Technology Posts

November 18, 2014

Your Direct Link into the SoftLayer Cloud

Remember the days when cellular companies charged additional fees for calls placed during peak hours or for text messages that exceeded your plan?

The good news is those days are pretty much over for cellular services thanks to unlimited text and data plans. The bad news is there are cloud and hosting providers who adhere to those same old billing practices of charging customers for every single communication their severs send or receive.

At SoftLayer we do things differently. All of our servers come with included terabytes of outbound bandwidth—5TB for virtual servers and 20TB for bare metal servers. Now you probably just noticed I specifically mentioned outbound bandwidth, and that's because we don't charge anything, nothing, zip, zilch for all traffic inbound to any of our servers, nor do we charge for any bandwidth usage across our Global Private Network.

Imagine the possibilities of what you could build on a Global Private Network that essentially comes free of charge just by being a SoftLayer customer.

  • How about building that true disaster recovery solution that you’re always talking about?
  • How about moving all of your backups offsite now that the necessary bandwidth requirements and costs aren’t standing in your way?
  • Or maybe it’s time to offer your app a little GSLB now that replicating data across remote sites, which hasn’t been feasible over the public Internet due to latency or security concerns, is now feasible?

We help put all these dreams within grasp thanks to Direct Link. Tap directly into our Global Private Network at connection speeds of 1Gbps or 10Gbps to establish a Direct Link into any of our 19 network PoPs (more PoPs are being added regularly). You’ll have the ability to seamlessly extend your private networks directly into SoftLayer. Not only does a Direct Link give you access to one of the world’s largest and fastest private networks, it gives you access to elastically scale your compute and storage on demand.

Many companies look to the cloud as a way to reduce capex and adjust spending on demand but hesitate to move workloads due to latency or security concerns. I'd like to say that latency isn’t even worth thinking twice about at SoftLayer. But don't take my word for it; take a peek at our Looking Glass, and see for yourself. In regards to security, a SoftLayer Direct Link enables you to build and deliver secure services on our private network without having to expose your servers to the public Internet.

For more information on Direct Link and connectivity check out KnowledgeLayer or this blog where the author digs into the technical details and explains how enterprise customers benefit from Direct Link with GRE Tunnels.

Thanks,
JD Wells

Categories: 
November 11, 2014

Which storage solution is best for your project?

Before building applications around our network storage, here’s a refresher on what network storage is, how it is used, the different types available, and the best uses for each.

What is network storage? Why would you use it?

Appropriately named, network storage is storage attached to a server over our network; not to be confused with directly attached storage (DAS), which is a hard drive located in the server (or connected with a device like a SCSI or USB cable). Although DAS transfers data to a server faster than network storage due to network latency and system caching, there is still a strong place for network storage.

Many different servers can access network storage, and with some network storage solutions, more than one server can get data from the same shared storage volume simultaneously. This comes in handy if one server dies, because another can pick up a storage device and start where the first left off.

With DAS, planned downtime for server upgrades, potential data loss, and provisioning larger or more servers can slow down productivity. The physical constraints of internal drives and costs associated with servers do not affect network storage.

Because SoftLayer manages the disk space of our network storage products, there’s no need to worry about rebuilding a redundant array of inexpensive disks (RAIDs) or failed disks. If a disk fails, SoftLayer automatically replaces it and rebuilds the RAID—in most cases you would be unaware that the changes occurred.

Select network storage solutions are available with tools for your important data. Schedule snapshots of your data, promote snapshots to full volumes, or reset your data to the snapshot point.

And with network storage, downtime is minimal. Disaster recovery tools available on select storage solutions let you send a command to quickly fail over to a different data center so you can access your data if our network is ever down in a data center.

Types of Network Storage And How They Are Different

Storage Area Network (SAN) or Block Storage

Block storage works like DAS, just remotely—only a single server can access a block storage volume at a time. Using an Internet small computer system interface (iSCSI) protocol over a secure transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) connection, SoftLayer's block storage has excellent features for backup and disaster recovery, and adding snapshot schedules and failover redundancy make it a powerful enterprise solution.

