Posts Tagged 'Service'

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.

September 5, 2011

How Scalable Are You?

The Northeastern part of the United States saw two natural disasters within the span of five days of each other. The first was in the Washington, D.C. area: A 5.8 earthquake on August 23, 2011. On August 28, Hurricane Irene made her way up the east coast, leaving nearly 5.5 million people without power. We do everything we can to prepare our facilities for natural disasters (generator power backup, staffing, redundant bandwidth links and providers, etc.), and given the recent events, now might be a good time to start thinking about how your servers respond when something out of the ordinary happens ... Let's look at two relatively easy ways you can set your business up to scale and recover.

The first option you may consider would be to set up a multi-tiered environment by deploying multiple servers in various geographical locations. Your servers in each location could be accessed via load balancing or round robin DNS. In this kind of high-availability environment, your servers could handle the incoming requests more quickly with the load being split amongst the multiple data centers. The failover would be just a few seconds should you lose connectivity to one of the locations.

The second option to consider would be the private image repository for our CloudLayer Computing. This options allows you to save a private image template in different data centers, each ready for quick deployment without having to install and configure the same operating system and applications. Should you need additional resources or lose connectivity to your instance in one facility, you can deploy the saved image in another facility. The failover time would be only in the provisioning process of the Computer Instance ... which doesn't take too long.

Scalability makes sense no matter what situation you may be facing – from natural disaster to hitting the front page of Reddit. If you have any questions about these scalability options, "Click to Chat" on our site or give us a call and a sales rep can help you get prepared. Your infrastructure may have come through these recent events unscathed, but don't let that lull you into a false sense of security. The "It's better to be safe than sorry" cliche is a cliche for a reason: It's worth saying often.

-Greg

August 18, 2011

Subtract Server. Add Humor.

Once in a blue moon, a SoftLayer customer has to cancel a server. Sometimes their business is growing and they're moving up to more powerful hardware, sometimes they need to consolidate their equipment to cut their costs, and sometimes their reason can't really be categorized. In this case, a happy customer with a few dozen servers decided he needed to shut one down, and the explanation he gave would clearly fall into the third category:

Initial Ticket

Customer
I would like to cancel this server on August 20th, 2011, but not before that date. Anytime on this date will be okay.

We no longer have a need for this server and would like to cancel it before our next billing period. Thank you for your help in this matter. Please send me an email when this server has been canceled on August 20th, 2011.

She's been with us for a long time, but things just aren't working out ... She's become a gold digger. It's her, not me. Please let her down easy. I don't like punking out and having someone do my dirty work, but I'm afraid she might be violent. Diamond rings hurt when you get hit with them.

SoftLayer
I'm sorry to hear things did not work out for the two of you. While your safety is important to us, I must ask that you end this relationship via official channels.

Please submit an official cancellation request by going to Sales --> Cancel Server and proceeding through the cancellation steps. The server will be reclaimed at the end of your billing cycle on August 22nd.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Customer
She always tried to make it hard for me to break up with her. Done!
 
SoftLayer
Glad to hear things went smoothly. Things don't always do, but we knew you could pull through it. :-)
 

Official Cancellation Request

Customer
Word to your moms I came to drop bombs, I got more rhymes than the Bible's got Psalms.
 
SoftLayer
Thanks for your unique note, definitely was a nice break from the norm.

We're glad to continue being part of your success!

Please contact us should future needs arise.

Customer
Thanks, it was a subtle reminder to get out your seat and jump around.
 

Let this be a lesson to all of you: Get out your seat and jump around.

-@khazard

August 17, 2011

SendGrid: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Tim Falls of SendGrid, a technology partner that provides cloud-based email infrastructure for reliable delivery, scalability, real-time analytics and flexible APIs for customers who want to focus on driving their own growth and profitability.

Company Website: http://sendgrid.com/
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/sendgrid

Understanding the Value of [Email] Infrastructure Services

The Fall of DIY ... As We Know It
Today more than ever before, businesses depend on third party services to operate efficiently and achieve their objectives. As a business leader, you have countless web applications and software as service solutions at your fingertips, which collectively address just about any problem or demand imaginable. Examples include cloud-based file storage, cloud and dedicated web hosting, recurring billing applications, online HR management portals, APIs for telephony and geo-data, and managed email infrastructure and delivery services. Startups and established corporations alike can utilize these tools quickly and simply with a credit card and a few clicks on a trackpad.

