Tag Archives: ibm.com

IBM SoftLayer IaaS – notes from 2 day training class in NYC

I attended SoftLayer training in NYC and wrote up a few pages of notes. I really like the idea of building IaaS systems via web control panels and APIs, and SoftLayer delivers on this.


  • 21k customers in 140 countries
  • 15 data centers, 18 network points of presence (PoPs)
  • Mix and match of virtual (diverse set of hypervisors) and bare metal servers, all managed via web control panel and/or API
  • Deployment in real time with high degree of automation.
  • Some customers build a hybrid solution using SoftLayer in addition to their own datacenter. Connect via VPN or leased line.

Server Architecture

  • While most cloud providers offer only virtualized resources on shared infrastructure, SoftLayer offers the option of bare metal and/or virtualization, and the option of shared and/or dedicated infrastructure.
  • Redundancy in some cases stops at the rack, not the server. For example, multiple power supplies for the rack not for each server in the rack
  • Server options
    • Multi-tenant (you don’t know who/what else is running on the same resources as you)
      • Virtual (public node)
        • Managed Citrix Xen hypervisor
        • Monthly/Hourly billing
        • Up to 16 cores
        • Local storage or SAN
        • Free 5 TB outbound data transfer if choose monthly billing
        • 15 minute provisioning
      • Single tenant (all resources dedicated to single customer, aka “private cloud”)
        • Bare metal
          • Optional (unmanaged) hypervisor, such as Citrix Xen, VMWare, Hyper-V, Parallels
          • Monthly billing. In some instances can do hourly billing
          • Free 20 TB outbound bandwidth per month
          • Optional private network, private rack
          • Options on CPUs, up to 36 internal drives (build your own NAS), NVIDIA Tesla GPU http://www.nvidia.com/object/tesla-servers.html
          • 2-4 hour provisioning. That’s the time it takes for the machine to become visible to the customer. Additional time needed to apply operating system and applications.
        • Virtual (private node)
          • Pretty much the same as Multi-tenant virtual except that you have dedicated hardware.
          • You can install as many virtual machines as you want on your hardware.
    • OK for customer to deploy their own software appliances, but there is no option to ever deploy your own hardware
    • Image Templates
      • Software/configuration of a physical or virtual space
      • Apply to a machine to create a runtime environment
      • Two types of image templates
        • Standard
          • Virtual machine only
          • Any operating system
          • Citrix Xen only
        • Flex
          • Both physical and virtual machines
          • Red Hat (RHEL) and Windows only
          • All hypervisors


  • Three networks
    • Public (2 NICs, both usable rather than just redundancy)
      • Bare metal: 20 TB outbound bandwidth per month
      • Virtual: 5 TB outbound bandwidth per month. Can be pooled if some servers aren’t publically exposed
    • Private (2 NICs, both usable rather than just redundancy)
      • No limitations on bandwidth. Great for backups across multiple datacenters
      • Private VLANs can include servers in multiple datacenters. A server can connect (span) to multiple VLANs
    • Management/Admin (1 NICs)
  • SoftLayer SLA: “reasonable efforts to provide 100% service”
  • VPN
    • tunnels: SSL, PPTP, IPSec
    • Recommends managing with FortiGate or Vyatta appliances
  • SoftLayer Looking Glass: Test latency between your datacenter and SoftLayer, or between resources within or across SoftLayer datacenters
  • Content Delivery Network
  • Load Balancing
  •  Firewalls
    • Fortinet FortiGate 3000 series http://www.fortinet.com/products/fortigate/3000series.html
    • Shared hardware
      • Multi-tenant
      • Managed through Customer Portal & APIs. No console access because it’s shared hardware.
      • Configured to protect a single server
    • Dedicated hardware
      • Same as above, but single-tenant, yet still no console access.
      • Configured to protect a single server or an entire VLAN
    • Dedicated appliance
      • Same as dedicated hardware, but provides access to console and native tools. This gives the customer more capabilities.
  • Gateway Appliance
    •  Vyatta
      • Applies to any portion of, or entire customer infrastructure at SoftLayer
      • Used forGateway Appliance
        • IPSec VPN tunnels
        • NAT
        • Firewall
        • Router
      • Configured by console or Vyatta gui via VPN. No SoftLayer Customer Portal or API
  • DNS Options
    • Customer uses their own DNS that’s external to SoftLayer
    • Customer uses SoftLayer’s DNS, which is redundant across datacenters
    • Customer uses 3rdparty DNS
    • Customer runs their own DNS hosted on their own machines within SoftLayer


