Posts Tagged 'Provisioning'

August 17, 2012

SoftLayer Private Clouds - Provisioning Speed

SoftLayer Private Clouds are officially live, and that means you can now order and provision your very own private cloud infrastructure on Citrix CloudPlatform quickly and easily. Chief Scientist Nathan Day introduced private clouds on the blog when it was announced at Cloud Expo East, and CTO Duke Skarda followed up with an explanation of the architecture powering SoftLayer Private Clouds. The most amazing claim: You can order a private cloud infrastructure and spin up its first virtual machines in a matter of hours rather than days, weeks or months.

If you've ever looked at building your own private cloud in the past, the "days, weeks or months" timeline isn't very surprising — you have to get the hardware provisioned, the software installed and the network configured ... and it all has to work together. Hearing that SoftLayer Private Clouds can be provisioned in "hours" probably seems too good to be true to administrators who have tried building a private cloud in the past, so I thought I'd put it to the test by ordering a private cloud and documenting the experience.

At 9:30am, I walked over to Phil Jackson's desk and asked him if he would be interested in helping me out with the project. By 9:35am, I had him convinced (proof), and the clock was started.

When we started the order process, part of our work is already done for us:

SoftLayer Private Clouds

To guarantee peak performance of the CloudPlatform management server, SoftLayer selected the hardware for us: A single processor quad core Xeon 5620 server with 6GB RAM, GigE, and two 2.0TB SATA II HDDs in RAID1. With the management server selected, our only task was choosing our host server and where we wanted the first zone (host server and management server) to be installed:

SoftLayer Private Clouds

For our host server, we opted for a dual processor quad core Xeon 5504 with the default specs, and we decided to spin it up in DAL05. We added (and justified) a block of 16 secondary IP addresses for our first zone, and we submitted the order. The time: 9:38am.

At this point, it would be easy for us to game the system to shave off a few minutes from the provisioning process by manually approving the order we just placed (since we have access to the order queue), but we stayed true to the experiment and let it be approved as it normally would be. We didn't have to wait long:

SoftLayer Private Clouds

At 9:42am, our order was approved, and the pressure was on. How long would it take before we were able to log into the CloudStack portal to create a virtual machine? I'd walked over to Phil's desk 12 minutes ago, and we still had to get two physical servers online and configured to work with each other on CloudPlatform. Luckily, the automated provisioning process took on a the brunt of that pressure.

Both server orders were sent to the data center, and the provisioning system selected two pieces of hardware that best matched what we needed. Our exact configurations weren't available, so a SBT in the data center was dispatched to make the appropriate hardware changes to meet our needs, and the automated system kicked into high gear. IP addresses were assigned to the management and host servers, and we were able to monitor each server's progress in the customer portal. The hardware was tested and prepared for OS install, and when it was ready, the base operating systems were loaded — CentOS 6 on the management server and Citrix XenServer 6 on the host server. After CentOS 6 finished provisioning on the management server, CloudStack was installed. Then we got an email:

SoftLayer Private Clouds

At 11:24am, less than two hours from when I walked over to Phil's desk, we had two servers online and configured with CloudStack, and we were ready to provision our first virtual machines in our private cloud environment.

We log into CloudStack and added our first instance:

SoftLayer Private Clouds

We configured our new instance in a few clicks, and we clicked "Launch VM" at 11:38am. It came online in just over 3 minutes (11:42am):

SoftLayer Private Clouds

I got from "walking to Phil's desk" to having a multi-server private cloud infrastructure running a VM in exactly two hours and twelve minutes. For fun, I created a second VM on the host server, and it was provisioned in 31.7 seconds. It's safe to say that the claim that SoftLayer takes "hours" to provision a private cloud has officially been confirmed, but we thought it would be fun to add one more wrinkle to the system: What if we wanted to add another host server in a different data center?