So, what does this mean, and why is it worth recognizing and appreciating? Well, it means that your life is a lot easier than it was 10 years ago. And if you fail to recognize the opportunities and advantages that these resources offer, your competitors will soon leave you in their proverbial dust ... if they haven't already.

The gist:

  • You don't have to do everything yourself anymore ... So don't!
  • Be the best at what you do, and rely on other experts to help with everything outside of your realm.

The Email Puzzle
Let's face it. Email sucks. Not email in and of itself - obviously, it is an essential part of our lives and is arguably one of the most transformative communication tools in human history. But, from a business standpoint, the implementation and maintenance of an effective and efficient email system is truly a nightmare. If there is one thing that web developers across the world can agree upon, it may be this: Successfully integrating email into a web application just ain't fun!

To better understand the challenges developers face when integrating email into their web applications, let's look at an example (fresh from my imagination). Through this discussion, we'll uncover the clear advantages of working with a partner in email infrastructure and delivery.

Let's say you're building PitLovabull.com -- a social, online community for dog owners. Sound lame? Well, it's not ... because it's "different." As the clever name indicates, it's specifically for pit bull owners and advocates. Community members interact with each other and your company in a number of ways: Forum discussions, photo sharing, commenting, direct messages, the "give a dog a bone" button (think "like") and buying cool doggy stuff. Each of these features involves email notifications ... "Sporty's owner just responded to your forum post on Healthy Dog Diets." "Barney's owner just tagged your puppy Stella in a photo." "Thanks for purchasing a new collar for Boss! We'll notify you by email when your package has shipped!"

After six months of grassroots marketing, tens of thousands of passionate pit bull owners have joined your community, and your email volume has grown from 800/week to 8,000/day (that's almost 250k/month!). As a budding bootstrapped startup, you cut costs wherever you can, and you choose to manage your own email servers. You quickly find out that server costs grow substantially as you send more mail, customers are complaining that they aren't receiving their email notifications, and your support team is stretched thin dealing with confused and frustrated customers. The end result: Poor deliverability is directly (and negatively) affecting revenue! What's more: You have no insight into what is happening to your emails - Are they being delivered? Opened? Are links within them being clicked? Have you been blacklisted by an ISP?

Upon deep reflection, you realize that your developers are spending more time on email than they spend building awesome features for the community! Plus, you find yourself, the CEO/Founder of the company, researching mundane crap like ISP rate limits, Sender Policy Framework, DKIM, and the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 — a few of the less-than-interesting aspects of email that must be understood in order to achieve optimal deliverability of your notifications and newsletters.

Luckily, you just hired Joey, a fresh, young hacker who's active in the developer ecosystem and always on top of the latest technologies. While exploring PitLovabull's web hosting control panel on your SoftLayer servers, he discovers a better alternative: The Softlayer Email Delivery Service &ndahs; a hosted and managed email infrastructure that's already built for you! Joey signs up with a credit card for $150/month (which covers a full 250k emails/month), changes a few settings on your web application, and within minutes all of your email is being relayed through SendGrid.

May All Your Email Dreams Come True
A few months go by ... Email is in your customers' inboxes. Deliverability is being tracked and displayed on your web dashboard, along with open and click rates, blocks, bounces, spam reports and unsubscribes. Customer Support receives fewer emails, calls, and IM chat requests. Engineering is busy implementing a backlog of feature requests (not doing email stuff). Sales are gradually increasing and overall customer satisfaction is higher than ever.

Empowering Developers
But wait, it gets better! After researching SendGrid's APIs, you recognize the potential for extreme customization, in the form of internal and external features. Internally, the SMTP API allows you to assign a "category" to each of your emails (password reminders, purchase confirmations, etc.) and in turn collect unique statistics for each category. Externally, the Parse API allows you to receive incoming emails to your web app. In a single day, Joey codes up a new feature, and now any community member can email a picture of their pup to post@pitlovabulls.com, include a caption in the subject line, and the picture and caption are automagically posted to that user's profile!

The New Meaning of Do-It-Yourself
We all know it's difficult to trust a third party to handle the critical elements of any operation. With the help of proven SaaS models that employ advanced technology, cloud-based infrastructures and dedicated experts, companies can now feel more comfortable moving into a modern mode of doing-it-themselves: Pay a nominal monthly fee to a service that handles email (or recurring billing, or telephony), and let the service do the dirty work and liberate the brains of your brilliant developers so they can focus on innovating with the tools available to them.

