Author Archive: J.R. Lehmann

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?

-JRL

April 29, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 11

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

Q1
A recent study deemed SoftLayer the top-mentioned hosting provider for cloud services among 50 percent of IT decision makers. This news comes on the heels of IBM’s first quarter earnings report, announcing a 75 percent increase in cloud revenue (with yearly revenue at $7.7 billion). Forbes explains IBM’s rise to power over the competition in “Move Over Amazon, IBM Can Also Claim Top Spot In Cloud Services.” Additionally, Mark Jones, SoftLayer’s chief technology officer, gave details to CRN on how IBM expects to stay on top of the cloud competition by offering pricing benefits over its market-leading rivals.

SoftLayer opens data center in The Netherlands…again.
Last week, in an effort to continue delivering on our promise to expand data centers worldwide, SoftLayer opened a second data center in the Netherlands—just outside Amsterdam in Almere. “The new facility demonstrates the demand and success IBM Cloud is having at delivering high-value services right to the doorstep of our clients,” said James Comfort, IBM cloud services general manager.

Building Applications in the Cloud with SoftLayer
For those who enjoy broadcast over print, our lead technology evangelist, Phil Jackson, sat down with Jacob Goldstein of Wireframes to discuss how to choose the right servers for your needs. Listen to the podcast.

-JRL

Categories: 
April 20, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 10

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

The Battle for Global Market Share
Warmer weather must be around the corner—or it could just be the cloud industry heating up. How will cloud providers profit as more and more providers push for world domination? The Economist predicts an industry change as prices drop.

IBM Partners with TI on Secure APIs for IoT
Allow me to translate: the International Business Machines Corporation is partnering with Texas Instruments to secure application program interfaces with the help of the Internet of Things. Through its collaboration with TI, IBM will create a Secure Registry Service that will provide trust and authentication practices and protocol across the value chain–from silicon embedded in devices and products to businesses and homes.

(Join the conversation at #IoTNow or #IoT.)

The U.S. Army Goes Hybrid
The U.S. Army is hoping to see a 50 percent cost savings by utilizing IBM cloud services and products. Like many customers, the Army opted for a hybrid solution for security, flexibility, and ease of scale. Read more about what IBM Cloud and SoftLayer are doing for the U.S Army and other U.S. government departments.

The Only Constant is Change
Or so said Heraclitus of Ephesus. And to keep up with the changing times, IBM has reinvented itself over and over again to stay relevant and successful. This interesting read discusses why big corporations just aren't what they used to be, what major factors have transformed the IT industry over the last couple of decades, and how IBM has been leading the change, time-after-time.

-JRL

Categories: 
April 10, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1, No. 9

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

Welcome to the Masters
If you’re not practicing your swing this weekend, you’re watching the Masters. Over the next couple of days, professional golfers will seek their shot at landing the coveted Green Jacket. And while everyone might be watching the leaderboard, IBM will be hard at work in what they are calling the “bunker,” located in a small green building at the Augusta National Golf Club.

What does IBM have to do with the Masters? Everything.

Read how IBM, backed by the power of the SoftLayer cloud, is making the Masters website virtually uncrashable.

And for those that can’t line the greens to watch your favorite player, IBM is utilizing the lasers the Golf Club has placed around the course to track the ball as it flies from hole-to-hole. Learn more about the golf-ball tracking technology here.

Open Happiness
In a move to streamline tech operations and cut costs, Coca-Cola Amatil is partnering with IBM Cloud to move some of its platforms to SoftLayer data centers in Sydney and Melbourne—a deal sure to open happiness.

"The move to SoftLayer will provide us with a game-changing level of flexibility, resiliency and reliability to ramp up and down capacity as needed. It will also remove the need for large expenditure on IT infrastructure." - Barry Simpson, CIO, Coca-Cola Amatil

Read more about the new CCA cloud environment and the five-year, multimillion-dollar deal.

-JRL

Categories: 
April 1, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1 No. 8

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

Sunny Skies for IBM Cloud and The Weather Company
IBM made big headlines on Tuesday when it announced they would team up with The Weather Company boasting “100 percent chance of smarter business forecasts.”

Bloomberg sits down with Bob Picciano, IBM Analytics Senior VP, and David Kenny, The Weather Company CEO to discuss what makes this different than other companies that have analyzed the weather in the past. Using Watson Analytics and the Internet of Things, the partnership will transform business decision-making based on weather behavior. Read how IBM’s $3 billion investment in the Internet of Things will collect weather data from 100,000 weather stations around the world and turn it into meaningful data for business owners.

