Posts Tagged 'Travel'

August 12, 2015

Network Performance 101: What is latency, and why does it matter?

We’ve all been there. Waiting for a web page to load can be so frustrating that we end up just closing out. You might ask yourself, “Hey, I have high-speed Internet. Why is this happening to me?” Well, there are a lot of factors outside your control that … control page loads. And whether you have an online store, run big data solutions, or have your employees set up on a network accessing files around the world, you never want to hear that your data, consumer products, information, or otherwise, is keeping you from a sale or slowing down employee productivity because of slow data transfer.

So why are some pages so much slower to load than others?
It could be that poorly written code or large images are slowing the load on the backend, but slow page loads can also be caused by network latency. This might sound elementary, but data is not just floating out there in some non-physical Internet space. In reality, data is stored on hard drives … somewhere. Network connectivity provides a path for that data to travel to end users around the world, and that connectivity can vary significantly—depending on how far it’s going, how many times the data has to hop between service providers, how much bandwidth is available along the way, the other data traveling across the same path, and a number of other variables.

The measurement of how quickly data travels between two connected points is called network latency. Network latency is an expression of the amount of time it takes a packet of data to get from one place to another.

Understanding Network Latency
Theoretically, data can travel at the speed of light across optical fiber network cables, but in practice, data typically travels slower than light due to the variables we referenced in the previous section. If a network connection doesn’t have any available bandwidth capacity, data might temporarily queue up to wait for its turn to travel across the line. If a service provider’s network doesn’t route a network path optimally, data could be sent hundreds or thousands of miles away from the destination in the process of routing to the destination. These kinds of delays and detours lead to higher network latency, which lead to slower page loads and download speeds.

We express network latency in milliseconds (that’s 1,000 milliseconds per second), and while a few thousandths of a second may not mean much to us as we’re living our daily lives, those milliseconds are often the deciding factors for whether we stay on a webpage or give up and try another site. As consumers of high-speed Internet, we like what we like, and we want what we want when we want it. In the financial sector, milliseconds can mean billions of dollars in gains or losses from trade transactions on a day-to-day basis.

Logical conclusion: Everyone wants the lowest network latency to the greatest number of users.

Common Approaches to Minimize Network Latency
If our shared goal is to minimize latency for our data, the most common approaches to addressing network latency involve limiting the number of potential variables that can impact the speed of data’s movement. While we don’t have complete control over how our data travels across the Internet, we can do a few things to keep our network latency in line:

  • Distribute data around the world: Users in different locations can pull data from a location that’s geographically close to them. Because the data is closer to the users, it is handed off fewer times, it has a shorter distance to travel, and inefficient routing is less likely to cause a significant performance impact.
  • Provision servers with high-capacity network ports: Huge volumes of data can travel to and from the server every second. If packets are delayed due to fully saturated ports, milliseconds of time pass, pages load slower, download speeds drop, and users get unhappy.
  • Understand how your providers route traffic: When you know how your data is transferred to users around the world, you can make better decisions about where you host your data.

How SoftLayer Minimizes Network Latency
To minimize latency, we took a unique approach to building our network. All of our data centers are connected to network points of presence. All of our network points of presence are connected to each other via our global backbone network. And by maintaining our own global backbone network, our network operations team is able to control network paths and data handoffs much more granularly than if we relied on other providers to move data between geographies.

SoftLayer Private Network

For example, if a user in Berlin wants to watch a cat video hosted on a SoftLayer server in Dallas, the packets of data that make up that cat video will travel across our backbone network (which is exclusively used by SoftLayer traffic) to Frankfurt, where the packets would be handed off to one of our peering or transit public network partners to get to the user in Berlin.

Without a global backbone network, the packets would be handed off to a peering or transit public network provider in Dallas, and that provider would route the packets across its network and/or hand the packets off to another provider at a network hop, and the packets would bounce their way to Germany. It’s entirely possible that the packets could get from Dallas to Berlin with the same network latency with or without the global backbone network, but without the global backbone network, there are a lot more variables.

