Posts Tagged 'Trade Shows'

March 21, 2012

Server Challenge = Global Domination?

The Server Challenge has become an all-out attraction. What started out as a little game we brought to SxSW last year has evolved into a competition attendees anxiously await. In the past month, we've had two phenomenal Server Challenge competitions — one at the Technology for Marketing and Advertising (TFM&A) conference in London and the other at Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco — and it's only getting bigger.

At TFM&A, we had a steady stream of competitors step up to the Server Challenge installation that lives in Europe. Quite a few of them were lured to our booth after trying their hands at the challenge during its European debut at Cloud Expo Europe in January. The winning time at TFM&A of 1:10.08 was recorded by Gary Barclay in the midst of some fierce competition.

SoftLayer Server Challenge - TFM&A

To give you a unique look at what it's like to experience the Server Challenge, we set up a time-lapse camera with a bird's eye view over the timer, and we pulled out a few of our favorite "Start!" shots:

Back in North America as things were humming along in London, our second Server Challenge box was making its way to San Francisco. We were able to share the Server Challenge with the GDC community last year at GDC Online in Austin, and we learned that there is nothing better than bringing a game to a conference full of gamers. I guess you could call it a match made in game developer heaven because we broke the record of number of server challenge participants for a single conference! Not only did we have a ton of participants, we had a huge number that returned day after day to keep pushing the record time lower and lower. All of this attention definitely left the booth staffers pretty exhausted, but we felt kinda like "the cool kids" all week.

On the last day of the conference, I talked to a few of the repeat participants who spent a lot of time at our booth, and I asked them a few questions about the Server Challenge. The first question I asked was, "Why do you like the Server Challenge?" and the responses were extremely interesting. Many said they liked the game so much because it was so interactive while others were drawn to the game because it gave them a way to win an iPad with skill rather than having to be "lucky" in a drawing. Because you don't have to know anything about server assembly to be good at it, it was universal, and it was quite a spectacle when dozens of people crowded around to get their own strategy and prepare for their turns.

I captured a few of their responses on video:

Given the crowd around the booth, you could assume the competition would be close, and you'd be absolutely correct. EJ Fernald won with a time of 1:06.06, beating the second place time by 0.15 seconds ... Yes, 15 hundredths of a second.

Congrats, Gary and EJ!! We hope you enjoy your new iPads!

If you want to be the next lucky winner of an iPad, check out our blog post with tips on how to be the fastest and start practicing ... if you happen to have a few retired servers lying around somewhere. If you're a SoftLayer customer, you can use the ones you replaced with all of your new SoftLayer servers!

-Summer

November 4, 2011

Top 10 SoftLayer Facts

At conferences and tradeshows, I have the opportunity to meet hundreds of people. While a good number of attendees at technical conferences will come up to our booth and tell me they're already customers, we still come across a few people who glance at our collateral and our graphics with a puzzled look on their face before they say, "What's Soft ... Layer?" This is where I spring into action!

To give some context, I'll usually explain, "SoftLayer is an on-demand data center provider. We host dedicated servers, cloud computing instances and integrated solutions for customers around the world." When that overview sinks in and the attendee understands that we are an infrastructure provider, I get to share some of SoftLayer's biggest differentiators along with some pretty amazing statistics about our business. With a huge sample pool of conversations to pull from, I thought it would be fun to put together a "Top 10" list of the facts that usually impress attendees the most.

The Top 10 SoftLayer Facts

Based on "oohs" and "ahhs" from attendees

  1. No Hidden Fees: Our pricing is listed on our website and is straight-forward.
  2. Huge Product Catalog: SoftLayer offers load balancers, CDN, firewalls, managed services, and storage. If you need something we don't offer, we can usually find a way to make it work.
  3. No Long-Term Contracts: Dedicated servers are offered on a month-to-month basis, and cloud instances are available on a monthly or hourly basis. We have to earn your business every month.
  4. Built By Geeks For Geeks: We offer a fully programmable API that gives you complete control of your server(s) from your own application or system.
  5. Free Private Network Traffic: Every SoftLayer facility is interconnected via our private network. All private network traffic and inbound public network traffic is provided at no charge – We only charge for outbound public network traffic.

The Top 5 are facts that almost always amaze:

  1. Global Network: We have 13 data centers in Dallas, Houston, Seattle, San Jose, Washington, D.C., Amsterdam, and Singapore. We also operate 16 additional network Points of Presence (PoPs) around the world.
  2. Our Business is Strong: SoftLayer has 24,000+ customers in more than 150 countries. We manage more than 100,000 active servers, hosting more than 20 million domains. Oh, and we're doing about $350 million in annual revenue.
  3. Infrastructure On-Demand: Our dedicated servers can be deployed in less than four hours, and cloud instances can be provisioned in less than 15 minutes.
  4. Everything Works Together: Our dedicated servers and cloud instances are fully integrated. You can have a dedicated server in Seattle and a cloud instance in Singapore, and they're both managed by a single industry-leading portal. The fact that they can communicate with each other over SoftLayer's private network is a huge plus there as well.

