5. Assembled 220 custom server cabinets
  6. Installed 120 customer facing switches (5,760 switch ports)
  7. Provisioned petabytes of new shared storage waiting for your data

We're also ecstatic to have our new Singaporean employees burning the midnight oil with us. We spent countless hours interviewing for a number of positions in Singapore and we've only hired the most talented, brightest stars that we could find. Everyone has fit right in, loves the culture and they're rocking it. We still have a bunch of open positions – if you're interested, drop us a note.

As our go-live date approaches we're putting the final touches on the data center. One last check to ensure all cables are seated correctly in their ports, double check the configurations on our internal equipment, light the network and have our first ever international truck day – although, we might have to call it ocean container day. :)

I've included some pictures below that I took over the last couple of days showing the progress of the data center build out. Expect a full set of pictures once everything is live.

Singapore Sep 20

Singapore Sep 20

Singapore Sep 20

-@toddmitchell

September 13, 2011

SoftLayer Features and Benefits - Automation

Features and benefits ... They're like husband and wife, horse and carriage, hammer and nails! They are inseparable and will always complement each other. I wanted to jump right into a key "features and benefits" analysis of one of the value propositions of the SoftLayer platform, but before I did, I want to make sure we are all on the same page about the difference between the two.

A feature is something prominent about a person, place or thing. It's usually something that stands out and makes whatever you're talking about stand out — for the purpose of this discussion it will be, at least. It could be something as simple as the new car you're buying having a front windshield or the house you're looking to buy having a garage. Maybe it's something a little more distinct like having your car's air conditioner stay cool and blow for 15 min after the ignition is switched to the ACC position when you turn your engine off while pumping gas. Maybe your house has a tank-less water heater. These examples are indeed real features, but the first two are more or less expected ... The last two make this particular car and this particular house stand out.

So where do the benefits come in? Benefits are features that are useful or profitable to you. With you being the operative word here. Think about it: If a feature does not provide any use to you, why would you care? Let's go back to the car with its unique A/C feature. What if you live in Greenland? Who cares that the A/C will stay on? You may not even care for the feature of having an air conditioner at all! Talk about that feature in Dallas, TX, where it has been over 100 degrees for the last 2 months and counting, and all of a sudden, this feature provides a real benefit!

It's now your cue to ask how all of this relates to hosting or, more specifically, SoftLayer.

{ ... Waiting for you to ask ... }

I am glad you asked! If you haven't noticed, SoftLayer boasts a wide array of features on our website, and I would like to point out some of the benefits that may not be apparent to everyone, starting with automation. You're probably aware that SoftLayer has one of the most robust and full featured automation platforms in the industry.

Automation

Think about the last time your IT director sent an email that went into your junk mail folder ... You happen to see it on Sunday night, and it reads, "Please stand up five test servers for a new project by the Monday morning meeting." You know that the vendors you typically use take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks to stand up new servers, so you wouldn't have had a problem if you saw the email a week ago when it was sent — but you didn't. So to avoid getting a smudge on your perfect employee record, you stumble across softlayer.com where automation enables us to deliver your five servers in 2 hours. Talk about a benefit: You still have time to watch a little TV before going to bed ... Five servers, to your exact specifications, all deployed before you could Google the orgin of "rubber baby buggy bumbers." (For those who care, it was a tag line said by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Last Action Hero.)

At the heart of our automation platform lives the dedicated server, and the blood that courses though our network is the API. All that's left is the pretty face (which we call the Customer Portal). Our portal provides a graphical user interface to control every aspect of your account from ordering new servers, IP allocations and hardware reboots to port control, port speed selection and billing matters. If you're more into the behind-the-scenes stuff, then you can use all the same controls from the comfort of your own application via the API. Sounds like a lot of features to me, where are the benefits?

To start, you have options! Who doesn't like options? You get to choose how you want to manage your account and infrastructure. We don't force you into "our" way. Secondly, being able to do most functions yourself enables you to be more efficient. You know what you want, so you can log in and get it. No need to wait two hours for your firewall rule set to update; just log in and change it. You want to add load balancing to your account? Log in and order it! How about SAN replication? ... I think you see where I'm going with this. Our portal and automation bring this control to your computer anywhere in the world! Some of these features even extend to your iPhone and android platform. Now you can update your support tickets while at the park with the kids.

Look for a second installment of our study on SoftLayer Features and Benefits! There are many more features that I want to translate into benefits for you, so in the more familiar words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "I'll be back"!

-Harold

September 2, 2011

Global Expansion: An Early Look at Singapore

Based on the blog's traffic analytics, customers are very interested in SoftLayer's global expansion, and in my update from Tokyo, I promised a few sneak peeks into the progress of building out the Singapore data center. We've been talking about our move into Asia for a while now, but we haven't showed much of the progress. The cynics in the audience will say, "I'll believe it when I see it," and to them, I say:

These pictures were actually taken a few weeks ago before our Server Build Technicians came on site, and it looks even more amazing now ... But you'll have to check back with us in the coming weeks to see that progress for yourself. Both the Singapore and Amsterdam facilities are on track to go live by the middle of Q4 2011, and we're already starting to hear buzz from our customers as they prepare to snatch up their first SoftLayer server in Asia.

If you want to have a little fun, you should compare these build-out pictures with the ones we've posted from the completed San Jose facility and the under-construction Amsterdam data center. As we've mentioned in previous posts, SoftLayer uses a data center pod concept to create identical hosting environments in each of our locations. Even with the data centers' varying floor plan layouts and sizes, the server room similarities are pretty remarkable.

Stay tuned for updates on the build-out process and for information about when you can start provisioning new servers in Singapore. If you have any questions about the build-out process, leave a comment below or hit us up on Twitter: @SoftLayer.

-@toddmitchell

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