In addition to building a global backbone network, we also segment public, private, and management traffic onto different network ports so that different types of traffic can be transferred without interfering with each other.

SoftLayer Private Network

But at the end of the day, all of that network planning and forethought doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if you can’t see the results for yourself. That’s why we put speed tests on our website so you can check out our network yourself (for more on speed tests, check out this blog post).

TL;DR: Network Latency
Your users want your data as quickly as you can get it to them. The time it takes for your data to get to them across the Internet is called network latency. The more control you (or your provider) have over your data’s network path, the more consistent (and lower) your network latency will be.

Stay tuned. Next month we will be discussing Network Performance 101: Security, where we’ll discuss all things cloud security—including answering your burning questions: Can other people see or access my data in a public cloud? Is my data more prone to hackers? And, what safeguards do SoftLayer have in place to protect data?


November 20, 2012

Community Development: Catalysing European Startups

SoftLayer works hard and plays hard. A few weeks ago, I traveled to Dallas for the first "Global Catalyst Summit"* where the community development teams in Europe, Asia and the United States all came together under one roof to learn, strategize and bond. What that really means is that we all experienced a week of hardcore information flow and brutal fun.

The onboarding process to become a part of the SoftLayer's Community Development (Catalyst) team is pretty rigorous, and traveling to Dallas from Amsterdam for the training made it even more intense. In short order, I learned about the roots of the Catalyst program and why SoftLayer is so interested in investing in helping startups succeed. I got the low-down on the hundreds of companies that are taking advantage of the program right now, and I was inspired by the six incredible people who focus exclusively on the Catalyst program at SoftLayer ... And Big Tex:

SoftLayer Community Development Team and Big Tex

When the whirlwind week of orientation and training came to an end, I came to a solid conclusion: I am working at SoftLayer for a reason. I believe SoftLayer has the most kick-ass global on-demand technology platform out there, and our focus on innovation and automation is reflected in everything we do. On top of that, we give that platform to startups to help springboard their success. I get to work with a community of world-changers. Needless to say, that's an amazing conclusion to come to.

As a member of the Catalyst team in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), I can provide signficant resources to entrepreneurs who are building awesome new applications and technologies that are making a difference locally, regionally and globally. Anna Bofill Bert and I work out of SoftLayer's Amsterdam office, and we are fully dedicated to helping startup and developer communities in our region.

As a review exercise and a way to educate the audience that may be unfamiliar with Catalyst, I thought I'd bullet out a few of the main ideas:

What is Catalyst?

The SoftLayer Catalyst Startup Program provides:

  • A generous monthly hosting credit toward dedicated, cloud or hybrid compute environments for a FULL YEAR (Ideal for dev-ops/next generation startup compute applications who want high performance from the start).
  • Direct connection to highest level programming team at SoftLayer — Our Innovation Team. Participating companies get help and advice from the people that are writing the book on highly scalable, global infrastructure environments.
  • Connection to the SoftLayer Marketing and PR Team for help getting spreading the word around the world about all the cool stuff participating startups are doing.

We reach startups by listening to them and meeting needs that all of them express. We are telling the SoftLayer story, networking, making friends, drinking too much and travelling like mad. In the course of a month, we went to Lean Start Up Machine in Rotterdam, Structure Europe in Amsterdam, Pioneers Festival in Vienna, HowToWeb in Bucharest and we managed to complete a quick tour of startup communities in Spain.

Like our peers on the US team, we partner with incubators and accelerators to make sure that when startups look for help getting started, they also find SoftLayer. We're already working with partners like Springboard, Seedcamp, GameFounders, Startup Sauna, the INLEA Foundation and Tetuan Valley, and the list of supported communities seems to grow daily. When the portfolio companies in each of these organizations are given access to the Catalyst program, that means SoftLayer's Catalyst customer base is growing pretty phenomenally as well.

What I actually like most about how we help startups is the mentorship and office hours we provide participating companies as well. SoftLayer was founded by ten guys in a living room in 2005, and we've got hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue as of 2012. That success is what the SoftLayer team is excited to share insights about.

