Posts Tagged 'Server Rack'

May 30, 2012

What Does Automation Look Like?

Innovation. Automation. Innovation. Automation. Innovation. Automation. That's been our heartbeat since SoftLayer was born on May 5, 2005. The "Innovation" piece is usually the most visible component of that heartbeat while "Automation" usually hangs out behind the scenes (enabling the "Innovation"). When we launch a new product line like Object Storage, add new functionality to the SoftLayer API, announce a partnership with a service provider like RightScale, or simply receive and rack the latest and greatest server hardware from our vendors, our automated platform allows us to do it quickly and seamlessly. Because our platform is built to do exactly what it's supposed to without any manual intervention, it's easily overlooked.

But what if we wanted to show what automation actually looks like?

It seems like a silly question to ask. If our automated platform is powered by software built by the SoftLayer development team, there's no easy way to show what that automation looks like ... At least not directly. While the bits and bytes aren't easily visible, the operational results of automation are exceptionally photogenic. Let's take a look at a few examples of what automation enables to get an indirect view of what it actually looks like.

Example: A New Server Order

A customer orders a dedicated server. That customer wants a specific hardware configuration with a specific suite of software in a specific data center, and it needs to be delivered within four hours. What does that usually look like from an operations perspective?

SoftLayer Server Rack

If you want to watch those blinking lights for two or three hours, you'll have effectively watched a new server get provisioned at SoftLayer. When an order comes in, the automated provisioning system will find a server matching the order's hardware requirements in the requested data center facility, and the software will be installed before it is handed over to the the customer.

Example: Server Reboot or Operating System Reload

A customer needs to reboot a server or install a new operating system. Whether they want a soft reboot, a hard reboot with a full power cycle or a blank operating system install, the scene in the data center will look eerily familiar:

SoftLayer Server Rack

Gone are the days of server build technicians wheeling a terminal over to every server that needs work done. From thousands of miles away, a customer can remotely "unplug" his or her server via the rack's power strip, initiate a soft reboot or reinstall an operating system. But what if they want even more accessibility?

Example: What's on the Screen?

When remotely rebooting or power cycling a server isn't enough, a customer might want someone in the data center to wheel over to their server in the rack to look at any of the messages that can only be read with a monitor attached. This would generally happen behind the server, but for the sake of this example, we'll just watch the data center technician pass in front of the servers to get to the back:

SoftLayer Server Rack

Yeah, you probably could have seen that one coming.

Because KVM over IP is included on every server, physical carts carrying "keyboard, video and mouse" are few and far between. By automating customers' access to their server and providing as much virtual access as we possibly can, we're able to "get out of the way" of our technical users and only step in to help when that help is needed.

I could go on and on with examples of cloud computing upgrades and downgrades, provisioning a firewall or adding a load balancers, but I'll practice a little restraint. If you want the full effect, you can scroll up and watch the blinking lights a little while longer.

Automation looks like what you don't see. No humanoid robots or needlessly complex machines (that I know of) ... Just a data center humming along with some beautiful flashing server lights.

-Duke

P.S. If you want to be able to remotely bask in the glow of some blinking server lights, bookmark the larger-sized SoftLayer Rack animated gif ... You could even title the bookmark, "Check on the Servers."

February 13, 2012

Logic Challenge: SoftLayer Server Rack Riddle

After I spent a little time weaving together a story in response to SKinman's "Choose Your Own Adventure" puzzle (which you can read in the comments section), I was reminded of another famous logic puzzle that I came across a few years ago. Because it was begging to be SoftLayer-ized, I freshened it up to challenge our community.

In 1962, Life International magazine published a logic puzzle that was said to be so difficult that it could only be solved by two percent of the world's population. It's been attributed to Einstein, and apparently Lewis Carroll is given a claim to it as well, but regardless of the original author, it's a great brain workout.

