Posts Tagged 'Server Build Technician'

July 19, 2012

The Human Element of SoftLayer - DAL05 DC Operations

One of the founding principles of SoftLayer is automation. Automation has enabled this company to provide our customers with a world class experience, and it enables employees to provide excellent service. It allows us to quickly deploy a variety of solutions at the click of a button, and it guarantees consistency in the products that we deliver. Automation isn't the whole story, though. The human element plays a huge role in SoftLayer's success.

As a Site Manager for the corporate facility, I thought I could share a unique perspective when it comes to what that human element looks like, specifically through the lens of the Server Build Team's responsibilities. You recently heard how my colleague, Broc Chalker, became an SBT, and so I wanted take it a step further by providing a high-level breakdown of how the Server Build Team enables SoftLayer to keep up with the operational demands of a rapidly growing, global infrastructure provider.

The Server Build Team is responsible for filling all of the beautiful data center environments you see in pictures and videos of SoftLayer facilities. Every day, they are in the DC, building out new rows for inventory. It sounds pretty simple, but it's actually a pretty involved process. When it comes to prepping new rows, our primary focus is redundancy (for power, cooling and network). Each rack is powered by dual power sources, four switches in a stacked configuration (two public network, two private network), and an additional switch that provides KVM access to the server. To make it possible to fill the rack with servers, we also have to make sure it's organized well, and that takes a lot of time. Just watch the video of the Go Live Crew cabling a server rack in SJC01, and you can see how time- and labor-intensive the process is. And if there are any mistakes or if the cables don't look clean, we'll cut all the ties and start over again.



 

In addition to preparing servers for new orders, SBTs also handle hardware-related requests. This can involve anything from changing out components for a build, performing upgrades / maintenance on active servers, or even troubleshooting servers. Any one of these requests has to be treated with significant urgency and detail.



 

The responsibilities do not end there. Server Build Technicians also perform a walk of the facility twice per shift. During this walk, technicians check for visual alerts on the servers and do a general facility check of all SoftLayer pods. Note: Each data center facility features one or more pods or "server rooms," each built to the same specifications to support up to 5,000 servers.



 

The DAL05 facility has a total of four pods, and at the end of the build-out, we should be running 18,000-20,000 servers in this facility alone. Over the past year, we completed the build out of SR02 and SR03 (pod 2 and 3, respectively), and we're finishing the final pod (SR04) right now. We've spent countless hours building servers and monitoring operating system provisions when new orders roll in, and as our server count increases, our team has grown to continue providing the support our existing customers expect and deserve when it comes to upgrade requests and hardware-related support tickets.



 

To be successful, we have to stay ahead of the game from an operations perspective. The DAL05 crew is working hard to build out this facility's last pod (SR04), but for the sake of this blog post, I pulled everyone together for a quick photo op to introduce you to the team.

DAL05 Day / Evening Team and SBT Interns (with the remaining racks to build out in DAL05):
DAL05 DC Ops

DAL05 Overnight Server Build Technician Team:
DAL05 DC Ops

Let us know if there's ever anything we can do to help you!

-Joshua

May 4, 2012

From "Computer Guy" to SoftLayer Server Build Technician

As I sat down to brainstorm ideas for this blog, I began to think about where I was when I started a few years ago and where I am now. When I was hired, I knew next to nothing about the inner-workings of data center IT. I was just your average computer nerd, or "the computer guy" as I became known around the house and to my friends. I had plenty of experience with hardware, but I had no clue just how deep the IT rabbit hole went ... I jumped in anyway.

Before I give you an example of one of the challenges I had to tackle early on, I should back up and explain a pretty important observation I had about SoftLayer: Despite how cheesy it may sound, SoftLayer is a family. If you are willing to learn and have a good work ethic, SoftLayer will to take you under its wing, and the sky is the limit. I was willing to learn, and I'd like to think I have a good work ethic, so I took on a pretty ambitious task: Learn Linux.