I hope this story helps entrepreneurs and business leaders think smarter as they build their dream. The lessons illustrated in the context of email apply across the board. We're in a fascinating time, where building an internet business has never required less capital and has never allowed for the laser focus that is afforded to companies today. Open your toolbox, work smart, and build something that people love!

-Tim Falls, SendGrid

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
August 16, 2011

SLDN 2.0 - The Development Network Evolved

SoftLayer is in a constant state of change ... It's not that bad change we all fear; it's the type of change that allows you to stretch the boundaries of your normal experience and run like a penguin ... Because I got some strange looks when coworkers read "run like a penguin," I should explain that I recently visited Moody Gardens in Galveston and saw penguins get crazy excited when they were about to get fed, so that's the best visual I could come up with. Since I enjoy a challenge (and enjoy running around like a penguin), when I was asked to design the new version of SLDN, I was excited.

The goal was simple: Take our already amazing documentation software infrastructure and make it better. A large part of this was to collapse our multi-site approach down into a single unified user experience. Somewhere along the way, "When is the proposal going to be ready?" became "When is the site going to be ready?", at this point I realized that all of the hurdles I had been trampling over in my cerebral site building were now still there, standing, waiting for me on my second lap.

I recently had the honor to present our ideas, philosophy and share some insight into the technical details of the site at OSCON 2011, and KHazzy had the forethought to record it for all of you!

It's a difficult balance to provide details and not bore the audience with tech specs, so I tried to keep the presentation relatively light to encourage attendees (and now viewers) to ask questions about areas they want a little more information about. If you're looking at a similar project in the future, feel free to bounce ideas off me, and I'll steer you clear of a few land mines I happened upon.

-Phil

August 3, 2011

CyberlinkASP: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Chris Lantrip, CEO of CyberlinkASP, an application service provider focused on hosting, upgrading and managing the industry's best software.

The DesktopLayer from CyberlinkASP

Hosted virtual desktops – SoftLayer style.

In early 2006, we were introduced to SoftLayer. In 2007, they brought us StorageLayer, and in 2009, CloudLayer. Each of those solutions met a different kind of need in the Application Service Provider (ASP) world, and by integrating those platforms into our offering, DesktopLayer was born: The on-demand anytime, anywhere virtual desktop hosted on SoftLayer and powered by CyberlinkASP.

CyberlinkASP was originally established to instantly web-enable software applications that were not online in the past. Starting off as a Citrix integration firm in the early days, we were approached by multiple independent software vendors asking us to host, manage and deliver their applications from a centralized database platform to their users across multiple geographic locations. With the robust capabilities of Citrix, we were able to revolutionize application delivery and management for several ISV's.

Over time, more ISV's starting showing up at our doorstep, and application delivery was becoming a bigger and bigger piece of our business. Our ability to provision users on a specific platform in minutes, delete them in minutes, perform updates and maintain hundreds of customers and thousands of users all at one time from a centralized platform was very attractive.

Our users began asking us, "Is it possible to put our payroll app on this platform too?" "What about Exchange and Office?" They loved the convenience of not managing the DBs for individual applications, and they obviously wanted more. Instead of providing one-off solutions for individual applications, we built the DesktopLayer, a hosted environment for virtual desktops.

We deliver a seamless and integrated user experience utilizing SoftLayer, Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop. When our users log in they see the same screen, the same applications and the same performance they received on their local machine. The Citrix experience takes over the entire desktop, and the look and feel is indistinguishable. It's exactly what they are accustomed to.

Our services always include the Microsoft suite (Exchange, Office, Sharepoint) and is available on any device, from your PC to your Mac to your iPad. To meet the needs of our customers, we also integrate all 3rd party apps and non-Microsoft software into the virtual desktop – if our customers are using Peachtree or Quickbooks for accounting and Kronos for HR, they are all seamlessly published to the users who access them, and unavailable to those that do not.

We hang our hat on our unique ability to tie all of a company's applications into one centralized user experience and support it. Our Dallas-based call center is staffed with a team of knowledgeable engineers who are always ready to help troubleshoot and can add/delete and customize new users in minutes. We take care of everything ... When someone needs help setting up a printer or they bought a new scanner, they call our helpdesk and we take it from there. Users can call us directly for support and leave the in-house IT team to focus on other areas, not desktop management.

