Posts Tagged 'Server Racks'

November 6, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Server build tech Christos Panoudis confirms whether or not Spider-Man hides in our server racks

Shhh, don’t tell Texas, but we’re never going back to the States! Not just yet, anyway. We’re not finished meeting the amazing folks in our offices and data centers across the pond.

This week, Under the Infrastructure takes a short jaunt south from Amsterdam to Frankfurt, where we’re chatting with server build technician shift lead Christos Panoudis. He’s been with us for a bit under a year (which makes sense, considering our Frankfurt data center just opened in December 2014!), and he’s been integral to getting one of our newer data centers up and running.

Say hello.

SOFTLAYER: Why did you decide to become a server build technician?

CHRISTOS PANOUDIS: Having many years of IT experience, I was looking for a job that it would be interesting and would teach me something. I was also interested in working in the Internet sector—I find it pretty exciting, and being raised in the so-called “Internet generation,” it has certainly affected me. What could be more exciting than working in a data center, where you can work with unique equipment and learn new things? Building a PC doesn’t have a high grade of difficulty, but building a server via complex procedures and being faced with obstacles until you deliver it to the customer? That is what I call a challenge. Networking, software installation, collaboration across departments, and socializing with colleagues are all components of the position that I enjoy.

SL: Tell us more about how your love of technology began.

PANOUDIS: Everyone tells me that I took an interest in technology when I was a little kid by repairing my grandpa’s watches. But they’re wrong; my dream then was to become a pilot [laughs].

I believe my true love of technology stems from two events. The first one was when my father took me to a Greek computer (PC) exhibition in 1994. Observing the new technology, I was in awe. The second event was when my uncle’s computer got a virus, and we made a deal that he would let me on his PC if I successfully removed it. He thought that I couldn’t do it, but after three hours, I did. I was so proud. But I never got to play with his computer, because I had just reformatted his hard drive [laughs]! After that, I caught the computer engineering bug and began to study computers.

A big part of the decision to become an IT professional was the fact that IRC and online gaming were making huge strides in the market. I was spending lots and lots of hours in front of a PC—I had my own IRC server and website—and I was working with other users to troubleshoot connection issues.

I was interested in every gadget and new technology that emerged in the market, while at the same time, I was increasing my technical skills in both software and hardware.

SL: Describe a server build technician’s workstation to us.

PANOUDIS: Chaos. That’s the word that someone would use to describe it if he took a look at a server build technician’s (STB) computer monitor. Multiple browser windows, terminals, remote desktops, server status flows, customer tickets, emails. Of course, it’s chaos to someone who isn’t specialized. But for a STB, this is a daily routine and a habit—or I should say a need? He must be ready to start building servers for a new order, to reply to customer tickets (which could be just a simple upgrade or a complicated maintenance issue), or anything in between. It is necessary for us for that “chaos” exists—so we can consistently do our jobs.

At my workstation, I have three monitors. Two are used for information sequences and the third one is for working. On one screen, I keep track of the incoming tickets and email. On another screen, I monitor server statuses and internal chat. On the central screen, I monitor the terminals that I need to connect to the customer's server and to perform whatever maintenance needed. There are also multiple browser windows to access our internal management system.

SL: What’s it like working for SoftLayer in Frankfurt?

PANOUDIS: Frankfurt’s data center is one of the newer Softlayer data centers in Europe, with modern equipment and high levels of security. Seeing all those cameras and the high walls with barbed wires on my first day of work, I was a bit surprised. Until then, I’d never thought that a tech building would have such security.

In Frankfurt, we work in three shifts. Each shift has a “shift leader” and five technicians. As a shift leader, the most important thing for me is to make sure that everything works like a well-oiled machine, since tasks flow continuously and there must be perfect communication so we won't miss deadlines. That’s why, at the end of each shift, the shift leaders have “hands-off reports,” where task delivery takes place.

The beginning of each shift starts an hour before the previous shift ends. During that time, tasks and on-going maintenance are assigned.
Of course, nothing would be possible without the fantastic people that we work with. It is truly amazing how people with different nationalities, cultures, and ways of thinking come together as one entity to complete tasks.

