November 13, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Software engineer Greg Hellings proves that humans are the key to a successful career in tech

After a few wonderful weeks overseas, Under the Infrastructure has triumphantly returned home to our headquarters in Texas (where we left our heart anyway). This time around, we’re talking with Greg Hellings, a software engineer specializing in development automation on the platform services side. He’s been with us in Dallas for three years and we’re confident he’ll smash all your stereotypes when it comes to this job field.

But we’ll let him tell you himself.

“That’s Greg in the air.”

SOFTLAYER: Explain to us what a software engineer focusing on development automation in platform services does.

GREG HELLINGS: We are responsible for the tooling surrounding building and deploying our software. This covers not only the building of our custom, internal software, but also identifying, installing, and configuring any third-party pieces of software that are required for our infrastructure to run. More so than many software engineers, my team needs to communicate with the network engineering teams, the hardware infrastructure teams, the information systems teams, and so forth.

A typical day could see me discussing web server and load balancer configurations with our IS team, discussing our build and testing process for our internal packages with the QA team, and assisting the application developers in tracking down problems with their code.

Automation is our mainstay. Our eventual goal is to write software that envelops the software other engineers in the company write so that software can be translated directly from our internal development systems, through QA testing, and into our production servers. For those steps of the process where a human is required to interact with our system—such as QA executing manual testing of a release—our goal is to simplify the process so that moving the process into or out of the step requires nothing more than the click of a single button.

SL: What do you do to keep your skill set current and cutting edge?

HELLINGS: If the mind is a weapon, it pays to keep it sharp. And as iron sharpens iron, so one mind sharpens another. My team here is a small group of top-notch engineers, and each of us trades knowledge and tips and tricks with one another. Some of us come from a systems engineering background and others come from a more traditional software engineering background. When we work and play together on our multitude of projects, we generally all have lots to teach one another.

I landed in a job where I get to use far more technology than I ever would have on my own. Working for a cloud provider as large and diverse as SoftLayer gives me the opportunity to operate and craft at a scale at which very few engineers ever get to work, and certainly goes far beyond my own means to own and support. As the world moves towards scale and size, keeping skills sharp requires working on increasingly larger scale and tackling the pitfalls that come with global networks. Most people only get to talk or joke about “cloud scale” applications, but working in the cloud itself, I am afforded chance after chance to work tasks at the scale of the cloud itself.

SL: Why did you become a software engineer?

HELLINGS: It was not by intention! I got my first taste of writing software at the age of seven, when my brother bought an old, used RadioShack TRS-80 and a pair of programming books alongside it. Since we didn’t have any software for the device, I had to start writing my own. From there, it would be another six or seven years before I sat down to write software again, picking up classes at my local community college to supplement my high school curriculum in introductory level programming. But my eyes were set on becoming an astronaut, so I eventually went off to college to study astrophysics. I quickly became disinterested in that avenue and completed a liberal arts undergraduate education, which spanned theology, Koine Greek, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, and music.

But the summer before my senior year of college, I landed an internship working in the field of software engineering and returned to college to work in the IT department as a help desk technician, phone system administrator, and eventually an assistant network administrator. By the time I graduated, it was clear that—through all my detours—the one constant remained my focus on technology, and software in particular. No matter what field I was working in, I always came back to software usage and automation. So when an opportunity for graduate school came up and I was given the opportunity to get a degree in computer science, my choice was clear.

SL: What’s one thing people don’t know about being a software engineer?

HELLINGS: Software engineering is far removed from classroom computer science education. Computer science education makes the issues very complex and addresses a very abstract set of knowledge. But the human aspects of working together in a collaborative team atmosphere comprise being a software engineer even more. The software that actually gets written on a day-to-day basis—especially in the automation sphere—is generally very straightforward and simple. Thus, human collaboration, when we’re talking about software engineering and not just hacking, is one of the most important talents in the field.

SL: When you’re not working, what are your favorite things to do?