With the revolution of cloud computing, many enterprises are trending toward the eradication of physical infrastructure in their IT environments. Every day, we see more and more demand from IT managers who want us to assume the day-to-day management of their end user's entire desktop, and over the past few years, the application stack that we deliver to each of our end users has grown significantly.

As Citrix would say "the virtual desktop revolution is here." The days of having to literally touch hundreds of devices at users' workstations are over. Servers in the back closet are gone. End users have become much more unique and mobile ... They want the same access, performance and capabilities regardless of geography. That's what we provide. DesktopLayer, with instant computing resources available from SoftLayer, is the future.

I remember someone telling me in 2006 that it was time for the data center to "grow up". It has. We now have hundreds of SMB clients and thousands of virtual desktops in the field today, and we love having a chance to share a little about how we see the IT landscape evolving. Thanks to our friends at SoftLayer, we get to tell that story and boast a little about what we're up to!

- Chris M. Lantrip, Chief Executive, CyberlinkASP

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
May 18, 2011

Panopta: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Jason Abate of Panopta, a SoftLayer Tech Marketplace Partner specializing in monitoring your servers and managing outages with tools and resources designed to help minimize the impact of outages to your online business.

5 Server Monitoring Best Practices

Prior to starting Panopta, I was responsible for the technology and operations side of a major international hosting company and worked with a number of large online businesses. During this time, I saw my share of major disasters and near catastrophes and had a chance to study what works and what doesn't when Murphy's Law inevitably hits.

Monitoring is a key component of any serious online infrastructure, and there are a wide range of options when it comes to monitoring tools — from commercial and open-source software that you install and manage locally to monitoring services like Panopta. The best solution depends on a number of criteria, but there are five major factors to consider when making this decision.

1. Get the Most Accurate View of Your Infrastructure
Accuracy is a dual-edged sword when it comes to monitoring that can hurt you in two different ways. Check too infrequently and you'll miss outages entirely, making you think that things are rosy when your customers or visitors are actually encountering problems. There are tools that check every 30 minutes or more, but these are useless to real production sites. You should make sure that you can perform a complete check of your systems every 60 seconds so that small problems aren't overlooked.

I've seen many people setup this high-resolution monitoring only to be hit with a barrage of alerts for frequent short-lived problems which were previously never detected. It may hurt to find this, but at least with information about the problem you can fix it once and for all.

The flip side to accuracy is that your monitoring system needs to verify outages to ensure they are real in order to avoid sending out false alerts. There's no faster way to train an operations team to ignore the monitoring system than with false alerts. You want your team to jump at alerts when they come in.

High-frequency checks that are confirmed from multiple physical locations will ensure you get the most accurate view of your infrastructure possible.

2. Monitor Every Component of Your Infrastructure
There are lots of components that make up a modern website or application, and any of them could break at any time. You need to make sure that you're watching all of these pieces, whether they're inside your firewall or outside. Lots of monitoring providers focus purely on remotely accessible network services, which are important but only one half of the picture. You also want an inside view of how your server's resources are being consumed, and how internal-only network devices (such as backend database servers) are performing.

Completeness also means that it's economically feasible to watch everything. If the pricing structure of your monitoring tool is setup in a way that makes it cost prohibitive to watch everything then the value of your monitoring setup is greatly diminished. The last thing you want to run into when troubleshooting a complex problem is to find that you don't have data about one crucial server because you weren't monitoring it.

Make sure your monitoring system is able to handle all of your server and network components and gives you a complete view of your infrastructure.

3.Notify the Right People at the Right Time
You know when the pager beeps or the phone rings about an outage, your heart beats a little faster. Of course, it's usually in the middle of the night and you're sleeping right?! As painful as it may be, you want your monitoring system to get you up when things are really hitting the fan - it's still better than hearing from angry customers (and bosses!) the next morning.

However, not all outages are created equally and you may not want to be woken up when one of your clustered webservers briefly goes down and then corrects itself a few minutes later. The key to a successful monitoring solution is to have plenty of flexibility in your notification setup including being able to setup different notification types based on the criticality of the service.

You also want to be able to escalate a problem, bringing in additional resources for long-running problems. This way outages don't go unnoticed for hours while the on-call admin who perpetually sleeps through pages gets more shut-eye.

Make sure that when it comes to notification, your monitoring system is able to work with your team's preferred setup, not the other way around.

4. Don't Just Detect Problems, Streamline Fixing Them
Sending out alerts about a problem is important, but it's just the first step in getting things back to normal. Ideally after being alerted an admin can jump in and solve whatever the problem is and life goes on. All too often though, things don't go this smoothly.