Hustling is a major part of startup culture, so it's only fitting that I feel like I had to hustle through this blog to get all of my thoughts down. Given that SoftLayer EMEA is a bit of a startup itself, I'm happy to be practicing what we preach. If you'd like more information about Catalyst or you want to apply, please feel free to hit me up:

We want to be part of your company's success story.


*Note: As an homage to Big Tex after the fire, we referred to our meeting as the "Global Catalyst Summit with Big Tex" at the Texas State Fair. We hope to see you back in action in 2013, Big Tex!

October 20, 2011

Taking Multitasking to a New Level

Is it possible to be in three places at once? For SoftLayer it is! Last week was an extremely busy one for the SoftLayer team. SLayers from the marketing and sales teams were dispersed to cover three different trade shows in two separate cities where we'd meet a few thousand soon-to-be SoftLayer customers.

I attended Web 2.0 Expo in NYC – a great event where I was able to once again demystify the SoftLayer Switch Ball and explain the awesomeness of SoftLayer. Nothing too crazy to report from the expo floor, but we did have one interesting experience outside of the event where we witnessed a man sleep while standing up. We don't know how he was able to sleep for over two hours without falling over, but his execution was impressive:

NYC Sleeper

While I was in New York City, cPanel Bootcamp was happening closer to home in Austin, Texas. From what I hear, a second annual rocket war broke out, and our booth was rushed by attendees looking to stock up on ammo.

Just down the street from the cPanel conference, GDC Online was up and running in the Austin Convention Center. This was another awesome event for SoftLayer and once again the Server Challenge was a huge hit:

Congrats to Anthony Pecorella for winning with a time of 1:00.84! We know you'll enjoy your new iPad.

After both show floors closed, attendees from both cPanel Bootcamp and GDC Online joined us for some drinks, food and retro games at Maggie Mae's on Sixth Street. Notable attendees included Mario, Princess Peach and our very own Jeff Reinis who happens to be a 1983 Pac-Man record holder!

If you didn't have a chance to join SoftLayer, CoreSite and TeliaSonera at the Time Warp Retro Gaming Party, you can live vicariously via Flickr:

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make sure these three events went off without a hitch, and thanks to all of you who stopped by and said hi! We hope to see you all soon at one of our upcoming events:


October 17, 2011

New Data Centers, Barbara Streisand & "Da Bobby G"

Dealing with jet lag, unfamiliar surroundings, foreign currencies and different languages just begins to describe my hectic life over the past two months. We've been in overdrive, building out SoftLayer's Singapore and Amsterdam data centers in weeks (rather than months).

Our "Go Live Crew" of 16 dedicated SLayers has been working 'round the clock to make sure everything is up and running on time. The biggest challenge has been building out both data centers simultaneously ... With the "Go big or go home" mindset, when we decided to go international, we went all in. Our growing customer base of 23,000 won't stand still, so we need to deliver, whether it be through innovation or expansion. In less than 60 days we've been able to add 31,000+ servers to our network platform, bringing our unique cloud, dedicated and managed hosting solutions closer to our customers around the world.

This accomplishment has been something of a "miracle," and I really need to shout out to my team members on the GLC. Putting in 16-hour days and working weekends while still finding time to go out on the weekends (Jägermeister and Red Bull have been sampled at many a fine pub) has made us a pretty close-knit family. The old "work hard, play hard" saying is an understatement when it comes to the SoftLayer team.

If we're ever dragging a bit in the morning, we can always rely on Duck Sauce to get our pulses racing again by the time we get to the data center. With such a full work schedule, we become creatures of habit, and "Barbara Streisand" is only one example of a staple for the crew. Our daily consistency has even carried over into meal time: My favorite luncheon spot in Amsterdam even named a sandwich after me – Da Bobby G Meat Sandwich. Apparently the combination of meatballs, salami, ham and (a smothering of) ketchup on a bun is not a common order at this establishment, so my innovation needed to be recognized. Nutritional considerations aside, this is one fine sandwich:

Da Bobby G

I've been on the road for a while now, and these are just a few memories I'm taking with me. Jumping around between three continents has definitely had its challenges, but with a great team of focused SLayers, we've been getting the job done. I'm proud to have had a hand in making our international aspirations a reality, and I know that even though this has already been an unbelievable adventure, we're just getting started.