SL: People on Twitter think Spider-Man lives in our server racks. For once and for all, does he?

PANOUDIS: I dare him to come and live in such an environment: cold and with more than 90 decibels of continuous sound (jet turbine-like). The network cables are structured this way for organizational purposes and to make it easier for personnel to work among such a high volume of wires.

Each color represents a network. For example, red cables are for public networks, blue cables are for private networks, and green are for management.

Even if Spider-Man were able to cope with the sound, he would not be able to live in our data center, since he wouldn’t be able to get past security [laughs]. So, no, we definitely don't have Spider-Man here—not even small spiders.


April 9, 2012

Scaling SoftLayer

SoftLayer is in the business of helping businesses scale. You need 1,000 cloud computing instances? We'll make sure our system can get them online in 10 minutes. You need to spin up some beefy dedicated servers loaded with dual 8-core Intel Xeon E5-2670 processors and high-capacity SSDs for a new application's I/O-intensive database? We'll get it online anywhere in the world in under four hours. Everywhere you look, you'll see examples of how we help our customers scale, but what you don't hear much about is how our operations team scales our infrastructure to ensure we can accommodate all of our customers' growth.

When we launch a new data center, there's usually a lot of fanfare. When AMS01 and SNG01 came online, we talked about the thousands of servers that are online and ready. We meet huge demand for servers on a daily basis, and that presents us with a challenge: What happens when the inventory of available servers starts dwindling?

Truck Day.

Truck Day not limited to a single day of the year (or even a single day in a given month) ... It's what we call any date our operations team sets for delivery and installation of new hardware. We communicate to all of our teams about the next Truck Day in each location so SLayers from every department can join the operations team in unboxing and preparing servers/racks for installation. The operations team gets more hands to speed up the unloading process, and every employee has an opportunity to get first-hand experience in how our data centers operate.

If you want a refresher course about what happens on a Truck Day, you can reference Sam Fleitman's "Truck Day Operations" blog, and if you want a peek into what it looks like, you can watch Truck Day at SR02.DAL05. I don't mean to make this post all about Truck Day, but Truck Day is instrumental in demonstrating the way SoftLayer scales our own infrastructure.

Let's say we install 1,000 servers to officially launch a new pod. Because each pod has slots for 5,000 servers, we have space/capacity for 3,000-4,000 more servers in the server room, so as soon as more server hardware becomes available, we'll order it and start preparing for our next Truck Day to supplement the pod's inventory. You'd be surprised how quickly 1,000 servers can be ordered, and because it's not very easy to overnight a pallet of servers, we have to take into account lead time and shipping speeds ... To accommodate our customers' growth, we have to stay one step ahead in our own growth.

This morning in a meeting, I saw a pretty phenomenal bullet that got me thinking about this topic:

Truck Day — 4/3 (All Sites): 2,673 Servers

In nine different data center facilities around the world, more than 2,500 servers were delivered, unboxed, racked and brought online. Last week. In one day.

Now I know the operations team wasn't looking for any kind of recognition ... They were just reporting that everything went as planned. Given the fact that an accomplishment like that is "just another day at SoftLayer" for those guys, they definitely deserve recognition for the amazing work they do. We host some of the most popular platforms, games and applications on the Internet, and the DC-Ops team plays a huge role in scaling SoftLayer so our customers can scale themselves.


March 23, 2012

AMS01 DC Tour: Built by SoftLayer, Powered by Innovators

About a month ago, Kevin Hazard visited SoftLayer Amsterdam after a conference in London, and while he was here, I invited him on a data center tour. You saw a few glimpses of the data center in his "This is Different" video, but he turned the camera around on me to give a simpler "Data Center Tour" video to show off some of the key characteristics of the server room environment in AMS01.