You've probably run into situations where an on-call admin is up most of the night with a problem. That's great, but when the rest of the team comes in the next morning they have no idea what was done. What if the problem comes up again? Are there important updates that need to be deployed to other servers?

Or maybe you have a big problem that attracts interest from your call center and support staff (your monitoring system did alert you before they walked up, right?) Or management from other departments interrupt to get updates on the problem so they can head off a possible PR disaster.

These are important to the operation of your business, but they pull administrators away from actually solving the problem, which just makes things worse. There should be a better way to handle these situations. Given it's central role in your infrastructure management, your monitoring system is in a great position to help streamline the problem solving process.

Make sure your monitoring system gives you tools to keep everyone on the same page by letting everyone easily communicate and log what was ultimately done to resolve the problem.

5. Demonstrate how Your Infrastructure is Performing
Your role as an administrator is to keep your infrastructure up and running. It's unfortunately a tough spot to be in - do your job really well and no one notices. But mess up, and it's clearly visible to everyone.

Solid reporting capabilities from your monitoring system give you a tool to help balance this situation. Be sure to get summary reports that can demonstrate how well things are running or make the argument for making changes and then following up to show progress. Availability reports also let you see a "big picture" view of how your infrastructure is performing that often gets lost in the chaos of day-to-day operations.

Detailed reporting gives you the data you need to accurately assess and promote the health of your infrastructure.

The Panopta Difference
There are quite a few options available for monitoring your servers, each of which come with trade offs. We've designed Panopta to focus on these five criteria, and having built on top of SoftLayer's infrastructure from the very beginning are excited to be a part of the SoftLayer Technology Marketplace.

I would encourage you to try out Panopta and other solutions and see which is the best fit to the specific requirements for your infrastructure and your team - you'll appreciate what a good night's sleep feels like when you don't have to worry about whether your infrastructure is up and running.

-Jason Abate, Panopta

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
May 5, 2011

Giving Customers More Than They Expect

Giving a customer the ability to do something that they didn't know they could (or even know was possible) can make for an exceptional customer experience.

I've had a season mini-pack of Dallas Mavericks tickets for a handful of years now and have always gotten the exact experience that I expected: The same seats every time, consistent food and drink, great entertainment, and a quality team on the court that wins considerably more often than not.

However, this year it's been a little different. This year, they have thrown in several perks that cost them nothing or next to nothing but have made a huge difference in the overall experience.

One game in particular sticks out in my mind. A couple of weeks before a game against the Wizards, I got an email about a no-cost chance for me and one other person to stand in a high five line to give fives to the players as they came out for warmups. I had no idea fans actually got to do this, so I gladly signed up and took my 5 year-old son to the game. I had also received an invite from the sales rep to choose a date to spend the first half of a game in one of the suites, so I made it the same night.

That night, we joined a small group of people down by the tunnel before the game, and we got to give all the players, Mark Cuban, the Mavs Maniacs and even a few security guards high fives. My son was over-the-moon to "meet" his favorite players - Dirk, Kidd, and Jet - could hardly contain himself.

This game also happened to be the week before the Super Bowl. I only mention it because on the way to our suite, I was blinded by the biggest ring I had ever seen. It turned out to be a Super Bowl ring and the guy wearing it was James Harrison (the linebacker for Steelers that lost a bunch of money to fines for helmet to helmet hits last season), so I got to meet him and wish him luck for the big game.

Oh, and and I can't forget to mention the free hats, shirts, and Roddy B. bobblehead.

Long story short, I probably couldn't tell you who won the other ten games I went to this year, but I don't think I'll forget anything about this particular game.

The thing I took away from this experience is when you give a customer something above and beyond what is expected, however seemingly insignificant, you can monumentally improve their customer experience.

To bring it back around to SoftLayer, we give customers a great API - a REST API at that. We give them VPN, a private network, IPv6, and a fully provisioned server in a couple of hours. Each of these differentiators enables us to provide products and services that our competitors can only hope to imitate.

The first time the customer uses the API to automatically create a new Cloud Instance from their own program, it'll be a Maverick-game experience. When they transfer data from Washington, D.C., to San Jose, CA, on our private network with zero bandwidth charge, they'll feel like they're high-fiving Dirk Nowitski. When they access their server over the free KVM over IP, they're walking up to the suite and meeting a Super Bowl champion. And all of that is on top of a stable, speedy server environment!

