Posts Tagged 'Virtualization'

October 29, 2008

SoftLayer Thinks “Outside the Box”

Now, before a worldwide game of MBA buzz-word bingo breaks out, hear me out. Here at SoftLayer, we really do think “outside the box.” And when I say “box” – I really mean “server.” Since our inception, we have been focused an all things “outside the box.” To say it another way, we have focused on building automation systems that drive the collective datacenter environment that surrounds the server. In its simplest terms – a datacenter operating system. We call it IMS internally – IMS is short for infrastructure management system (yip – techies are ripe with creativity).

For the first couple of years, IMS development has revolved around automating all things in the datacenter including network, inventory, asset tracking, provisioning, monitoring, security, and of course all things directly living on the servers themselves. I mean, if you think about all the capabilities – it’s pretty clear. Add servers on the fly (check), add firewalls on the fly (check), add load balancing on the fly (check), interconnect all servers on the fly (check), interconnect servers in different datacenters (check), add, delete and tag IP addresses on the fly (check), reload, repair, and re-provision servers (check, check and check). We can do anything you can possibly imagine “outside the box” via our control panel or API.

Now, SoftLayer has moved to thinking “Inside the box.” That’s where virtualization is rapidly gaining ground. The entire industry understands the value of virtualization and the paradigm shift it will bring to computing. It’s quickly maturing and it’s rapidly becoming a common standard across the industry. We shifted gears about six months ago and starting incorporating virtualization technologies into Softlayer. To date, we have implemented Hyper-V and Xen with tremendous success. We have Virtuozzo from Parallels slated to go live in a couple weeks, VMWare will be available soon and then of course – our much anticipated cloud computing offering (it’s a secret). All of these technologies are virtualization and automation at the server and storage layer.

So, here at SoftLayer – we are thinking “inside and outside the box.” We are very excited about continuing to integrate virtualization technologies into our highly automated datacenter environment. It’s the perfect storm – the alignment of all technologies into a single unified backplane that can morph on the fly into any type of compute environment one needs. The question I have is – it’s easy to think inside the box – has the industry also been thinking “outside the box?”


January 28, 2008

Virtualizing Our Childhoods - There's Money to be Made

Here's a couple of my childhood memories for you. Today, they've been virtualized. And monetized.

Shooting Up the Neighborhood
The kids in my neighborhood would get home from school, crank out the homework and household chores, then bail outdoors in all kinds of weather and play some version of battle games, be it "cops and robbers", "cowboys and Indians", "World War II", etc. In addition to politically incorrect game names, we'd use toy guns and plastic knives and swords to pretend-shoot each other and pretend-hack each other to bits -- all in good fun and while using vocabulary that our parents didn't care for. I'm sure the toy makers made a modest profit from our recreation.

Just last night, my son (age 14) approached me and announced that his homework was done, his room was straight, he was ready for his tests, etc., then asked if he could get on his Xbox 360. After I had him help with the dinner dishes, he headed upstairs much like I would head out the front door when I was 14. I went upstairs a little later and he was logged on to Xbox Live with the voice headset running and he pointed out that about 11 of his hockey teammates were also online and playing Call of Duty 4. So instead of pretend-shooting each other outside in the cold January air, they all get together online and do it. Don’t ask him what kind of language gets used either – it’s probably the same as my generation. From what I understand, the toy makers in this case make a lot more money than those of my youth.

Passing Notes at School
In yet another politically incorrect part of my upbringing, somewhere around 5th and 6th grade, somebody thought it would be a good idea to pass ballots around the classroom. They’d write a question at the top of the page along the lines of “Do you like Gary?” and they’d put two columns below. Other kids would sign under the “yes” or “no” columns depending on how they felt that day.

This is basically virtualized with Facebook, Linked In, and Plaxo. We get prompted to accept others as friends and recommend each other with these networking tools. With all the applications, pictures, messaging and so on these go way beyond our childhood note-passing but the concept is the same. Virtualizing this concept has unlocked untold riches. How much? Microsoft’s investment in Facebook extrapolates the value of Facebook to be $15 billion. That’s a nice chunk of change for virtualizing the passing of notes at school.

All This Virtualization Requires Servers – We’ve Got ‘Em
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not real good at whiteboarding new ideas. Tell you what – you think of something from childhood that can be virtualized into billions in valuation, and SoftLayer will provide the servers and connectivity you need to achieve it.