From the "Hardware" tab in the SoftLayer portal, we selected "Add Zone" to from the "Actions" in the "Private Clouds" section, and we chose a host server with four portable IP addresses in WDC01. The zone was created, and the host server went through the same hardware provisioning process that our initial deployment went through, and our new host server was online in < 2 hours. We jumped into CloudStack, and the new zone was created with our host server ready to provision VMs in Washington, D.C.

Given how quick the instances were spinning up in the first zone, we timed a few in the second zone ... The first instance was online in about 4 minutes, and the second was running in 26.8 seconds.

SoftLayer Private Clouds

By the time I went out for a late lunch at 1:30pm, we'd spun up a new private cloud infrastructure with geographically dispersed zones that launched new cloud instances in under 30 seconds. Not bad.

Don't take my word for it, though ... Order a SoftLayer Private Cloud and see for yourself.

-@khazard

April 20, 2011

An Innovative Approach to Managed Hosting

One of SoftLayer's driving principles is innovation — Our mantra is 'Innovate or Die.' We don't focus on offering the lowest cost solutions; we strive to offer the most innovative solutions, which in turn brings customers the greatest value.

Take as an example SoftLayer Managed Hosting, a new service we're launching this week.

A quick survey of the market tells us a number of key things about managed hosting in terms of the value proposition offered, as well as the challenges that it can present. The value proposition seems clear: Organizations that need their infrastructure managed and don't have the internal resources to do so can either expand their IT capabilities or look externally to a service provider to take on the work. Many choose the second option because it is much faster and more cost effective than building an internal function. Elimination of infrastructure management responsibilities combined with a lower price would seem to deliver significant value.

So where's the downside?

A typical managed services deal comes with a 3-5 year contract, often accompanied by an early termination fee. The end result: customer lock-in. If the service is not up to snuff, it is difficult to move to another provider.

This is great for the provider, but not so great for the customer. To make matters even less customer-centric, these deals tend to be "all or none" affairs. The service provider wants to add management fees to everything versus just those pieces that the customer wants managed. In addition to that, provisioning time can be horrendous. A managed environment typically takes anywhere from 10-15 business days before the customer can access the environment. That's a painful length of time when you compare it with the five minutes it takes to provision a SoftLayer cloud instance and the 2-4 hours it takes to get a dedicated box online and ready for you.

Understanding the competitive landscape, we decided to take a different approach with our Managed Hosting: The innovative approach.

Instead of a 10-15 day provisioning window, we'll have your managed environment up and running within one (1) business day of ordering.

From a contract perspective, we are confident enough in our service to offer a month-to-month terms. If you don't like the service or if we can't deliver, you should be free to find a provider that meets your needs — no penalties incurred. Isn't it time to expect a provider to earn your business each month? This arrangement also makes managed hosting feasible for short-term needs and applications.

Additionally, SoftLayer Managed Hosting is not "all or none." We'll manage only the pieces of the solution that you want managed.

And to top everything off, it just so happens that we can deliver these solutions at a price point lower than anyone else in the market because of the platform's flexibility.

In this case, innovation brings customers the greatest service value AND the best price!

CBNO

-@nday91

P.S. Neovise prepared a detailed report on our managed hosting offering: A New Breed of Managed Hosting for the Cloud Computing Age. If you like white papers (and who doesn't?), it'll be right up your alley.

January 3, 2011

I'm Dreaming of TV Commercials

With GI Partners' investment into SoftLayer last August and the subsequent merger with The Planet in November, I haven't had a spare moment to write a blog. As I write this, it's just before year end 2010, and now that we are the largest privately held pure-play hosting company in the world, I sort of wonder how soon it will be before SoftLayer TV commercials start popping up. Hey, maybe one day we'll do a Super Bowl commercial! We always dream big.

Thus, I thought I'd try my hand at a script for our first commercial:

INT. IT GUY'S DESK

IT GUY is on phone to SERVER SUPPLIER.