HELLINGS: Software engineering! But most of my time is spent working around the house and taking care of my family. AcroYoga also entered my repertoire last year and has opened me up to a whole new world of play and enjoyment outside the computer.

You now have our permission to dismiss all previously held notions of a software engineer.


November 9, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 19

The week in review. All the IBM Cloud and SoftLayer headlines in one place.

Welcome to the IBM family, Gravitant.
Last week, IBM added Gravitant, “a cloud broker that helps companies mix-and-match cloud services from multiple vendors” to its cloud suit. The addition will help IBM increase the options for customers to manage cloud services.

IBM highlighted the plan in its press release, saying, “IBM plans to integrate the Gravitant capabilities into the IBM Global Technology Services unit. Also, IBM Cloud plans to integrate the capabilities into Software-as-a-Service offerings, extending the company’s growing hybrid cloud solutions and capabilities.”

Learn more about the Gravitant acquisition here.

We’re the power behind Continuity247™.
Our friends at Continuum elaborated on their decision to use SoftLayer to power its BDR Solution, Continuity247™. So what was the reason? From the company’s blog: “We needed a scalable, high-performance public cloud hosting platform with a trusted brand, global data center presence, secure infrastructure and reliable technology that could uphold compliance requirements for partners serving the healthcare and financial verticals. IBM Softlayer checks all of these boxes.” The backup and disaster recovery platform is different from other offerings, because “it’s backup technology that was born in the cloud.”

Get more details about the BDR solution on Continuum’s blog.

Watson, how do you work?
IBM’s Watson has done some amazing things, from winning Jeopardy to helping chefs in the kitchen. But how does it work? If you have ever asked yourself that question, you aren’t alone. How does Watson’s thought processes so closely resemble those of humans? Play the video below to find out.


November 6, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Server build tech Christos Panoudis confirms whether or not Spider-Man hides in our server racks

Shhh, don’t tell Texas, but we’re never going back to the States! Not just yet, anyway. We’re not finished meeting the amazing folks in our offices and data centers across the pond.

This week, Under the Infrastructure takes a short jaunt south from Amsterdam to Frankfurt, where we’re chatting with server build technician shift lead Christos Panoudis. He’s been with us for a bit under a year (which makes sense, considering our Frankfurt data center just opened in December 2014!), and he’s been integral to getting one of our newer data centers up and running.

Say hello.

SOFTLAYER: Why did you decide to become a server build technician?

CHRISTOS PANOUDIS: Having many years of IT experience, I was looking for a job that it would be interesting and would teach me something. I was also interested in working in the Internet sector—I find it pretty exciting, and being raised in the so-called “Internet generation,” it has certainly affected me. What could be more exciting than working in a data center, where you can work with unique equipment and learn new things? Building a PC doesn’t have a high grade of difficulty, but building a server via complex procedures and being faced with obstacles until you deliver it to the customer? That is what I call a challenge. Networking, software installation, collaboration across departments, and socializing with colleagues are all components of the position that I enjoy.

SL: Tell us more about how your love of technology began.

PANOUDIS: Everyone tells me that I took an interest in technology when I was a little kid by repairing my grandpa’s watches. But they’re wrong; my dream then was to become a pilot [laughs].

I believe my true love of technology stems from two events. The first one was when my father took me to a Greek computer (PC) exhibition in 1994. Observing the new technology, I was in awe. The second event was when my uncle’s computer got a virus, and we made a deal that he would let me on his PC if I successfully removed it. He thought that I couldn’t do it, but after three hours, I did. I was so proud. But I never got to play with his computer, because I had just reformatted his hard drive [laughs]! After that, I caught the computer engineering bug and began to study computers.

A big part of the decision to become an IT professional was the fact that IRC and online gaming were making huge strides in the market. I was spending lots and lots of hours in front of a PC—I had my own IRC server and website—and I was working with other users to troubleshoot connection issues.