January 25, 2008

Virtualized Virtualization

For the past several months, we have been struggling with how to implement virtualization in a hosting environment. Xen, VMWare, Virtuozzo, Parrallels, and Virtual Iron just to name a few. As many of you know, the software world courts the enterprise and the hosting world is left to shove the square peg into a round hole. Once again, these software packages have been designed for one company with many servers versus one company with many clients with many servers.

The most shocking reality about virtualization is the lack of scalability. Now, before you call quack shack to have my head examined – hear me out. All (and I mean all) of the virtualization products on the market scale extremely well to a couple hundred physical servers (lets call it 200). These technologies were designed to be used in companies that have relatively small subsets of physical servers (yes…I think 200 is small) managed through a centralized console. The idea is – those 200 servers should be utilized more efficiently thereby creating 400 to 2000 virtual machines. This model works great in companies that only have the need for one or two mass “virtual deployments.”

Now, fast forward to SoftLayer where we have already virtualized every aspect of the datacenter and we manage over 12,000 servers. Let’s run through the high points of virtualization - Rapid deployment – we got that. Asset tracking – yip, been there done that. Network management – baked and done. Add services on-the-fly – is there any other way? Complete control – piece of cake. Eliminate inefficiencies – have you seen our offerings? In essence, SoftLayer has abstracted the physical layer from the datacenter and left our customers with a complete virtualized datacenter environment. So, the questions remains – how do we virtualize the virtualized?


August 6, 2007

HostingCon 2007 / More Green

The SoftLayer contingency recently returned from attending HostingCon 2007 in Chicago and I have to say, it was a great experience. We had a lot of opportunities to meet up with many of our customers, meet with a lot of vendors and potential vendors as well as visit with some of our competitors.

While there, I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion on "Green Hosting: Hope or Hype". Isabel Wang did a great job of moderating the discussion with Doug Johnson, Dallas Kashuba, and myself. The overall premise of the panel discussion was to talk about green initiatives, how they affect the hosting industry, what steps can hosting companies take and is it something we should be pursuing.

It was interesting to hear the different approaches that companies take to be green. Should companies focus their efforts on becoming carbon neutral by purchasing carbon credits such as DreamHost, by promising to plant a tree for each server purchased such as Dell, by working on virtualization strategies such as SWSoft or by working to eliminate the initial impact on the environment such as we have done at SoftLayer. You can probably tell from one of my previous blog posts where SoftLayer is focusing our efforts to help make a difference.

Besides the efforts of the individual companies on the panel, there were some good questions from the audience that helped spur the conversation. Does the hosting industry need its own organization for self regulation or are entities such as The Green Grid sufficient? Do any of the hosting industry customers really care if a company is "green"? Should a hosting company care if it’s "green"? And, what exactly does "being green" mean?

While there are differing opinions to all of those questions, there really isn't a "wrong" answer. Ultimately all of the steps companies take - no matter how small - will help to some extent. And no matter what the motivation - whether a company is "being green" in an effort to gain publicity, to save money or to simply "make a difference" - it's all worth it in the end.


June 8, 2007

Your Datacenter is Obsolete

By 2010, the datacenter as we know it today will be dead. Datacenters of the future will be ultra high-density geographically-dispersed IT utility centers. Datacenters will be focused on maximizing all the facets of the IT environment including floor space, HVAC, power, server form factor, security, storage, networking, bandwidth, personnel and preventive maintenance. Physically, I envision 5,000 square foot facilities installed across the globe that are relatively small, lights-out bunkers utilizing commodity infrastructures, owned or leased footprints, and housing servers at a rate of 10 per square foot.

The datacenters will be designed, built, and fully functional on day one -- including the installation of all IT equipment. There will be no movement of physical components as everything will be managed virtually through a series of networks and management tools -- a datacenter grid, if you will. These datacenters will only require personnel for failure-replacement or maintenance. Hardware node failures would automatically route to other nodes in the same datacenter. The failure of a datacenter would result in a re-route of data to other facilities. A series of failsafe datacenters, with all data, will be sitting on the edge near the end user for maximum performance and efficiency. Companies would select geographical regions for their installations of IT services.

The datacenter of the future is indifferent to the technology of the day. Dedicated hosting, virtualization, grid computing or the next emerging technology all work in the datacenter of the future because they will be designed as an IT utility. It's time for the datacenter to grow up.


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