Network Attached Storage (NAS) or File Storage

File storage acts like a remote file system. It has a slim operating system that allows servers to treat it like a remote directory structure. Multiple servers can share files on the same storage simultaneously. Our new consistent performance storage lets you share files quickly and easily using a network file system (NFS) with your choice of performance level and secure connections.

We also have a common Internet file system (CIFS) (Windows), which requires a credential that grants access to any server on our private network. File storage can only be accessed by SoftLayer servers.

Object Storage

Object storage is a standalone storage entity with its own representational state transfer (REST) API that grants applications (not operating systems) access to the files stored there. Located on a public network, servers in any of our data centers can directly access files stored there. Object storage is different in the way those files are stored as well. In object storage there is not a directory structure, but instead metadata tags are used to categorize and search for files. In conjunction with a content delivery network (CDN), you can quickly serve files to your users or to a mobile device in close proximity.

With pay-as-you-go pricing, you don’t have to worry about running out of space. We only charge based on the greatest usage in any given day. That means you can get started right now for free!

Which storage solution is best for your project?

If you are still confused about which network storage option you should build your applications around, take this eight-question quiz to find out if object, file or block storage will work best for you:

-Kevin

October 28, 2014

SoftLayer and AWS: What's the Difference?

People often compare SoftLayer with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

It’s easy to understand why. We’ve both built scalable infrastructure platforms to provide cloud resources to the same broad range of customers—from individual entrepreneurs to the world’s largest enterprises.

But while the desire to compare is understandable, the comparison itself isn’t quite apt. The SoftLayer platform is fundamentally different from AWS.

In fact, AWS could be run on SoftLayer. SoftLayer couldn’t be run on AWS.

AWS provisions in the public cloud.

When AWS started letting customers have virtual machines deployed on the infrastructure that AWS had built for their e-commerce business, AWS accelerated the adoption of virtual server hosting within the existing world of Web hosting.

In an AWS cloud environment, customers order the computing and storage resources they need, and AWS deploys those resources on demand. The mechanics of that deployment are important to note, though.

AWS has data centers full of physical servers that are integrated with each other in a massive public cloud environment. These servers are managed and maintained by AWS, and they collectively make up the available cloud infrastructure in the facility.

AWS installs a virtualization layer (also known as hypervisor) on these physical servers to tie the individual nodes into the environment’s total capacity. When a customer orders a cloud server from AWS, this virtualization layer finds a node with the requested resources available and provisions a server image with the customer’s desired operating system, applications, etc. The entire process is quick and automated, and each customer has complete control over the resources he or she ordered.

That virtualization layer is serving a purpose, and it may seem insignificant, but it highlights a critical difference in their platform and ours:

AWS automates and provisions at the hypervisor level, while SoftLayer automates and provisions at the data center level.

SoftLayer provisions down to bare metal resources.

While many have their sights on beating AWS at its own game, SoftLayer plays a different game.

SoftLayer platform is designed to give customers complete access and control over the actual infrastructure that they need to build a solution in the cloud. Automated and remote ordering, deployment, and management of the very server, storage, and security hardware resources themselves, are hosted in our data centers so that customers don’t have to build their own facilities or purchase their own hardware to get the reliable, high performance computing they need.

Everything in SoftLayer data centers is transparent, automated, integrated, and built on an open API that customers can access directly. Every server is connected to three distinct physical networks so that public, private, and management network traffic are segmented. And our expert technical support is available for all customers, 24x7.

Notice that the automation and integration of our platform happens at the data center level. We don’t need a virtualization layer to deploy our cloud resources. As a result, we can deploy bare metal servers in the same way AWS deploys public cloud servers (though, admittedly, bare metal servers take more time to deploy than virtual servers in the public cloud). By provisioning down to a lower level in the infrastructure stack, we’re able to offer customers more choice and control in their cloud environments:

In addition to the control customers have over infrastructure resources, with our unique network architecture, their servers aren’t isolated inside the four walls of a single data center. Customers can order one server in Dallas and another in Hong Kong, and those two servers can communicate with each other directly and freely across our private network without interfering with customers’ public network traffic. So with every new data center we build, we geographically expand a unified cloud footprint. No regions. No software-defined virtual networks. No isolation.