I was interested in every gadget and new technology that emerged in the market, while at the same time, I was increasing my technical skills in both software and hardware.

SL: Describe a server build technician’s workstation to us.

PANOUDIS: Chaos. That’s the word that someone would use to describe it if he took a look at a server build technician’s (STB) computer monitor. Multiple browser windows, terminals, remote desktops, server status flows, customer tickets, emails. Of course, it’s chaos to someone who isn’t specialized. But for a STB, this is a daily routine and a habit—or I should say a need? He must be ready to start building servers for a new order, to reply to customer tickets (which could be just a simple upgrade or a complicated maintenance issue), or anything in between. It is necessary for us for that “chaos” exists—so we can consistently do our jobs.

At my workstation, I have three monitors. Two are used for information sequences and the third one is for working. On one screen, I keep track of the incoming tickets and email. On another screen, I monitor server statuses and internal chat. On the central screen, I monitor the terminals that I need to connect to the customer's server and to perform whatever maintenance needed. There are also multiple browser windows to access our internal management system.

SL: What’s it like working for SoftLayer in Frankfurt?

PANOUDIS: Frankfurt’s data center is one of the newer Softlayer data centers in Europe, with modern equipment and high levels of security. Seeing all those cameras and the high walls with barbed wires on my first day of work, I was a bit surprised. Until then, I’d never thought that a tech building would have such security.

In Frankfurt, we work in three shifts. Each shift has a “shift leader” and five technicians. As a shift leader, the most important thing for me is to make sure that everything works like a well-oiled machine, since tasks flow continuously and there must be perfect communication so we won't miss deadlines. That’s why, at the end of each shift, the shift leaders have “hands-off reports,” where task delivery takes place.

The beginning of each shift starts an hour before the previous shift ends. During that time, tasks and on-going maintenance are assigned.
Of course, nothing would be possible without the fantastic people that we work with. It is truly amazing how people with different nationalities, cultures, and ways of thinking come together as one entity to complete tasks.

SL: People on Twitter think Spider-Man lives in our server racks. For once and for all, does he?

PANOUDIS: I dare him to come and live in such an environment: cold and with more than 90 decibels of continuous sound (jet turbine-like). The network cables are structured this way for organizational purposes and to make it easier for personnel to work among such a high volume of wires.

Each color represents a network. For example, red cables are for public networks, blue cables are for private networks, and green are for management.

Even if Spider-Man were able to cope with the sound, he would not be able to live in our data center, since he wouldn’t be able to get past security [laughs]. So, no, we definitely don't have Spider-Man here—not even small spiders.


November 4, 2015

Shared, scalable, and resilient storage without SAN

Storage area networks (SAN) are used most often in the enterprise world. In many enterprises, you will see racks filled with these large storage arrays. They are mainly used to provide a centralized storage platform with limited scalability. They require special training to operate, are expensive to purchase, support, or expand, and if those devices fail, there is big trouble.

Some people might say SAN devices are a necessary evil. But are they really necessary? Aren’t there alternatives?

Most startups nowadays are running their services on commodity hardware, with smart software to distribute their content across server farms globally. Current, well established, and successful companies that run websites or apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, or LinkedIn continue to operate pretty much the same way they started. They need the ability to scale and perform at unpredictable rates all around the world, so they use commodity hardware combined with smart software. These types of companies need the features that SAN storage offers them—but with more scalable, global resiliency, and without being centralized or having to buy expensive hardware. But how do they provide server access to the same data, and how do they avoid data loss?

The answer is actually quite simple, although its technology is quite sophisticated: distributed storage.

In a world where virtualization has become a standard for most companies, where even applications and networking are being virtualized, virtualization giant VMware answers this question with Virtual SAN. It effectively eliminates the need for SAN hardware in a VMware environment (and it will also be available for purchase from SoftLayer before the end of the year). Other similar distributed products are GlusterFS (also offered in our QuantaStor solution), Ceph, Microsoft Windows DFS, Hadoop HDFS, document-oriented databases like MongoDB, and many more.