October 16, 2011

Advice for the Non-Experienced Tradeshow Traveler

SoftLayer attends 60+ tradeshows a year. That may not sound like much too some people, but when it means you're only home for six days in a given month, it's pretty daunting. Some think that going to a tradeshow is a "free" min-vacation, but in reality it's exhausting work. You'll get lucky at a few shows where the booth time is only 4-6 hours, but most of the time, you're on the hook for 8 or 9 hours. You never know how much you use your leg muscles by just standing until you do it for nine straight hours. After being on your feet for that long, the first thing you want to do when the show closes is go to dinner just so you can sit down. Now think about doing this for three or four days in a row, and it doesn't sound like a vacation anymore.

Before I turn you off tradeshows altogether, I should admit that they are actually quite fun if you're a people person. I love getting to meet new people and show them what SoftLayer has to offer. It's a rewarding experience to see that light in someone's eyes who has never heard of SoftLayer and then finds out how we can make their business better. I can't help but think to myself, "Yeah, we are kind of a big deal." :-)

Given my extensive experience in the conference and tradeshow realm, here are a few key pieces of advice for the non-experienced SoftLayer tradeshow traveler (adjust for your brand as necessary):


  • Guys should wear black slacks with a polo or button down. For the more casual shows, nice jeans (no rips, tears or holes) and any kind of SoftLayer shirt is fine.
  • Girls should wear black slacks or a black skirt with a polo or button down ... And now you have the option of a SoftLayer dress.
  • It's always a good idea to wear slacks the first day to "test the waters" of the attire for the show. After that, you can plan your next day's attire accordingly.
  • Always wear black shoes. Girls do NOT wear high heels ... You will regret it 30 minutes into the first day. An great alternative for the ladies are black flats, these will look great with pants, a skirt, or a SoftLayer dress.
  • Sometimes it gets extremely cold in the conference hall, so I suggest bringing a jacket – even if it's 110 degrees outside. When wearing a jacket over your attire, make it one of the branded SoftLayer jackets – a SoftLayer logo should be visible at all times so attendees know you're not a random stranger in the SoftLayer booth.


  • I know how easy it can be to get carried away when other attendees get a little wild, but that is NO excuse to be late, completely absent or operating at less than 100% when you get to the booth the next day.
  • You should always have a smile on your face when talking with attendees. You're talking about great stuff when you're talking about SoftLayer, so you should be happy to share it with the next potential SoftLayer customer.
  • This should go without saying, but there should be NO cursing, yelling or arguing with anyone at the booth.

Last but not Least
The number ONE rule for the non-experienced traveler: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS know your stuff before going to a tradeshow. Nothing is more embarrassing for your colleagues (or SoftLayer in general) when you are asked a simple question about what SoftLayer does and you do not know. If you do not know something, ask a colleague or simply look on our website. We have plenty of information there and numerous datasheets that explain in detail the products and services SoftLayer offers.


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!


September 2, 2010

Three Walks of Speed

I love to travel every chance I get. Growing up, my family would always take a summer vacation. We were just like the Griswalds, making our way across the country in a Station Wagon, driving hundreds of miles to go to a world famous theme park. I’ll admit, it would have been fun holding John Candy hostage with a pellet gun. Wherever we ended up going each year, we would always drive.

As an adult, I still enjoy going on vacations, but the thought of driving a great distance makes me nauseated. Anytime I make plans, I always check and see if I can fly there instead of driving. Some people do not enjoy flying. Some individuals don’t like to wait all day at the airport. Some folks are fearful of flying. But the thought of getting to my destination 95% faster than driving, has always appealed to me.