As a Server Build Technician — the physical "hands and eyes" in a data center — you can't get by without an intimate knowledge of Linux. As it turns out, trying to learn everything there is to know about Linux is sort of like saying "Get to the end of the Internet." Even after a few years of working with Linux, I still learn new things almost daily, and I'm sure that I'll continue to learn as long as I'm surrounded by Linux servers and other brilliant technicians who can share their Linux expertise. I could probably write a whole series of blog posts about all of the crazy things I've seen Linux servers do, but I'll focus on this "intro" blog first. Since starting with SoftLayer, my tenuous grasp of Linux was strengthened and eventually validated by my Linux+ certification!

That's only one little example of the kind of environment SoftLayer creates, and I could share dozens more.

When SLayers are treated like individuals rather than "employees," the culture is different. Managers and supervisors LISTEN to your problems/frustrations and are quick to offer their help and advice. I can feel comfortable to express personal issues with anyone in management, and I've had a handful of heartfelt talks with higher-ups that I would never dreamed of having at previous jobs. As a result, I'm excited when I walk into work because I feel like I get to hang out and work with friends for eight hours every day.

My coworkers and I can joke around one minute, and the next minute, we can have a serious and thoughtful conversation about how we could improve our processes or serve customers better better. Not only does that experience make for a comfortable working environment, it also creates a net of trust among coworkers. You know without a doubt that you can rely on your coworkers for anything.

I know it sounds like I'm stretching the truth (and the blog word count), but to be honest, there isn't enough room on this page to describe exactly how awesome I think the people at SoftLayer are. I've made many, many friends and roughly zero enemies. That's a pretty good ratio if you ask me. If you are even a TINY bit interested in IT, there's no better place to get your career started (or continued) than SoftLayer. There are positions for every skill set and level, and it doesn't stop there ... You aren't locked into one position or department if you find yourself more passionately drawn to another area of the business. SoftLayer encourages you to branch out and explore your career options, and if you want to move up, you're encouraged and supported by management to put forth the effort.

TL;DR If you're interested in getting into anything IT related, SoftLayer has a place for you, and as a very happy employee, I'd highly recommend taking advantage of that opportunity.

-Broc

October 21, 2011

Why Don't You Work Here Yet?

I started my career with SoftLayer in March 2011 as a Server Build Technician, and after a few short months, I can safely say that coming here was one of the best moves I have ever made in my life. I have worked in a number of different jobs ranging from retail to shipping, but in my heart, I always knew I wanted a career in computer technology. SoftLayer made that dream come true.

When I started, I felt a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information I had to learn all at once. That feeling quickly subsided during the first week as I realized how the work environment and culture is built on employees who take great pride both what they do and the knowledge they are able to pass on to newcomers. I knew I was in good hands. I felt like I was a part of an elite group of intelligent, inspiring, funny, energetic and down to earth people.

Through the interactions I've had with my direct coworkers, my knowledge has grown tremendously, and I feel more confident in meeting and exceeding the expectations and responsibilities in front of me. The original SoftLayer culture is alive and well thanks to the efforts and example of the management team, and it doesn't take long to notice that this company has a passion for customer service, and we strive to be the very best we can be. Because of the encouragement and optimism I have been given, I see a bright future for me here.

As our operations expand, I can't help but get excited for the success in store for the business, our team and our customers. We're ready to embrace new challenges, and though the tasks seem daunting, I know our team can handle them easily. I take great pride in my work, and I'm quick to tell the SoftLayer story to anyone who will listen. The company motto is, "Innovate or Die," and every employee – from Dallas to Amsterdam to San Jose to Singapore – lives and breathes that motto daily. We're pushing the limits of what a "hosting company" can do, and we're having a lot of fun doing it.

I feel honored to say that I am a part of the SoftLayer family, and if you're in the market for a new job for an awesome employer, you should head to SoftLayer Careers to find which of the 50+ positions you'd fit so you can join us in Dallas, Houston, San Jose, Seattle, Singapore, Amsterdam or Washington, D.C.

We are SoftLayer!