Indian Startups Choose SoftLayer
According to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), India has the world’s third largest and the fastest-growing startup ecosystem. Like many SoftLayer startup customers, Goldstar Healthcare, Vtiger, Clematix, Ecoziee Marketing utilize the SoftLayer cloud infrastructure platform to “begin on a small scale and then expand rapidly to meet workload demands without having to worry about large investments in infrastructure development.”

New SoftLayer Storage Offerings
Last week, SoftLayer announced the launch of block storage and file storage complete with Endurance- and Performance-class tiers. The media was fast to report the new offerings that provide customers more choice, flexibility, and control for their storage needs and workloads.

“ … SoftLayer’s focus on tailored capacity and performance needs coincides with the trend in the cloud market of customizing technology based on different application requirements.”– IBM Splits SoftLayer Cloud Storage Into Endurance, Performance Tiers

“In the age of the cloud, the relationship between cloud storage capacity and I/O performance has officially become divorced.” – IBM Falls Into Cloud Storage Pricing Line

Pick your favorite online tech media and read all about it: SiliconANGLE, Computer Weekly, Data Center Knowledge, CRN, V3, Cloud Computing Intelligence, Storage Networking Solutions UK, and DCS Europe.

#IBMandTwitter
There are more than half a billion tweets posted to Twitter every day. IBM is teaming up with Twitter to turn those “tweets into insights for more than 100 organizations around the world.” Leon Sun of The Motley Fool takes a closer look at what the deal means to IBM and Twitter.

“Twitter provides a powerful new lens through which to look at the world. This partnership, drawing on IBM’s leading cloud-based analytics platform, will help clients enrich business decisions with an entirely new class of data. This is the latest example of how IBM is reimaging work.” – Ginni Romety, IBM Chairman, President and CEO

-JRL

Categories: 
March 6, 2015

The SLayer Standard Vol. 1 No. 7: the IBM InterConnect Edition

Last week, an estimated 21,000 IBMers, SLayers, customers and partners from around the world flooded Las Vegas, Nev. to attend the first-ever IBM InterConnect. This new conference combined three popular IBM conferences (Impact, Innovate and Pulse) into a single, premier cloud and mobile techno-topia.

What our engineers and developers did in Las Vegas after conference hours might have stayed in Las Vegas, but IBM’s InterConnect hits and announcements didn’t. Here’s a recap:

Speed to Market Wins the Cloud Computing Race
Everyone likes to go fast, and the new senior vice president for IBM Cloud, Robert LeBlanc, likes to go super-fast. “What I’m focusing on is speed,” LeBlanc says.

In this blink-and-the-market-changes world, time-to-market determines the winners and losers in cloud computing. Part of LeBlanc’s strategy is opening new SoftLayer datacenters. If you haven’t heard the news, SoftLayer will be launching Sydney and Montreal data centers in the next 30 days — with more coming soon. Stay tuned for more locations.

Read more on how LeBlanc plans to win the cloud business race.

Cloudy skies on the horizon—that’s a good thing!
Our CEO, Ginni Rometty, announced a $4 billion investment on cloud services (shared with the data analytics and mobile businesses). She’s hoping that the investment will spur $40 billion a year in revenue come 2018.

Signs of the investment could be seen as execs at InterConnect announced new hybrid services coming in 2015, including enterprise containers. [What’s a container? Read our blog post.]

In fact, hybrid was a big theme at InterConnect. “We are going to make all those clouds act like one,” says Angel Diaz, vice president of IBM cloud technologies. IBM cloud (powered by SoftLayer) will be a one-stop shop: a cloud superstore with a smorgasbord of aaS offerings.

It looks like it’ll be an exciting ride for IBM over the next couple of years. Make sure to keep up with the headlines for more announcements in the coming months.

-JRL

Categories: 
February 9, 2015

Eradicating Ebola with Grid Computing Linked by the SoftLayer Network

On September 30, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first case of Ebola in the U.S. Although not uncommon to hear of outbreaks in other parts of the world, this first case in the U.S. just happened to be in our own headquarters’ backyard—Dallas.

IBM jumped at the opportunity to help find a cure or at least a treatment for the virus, not necessarily because SoftLayer happened to be in the “storm’s eye,” but as Stanley S. Litow, IBM’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship and president of the IBM International Foundation said, “It is a privilege to partner with The Scripps Research Institute to advance the process of identifying an Ebola cure.”

But finding a cure is difficult. The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), an independent, not-for-profit organization has been researching Ebola for the past 11 years. Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire, says, “We’ve solved the structures that explain what the surface of Ebola virus looks like, how it attaches to and drives itself into cells, and how it behaves like a wolf in sheep’s clothing in hiding itself from an immune response.” [Read more on the research.] Finding a cure could take hundreds of years of computing time—not manpower. And now that more people are more mobile, it is vital to find a cure since the disease can easily spread over vast distances and quickly escalate into an epidemic.