Many solutions, however, vary in maturity. Object storage is a great example of a new type of storage that has come to market, which doesn’t require SAN devices. With SoftLayer, you can and may run them all.

When you have bare metal servers set up as hypervisors or application servers, it’s likely you have a lot of drive bays within those servers, mostly unused. Stuffing them with hard drives and allowing the software to distribute your data across multiple servers in multiple locations with two or three replicas will result in a big, safe, fast, and distributed storage platform. For such a platform, scaling it would be just adding more bare metal servers with even more hard drives and letting the software handle the rest.

Nowadays we are seeing more and more hardware solutions like SAN—or even networking—being replaced with smarter software on simpler and more affordable hardware. At SoftLayer, we offer month-to-month and hourly bare metal servers with up to 36 drive bays, potentially providing a lot of room for storage. With 10Gbps global connectivity options, we offer fast, low latency networking for syncing between servers and delivering data to the customer.


November 2, 2015

The multitenant problem solver is here: VMWare 6 NSX on SoftLayer

We’re very excited to tell you about what’s coming down the pike here at SoftLayer: VMWare NSX 6! This is something that I’ve personally been anticipating for a while now, because it solves so many issues that are confronted on the multitenant platform. Here’s a diagram to explain exactly how it works:

As you can see, it uses the SoftLayer network, the underlay network and fabric, and uses NSX as the overlay network to create the SDN (Software Defined Network).

What is it?
VMware NSX is a virtual networking and security software product from VMware's vCloud Networking and Security (vCNS) and Nicira Network Virtualization Platform (NVP). NSX software-defined networking is part of VMware's software-defined data center concept, which offers cloud computing on VMware virtualization technologies. VMware's stated goal with NSX is to provision virtual networking environments without command line interfaces or other direct administrator intervention. Network virtualization abstracts network operations from the underlying hardware onto a distributed virtualization layer, much like server virtualization does for processing power and operating systems. VMware vCNS (formerly called vShield) virtualizes L4-L7 of the network. Nicira's NVP virtualizes the network fabric, L2 and L3. VMware says that NSX will expose logical firewalls, switches, routers, ports, and other networking elements to allow virtual networking among vendor-agnostic hypervisors, cloud management systems, and associated network hardware. It also will support external networking and security ecosystem services.

How does it work?
NSX network virtualization is an architecture that enables the full potential of a software-defined data center (SDDC), making it possible to create and run entire networks in parallel on top of existing network hardware. This results in faster deployment of workloads and greater agility in creating dynamic data centers.

This means you can create a flexible pool of network capacity that can be allocated, utilized, and repurposed on demand. You can decouple the network from underlying hardware and apply virtualization principles to network infrastructure. You’re able to deploy networks in software that are fully isolated from each other, as well as from other changes in the data center. NSX reproduces the entire networking environment in software, including L2, L3 and L4–L7 network services within each virtual network. NSX offers a distributed logical architecture for L2–L7 services, provisioning them programmatically when virtual machines are deployed and moving them with the virtual machines. With NSX, you already have the physical network resources you need for a next-generation data center.

What are some major features?
NSX brings an SDDC approach to network security. Its network virtualization capabilities enable the three key functions of micro-segmentation: isolation (no communication across unrelated networks), segmentation (controlled communication within a network), and security with advanced services (tight integration with leading third-party security solutions).

The key benefits of micro-segmentation include:

  1. Network security inside the data center: Fine-grained policies enable firewall controls and advanced security down to the level of the virtual NIC.
  2. Automated security for speed and agility in the data center: Security policies are automatically applied when a virtual machine spins up, moved when a virtual machine is migrated, and removed when a virtual machine is deprovisioned—eliminating the problem of stale firewall rules.
  3. Integration with the industry’s leading security products: NSX provides a platform for technology partners to bring their solutions to the SDDC. With NSX security tags, these solutions can adapt to constantly changing conditions in the data center for enhanced security.