What can we do to improve your customer experience?

-Brad

March 1, 2011

API Basics: REST API - "Hello World"

Learning SoftLayer's API
When I first started to look at SoftLayer's API, I favored the SOAP programming interface because I liked the strictly formatted XML responses, the good separation of concerns (using the server as proxy for data retrieval) and the increased security. All of these are great reasons to use the SOAP interface, but once I saw how easy and direct the REST interface is, I decided that I would use it as my cornerstone for learning the SoftLayer API.

REST API
Although the REST software archetype is a difficult concept to explain, its practice has become natural to those of us who use the internet daily. Imagine that the information that you want to know is saved as a web page somewhere and all you have to do is type in the URL, it will prompt you for a username and password, and you will see the information that you requested.

Authentication
Before making a request you will need to find your API authentication token. To do this, log into your customer account and click API under the Support tab. Click the "Manage API Access" link. At the bottom of the next page you will see a drop-down menu that says "Select a User" and above it a tag that says "Generate a new API access key." Select a user and click the "Generate API Key" button. You will see your username and the generated API key for that user. Copy this API key, as you'll need it to send commands SoftLayer's API.

"Hello World"
Unfortunately, there is no specific "Hello World" command in SoftLayer's API, but there are some commands that are very simple and don't require any variables, like the getObject() method. APIs are like component libraries, split into web services and methods of that service. The SLDN has a full list of SoftLayer's web services to choose from. I am going to use the getObject() method from the SoftLayer_Account service in this example:

https://api.softlayer.com/rest/v3/SoftLayer_Account.xml

  • You will be prompted for your username and API access key
  • XML data type output

https://USERNAME:PASSWORD@api.softlayer.com/rest/v3/SoftLayer_Account.json

  • Automatic authentication
  • JSON data type output

The Request
Here is the basic REST request structure:

<code>https://<u><em>username</em></u>:<u><em>API key</em></u>@api.service.softlayer.com/rest/v3/<u><em>serviceName</em></u>/<u><em>InitializationParameter</em></u>.<u><em>returnDatatype</em></u></code>
  • All requests are sent via secure transfer (https://)
  • Listing your username and API key before the URL allows for automatic HTTP authentication
  • Service and serviceName both refer to the web service you are trying to access
  • InitializationParameter is only used if the method you are calling requires an initialization Parameter
  • SoftLayer's REST API can respond with either JSON or XML data types; replace returnDatatype with the type you would like to receive.

The Data
Looking at the first link above, your browser should be able to output the response data in XML format, showing information about your account. More information about the format of the data can be found on the SLDN wiki.

REST Basics
When you start integrating this into a website you will want to get/make a function or library to handle advanced requests and to properly receive and disperse the response; I recommend using JQuery. This is the most basic example of a function call for SoftLayer's API, I hope that it will help you get a feel for the information that you will need to pass to our server and the kind of response that you will receive.

-Kevin

February 8, 2011

CEO Lance Crosby to Keynote Parallels Summit

The Super Bowl is over, so now we can all focus our attention on Parallels Summit which is coming up in two weeks.

We are very excited to have SoftLayer CEO Lance Crosby, one of the industry's most successful entrepreneurs, deliver a keynote address this year. I look forward to hearing Lance's views on the future of the industry in light of the recent acquisition of The Planet. The strategies his team puts in place to capture and increase market share will be of particular interest to me.

Parallels Summit is the leading global gathering of the Cloud industry. More than 1,500 attendees, including hosting companies, communication service providers (CSPs), value-added resellers (VARs), software vendors and web designers from around the world will join forces to discuss trends, strategies and business opportunities in the Cloud. The Summit will take place February 22-24 at the Gaylord Palms Hotel and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

I appreciate the opportunity to meet and share ideas at Summit with industry leaders like Lance, Go Daddy President and COO Warren Adelman, AT&T VP of SMB Product Management Ebrahim Keshavarz, and Ingram Micro VP of Managed Services and Cloud Computing Renee Bergeron, among many others. This year's Summit will again give all attendees invaluable access to potential business partners, Parallels technical and business resources, and other industry participants.

Good luck to everyone in winning the three day lease of a Lamborghini. You will no doubt have fun. For those who haven't registered yet, there is still time. Summit is free – so register today!

See you all in Orlando!

Jack Zubarev
President of Marketing and Alliances at Parallels

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