SoftLayer vs. AWS

Parts of our cloud business certainly compete with AWS. When users compare virtual servers between us, they encounter a number of similarities. But this post isn’t about comparing and contrasting offerings in the areas in which we’re similar … it’s about explaining how we’re different:
  • SoftLayer is able to provision bare metal resources to customers. This allows customers free reign over the raw compute power of a specific server configuration. This saves the customer from the 2–3 percent performance hit from the hypervisor, and it prevents “noisy neighbors” from being provisioned alongside a customer’s virtual server. AWS does not provision bare metal resources.

  • AWS differentiates “availability zones” and “regions” for customers who want to expand their cloud infrastructure into multiple locations. SoftLayer has data centers interconnected on a global private network. Customers can select the specific SoftLayer data center location they want so they can provision servers in the exact location they desire.

  • When AWS customers move data between their AWS servers, they see “Inter-Region Data Transfer Out” and “Intra-Region Data Transfer” on their bills. If you’re moving data from one SoftLayer facility to another SoftLayer facility (anywhere in the world), that transfer is free and unmetered. And it doesn’t fight your public traffic for bandwidth.

  • SoftLayer bare metal servers ordered with monthly billing include 20TB/mo of public outbound bandwidth, and virtual servers ordered with monthly billing include 5TB/mo of public outbound bandwidth. With AWS, customers pay a per-GB charge for bandwidth on every bill.

  • SoftLayer offers a broad range of management, monitoring, and support options to customers at no additional cost. AWS charges for monitoring based on metrics, frequency, and number of alarms per resource. And having access to support requires an additional monthly cost.

Do SoftLayer and AWS both offer Infrastructure as a Service? Yes.

Does that make SoftLayer and AWS the same? No.

-@khazard

October 20, 2014

Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day

“A national holiday specifically for cleaning! Be still my heart,” said the neat freak.

So, I didn’t really know how to start this blog post because my virtual desktop is pretty clean. I adhere to the school of thought, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Does this make me a neat freak void of any creativity? More on that later.

With that being said, I started with a quick Google search for “de-cluttering your desktop.” I didn’t realize there would be so many articles on the subject. No surprise, Martha Stewart even posted an article about the topic full of words like “tidy,” “unholy mess,” and “. . . makes people cranky.”

Wait.

Come back.

We’re not going to talk about Martha’s how-to guide here. [This is SoftLayer—the only how-to guides posted here are about CSS.] I actually found some pretty cool ideas that I’d like to pass on to our readers in honor of the day.

I came across a tutorial on how to create a wallpaper for your desktop in which you “drop” your desktop icons into appropriate sections. The tutorial used Adobe Photoshop, but if you’re like me, Photoshop-illiterate, you can use PowerPoint (I find it so much easier, albeit limiting). Here’s a screen shot of my desktop.

For our more tech-savvy readers . . . download Fences®. It’s basically the same thing as the DIY version I described above, but it allows you to place your icons into resizable shaded areas on your desktop. Pretty cool!

Most people store files on their desktops because they think it makes it easier to find them, but sooner or later, your desktop gets overrun by these once easy-to-find files. If you want something that will keep your desktop free from any documents, install a launcher program. There are lots to choose from, including LaunchBar, Quicksilver, Launchy, or AutoHotkey. Once installed, the program is activated by a keystroke combination. When it opens, start typing the program, folder name, or file you want open. According to users, it’s faster than locating the icon on your desktop and double-clicking. Many users claim they don’t know how they lived without it for so long.

My last tip is similar to when your mom asks you to clean your room, and all you do is shove everything under your bed. Same thing here. Just hide all those icons.

  1. Right click on your desktop
  2. Select View
  3. Unselect Show your desktop icons

That’s right. Out of sight. Out of mind.

