Posts Tagged 'Racks'

January 22, 2010

A Little History Lesson and Reflection

In this industry, it seems very easy to get in the rut of looking forward without stopping to take the time and look back. Whether it is a project deadline or just planning for the future, past accomplishments sometimes get lost in the day to day workload. I remember back on January 23rd of 2006—exactly four years ago tomorrow—when we opened the doors. We had 17 employees and around 1,000 servers in our one and only Dallas server room. With just 17 employees you can imagine we wore many hats, and I will not miss or take for granted prepping racks such as putting cage nuts or rails in ever again.
From our humble beginnings, things grew at a rapid pace to say the least. Over the last four years, we have grown to 175 employees, 25,000+ servers spanning facilities in Dallas, Seattle, and Washington D.C. and just recently passed $100 million annualized run rate mark. Not too shabby for four years, if I do say so myself.
The product and service offering have grown at an astounding pace as well. Thanks in part, I think, to our API—launched publicly in May of 2007. Was that over two years ago? It seems like yesterday. On top of that, there have been too many individual products to list here. Some highlights would fall into the areas of: CloudLayer, StorageLayer, backup solutions, and security solutions—just to name a few!
Looking forward I think 2010 is going to be a big year for SoftLayer, not that the past years haven’t been. I cannot get into any details; but, as usual there are big plans on the horizon, and you know we aren’t planning on slowing down anytime soon. Looking back, it has been a packed and crazy four years, but I would not trade it for anything.

December 24, 2009

The Power of Christmas

The Power of Christmas

Putting up Christmas lights this year was a serious beating. I kept blowing breakers due to the amount of lights I put up in response to my wife’s request for ‘more lights!’ It seems like every year things get bigger and bigger (like most things in America – trucks, combo meals, taxes, and the deficit). The problem is there is only so much power in convenient areas of my house and those locations don’t have enough power to run my lights because they are shared with things inside the house. My front porch outlet ties in with my garage outlets so every time we open up the garage door, the breaker blows and the Christmas lights on the front of the house go out. I got tired of resetting breakers and I ended up running 2x 20amp 110v dedicated feeds to my roof and to the front yard.

As I was putting the lights up, I found myself doing power calculations in my head. I multiplied the amount of lights I put up by the watts each bulb consumes to get the total watts. Then I took the total watts and put it into this conversion tool (http://www.mhi-inc.com/Converter/watt_calculator.htm) to calculate what they use in a Kilowatt hour. I have timers setup to turn on the lights from 6pm to 11pm (CST) so that is 5 hours a day. I plan to run them from December 8th through January 3rd which is 27 days totaling 135 hours of run time. Take the Kilowatt hour the lights generate times the hours of operation and you get the total Kilowatt hours used for the holiday season. I was then curious how much this was going to cost me (I am a cheap bastard) so I took out my electric bill (TXU, yes I am paying too much) and took what they charge me for a Kilowatt hour and got the dollar figure it costs to run the lights. I was surprised it is not as much as I thought considering how much light my house now generates. It lights up the neighborhood like the Griswold’s house in Christmas Vacation <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097958/> . I would not be surprised if you can now see my house from the space shuttle.

I don’t envy Softlayer’s operation guys because they do these types of power calculations (albeit on a much grander scale) on a daily basis. They have to figure out what types of servers with different components (CPU, drives, memory, raid cards) can go into a single rack to insure that power strips are not blown. Some people don’t understand that you can’t just fill a rack up with 44 1U (or 22 2U) servers and turn them on. You have to carefully plan down to the watt how many of each type of server can go into a rack without overloading circuits. You also have to take into account customer upgrades and make sure there is enough headroom for power spikes upon booting. The math involved in my yearly Christmas light escapade made my head hurt; I can’t imagine what Robert and Brad go though. Hats go off to them. My head would have exploded by now….

Here is the math (rounded):

15 ½ stands of C9 Christmas lights each with 25 bulbs = 385 bulbs
385 7 watt bulbs = 2695 watts
2695 watts = 2.695 Kilowatt hours (from http://www.mhi-inc.com/Converter/watt_calculator.htm)
2.695 Kilowatt hours multiplied by (5 hours a day for 27 days = 135) = 364 total Kilowatt hours
364 total Kilowatt hours times $0.12 = $44

So lighting my house for one month actually uses significantly more electricity than running a server in a SoftLayer data center for the same period of time.

September 9, 2009

Taking the Chance

I started working at the ripe’ole age of 16 and since then I’ve had 5 jobs including SoftLayer. I started off at “bullseye” which consisted of straightening merchandise shelves and onto being a cashier. For my second job, I moved on to harassing customers into purchasing leather from a well known mall leather supplier, but for some reason I was having extra-long chili cheese conies and bacon, egg and cheese toasters on my mind, so I made the move to “rollerskates” for job number three. These jobs gave me a decent income (for being 16-18 yrs old), but I knew I didn’t want to be hopping from job to job for the rest of my life… I needed to find a place to grow roots, a place that paid me what I was worth, and finally a place where growth within the company was available. So, I moved to the world of retail digital imaging (large format printing) with a local Dallas company. I started in the shipping and receiving department, slowly learning the whole production side of the company as I knew that is where I could grow. Four long years passed, roots in the company were set fairly deep, or so I thought and the opportunity was “kinda” there, but ultimately I was not happy.