-Anthony

October 9, 2011

Getting Started as a Server Build Technician

When I was interviewed for a job as Server Build Technician (SBT) in Dallas, I was a little concerned that I was getting in over my head. I let my potential manager know that I had very little experience with Linux but that I was willing to learn. I tried to show that I'd be a quick study, and the interview must have gone well because by the end of the day, I was offered the job. I was really excited to know that SoftLayer was willing to take give me an opportunity to finally start pursuing a career path in technology (which is what I was looking for out of school).

As it turns out, I was the only female SBT in SoftLayer's Dallas-area data centers, so I felt a good amount of pressure to prove myself and step up my game. Luckily, my training took away a lot of those nerves, and it was also comforting to see that no matter where I was working (data center or office), I was welcomed by my coworkers. It didn't hurt that I met some really cool people in the process, too. From day one, I realized that I'd been given an amazing opportunity to learn from some really smart folks who know their stuff when it comes to everything related to technology.

I have been here for around six months, and I can't believe how much tech knowledge I've absorbed. I wouldn't claim to be an expert in Linux or a MySQL guru (yet), but if my experience here is any indication, it won't be too long before I know everything there is to know about every technology living in our data centers. When I run into a problem or a question I don't have the answer for, I can rely on my coworkers to have the solutions and break them down into terms I can understand if they're overly complex.

Would I recommend this job to others? Most definitely! This has been one of the best jobs that I've ever had. I've been able to take what I learned in school and actually apply it to my daily work life while continuing my real-world on-the-job education. If you have a server in DAL02 and need someone to check out the hardware or add some RAM, I might be the one jumping to get your request fulfilled quickly.

I'm proof that SoftLayer invests in its employees, so if you're interested in an amazing job for a company who values you, I want you to be a coworker! We have positions in all departments available in Dallas, Houston, Singapore, Amsterdam, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, D.C. (and probably more location in the near future), so keep an eye on the SoftLayer Careers page for the perfect opportunity to join our team.

-Rochelle

September 6, 2011

Emergency Response Services

When people ask me what I do for a living these days, I tell them I provide emergency response services. With this answer, I usually get very surprised and intrigued looks as they probe for more details about the excitement of saving lives. For those that have known me for a while, they are especially shocked since my career until recently has always entailed sitting in a cubicle, crunching numbers and manipulating spreadsheets.

I don't actually provide ERS, and I don't "technically" save lives during my work days, but I do provide emergency services for our customers, and if you ask them, they'll probably tell you I'm a little like a life saver. I tell people I'm an emergency responder as a bit of a joke, but it's actually a great way to start explaining what I do at SoftLayer. When a customer's service is disrupted (preventing them from conducting important business), we need to respond immediately and knowledgeably to get everything back online as quickly as possible.

As Server Build Technicians, we have to be alert and ready for situations where a server goes down and affects the availability of a customer's site. Being offline can often translate to the loss of revenue and this I completely understand: If I wanted to buy something on a site and I find that the site is offline, I'll probably fire up a search page and look for another vendor. The first store loses my sale because I'm so conditioned to everything being available right when I need it ... And I'm not alone in this mentality.

When I started writing this article, we were gearing up for natural disaster to hit the Washington, D.C. area over the weekend (for the first time in my career). We had to plan what needed to be done at home and work ... Because SoftLayer provides web hosting services that must be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so we have to do our best to minimize any service impact. We were lucky to have avoided much of the damage from Hurricane Irene, but we still treated it as though it was heading right toward us. In addition to the employees on site, everyone was on call to be ready to come in and help if needed. For those who have never experienced a hurricane, just think of a severe thunderstorm that lasts 8 to 12 hours, resulting in widespread power outages, flooding and wind damage.

A hurricane is scary for everyone in its path, and to a certain extent, all you can do is be safe and have a plan of response. Our data center has extremely reliable power generators and staff to handle these kinds of situations; we're always prepared for the worst case scenarios for your servers so you don't have to be.

-Danny

P.S. If you've never thought about becoming a "Server Emergency Responder," I'd recommend swinging by the SoftLayer Careers page to learn more about becoming a Server Build Technician. As of right now, there are SBT positions available in Dallas, Seattle, Amsterdam, Singapore and Washington, D.C.

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