As you can see, there are lots of great features and benefits for our customers.

You can find more great resources about NSX on SoftLayer here. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for more great NSX news!


October 30, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Event marketing manager Naveen Haroon makes her home on the road in the EMEA region

We might be based in Texas, but we love us some Amsterdam. This week, Under the Infrastructure finds itself waking up in the capital of The Netherlands (yes, again!) to get to know Naveen Haroon, our EMEA event marketing manager. She’s been with us just over a year, but she brings a world of experiences to our team.

Let’s meet her.

SOFTLAYER: What kinds of events do you manage for SoftLayer in the EMEA region?

NAVEEN HAROON: Trade shows. I’m here to change the myth that trade shows are about a bunch of sales guys giving away freebies at a booth. Trade shows are about clever branding, market positioning, innovative keynotes, and auxiliary events like C-level roundtables, panels, customer dinners, networking platforms, and press meets.

SL: Generally describe what you do at these events.

NAVEEN: My job is to identify key, relevant events in EMEA for SoftLayer and see them through from A to Z. I have to think about questions like: Who is the target audience? What are they looking for? Do they know SoftLayer already? Should we have a speaker at this event? If so, who and what should they be talking about? I am fortunate to collaborate with some brilliant minds.

I also have to make sure every event generates quality leads to justify the investment. Resource planning is another one for which I work closely with core SoftLayer and IBM colleagues to build strong teams that will represent us at trade shows.

Pre- and post-event marketing campaigns are as integral to an event as the event itself, so thinking about email campaigns and social media promotion around an event is always on the agenda. You will often see LinkedIn updates from me from the show floor.

Anyone who knows events knows that an event cannot exist without the logistics behind it. I never thought I’d have such a close relationship with TNT!

During any given week, meetings with vendors and contractors are non-stop, but building and sustaining partnerships is also the beauty of trade shows.

Quite often, I live out of a suitcase, overseeing single or numerous events in parallel across geographies. Yes, it’s possible. And yes, you learn to sleep really well in hotel rooms.

SL: How did you end up working in this field?

NAVEEN: As I child I aspired to become a journalist, writing stories about women’s struggles around the world and empowering them. Then I had the coolest teacher during business studies at the International School in The Netherlands, and I convinced myself I was meant for the corporate world. After five years as a general marketer in London, I decided to move my passion for marketing and being unnecessarily organized under one umbrella: the mad and fast-paced world of events. I worked in various sectors in London, one of which was technology. ISO 27001, ISO 20000, and the Cookie Law were common terminologies at the office. After hosting several webinars on information security standards, I decided it was time to dive deeper into the tech world. SoftLayer presented the perfect opportunity and my first year has flown by faster than nail polish dries under a UV lamp.

SL: How many SoftLayer shirts do you own?

NAVEEN: I own a t-shirt, a shirt, and two sweaters, which I have worn at trade shows. I also have a stretchy polo dress which lives in my wardrobe as it’s for motivational purposes only. All girls have at least one item of motivational clothing in their wardrobe, don’t they?

SL: If you were handed a check for US$100,000 , what would you do with it?

NAVEEN: I think about this often, though in this particular fantasy, the check runs in the millions. I would get my sister the best nannies in the world for her four amazing children (one nanny per child, naturally), so she can multitask as she does but without giving herself a coronary every day. After that, I would treat myself to a luxurious holiday with a worthy plus-one. Of course, I want to do my bit for the world, too. I think I’d like to give something back to my roots by supporting some of the homeless children and uneducated women in Pakistan.


October 29, 2015

How to measure the performance of striped block storage volumes

To piggyback on the performance specifications of block and file storage offerings, SoftLayer provides a high degree of volume size and performance combinations for your storage needs. But what if your storage performance or size requirements are much more specific than what is currently offered?