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

I don’t know what Albert Einstein was implying when he said that, but I do know personally that a messy desk lowers my productivity. Does this lower my creativity too?

After reviewing a few different studies on whether or not clutter produces creativity or chaos, I have come to the conclusion that if you need to accomplish practical chores like paying bills or replying to emails, you need a clutter-free workspace to focus. If you need to be creative, clutter can distract you and let you think outside of the box.

Personally, I don’t think that a clean slate lowers my creativity because I can’t even begin to work if it is messy. But, some people thrive in chaos. Hey, whatever works.

Happy Cleaning/Cluttering!

-JRL

October 14, 2014

Enterprise Customers See Benefits of Direct Link with GRE Tunnels

We’ve had an overwhelming response to our Direct Link product launch over the past few months and with good reason. Customers can cross connect into the SoftLayer global private network with a direct link in any of our 22 points of presence (POPs) providing fast, secure, and unmetered access to their SoftLayer infrastructure from their remote data center locations.

Many of our enterprise customers who’ve set up a Direct Link want to balance the simplicity of a layer three cross connection with their sophisticated routing and access control list (ACL) requirements. To achieve this balance, many are using GRE tunnels from their on-premises routers to their SoftLayer Vyatta Gateway Appliance.

In previous blogs about Vyatta Gateway Appliance, we’ve described some typical use cases as well as highlighted the differences between the Vyatta OS and the Vyatta Appliance. So we’ll focus specifically on using GRE tunnels here.

What is GRE?
Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE) is a protocol for packet encapsulation to facilitate routing other protocols over IP networks (RFC 2784). Customers typically create two endpoints for the tunnel; one on their remote router and the other on their Vyatta Gateway Appliance at SoftLayer.
How does GRE work?
GRE encapsulates a payload, an inner packet that needs to be delivered to a destination network, within an outer IP packet. Between two GRE endpoints all routers will look at the outer IP packet and forward it towards the endpoint where the inner packet is parsed and routed to the ultimate destination.
Why use GRE tunnels?
If a customer has multiple subnets at SoftLayer that need routing to, these would need multiple tunnels to each if they were not encapsulating with GRE. Since GRE encapsulates traffic within an outer packet, customers are able to route other protocols within the tunnel and route multiple subnets without multiple tunnels. A GRE endpoint on Vyatta will parse the packets and route them, eliminating that challenge.

Many of our enterprise customers have complex rules governing what servers and networks can communicate with each other. They typically build ACLs on their routers to enforce those rules. Having a GRE endpoint on a Vyatta Gateway Appliance allows customers to route and manage internal packets based on specific rules so that security models stay intact.

GRE tunnels can allow customers to keep their networking scheme; meaning customers can add IP addresses to their SoftLayer servers and directly access them eliminating any routing problems that could occur.

And, because GRE tunnels can run inside a VPN tunnel, customers can put the GRE inside of an IPSec tunnel to make it more secure.

Learn More on KnowledgeLayer

If you are considering Direct Link to achieve fast and unmetered access with the help of GRE tunnels and Vyatta Gateway Appliance but need more information, the SoftLayer KnowledgeLayer is continually updated with new information and best practices. Be sure to check out the entire section devoted to the Vyatta Gateway Appliance.

- Seth

Categories: 
October 8, 2014

An Insider’s Look at Our Data Centers

I’ve been with Softlayer over four years now. It’s been a journey that has taken me around the world—from Dallas to Singapore to Washington D.C, and back again. Along the way, I’ve met amazingly brilliant people who have helped me sharpen the tools in my ‘data center toolbox’ thus allowing me to enhance the customer experience by aiding and assisting in a complex compute environment.

I like to think of our data centers as masterpieces of elegant design. We currently have 14 of these works of art, with many more on the way. Here’s an insider’s look at the design:

Keeping It Cool
Our POD layouts have a raised floor system. The air conditioning units chill from the front bottom of the servers on the ‘cold rows’ passing through the servers on the ‘warm rows.’ The warm rows have ceiling vents to rapidly clear the warm air from the backs of the servers.