Being the frugal individual that I am, I usually won’t pay for a direct flight and as a result, will have a connecting flight in route to my destination. Trying to get to my connecting flight always seems to be an adventure. They always seem to be in another terminal, on the other side of the airport. When walking, or in most cases, running to the other terminal, I have noticed a few things about how people walk from one terminal to the next.

Most of your major airports have automatic, or moving sidewalks. These devices have always fascinated me. The usual layout in most terminals is two moving walkways on either side of the terminal, with a standard walkway in the middle. DFW International is set up this way. I have noticed three different ways that people walk through these terminals.

  1. The First is Mr. Safe - he takes the middle path. He might not be in a hurry or maybe he is afraid of a moving floor beneath his feet.
  2. The Second is Mr. Stationary - he is a little more adventurous, but not too risky. He rides the automatic walkway, but does not move from his standing position until he absolutely has to. You might consider this individual to be lazy, but perhaps he is saving his energy to deal with that screaming baby on the next flight.
  3. The Third is Mr. Hurrysome - he is very energetic. Not only is he riding the automatic walkway, he is physically walking on the moving sidewalk to make faster time. This individual is ahead of the pack and in front of everyone else.

Web Hosting Companies like SoftLayer and their competitors usually fit into one of these three categories:

  1. Mr. Safe - always taking the slow path, never doing anything innovative, always playing it safe, never leading the way.
  2. Mr. Stationary - a little more adventurous, but not wanting to get in too much of a hurry. He could move a little faster, but why use all that energy when he can sit back and enjoy the ride.
  3. Mr. Hurrysome - fastest walker, always a step ahead of everyone else, a leader with new technology services like CDN, Data Transfer Services, covering more ground per second than anyone around him, always the first to arrive.

If you sit back and think about it for a moment, you will see that SoftLayer is the only web hosting company that moves like traveler number three. Everyone else is left in the dust.

May 18, 2010

Skinman’s Travels

Well, I am on the final flight I have for about a month, finally. I left 8 days ago to go to Vancouver for the Game Developer Conference (GDC) for a great part of the trip. Even walking 10 miles with the great “walk-aholic” @gkdog and needing lots of oxygen was cool. We walked around Stanley Park and if you haven’t done it you should. It’s about a 6 mile loop and it gets the attention of all your senses. It was about 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) when we started on the bright, wind free side of the park and all was good.

As we walked we saw some pretty cool sights and I have attached a picture or two for you to see. Once you get past the bridge in the pictures

You round a corner and then the pacific winds hit you in the face and the sun hides behind the rock walls and trees.

I thought at first the temperature difference was about 10 degrees but as we kept walking I soon was glad I wore jeans, and not shorts, and my new comfortable shoes. At about 3 miles I was ready for a taxi but once you hit the backside of the park cars, taxis, helicopters and sea planes are hard to come by as well as “porto-potties”. But we kept walking. We saw giant cable wrapped bundles of lumber that must have fallen from their ships and washed ashore. Then we stumbled upon Kent Avery. The man can balance a rock. This picture is not faked in any way

And here is a cool video about him I watched him stack two or three rocks and he just balances it and then adds another and then another. Did I mention there is a 10mph wind blowing and not one stack of rocks fell.

We made it around the park and then walked the rest of the 10 miles to get to a small restaurant on Robson hill. Yea, I said hill and yea we had to walk up it. After sitting at the restaurant for about 3 hours I could barely move. The hotel bed that night was a welcome site. The next day it was off to San Francisco for Citrix Summit and Synergy. This was a much larger show and the first thing I noticed while walking towards the convention center was the people who had already checked in were wearing branded Citrix and SoftLayer lanyards around their necks to hold their access badge. It was really cool. I can’t count how many people I talked to that noticed my SoftLayer shirt and asked what we did just because we were on the lanyard with Citrix. Overall this was a great show. Nathan Day was on a round table and then discussed Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Public and Private Clouds. The entire team of 7 stayed extremely busy for the show.

SoftLayer is becoming more and more known everywhere I go. Infrastructure as a service must be here to stay, because I don’t get to stay in one place very long at the moment. Flight 566 from San Fran to Dallas is about 20 minutes out. See you on the ground!

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