In this post, I’ll show you to configure and validate a sample RAID 0 configuration with:

  1. The use of LVM on CentOS to create a RAID 0 array with 3 volumes
  2. The use of FIO to apply IO load to the array
  3. The ability to measure throughput of the array

Without going into potential drawbacks of RAID 0, we should be able to observe the benefits of up to three times the throughput and size of any single volume. For example, if we needed a volume with 60GB and 240IOPS, we should be able to stripe three 20GB volumes each at 4 IOPS/GB. You can also extrapolate the benefits from this example to fit a range of performance and reliability requirements.

To start, we will provision 3x 20GB Endurance volumes at 4 IOPS/GB and make it accessible to our CentOS VM but stop short of creating a file system; e.g., you should stop once you are able to list three volumes with:

# fdisk -l | grep /dev/mapper
Disk /dev/mapper/3600a09803830344f785d46426c37364a: 21.5 GB, 21474836480 bytes, 41943040 sectors
Disk /dev/mapper/3600a09803830344f785d46426c373648: 21.5 GB, 21474836480 bytes, 41943040 sectors
Disk /dev/mapper/3600a09803830344f785d46426c373649: 21.5 GB, 21474836480 bytes, 41943040 sectors

Then proceed to create the three-stripe volume with the following commands:

# pvcreate /dev/mapper/3600a09803830344f785d46426c37364a /dev/mapper/3600a09803830344f785d46426c373648 /dev/mapper/3600a09803830344f785d46426c373649
# vgcreate new_vol_group /dev/mapper/3600a09803830344f785d46426c37364a /dev/mapper/3600a09803830344f785d46426c373648 /dev/mapper/3600a09803830344f785d46426c373649
# lvcreate -i3 -I16 -l100%FREE -nstriped_logical_volume new_vol_group

This creates a logical volume with three stripes (-i) and stripe size (-I) of 16KB with a volume size (-l) of 60GB or 100 percent of the free space.

You can now create the file system on the new logical volume, create a mount point, and mount the volume:

# mkfs.ext3 /dev/new_vol_group/striped_logical_volume
# mkdir /mnt
# mount /dev/mapper/new_vol_group-striped_logical_volume /mnt

Now download, build, and run FIO:

# yum install -y gcc libaio-devel
# cd /tmp
# wget
# tar -xvf 3aa21b8c106cab742bf1f20d60629e3f
# cd fio-2.1.10/
# make
# make install
# cd /mnt
# fio --randrepeat=1 --ioengine=libaio --direct=1 --gtod_reduce=1 --name=test --filename=test --bs=16k --iodepth=64 --size=1G --readwrite=randrw --rwmixread=50

This will execute the benchmark test at 16KB blocks (--bs), random sequence (--readwrite=randrw), at 50 percent read, and 50 percent write (rwmixread=50). This will run 64 threads (--iodepth=64) until the test file of 1GB (--size=1G) is size is completed.

Here is a snippet of output once completed:

read : io=51712KB, bw=1955.8KB/s, iops=122, runt= 26441msec
write: io=50688KB, bw=1917.3KB/s, iops=119, runt= 26441msec

This shows that throughput is rated at 122r + 119w = ~240 IOPS. To validate that it is what we expect, we provisioned 3x 20 GB x 4 IOPS/GB = 3 x 80 IOPS = 240 IOPS.

Here is a table showing how results would differ if we tuned the load with varying block sizes (--bs) :

As you can see from the results, you may not observe the expected 3x throughput (IOPS) in every case, so please be mindful of your logical volume configuration (stripe size) versus your load profile (--bs). Please refer to our FAQ for further details on other possible limits.


October 28, 2015

Ongoing Actions to Eliminate Spam Hosting

We are announcing a new policy, effective today, as part of our regular efforts to reduce the ability for spam to be sent from the SoftLayer network.