Given the fact that nearly everything in the data center is the same, if you've ever seen a SoftLayer data center, this tour will seem very familiar. The configuration and architecture of all 13 of our data centers are identical, and with the exceptions of a few Dutch words on the walls, this tour could be given (and is frequently given to customers) in all of our facilities around the world:

As we were recording this video, I started thinking about all the similarities and differences between all the entrepreneurs I have worked with during my career — which coincidentally lines up well with Clayton's "Building. Business. SoftLayer." blog. I cut my technology teeth in Silicon Valley during the dot-com tsunami of the late 90's, and since then, I have collaborated on-location with entrepreneurs from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Chile, Ukraine and Italy. While these cultures often vary widely with customs, manners, food and methods of business, I would have to say that entrepreneurs have far more similarities than they do differences.

At the peak of the dot-com boom, money was raining from the sky, and anyone with a decent PowerPoint presentation containing the word "Internet," could raise million dollars of dollars in a matter of days. After the bubble popped, funding all but dried up. Even real businesses with profitable business models couldn't raise a cent. My neighbor went from being worth over $10M on paper and keeping company with the Queen of the Netherlands to scrambling to pay the rent and fighting for a seat at the local coffee shop.

In my opinion, that's when the real magic happened: The creators just kept on creating. Despite all our friends making fun of us — telling us "the Internet thing" was dead — we kept building cool stuff and coming up with innovative products that pushed the limits of technology.

While entrepreneurs liked the idea of making tons of money and building a global company from a simple idea, money and fame are not the primary drivers of true entrepreneurs. They were really more interested in creating something that would impact peoples' everyday lives and disrupt tired industries ... Just look at SoftLayer. In 2005, "tired" would have been one of the nicest things you could have said about the hosting industry, and in response to that environment, our "Innovate or Die" mentality shot us to the front of the pack.

Entrepreneurs are a lot like our data centers ... They may look a little different from the outside, but they are exactly the same on the inside. Ask them how they'd change the world, and take note of the wild look in their eyes. Our growth is fueled by the passions of our customers, and as long as we have brilliant customers doing amazing things, you can expect to see more and more of these "new data center" tour videos in the coming months and years.


P.S. If you don't have time to watch the video right now, you can head to our Flickr page to see a few pictures we snapped while recording the tour: AMS01 - Amsterdam Data Center

P.P.S. Make sure you watch the video all the way to the end. :-)

November 3, 2011

Global Expansion: Floating Like a Butterfly

Growing up, one of my heroes was Mohammad Ali. While I admired his athletic ability, with my scrappy build I was never going to be a boxer. What I liked the most about Ali was that he said whatever he wanted and backed up his words with action. That is what distinguished Ali from the others.

I'm sure you've been to job fairs and read companies' websites where they talk about how their company encourages teamwork, employee empowerment and innovation ... It's usually right next to a picture of someone skydiving or kite boarding, right? Well I've been with SoftLayer for about a month now, and as you saw from my 3 Bars 3 Questions interview, I spent my first two weeks on the job in Dallas.

I can tell you without hesitation (and with no need for a kite boarding picture) that when you walk around the office in Dallas, you can feel a buzz in the hallways ... An energy that only comes from from people who are passionate and work well together. When I made the trek back to Amsterdam, I knew the environment and culture our team in Europe would need to foster to earn our three bars.

Last week, we had our first Truck Day in the new Amsterdam data center, and it was a perfect opportunity to show off the SoftLayer spirit and work ethic to our newest AMS01 SLayers with the help of the Go Live Crew:

As soon as two large truckloads of servers were delivered, the team jumped into action. We unpacked, sorted, scanned and racked the servers in record time, and it was actually a lot fun. When I walked into the data center the next day, it felt like Christmas: new toys, flashing lights and Barbara Striesand.

It's safe to say that SoftLayer is the Mohammed Ali of hosting. We make bold statements and can back up them up!

If you're interested in joining the SoftLayer team in Amsterdam, we're hiring for several different positions right now, and we'd love to have you join us. When talking to prospective employees in interviews, I always tell the SoftLayer story with Ali-like pride, and moving forward, Truck Day is going to be a perfect example to share. Where else are you going to find a company culture where everyone in the company (even the CEO) celebrates the company's continued growth by helping to unpack and sort hardware?

Based on the conversations I've had since Truck Day, I can tell if they are right for the team simply by their reaction to that story. If you're ready to roll up your sleeves to help out your teammates and have fun doing it, call me.


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