Jackets are recommended for this arctic environment.

Pumping up the POWER
Nothing is as important to us as keeping the lights on. Every data center has a three-tiered approach to keeping your servers and services on. Our first tier being street power. Each rack has two power strips to distribute the load and offer true redundancy for redundant servers and switches with the remote ability to power down an individual port on either power strip.

The second tier is our batter backup for each POD. This offers emergency response for seamless failover when street power is no more.

This leads to the third step in our model, generators. We have generators in place for a sustainable continuity of power until street power has returned. Check out the 2-megawatt diesel generator installation at the DAL05 data center here.

The Ultimate Social Network
Neither power nor cooling matter if you can’t connect to your server, which is where our proprietary networking topography comes to play. Each bare metal server and each virtual server resides in a rack that connects to three switches. Each of those switches connects to an aggregate switch for a row. The aggregate switch connects to a router.

The first switch, our private backend network, allows for SSL and VPN connectivity to manage your server. It also gives you the ability to have server-to-server communication without the bounds of bandwidth overages.

The second switch, our public network, provides pubic Internet access to your device, which is perfect for shopping, gaming, coding, or whatever you want to use it for. With 20TB of bandwidth coming standard for this network, the possibilities are endless.

The third and final switch, management, allows you to connect to the Intelligent Platform Management Interface that provides tools such as KVM/hardware monitoring/and even virtual CDs to install an image of your choosing! The cables to your devices from the switches are color-coded, port-number-to-rack-unit labeled, and masterfully arranged to maximize identification and airflow.

A Soft Place for Hardware
The heart and soul of our business is the computing hardware. We use enterprise grade hardware from the ground up. We offer our smallest offering of 1 core, 1GB RAM, 25GB HDD virtual servers, to one of our largest quad 10-core, 512GB RAM, multi 4TB HDD bare metal servers. With excellent hardware comes excellent options. There is almost always a path to improvement. Meaning, unless you already have the top of the line, you can always add more. Whether it be additional drive, RAM, or even processor.

I hope you enjoyed the view from the inside. If you want to see the data centers up close and personal, I am sorry to say, those are closed to the public. But you can take a virtual tour of some of our data centers via YouTube: AMS01 and DAL05

-Joshua Fox

October 3, 2014

Happy National Techies Day!

Today marks the 15th anniversary of National Techies Day—originally started to encourage students to learn more about a career in technology.

To be honest, we get teary-eyed when we hear young techies say they want to be a computer programmer, engineer, or a web developer when they grow up. Techies define, redefine, and refine the world, and the future techies will push the limits further than we ever imagined. How exciting!

At SoftLayer, National Techies Day has a special place deep in our HeartLayer. If you frequent our blog regularly or follow us on Twitter, you’ve seen us mention “Innovate or Die” once or twice . . . or a hundred times. It’s our motto. And, really when you break it down, National Techies Day celebrates technology and innovation and the people that keep us moving forward; for without innovation, we truly become stagnant.

It’s like our CEO, Lance Crosby said, "We don’t want to build a company to meet customers’ currents needs. We want to build a company to meet the needs our customers don’t even know they have yet.

So this National Techies Day we’d like to thank all the trailblazers who came before us. For all those who were teased and called nerd and geek, we thank you; for now we proudly wear these classifications as badges of honor.

We’d like to thank all the tech CEOs for making it socially acceptable to wear jeans and t-shirts to work every day; I am literally wearing a SoftLayer t-shirt and jeans right now as I type, so thanks.

We’d also like to remind all the non-techies out there to give a big shout-out to your IT department techies for getting you back online when you get the dreaded blue screen or experience other equally terrifying “my PC is acting up” situations. (“Did you try turning it off and on again?”)

And finally, to all the kids out there who know how to operate every technological device at home better than their parents, let us just say, working in technology is totally awesome (!), and we can’t wait to see what great things y’all will come up with in the future.