Starting October 28, 2015 bare metal servers and virtual servers provisioned on new accounts will not have the ability to send email directly via outbound connections through TCP port 25 (SMTP). Port 25 can be used as a conduit for distributing unsolicited bulk email.

In a follow-up phase, we will roll out this network policy change to customers who established accounts before October 28. (A separate communications will be sent with timeline and implementation guidance to those customers.)

You can read the technical details on KnowledgeLayer.

SendGrid Services Available to Send and Track Emails

We have partnered with SendGrid™ since 2011 to provide email delivery services. We have arranged for SendGrid to provide SoftLayer customers with an account allowing sending of up to 25,000 emails per month at no charge, which can be activated via the SoftLayer customer portal.

SendGrid allows you to use a SmartHost to relay your outbound mail services while generating metrics, including tracking lists and bounce rates, open rates, and click-through rates. It also assists with newsletters and provides authentication. All of these services are designed to provide stronger email analytics for you to optimize your communications and eNurture programs. Full details on our SendGrid service, including free options, can be found here.

Use Your Email Service Through a Custom Email Port

You are welcome to use your own email service on a custom port following the API or SMTP guidelines provided by your mail provider to configure your servers to an email port other than TCP port 25. This is common practice for most mail providers and should not be an inhibitor to you sending and measuring your communications.

Need an Exception?

If you are a new client and need the ability to send outbound SMTP email via TCP port 25, please open a support ticket in the customer portal, and provide details about why you require an exception to this policy. Be sure to explain why the SendGrid email relaying solution does not fit your system or application needs. Our team is specialized to assist with most email relaying and blacklisting issues for recognized and reputable real-time blackhole lists (RBLs) and can evaluate your situation.

Dedicated to Your Success

We continuously work with established monitoring authorities and groups to eliminate fraudulent spammers and to block the usage of port 25 for email communications.

As we all know, spam is unsolicited bulk email. Our network architecture isolates devices so customers cannot see or share traffic across accounts. We follow ISO 27001. And for federal accounts, we are aligned to NIST 800-53 framework and maintain SOC 2 Type II reporting compliance for all data centers. We integrate three distinct network topologies for each physical or virtual server and offer security solutions for systems, applications, and data as well.

Thank you again to your commitment to SoftLayer as we continue to work hard to ensure a secure environment for you.


October 26, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 18

The week in review. All the IBM Cloud and SoftLayer headlines in one place.

Keeping Aucklanders Safe
Cloud M moved its public safety alert system to IBM Cloud. The company came to IBM for assistance through the Global Entrepreneur Program, where it learned about and choose SoftLayer for IaaS. This initial shift has made the company’s Alerter app faster for users. “Today, Alerter gets alerts and safety information to subscribers’ smartphones, newsfeeds and social media sites with unprecedented speed and efficiency.”

The Auckland Civil Defense & Emergency Management (CDEM) authority “has used Alerter to help protect 1.4 million residents during many storms, earthquakes and two major tsunami warnings,” Richard Gill, founder and CEO of Cloud M wrote. Gill said, “Through our work and our partnership with IBM, we’re convinced more than ever that public emergency information sharing is best done through mobile and the cloud.”

For more on Cloud M’s story, check out this post on THINK.

We’re the picture-perfect solution.
Guten Tag! is a startup that created digital asset management software for support small and midsize companies. The goal is to help companies “collect, share, and manage photos, graphics, videos and other digital media with customers, business partners and remote workers.” To start, they hosted the solution on their own servers and quickly realized that it would be extremely difficult to scale at the speed and ease they needed.

The company turned to SoftLayer for many reasons, but keeping their data nearby was paramount. Andreas Gölkel, cofounder, elaborated “German customers are a little afraid to give out their data on servers that are not in Germany or in the EU.”

Well, our Frankfurt data center was the solution. He also noted, “With SoftLayer, we can scale up easily and fast. And due to the really good support, we saved a lot of time. As a startup, every hour that you can use for doing other stuff is worth a lot of money.”