And the simple fact that impresses people most: *drum roll*

  1. SoftLayer is the largest privately held hosting provider in the world!

Every time I shock attendees with these facts, I can't help but be even more proud of our accomplishments. Let's keep up the good work! We're taking over the world, one data center at a time."

-Natalie

September 19, 2011

Tips for the Unseasoned Traveler

This year has been exciting for me at SoftLayer. I took on a new role here as a member of our marketing team, and in that role, I've played a big role in our trade shows. We participate in a huge number of trade shows each year, and I've been lucky enough to meet thousands of current and (hopefully) future SoftLayer customers. To give you an idea of how often I'm on the road, I probably spend about 2-3 weeks each month away from home ... And that means I am in airports all the time.

I happen to be one of those weirdos that actually enjoys traveling, but honestly, the travel experience at airports and on planes can be pretty annoying at times, so I thought I'd put together some traveling tips before my next trip so I can hand out the URL when I see violations. Here's the short list of tips I've come up with in my travels:

At the Airport

  • When going through security do not choose the “Expert Traveler” line if you are not an expert. The experts will know you don't belong, and we will sneer at you.
  • The security line is not the time to make jokes on terrorism. In fact, there's never a good time to make jokes about terrorism, especially at an airport.
  • If you are selected for random screening, please do not throw a fit. The officer doing the pat down probably isn't trying to make a pass at you and hates the process just as much as you do.
  • If your boarding pass says Group 5 there is no point in huddling near the boarding area when the airline representative has called Group 1. You are the reason the boarding process is moving slowly.

Boarding the Plane

  • When the flight attendant announces that everyone should move into their row so other passengers can get by you, he/she is probably talking about you.
  • If you have a small enough bag to place under the seat in front of you, please do so. There is a person in Group 6 with a full size carry-on bag that would rather not have to check his bag because your shopping bag is taking up his valuable space.
  • If you are seated in the back of the aircraft, don't place your bag up in the front bin just so you do not have to roll it to the back. The people sitting in the front of the plane would rather not have to wait for everyone to get off the plane so they can walk to the very back to retrieve their bag.

On the Plane

  • You aren't fooling anyone by trying to hide your cell phone between your knees after the cabin door closes.
  • If the person next to you puts on their headphones it probably means they are not interested in having a flight long conversation about your life.
  • Please don't get mad at me if I decide to put my seat back. If you need more legroom, spring for First Class or at least an exit row. If you absolutely need me to stay upright, ask me nicely, and you'll have a lot better chance that I'll be able to help you out.
  • I got the window seat so I wouldn't have to get up if someone next to me needed to get into the aisle ... You got the aisle seat with a little extra room, so please don't have an attitude if I need you to move to get into the aisle. That's the tradeoff.
  • Yes, the armrest is shared, so you have a right to half of it ... This means that if your arm is on my half of the armrest and you're in my personal space, we have a problem.
  • If you decide to talk to the person sitting next to you on the flight, please keep your voice down. People five rows behind you are not interested in your conversation.

And lastly ...

  • Do not eat foods that may make you gassy before you travel. Passing gas in a plane where air is re-circulated is not cool.

Safe travels!

-Summer

April 2, 2011

So ... What Does SoftLayer Do?

In the first quarter of 2011, SoftLayer presented in, exhibited at or sponsored at least thirty different conferences and events. We've globe-trotted to places like Orlando, San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas and Europa Park, Germany, to spread the word about who SoftLayer is and what we do. We've talked about data center pods over beers in Boston and showed some server skin at SxSW in Austin, and in the process, we got to share the SoftLayer story with literally thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people.

It turns out, there might be a few billion people on the planet that haven't heard of SoftLayer (yet), so every event we attend give us an opportunity to meet more people and explain the value SoftLayer can bring to their business. Take this week's Web 2.0 Expo for example: More than 500 people came by the our booth to learn more about us, get some cool swag or grab a beer during the booth crawl, and a hundred of them lined up to try their hand at the Server Challenge.

Server Challenge

Of the attendees who made it to the front of the pack to chat with one of us, it's remarkable to note how consistent some of the conversations were. Since we haven't really done a refresh to catch everyone up on what it is SoftLayer does (and since this blog is being presented in the sponsor section of Techmeme), a reintroduction may be in order.

Since the conversations I had at Web 2.0 Expo are so fresh in my mind, I thought I'd frame this little post around the most common questions we were asked by attendees learning about us for the first time (Warning: The responses to these general questions are SoftLayer's value statements, so they'll come off as very salesy ... Leading you to believe we'd answer any other way would be disingenuous, though):

"What does SoftLayer do?"
Simply put, SoftLayer is a hosting provider. That generalization doesn't do our business justice, though. We have ten data center facilities in Houston, Dallas, Washington D.C. and Seattle, and we host more than 80,000 servers for more than 25,000 customers worldwide. We offer cloud, dedicated and hybrid environments and resources that allow businesses to outsource their IT, so they can focus on their core competencies and give their hosting infrastructure to the experts.