IT GUY

We need another 50 servers as fast as you can get them to us – we are out of capacity and the big guns are demanding better email performance and lower latency for incoming orders and customer service traffic. I wish I could have them tomorrow, but…

SERVER SUPPLIER

Yeah, we can't do tomorrow. Let's see, I think I can squeeze them into next week's production run and then expedite shipping. We can probably have them on your dock in 12-14 days.

IT GUY

Oh boy. I don't know if that will be good enough. I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. I have accounting on my case about minimizing lowly utilized machines while sales, marketing, and operations whine about not keeping enough spare capacity to handle business spikes. I can't win.

SERVER SUPPLIER

Ouch. Wish I could get them there faster, but 12 days is our best-case scenario for you.

IT GUY

OK, thanks for trying. Go ahead and get them here as fast as you can.

SERVER SUPPLIER

You wanna order a few more for a cushion?

IT GUY

Not if I don't want the CFO complaining to my boss about me over ordering – again.

SERVER SUPPLIER

I understand. We'll go with the 50 for now.

IT GUY hangs up the call, still stressed out, talks to himself.

IT GUY

Geez. It'll take the full 14 days to get here. Then we have to rack them, cable them, test them, then provision them. It could be a month before they go live in production. I'm doomed.

Another employee – IT GAL – walks up. She has a cheerful, stress-free demeanor.

IT GAL

So, why do you look so 'doomed'?

IT GUY

The business units I support need 50 new servers by yesterday. I'll be lucky to have them online and in production in a month.

IT GAL

What? Why so long?

IT GUY

Well, that's how long it will take them to be built, and shipped, and racked, and cabled, and tested, and provisioned, and...

IT GAL

[Cuts him off.] You should just use SoftLayer.

IT GUY

What? Who's that?

IT GAL

That's who I use in a pinch. Heck, it's who I use most all the time for infrastructure for the groups I support.

IT GUY

How's that?

IT GAL

Here, let me drive.

IT GUY stands up. IT GAL sits down at his workstation. Move to screen shots of customer portal where applicable.

IT GAL

Here's my account at SoftLayer. Notice that I have servers as my foundation combined with cloud computing capacity that I can adjust on the fly and pay for it by the hour. If I need more power, I ramp up the cloud portion and boost my computing power in 5 minutes – not a month. Here, I'll show you. Click here, Click here and voila! I just added another cloud server. It'll be in production in 5 minutes. It's an hourly machine, so I can release it at the end of the day and it will cost me less than $20.

IT GUY

But how do your groups know that the new cloud server is out there for use?

IT GAL

I use SoftLayer's API connections. To them, it looks like any other server that's available on our corporate network.

IT GUY

It's that easy?

IT GAL

Yep.

IT GUY

So how do you comply with our backup plan guidelines and disaster recovery planning?

IT GAL

Easy. The production data lives in SoftLayer's Dallas facility. I back it all up at their Seattle facility, and the data moves over SoftLayer's private network that isn't exposed to the public internet. And all transit on the private network is free and doesn't count against my public internet bandwidth limits.

IT GUY

Speaking of bandwidth, what if one of those servers goes over its limit? Do you get hit with overage charges?

IT GAL

No. SoftLayer offers bandwidth pooling between servers as well as global load balancing. You can add it on the fly too.

IT GUY

Firewalls?

IT GAL

Also on the fly. No downtime at all.

IT GUY

Wow, I never knew a place like this existed. How do I get started? And how does your department pay for it?

IT GAL

You've got a corporate purchasing card, right?

IT GUY

Yeah.

IT GAL

Give them a call, order your servers, and pay with that card. It's a month-to-month contract. Just give 24 hours notice to cancel. Your first setup will take about 4 hours, but you'll be home at dinner tonight with your 50 new servers online. Not a month from now.

IT GUY

Thanks for the info! Boy, that's a relief.

IT GAL

After calling SoftLayer, don't forget to cancel that order of 50 to come here in a month.

IT GUY

That'll be a pleasure.