Read more of their story here.

Watson, what’s in the oven?
Chef Watson put out a delicious dinner with the help of Chef James Briscione. He is the director of culinary development of the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC, plus an IBM collaborator. Briscione acted as sous-chef, actually creating the delectable dishes.

So how did they develop the menu? Thanks to four years of work and an analysis of 10,000 recipes from Bon Appétit magazine, Watson “deduced which ingredients routinely went together, and suggested pairings with other ingredients with overlapping flavor or aromatic compounds (along with recipes).”

Briscione says that Watson isn’t going to take the place of chefs, but is simply a tool providing data for chefs to use when thinking up enticing eats. He added, “While Watson is helping us select ingredients and find really wonderful new combinations of food, it doesn’t really tell us what to do with them,” he said. “It just says, ‘These things are going to taste good together, you guys figure out the rest.’”

Find more on this data driven dinner here.


October 23, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Global salesman Valentine Che is amazed by his interactions with “characters of the world”

It seems we just couldn’t stay away from Amsterdam. This week, Under the Infrastructure is going back to the Venice of the North to introduce you to yet another one of our incredible SLayers.

Say hello to Valentine Che, a global sales representative for new accounts. He’s been with us for three years, and if you’ve ever digitally reached out to us about what we offer in Europe and the Middle East, you might’ve had a conversation with Valentine.

Let’s meet him.

SOFTLAYER: What’s a day in the life like for a new account representative in global sales?

VALENTINE CHE: New account reps principally target new business coming in via online chat, email, and phone calls—it varies from day to day. I am the digital face of SoftLayer. From the guy in the development world who saw an ad for $500 off a cloud server and jumps into chat hoping to get a check to the IT executive who is seriously contemplating a move to the cloud and wants to configure his cloud infrastructure on the SoftLayer platform, I interface with these vastly differing characters and represent the brand.

While manning the online chat and answering incoming calls, I also work tickets created by existing customers and seek avenues to solve an issue a customer is facing.

SL: What does it take to be successful in a global sales position?

CHE: When you interface with dozens of people with different personalities through various communication tools over the course of a day, it is easy to get bogged down. The ability to discern a sales opportunity from this maze is a vital attribute. It is conventionally said that seasoned salespeople can sell ice to Eskimos, while some cannot sell a life jacket to a drowning person.

In all honesty, the SoftLayer value prop already sells itself. Global sales mostly does what we call “telling.” In “telling” why a customer needs to be on the SoftLayer platform, reps need to be digitally polite and enthusiastic. Obviously, it will be difficult to communicate enthusiastically and exude confidence if you do not know the product or service you are selling and cannot show a customer how it solves his or her problems better than the competition. Hence, product knowledge is crucial.

SL: What’s your travel schedule like?

CHE: I travel to trade shows within Europe and the Middle East with the events team about three times per quarter. During these events, I have the opportunity to meet prospects and existing customers face-to-face. I like these face-to-face meetings because you can read the body language of the person you are talking to and the person cannot just disappear (as is often the case with online chats). Also, I carry an iPad and can demonstrate the modularity of the SoftLayer offering. I show prospects how to customize their server to meet their particular needs. It is a fun experience.

SL: What do you like the most about your job?

CHE: The interactions with “characters of the world” are interesting. In a three-year period, I have had a conversation with someone from at least two-thirds of the nations of the world. I pick up cultural cues from these interactions that truly amaze me.

If I did not become a salesman, I would have been either a lawyer or a preacher (mum says I love the sound of my own voice).

SL: Would you rather have a dinosaur or a dragon for a pet? Why?

CHE: I do not believe in pets. In my world, animals should stay in the wild. If all the money spent on pets was diverted toward helping humans, there would not be a hungry soul on the face of the earth.

Did we mention our SLayers have heart, too?


Subscribe to