The Technology Behind The Science

IBM’s philanthropic division, Corporate Citizenship, created World Community Grid in 2004 as a way for individuals to donate their spare processing power from their personal computers, tablets, and mobile phones when not in use. The World Community Grid is utilizing grid computing for researchers, like TSRI, to accelerate their research by breaking the research into millions of little tasks. When a device is not in use, it downloads one of these tasks, calculates, and then sends it back to the researchers when complete. Instead of utilizing one super computer, researchers harness the power of a virtual super computer. This collection of computing power is all connected via the SoftLayer network.

After the Ebola outbreak last fall, the number of infections increased steadily until last week. Officials link the increase to emergency funds for containing the disease in West Africa starting to run out. We may not see Ebola cured overnight, but thanks to grid computing and the efforts of scientists and individuals donating their idle computing power resources, hopefully treatments and vaccinations for this disease and many other diseases can be developed sooner.

- JRL

December 30, 2014

Three data centers. One week.

Launching back-to-back data centers across the world in less than 24 hours is easier said than done. Launching three sites over the Christmas holiday, well, that’s just a Christmas miracle (and a lot of hard work).

That’s right. If you haven’t been keeping count, we’ve opened three data centers in the last seven days! Tokyo and Mexico City went live last week on December 22, and Frankfurt started accepting orders on December 29.



As you can imagine, the development and operations teams have been working around the clock to get these three new data centers up and running. “The Go Live Team has been working until two, three, four in the morning, and they are all working through their vacations to make sure we meet our deadlines,” says Scott Kennedy, project manager.

As soon as the lease is signed on the data center space, and SoftLayer moves into the operational state, Kennedy takes over. From Dallas, he coordinates all the moving pieces, from equipment to personnel. The Go Live Team arrives one month before launch to start setting up shop. Then a week later, the network team (mostly Houston-based SLayers) arrives to set up the cabling for the network devices.

Everything is tested, tested again, and tested a third time to make sure we're ready for the first day of service. (About two weeks prior to the Tokyo and Mexico City launches, emails about this test being enabled or that test being completed began filling my inbox.)

All Systems Go

Kennedy says the key to the successful launches has been communication and the SLayers’ hard work. And it shows—orders started rolling in the moment the TOK02 option became available on the order form. This just proves how necessary expansion is to meeting our customers’ needs. Each new data center helps provide better performance, flexibility, and control closer to where our customers need it. And because these data centers are the first in their respective countries, those needing to compute and store sensitive data required to remain in Mexico, Japan, or Germany can now do so.

Please join us in welcoming Tokyo, Mexico City, and Frankfurt to the SoftLayer family.

-JRL

Categories: 
December 24, 2014

Holiday Traditions

Whether you believe in Santa Claus or not, there’s just something about this time of year that makes us giddy for tradition. For me the holiday season isn’t complete until I’ve watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Watching their “fun, old-fashioned family Christmas” turn into a “full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency” has turned into a yearly tradition that helps make my in-laws (and my family for that matter) seem just a little bit more jolly to be around this time of year—who doesn’t have an Aunt Bethany or Cousin Eddie hiding in their family tree somewhere?

We didn’t create a new holiday song this year (we’ve been busy opening data centers!), so we’re presenting our 12 Days of Christmas rendition again. Between decking the halls and dashing through the snow, we’d like to invite you to add a new tradition to your cloud holiday season.

Enjoy.

-JRL

December 17, 2014

Does physical location matter “in the cloud”?

By now everyone understands that the cloud is indeed a place on Earth, but there still seems to be confusion around why global expansion by way of adding data centers is such a big deal. After all, if data is stored “in the cloud,” why wouldn’t adding more servers in our existing data centers suffice? Well, there’s a much more significant reason for adding more data centers than just being able to host more data.

As we’ve explained in previous blog posts, Globalization and Hosting: The World Wide Web is Flat and Global Network: The Proof is in the Traceroute, our strategic objective is to get a network point of presence (PoP) within 40ms of all our users (and our users' users) in order to provide the best network stability and performance possible anywhere on the planet.

Data can travel across the Internet quickly, but just like anything, the farther something has to go, the longer it will take to get there. Seems pretty logical right? But we also need to take into account that not all routes are created equally. So to deliver the best network performance, we designed our global network to get data to the closest route possible to our network. Think of each SoftLayer PoP as an on-ramp to our global network backbone. The sooner a user is able to get onto our network, the quicker we can efficiently route them through our PoPs to a server in one of our data centers. Furthermore, once plugged into the network, we are able to control the flow of traffic.