"How are you different from <Hosting Competitor>?"
SoftLayer was built with a focus on a few core values: Innovation, Empowerment, Integration and Automation. Our hosting platform offers a true hybrid experience - dedicated and cloud services are seamlessly integrated - that can be accessed and controlled by customers in a number of ways. Each SoftLayer server supports three different kinds of network traffic (public, private and out-of-band management), and customers have complete access to their server via free KVM over IP included with every server. Everything you can do in our portal can be done with our API, and we're an industry leader in product innovation.

Oh, and you can also spin up a cloud server on our platform in under 15 minutes and a dedicated server with your specs and operating system in 2-4 hours.

"Do you support <XYZ Technology>?"
If <XYZ Technology> is current, legal and useful, you can probably use it on our platform. If we don't directly offer software or services you need, we have droves of customers and partners who probably do, and we're happy to refer you to them. Given the unparalleled access you get to your SoftLayer hosting environment, the world is your oyster.

"Impressive sales pitch, but how do I know it's more than just a pitch?"
Our business is designed around making our customers happy. Our services are offered on month-to-month contracts, so we have to continue to provide great service to you or we lose your business. We can share customer success stories until we're blue in the face, but what really matters is what your experience is when you try us out.

Somewhere in there, you might have written me off as just some public relations guy, but I believe every word in those responses (as I'm sure my 550+ coworkers do). I'm not trying to claim that if you host with SoftLayer you'll never have another problem or that people don't make mistakes on our end, but as a company, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more devoted group of people focused on providing the best experience in the business.

-@quigleymar

March 23, 2011

SoftLayer Rocked SxSW 2011

South by Southwest 2011 is over. Phew. The chaotic buzz of sessions, trade show booths, concerts, happy hours and parties has subsided, so we can finally take a little time to look back at our experience in Austin last week. Our most talked about contributions to the 2011 SxSW community were our SxSL (South by SoftLayer) event at Iron Cactus on Monday and the SoftLayer Server Challenge on the trade show floor.

SxSL

If you've ever been to a SoftLayer soiree, you know that we know how to get down with our bad selves to throw a good party, and SxSL was no exception. The Cactus Room at Iron Cactus was a perfect venue to unwind after the first day on the trade show floor, and it proved to be a great setting for many interesting conversations about hosting, cloud computing and SoftLayer's plans for world domination ... err ... growth.

As you can see from a few of the pictures we took at the event, Snappy - HostGator's mascot - made an appearance, and he was quite the popular guy. He made so many friends at the party, he actually followed us back to the office in Dallas.

Server Challenge

If you followed the link to the Server Challenge at the top of this post, there's no need to reintroduce the competition, so we'll dive straight into how it went. Before I tell you what I think, listen to what @ipbrian had to say about it on Twitter: "Congrats to @SoftLayer for having the best contest and booth at #sxswi. I have NEVER wanted to repeat visit a vendor more."

Brian was a fierce competitor who pushed the limits of how fast our rack of servers could be reassembled, and prior to SxSW, he'd never heard of SoftLayer. As he hurried to reattach network cables, he experienced what we do in our data centers, and that experience is worth more than any piece of collateral we could have given him. That experience was our goal in designing the challenge, and based on our first show with it, we're confident that our goal is being met.

Some attendees saw the blazing times on our Server Challenge leader board as inspiration to complete an "Eye of the Tiger"-speed assembly while others - like the two squirrels from getacorn.com in the video below - knew they might not win the iPad 2 for being the fastest at SxSW but wanted to try anyway:

In addition to the official Server Challenge competition, we were happy to take part in Das IronGeek for the second year in a row. Das IronGeek put six press and bloggers through a series of five technology-related challenges to test their "geekiness," and the SoftLayer Server Challenge was the final "make it or break it" event to determine the champion. All of the competitors stared down the SoftLayer server rack and had a blast completing the challenge. Joshua Baer bested the other participants to become the 2011 Das IronGeek Champion, and if I were him, I'd be showing my kids the 2011 Das IronGeek wrap up for years to come.

As the trade show wound down on Thursday, our booth had a last surge of Server Challenge participants looking to reach the top of the leader board to with an iPad 2, but as you learned from Highlander, there can be only one. That "one" at South by Southwest was Erik Wagner from Netbiscuits with an amazing time of 1:08.8. When he recorded that time, we knew it would be tough to beat, so we had him complete it one more time on camera to show future generations of Server Challenge participants where the bar has been set. Even with the additional pressure of being on camera, he recorded a faster time than any other participant:

We have a few tweaks and improvements planned for our next Server Challenge competition, and we're excited to see how attendees at other shows respond.

As I write about SxSL and the Server Challenge, I'm reminded of stories about the popularity of the good ol' SoftLayer switch-ball and the hallway war we may or may not have been responsible for supplying with foam missile ammunition, but those stories will have to wait for another post. I'm still tired from SxSW sleep deprivation, and I need a nap.

-@khazard

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