-JRL

Categories: 
October 2, 2014

SoftLayer Rocks the 2014 cPanel Conference

For the past two days, SoftLayer set up shop at the 2014 cPanel® Conference held in Houston, TX. We mingled. We administered the Server Challenge II (more on that later) . . . And, we talked to Aaron Phillips, chief business officer at cPanel.

Holy cup of coffee; this guy has so much energy! Clad in shorts, a t-shirt, and Adidas Gazelle’s, this CBO was not what I expected, but neither is cPanel for that matter. Reading Phillips’ bio offers a glimpse into the cPanel culture; he pokes fun at the fact he never thought he would be working for a “company started by a 14-year-old genius.”(Maybe that’s why he can get away with the shorts.)

Regardless, you can’t dismiss cPanel’s expertise when it comes to specializing in control panel software. The cPanel software package automates server tasks by providing an accessible interface to help website owners manage their sites.

So Aaron, can you give us a brief overview of what the cPanel conference is all about?

The cPanel Conference is in its ninth year, and we really put this together to network, talk about web hosting, and give our partners a sneak peek at what we’re up to. I attended the event even before I came onboard at cPanel, and each year just gets bigger and better. It’s the conference I look forward to each year.

Oh yeah? Any big announcements this week?

Yep. We have a new update to our system. Our user interface is available in 29 languages. It’s really going to help our global customers and help our partners that have global customers like SoftLayer.

How so?

The quality of translations have improved dramatically. The older system we called LANG often created partial sentences which caused a lot of problems with translations. Our ‘newer model,’ Maketext, is more flexible and feature rich. We’ve also edited our content on the interface making it easier to translate. This also eases translation in languages read from right-to-left.

When do you anticipate a go-live date?

We’re in the beta stage but will be complete soon. Like, any day now.

Speaking of SoftLayer, what does cPanel think of us?

You guys were one of our first customers, and you’re one of our biggest customers. We go way back . . . like EV1 days. We love you guys over at SoftLayer. Enjoy the conference! Gotta run.

[Maybe that’s why he wears the Gazelle’s].

Speaking the Language – 29 Languages

Arabic French Japanese Spanish
Chinese German Korean Swedish
Czech Greek Latin American Spanish Thai
Danish Hebrew Malay Traditional Chinese
Dutch Hungarian Norwegian Turkish
English Iberian Spanish Polish Ukrainian
Filipino Indonesian Portuguese Vietnamese
Finnish Italian Romanian

The Server Challenge II Continues to Kick aaS and Take Names
We don’t like to brag, but we have the best booth setup of all time. Why? Because of the Server Challenge II. We would like to congratulate Mike Levine, Product Manager at OpenSRS (with the high score of 1:00.05) who beat out the hundreds of contenders who participated at the 2014 cPanel Conference.

-JRL

September 18, 2014

The Cloud Doesn't Bite, Part III

Why it's OK to be a server-hugger—a cloud server hugger.

(This is the final post in a three-part series. Read the first and second posts here.)

By now, you probably understand the cloud enough to know what it is and does. Maybe it's something you've even considered for your own business. But you're still not sold. You still have nagging concerns. You still have questions that you wish you could ask, but you're pretty sure no cloud company would dignify those questions with an honest, legitimate response.

Well we’re a cloud company, and we’ll answer those questions.

Inspired by a highly illuminating (!) thread on Slashdot about the video embedded below, we've noticed that some of you aren't ready to get your head caught up in the cloud just yet. And that's cool. But let's see if maybe we can put a few of those fears to rest right now.

“[The] reason that companies are hesitant to commit all of their IT to the cloud [relates to] keeping control. It's not about jobs, it's about being sure that critical services are available when you need them. Whenever you see ‘in the CLOUD!’, mentally replace it with ‘using someone else's server’—all of a sudden it looks a whole lot less appealing. Yes, you gain some flexibility, but you lose a LOT of control. I like my data to not be in the hands of someone else. If I don't control the actual machine that has my data on it, then I don't control the data.”

You guys are control FREAKS! And rightfully so. But some of us actually don't take that away from you. Believe it or not, we make it easier for you.