Let’s take a look at this traceroute example from the abovementioned blog post. As you are probably aware, a traceroute shows the "hops" or routers along the network path from an origin IP to a destination IP. When we were building out the Singapore data center (before the network points of presence were turned up in Asia), the author ran a traceroute from Singapore to SoftLayer.com, and immediately after the launch of the data center, ran another one.

Pre-Launch Traceroute to SoftLayer.com from Singapore

traceroute to softlayer.com (66.228.118.53), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
 1  10.151.60.1 (10.151.60.1)  1.884 ms  1.089 ms  1.569 ms
 2  10.151.50.11 (10.151.50.11)  2.006 ms  1.669 ms  1.753 ms
 3  119.75.13.65 (119.75.13.65)  3.380 ms  3.388 ms  4.344 ms
 4  58.185.229.69 (58.185.229.69)  3.684 ms  3.348 ms  3.919 ms
 5  165.21.255.37 (165.21.255.37)  9.002 ms  3.516 ms  4.228 ms
 6  165.21.12.4 (165.21.12.4)  3.716 ms  3.965 ms  5.663 ms
 7  203.208.190.21 (203.208.190.21)  4.442 ms  4.117 ms  4.967 ms
 8  203.208.153.241 (203.208.153.241)  6.807 ms  55.288 ms  56.211 ms
 9  so-2-0-3-0.laxow-cr1.ix.singtel.com (203.208.149.238)  187.953 ms  188.447 ms  187.809 ms
10  ge-4-0-0-0.laxow-dr2.ix.singtel.com (203.208.149.34)  184.143 ms
    ge-4-1-1-0.sngc3-dr1.ix.singtel.com (203.208.149.138)  189.510 ms
    ge-4-0-0-0.laxow-dr2.ix.singtel.com (203.208.149.34)  289.039 ms
11  203.208.171.98 (203.208.171.98)  187.645 ms  188.700 ms  187.912 ms
12  te1-6.bbr01.cs01.lax01.networklayer.com (66.109.11.42)  186.482 ms  188.265 ms  187.021 ms
13  ae7.bbr01.cs01.lax01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.166)  188.569 ms  191.100 ms  188.736 ms
14  po5.bbr01.eq01.dal01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.140)  381.645 ms  410.052 ms  420.311 ms
15  ae0.dar01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.211)  415.379 ms  415.902 ms  418.339 ms
16  po1.slr01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (66.228.118.138)  417.426 ms  417.301 ms
    po2.slr01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (66.228.118.142)  416.692 ms
17  * * *

Post-Launch Traceroute to SoftLayer.com from Singapore

traceroute to softlayer.com (66.228.118.53), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
 1  192.168.206.1 (192.168.206.1)  2.850 ms  1.409 ms  1.206 ms
 2  174.133.118.65-static.reverse.networklayer.com (174.133.118.65)  1.550 ms  1.680 ms  1.394 ms
 3  ae4.dar01.sr03.sng01.networklayer.com (174.133.118.136)  1.812 ms  1.341 ms  1.734 ms
 4  ae9.bbr01.eq01.sng02.networklayer.com (50.97.18.198)  35.550 ms  1.999 ms  2.124 ms
 5  50.97.18.169-static.reverse.softlayer.com (50.97.18.169)  174.726 ms  175.484 ms  175.491 ms
 6  po5.bbr01.eq01.dal01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.140)  203.821 ms  203.749 ms  205.803 ms
 7  ae0.dar01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.253)  306.755 ms
    ae0.dar01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (173.192.18.211)  208.669 ms  203.127 ms
 8  po1.slr01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (66.228.118.138)  203.518 ms
    po2.slr01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (66.228.118.142)  305.534 ms
    po1.slr01.sr01.dal01.networklayer.com (66.228.118.138)  204.150 ms
 9  * * *

After the Singapore data center launch, the number of hops was reduced by 50 percent, and the response time (in milliseconds) was reduced by 40 percent. Those are pretty impressive numbers from just lighting up a couple PoPs and a data center, and that was just the beginning of our global expansion in 2012.

That’s why we are so excited to announce the three new data centers launching this month: Mexico City, Tokyo, and Frankfurt.



Of course, this is great news for customers who require data residency in Mexico, Japan, and Germany. And yes, these new locations provide additional in-region redundancy within APAC, EMEA, and the Americas. But even customers without servers in these new facilities have reason to celebrate: Our global network backbone is expanding, so users in these markets will see even better network stability and speed to servers in every other SoftLayer data center around the world!

-JRL

Subscribe to Author Archive: %