The opportunity for me to work at SL came thru a friend and former colleague at the printing company, Shawna (thanks Shawna!) who left because she also saw the huge potential with SL. At the time I was so ready for something new, but I’ll have to admit, I was a bit reluctant to take the chance because of the four years I had invested, and my lack of knowledge in IT, and particularly SL, knowing that they were doing things that had never been done before (I did my homework). Needless to say I took the chance, and was hired on as an Infrastructure Engineer.

As an Infrastructure Engineer at SL responsibilities range from installing cage nuts, rails, filler panels all the way to installing Cisco switches and Ethernet cables. Basically making sure that the racks are ready to be populated with servers and sold to new or existing customers wanting to expand their business. I can only speak for myself, but there is a great sense of pride when you step back and look at all the live racks you just painstakingly set up, knowing the hard work you had invested was not only helping SL grow but knowing that I had taken a bigger step into starting a solid career.

Yes, I was hired on as an Infrastructure Engineer, but was not just limited to that position. I have been here for over 2 years already and having some of the best times of my life, the opportunities to advance are there, they look for it in their staff, they want me to succeed, knowing it only helps them to succeed as well. What’s next you ask? To be continued…

March 18, 2008

The Children Speak

My name is Jonathan. I’m 10 years old and I play hockey.

My dad is the CFO for SoftLayer. At first I had no idea what my dad did. Now I think it’s cool how he works for a company that sells servers to people who can use them all over the world.

I have been to the datacenter in Dallas and my dad took me to see the one in Seattle on our way back from a hockey tournament. I think it’s cool how people get the Internet on a server that’s 2 feet long. All the power in it is amazing!

One day I am going to be a mechanical engineer. I’ll design server racks and datacenters for SoftLayer that will be more efficient and eco-friendly to help the environment. They will hold more servers so they can sell more and make more money.

One day I hope SoftLayer will grow so big that everyone will have access to a SoftLayer server.

Lance said if I wrote in my blog that he was the greatest CEO ever, he would give me $50. Lance, you are the greatest CEO ever. Fork over the dough.

-Jonathan Jones

Categories: 
July 11, 2007

Truck Day Operations

How do you unload 1,000 servers and have them ready to go live in a datacenter in five hours? With lots and lots of planning. Every month we take in a shipment of servers to accommodate the next 30 days of sales. Preparation for each delivery starts several months in advance with forecasting models. You have to look far enough ahead in your models to continually adjust forecasts for sales, facilities and available resources. Some vendors need more lead time than others so you have to constantly update your forecasts, all the way up to final order placement.

Also, you don't just walk into a datacenter with a server and set it down. There's a lot of work that goes into physical prep for the datacenter as well. You have to plan the datacenter layout, order and assemble racks, add rails, power strips, switches, power cord bundles, network cable bundles, etc. Every rack we deploy has almost 400 cage nuts and just under 200 cables in it. We don't just string a bunch of cables up and call it a day. Every cable bundle is meticulously routed, combed and hung to make them look professional. With that much cabling, you have to make it right or you'll never be able to work around it.

With one week to go before the trucks arrive, all of the datacenter prep starts wrapping up. And with just a few days left, we have our last manager meeting to review server placement, personnel, timing and other delivery details.

Next is Truck Day - this is when the fun begins.

On Truck Day, we leave plenty of people behind to handle sales, support and accounting, but everyone else is expected at the loading dock. After all the pallets are pulled off the truck and accounted for, the team gets busy un-boxing. As servers are unboxed, all of the spare parts in the boxes - spare screws, riser cards, SATA cables, and various other pieces - are sorted into bins on the dock. The servers themselves are then placed in custom transport carts and moved to the datacenter.

From there, the teams inside the datacenter sort the servers according to type and perform a strict QA process that includes verifying the hardware configurations and verifying that the components are all seated properly.

Once sorted, the servers get scanned into the system and racked up. As all of the cables are plugged in, another QA process is completed to verify that all of the ports are correct. At that point, it's just a matter of turning each server on and watching them check in, get their bios flashed with the latest and greatest release and having the system update any component firmware that is needed. As the systems check themselves into inventory, they go through two more QA processes that include an inventory check and a burn-in process.

By the time the truck is empty, the last box is stashed and the final server is racked up, everyone is ready to get back to their day jobs. Months worth of planning - all wiped out in a matter of hours.

Mary is working on a great post about what Truck Day looks like from a Salesperson's perspective. It explains why we have everyone get involved in the process.

-SamF

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