In fact, sometimes you even get to manage your own infrastructure—and that means you can do anything an employee can do. You'll probably even get so good at it that you'll wonder why we don't pay you.

But it doesn't stop at mere management. Oh, no, no, no, friends. You can even take it one further and build, manage, and have total control over your very own private cloud of virtual servers. Yes, yours, and yours only. Now announcing you, the shot caller.

The point is, you don't lose control over your data in the cloud. None. 'Cause cloud companies don't play like that.

“The first rule of computer security is physical access, which is impossible with cloud services, which means they are inherently insecure.”

Curious. So since you can't physically touch your money in your bank account, does that mean it's a free-for-all on your savings? Let us know; we'll bring buckets.

“These cloud guys always forget to mention one glaring problem with their model— they're not adding any new software to the picture.”

Ready for us to blow your minds? We're actually adding software all the time; you just don't see it—but you do feel it.

Your friendly Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers out there are doing a lot of development behind the scenes. An internal software update might let us deploy servers 10 minutes faster, for example. You won't see that, but that doesn't mean it's not happening. If you're happy with your servers, then rest assured you're seeing some sweet software in action. Some cloud companies aren't exclusively focused on software (think Salesforce), but that doesn't mean the software is dial-up grade.

“I personally don't trust the cloud. Think about it for a moment. You are putting your data on a server, and you have no clue as to where it is. You have no clue about who else is able to see that data, and you have no clue about who is watching as you access your data and probably no clue if that server is up to date on security patches.”

Just ask. Simply ask all these questions, and you'd have all these answers. Not to be cheeky, but all of this is information you can and do have a right to know before you commit to anything. We're not sure what makes you think you don't, but you do. Your own due diligence on behalf of your data makes that a necessity, not a luxury.

“As long as I'm accountable, I want the hardware and software under my control. That way when something goes wrong and my boss calls and asks 'WTF?', I can give him something more than ’Well I called Amazon and left a message with our account representative.’"

We can't speak for Amazon, but cloud companies often offer multiple ways you can get a hold of a real, live person because we get that you want to talk to us, like, yesterday. Yes, we totally get you. And we want to fix whatever ails you. In the cloud, that is.

But what makes you think we won't know when something goes wrong before you do? (Checkmate.)

“No matter how much marketing jargon you spew at people, ‘the cloud’ is still just a bunch of servers. Stop lying.”

Why yes, yes, it is. Who's lying to you about that? You're right. "They" should stop lying.

The concept of "the cloud" is simply about where the servers are located and how you consume computing, storage, and networking resources. In "the cloud," your servers are accessed remotely via a network connection (often the Internet, for most of the clouds you know and love) as opposed to being locally accessed while housed in a server room or physical location on the company premises. Your premises, as in wherever you are while performing your computing functions. But no one's trying to pull the wool over your eyes with that one.

Think about it this way: If servers at your location are "on the ground," then servers away from your location can be considered "in the cloud." And that's all there is to it.

Did we help? Did we clear the cloudy haze? We certainly hope so.

But this is just the beginning, and our door is always open for you to question, criticize, and wax philosophical with us when it comes to all things cloud. So get at us. You can chat with us live via our homepage, message us or post up on Facebook, or sling a tweet at a SLayer. We've got real, live people manning their stations. Consider the gauntlet thrown.

-Fayza

September 11, 2014

The Cloud Doesn't Bite, Part II

Why it's OK to be a server hugger—a cloud server hugger.

(This is the second post in a three-part series. Read the first post here.)

By now, you probably understand the cloud enough to know what it is and does. Maybe it's something you've even considered for your own business. But you're still not sold. You still have nagging concerns. You still have questions that you wish you could ask, but you're pretty sure no cloud company would dignify those questions with an honest, legitimate response.

Well we’re a cloud company, and we’ll answer those questions.

Inspired by a highly illuminating (!) thread on Slashdot about the video embedded below, we've noticed that some of you aren't ready to get your head caught up in the cloud just yet. And that's cool. But let's see if maybe we can put a few of those fears to rest right now.