  • Much easier to deploy/configure security via the SoftLayer Customer Portal than in a traditional datacenter. One common source of vulnerabilities is incomplete or incorrect security deployments, so an easier to use method would suggest that it’s easier to create a secure system.
  • Offerings
    • McAfee (Windows) anti-virus
    • DDoS – detect and isolate (take off line) machines that are under attack, but does not have service to remediate the threat
      • Cisco Guard DDoS protection
      • Arbor Peakflow traffic analysis
      • Arbor ATLAS Global Traffic Analyzer
    • Servers local to datacenter for Windows and Red Hat updates
    • IDS/IPS protection
      • Nessus vulnerability assessment and reporting
      • McAfee host intrusion protection
    • FortiGate firewalls
    • US Gov’t standards
      • Drive wiping using same tools as Dept of Defense (DoD)
      • SP800-53 US Gov’t standard
      • Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).
      • FedRAMP datacenters
      • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). Will sign agreement with customer.
    • Two factor authentication
      • Symantec identity protection
      • Windows Azure Mult-Factor
    • VPN
      • Client site SSL or PPTP, and Site to site IPSec
  • Datacenters are
    • Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 certified
    • Payment Card Industry Security Standard (PCI-DSS) for bare metal and single-tenant virtual. Not recommended for multi-tenant.
    • Tier 3
      • 99.982% availability (translates to < 1.6 hours/year)
      • Multiple power/cooling
      • N+1 fault tolerant
      • Can sustain 72 hour power outage
    • Physical security. All items mentioned are good, but seemed typical of other datacenters I’ve been to or learned about.
    • Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) self-assessment, but not yet certified


Managed services

  • Backup plans
  • Security plans, patching, server hardening
  • Monitoring
  • DBA
  • Change Management


  • Implemented using SOAP and XML-RPC
  • Available as Representational State Transfer (REST)
  • Supports a wide range of languages
  • 264 services (20 of which are high level) comprising a total of 3,421 API calls
  • Can be used to up-scale and down-scale an implementation in an automated manner. There’s a new package for this called OnScale. Not sure at what level this compares or competes with Pure Applications on SoftLayer
  • Can be used to create a custom branded Customer Portal for reselling services

Compared to other cloud providers

  • A lot of marketing hype, although Gartner quadrant wasn’t at all kind to SoftLayer
  • Compared to Amazon AWS showed as higher performance and availability at lower cost, but used bare metal for the comparison. Didn’t show whether SoftLayer virtual is comparable to AWS, although in theory SoftLayer would cost less.
  • Catalyst: incubator to help small companies with infrastructure costs http://www.softlayer.com/catalyst

IBM PureApplications for Hybrid IaaS Cloud

IBM PureApplications provides on-premise cloud. #PureApp for SoftLayer provides off-premises cloud solutions. ibm.co/TNzV8m @Prolifics

Video includes clip from my manager @Prolifics, Mike Hastie.

Top 5 Big Data Use Cases

1. Big Data Exploration

I don’t agree with the author’s category. He admits that this is a “one size fits all category”. Almost seems like he had four use cases, and decided to make it into five by says adding that you can search, visualize, and understand data from multiple sources to help decision making. Haven’t we been doing this all along, with whatever database tools we’ve had?

2. Enhanced 360 degree view of the customer

From my own experience I had a project where we did this for a call center. However, the key was that we did real time queries to generate the 360 degree view when the call center agent took the call from the customer. The problem there was that in order to produce the view in only a couple of seconds we were very limited in what sort of data we had access to, and how we could analyze this. The Big Data perspective of 360 degrees assumes that the Hadoop repository retains a persistent copy of the data, something that many organizations don’t want. For example, the data will likely not be real time. However, having a copy of the data, and having the time to crunch it in batch mode will give a deeper insight into the customer. Perhaps what’s needed is a hybrid of realtime and batch, sort of like what Twitter is doing with Storm.

3. Security/Intelligence Extension

Searching for past occurrences of fraud, or creating a predictive model of possible future occurrences is very much a batch operation, and Hadoop works well on this since the scope of the analysis is limited only by the depth of the data and the duration of operations upon it.

4. Operations Analysis

I think that the author’s example of the “internet of things” might be a stretch, but commingling and analysis of unstructured and/or semi-structured server  and application logs is a perfect use case for Hadoop. This is especially true if the log data streams in, so that the results of your analysis are updated as each batch cycle completes.

5. Data Warehouse Augmentation

Some data can be pre-processed in Hadoop before loading into a traditional data warehouse. Other data can be analyzed without needing to load into a data warehouse at all, where it might just clutter up other queries. Hadoop lets you dump everything in, and sort it out later. Data warehouses are intended to be kept tidy.


Proposed updates to Hive to support ACID transactions

HortonWorks developed solutions to add into Hive the ability to update multiple records as a single transaction following the ACID model. Part of the complexity of transactional updates is that the data must be written to all applicable nodes before the transaction can be considered complete. The naming convention within HDFS folders includes a transaction ID so that both committed and uncommitted files persist until all portions of the transaction have been completed. Because the transaction ID is included, any read operations that occur before the transaction has completed will access the old data.

Why go through all of this work to add an ACID model to Hive rather than just use HBase, which already supports transactions. The primary reason is that HBase only supports Consistency at the level of a single row update, rather than with a larger set of operations. Without Consistency, there is no ACID. HortonWorks lists a few other reasons, but I’m discounting them because they are general reasons why they prefer Hive over HBase.