If you haven't tried a puzzle like this before, don't get discouraged and go Googling for the answer. You're given every detail you need to answer the question at the end ... Take your time and think about how the components are interrelated. If you've solved this puzzle before, this iteration might only be light mental calisthenics, but with its new SoftLayer twist, it should still be fun:

Einstein's SoftLayer Riddle

The Scenario: You're in a SoftLayer data center. You walk up to a server rack and you see five servers in the top five slots on the rack. Each of the five servers has a distinct hard drive configuration, processor type, operating system, control panel (or absence thereof) and add-on storage. No two servers in this rack are the same in any of those aspects.

  • The CentOS6 operating system is being run on the Xeon 3230 server.
  • The Dual Xeon 5410 server is racked next to (immediately above or below) the server running the Red Hat 6 operating system.
  • The Dual Xeon 5610 server uses 50GB of CloudLayer Storage as its add-on storage.
  • The Quad Xeon 7550 server has no control panel.
  • The Cent OS 5 operating system is racked immediately below the server running the Red Hat 5 operating system.
  • The server using 80GB NAS add-on storage is racked next to (immediately above or below) the server with two 100GB SSD hard drives.
  • The server running the Red Hat 5 operating system uses Parallels Virtuozzo (3VPS) as a control panel.
  • The server running the Windows 2008 operating system has two 100GB SSD hard drives.
  • The server using Plesk 9 as a control panel is in the middle space in the five-server set in the rack.
  • The top server in the rack is the Dual Xeon 5410 server.
  • The Xeon 3450 server has two 147GB 10K RPM SA-SCSI hard drives.
  • The server using 20GB EVault as its add-on storage has one 250GB SATA II hard drive.
  • The server with four 600GB 15K RPM SA-SCSI hard drives is next to (immediately above or below) the server using 100GB iSCSI SAN add-on storage.
  • The server using cPanel as a control panel has two 2TB SATA II hard drives.
  • The server with four 600GB 15K RPM SA-SCSI hard drives is racked next to (immediately above or below) the server using Plesk 10 (Unlimited) as a control panel.
  • One server will use a brand new, soon-to-be-announced product offering as its add-on storage.

Question: What is the monthly cost of the server that will be using our super-secret new product offering for its add-on storage?

Use the SoftLayer Shopping Cart to come up with your answer. You can assume that the server has a base configuration (unless specifically noted in the clues above), that SoftLayer's promotions are not used, and that the least expensive version of the control panel is being used for any control panel with several price points. You won't be able to include the cost of the add-on storage (yet), so just provide the base configuration cost of that server in one of our US-based data centers with all of the specs you are given.

Bonus Question: If you ordered all five of those servers, how long would it take for them to be provisioned for you?

Submit your answers via comment, and we'll publish the comments in about a week so other people have a chance to answer it without the risk of scrolling down and seeing spoilers.

-@khazard

May 6, 2011

Cabling a SoftLayer Server Rack

A few weeks ago, SamF posted "Before They Were SoftLayer Data Centers," a virtual scrapbook from the San Jose data center construction process, and based on the surge of traffic we saw to the post, our customers loved it. It's incredible to see an open warehouse-looking space transformed into an enterprise data center environment, and there's more amazingness where that came from.

In addition to the pre-"Truck Day" pictures we posted on the blog and in the San Jose DC Construction album on Flickr, we trained a video camera on a row in the data center to capture the cabling process.

What's so interesting about plugging in cables?

Consider the fact that each of the network switches we use in a rack has at least 48 ports. Now consider that each rack has two public network switches, two private network switches and one out-of-band management network switch that need to be connected to every SoftLayer server in the rack. That's 240 pre-measured network cables that need to be labeled and routed to specific heights in each rack ... without getting tangled and knotted up (see: behind your TV or under your computer desk).

The cabling process is so precise that if a single cable is out of place, the zip-tie on an entire bundle will be cut, and the process is started from scratch. The process is time-consuming, but the results speak for themselves:

SoftLayer Server Rack

Without further ado, here's the SJ data center team in action. The video is playing at 20x normal speed, and given the amount of time it takes to complete the cabling process for each rack, we enlisted the help of Spongebob SquarePants in our use of the "Two Hours Later" cut:

Impressed? Amazed?

Just wait until you see the time-lapse from Truck Day.

-Kevin

Subscribe to server-rack