"[With the cloud], someone you don't know manages [your cloud servers], and they can get really unaccountable at times."

Hmm. Sounds like somebody's had a bad experience. (We're sorry to hear that.) But in truth, cloud computing companies are nothing without reputation, integrity, and, well, security upon security upon security measures. Accountability is the name of the game when it comes to you trusting us with your critical information. Research, research, research the company you choose before you hand anything over. If the measures that a potential cloud provider take don't cut the mustard with you, jump ship immediately—your business is way too important! But you're bound to find one that has all the necessary safeguards in place to provide you with plenty of peace of mind.

Oh, and by the way, have we mentioned that some cloud infrastructure providers put the deployment, management, and control in the hands of their customers? Yup. They just hand the reins right over and give you complete access to easy-to-use management tools, so you can automate your cloud solution to fit your unique needs. So there's that.

"The nickel-and-dime billing that adds up awfully damned quickly. Overall, if you're not careful you can rack upwards of $4k/mo just to host a handful of servers with hot backups and a fair amount of data and traffic on them."

You're right. That's why it's important to plan your cloud architecture before you go jumping in. Moving to the cloud isn't something you do with your eyes closed and with a lack of information. Know your company's business needs and find the best solution that fits those needs—every single one of those needs. Be realistic. Assess intelligently. Know your potential provider's add-on costs (if any) ahead of time so that you can anticipate them. Sure, add-ons can pile up if you're caught off-guard. But we know you're too smart for that to be a problem.

Play around with your possibilities before you sign on that dotted line. If you can't, search for a provider who'll let you play before you pay.

"Many cloud services break many privacy laws. The service provider can see/use the data too. Some of us are even bound by law to maintain the integrity of certain classes of information (personal, medical, financial). Yielding physical control to another organization, no matter what their reputation, removes your ability to perform due diligence. How do I know that what I legally have to keep private really is private?"

Sigh. Okay, we hear this fear; we really do, but it's just not true. Not for any reputable cloud solutions provider that wants to stay in business, anyway. We, grown-ups of cloud computing, take the security of your data very, very seriously. There are hackers. There are malicious attacks. There are legal compliance issues. And for those, we have Intrusion Protection Software, firewalls, SSL certificates, and compliance standards, just to name a few. We can handle what you throw at us, and we respect and honor the boundaries of your data.

So let's talk nitty gritty details. You're probably most familiar with the public cloud, or virtual servers. Yes, infrastructure platforms are shared, but that doesn't mean they're pooled—and it certainly doesn't mean universal accessibility. Your virtual server is effectively siloed from the virtual servers of every other client on that public server, and your data is accessible by you and only you. If you think about it like an apartment complex, it makes a lot of sense. The building itself is multi-tenant, but only you have the key to the contents of your individual unit.

On the other hand, bare metal servers are mansions. You're the only one taking up residence on that dedicated server. That big bad house is yours, and the shiny key belongs to you, and you only. (Check you out, Mr. Big Stuff.) You have complete and utter control of this server, and you can log, monitor, and sic the dogs on any and all activity occurring on it. Bare metal servers do share racks and other network gear with other bare metal servers, but you actually need that equipment to ensure complete isolation for your traffic and access. If we use the real estate analogy again and bare metal servers are mansions, then anything shared between bare metal servers are access roads in gated communities and exist only to make sure the mailman, newspaper delivery boy, and milkman can deliver the essential items you need to function. But no one's coming through that front door without your say so.

We cloud folk love our clients, and we love housing and protecting their data—not sneaking peeks at it and farming it out. Your security means as much to us as it means to you. And those who don't need access don't have it. Plain and simple.

"I don't want [my data] examined, copied, or accidentally Googled."

You don't say? Neither do we.

"What happens to my systems when all of your CxOs decide that they need more yachts so they jack up the pricing?"

They stay put, silly. No one takes systems on the boat while yachting. Besides, we don't do yachts here at SoftLayer—we prefer helicopters.

Stay tuned for the last post in this series, where we discuss your inner control freak, invisible software, and real, live people.

-Fayza

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