Screen fades to black. Graphics appear.

SoftLayer. It's That Easy.

-Gary

Categories: 
July 29, 2010

What Makes SoftLayer Different?

I often get asked “what makes SoftLayer different?” The problem with that simple question is – SoftLayer is so different from all the competition out there that it’s not a simple question to answer. I have my standard version that I run thru – but I’m not sure people really grasp how different SoftLayer really is. After talking to my wife, she recommended doing a Letterman style top 10 reason why SoftLayer is different. I figured I would give it a shot – so here it is..

  1. SoftLayer terminates 40Gbps to every single rack!! 20Gbps to the public internet and 20Gbps to the private network.
  2. SoftLayer offers three types of VPN services for out-of-band connectivity (SSL, PPTP, IPSEC)
  3. SoftLayer manages its own nationwide MPLS network with 10 PoPs and over 1000Gbps of transit and peer connectivity
  4. SoftLayer offers free enterprise grade DNS services through our DNS farms located in all 10 PoPs in North America
  5. SoftLayer has over 1600 APIs for custom integration, a full service control panel for ease of use and a private label option for resellers
  6. Every single server in every datacenter is a rackmount, hotswap, tool-less chassis offering enterprise grade hardware with ultra-fast modifications
  7. SoftLayer has downloadable iPhone, Android and Blackberry apps in addition to our mobile phone friendly .mobi site for complete control.
  8. Only hybrid solution available – dedicated, virtualized, and cloud instances operating in a single environment and control thru a single interface or API
  9. Private Network – connect any server to any other server in any datacenter with a click of a button
  10. Fastest service delivery
  • Over 1000 servers in stock
  • Dedicated servers – 4 hours or less
  • Servers with virtualization – 2 hours or less
  • Cloud instances & storage – 5 to 15 minutes
  • Firewalls, Load Balancers, SAN Storage – added real time w/ no downtime

-@lavosby

December 14, 2009

‘Tis the Season to Get Things Done

It’s the holiday season, and that means everyone is getting busier. On top of all the existing responsibilities, millions of people are going shopping for gifts, decorating their houses, and navigating the bad weather. On top of all that, many people take their time off during the holiday season!

With this kind of time crunch, it’s best for your business to lie low until after the new year, right? Not so! With all this buying, selling, and giving going on, there’s a lot of extra retail data to process. Plus, it’s the end of the calendar year, many businesses have to get their finances in order too. ALSO, all these newly purchased electronic devices are soon going to be turned on and hooked up to the Internet, where they will almost surely put a new load on your servers.

Systems and network administrators need to be prepared for this influx of new traffic. Sometimes, this means purchasing new servers. However, it’s inefficient to buy the servers so far in advance when you don’t yet know what you will need. It’s best to wait until you’re sure you will need more servers and how many to order. At another hosting company, that would be a problem. People in our industry take the holidays off, too. Lowering the number of sales people and technicians and raising the number of new server requests would normally result in a disaster.

Luckily, SoftLayer does automatic provisioning. As soon as you order your server, it will be provisioned in two to four hours. Day or night, June 3rd or December 31st, if we have it, you can have control over it in two to four hours.

And therein lies the beauty of the SoftLayer system. You don’t have to wait for US to scale your business. If you need another server, get it. When it’s ready, it will automatically be added to your account’s private network and be available to you. You can even automate your server configuration and setup. Depending on the amount of data you need to transfer to a new server, you can have another server up and running your website less than 5 hours from the time you realized you needed it.

In fact, by using the SoftLayer API (and some clever configuration scripts on your servers) you can do live scaling on your website. Using the API, you can provision new servers exactly like the ones you already have. Once they’re available, a script can mirror the configurations from an existing machine to the new machine. Use the SoftLayer API once more to add the new servers to your load balancer rotation, and you’re in business! All without relying on any humans, even yourself! Treat yourself to some R&R this holiday season, while your website continues to get things done for you.

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