Author Archive: Steven Canale

November 17, 2010

SLAyers 'R Us

Mergers are a true test of a company’s mettle – the stress involved with working an integration process with the need to continue to drive the business is almost overwhelming at times (CBNO!). The activity that is going on around me at present is awe inspiring – everybody is pitching in to make this work. It is great to see that we are making it happen – just rewards for all the effort expended.

Mergers also mean change. And I don’t just refer to the fact that we are welcoming new colleagues to the SoftLayer team. I am also referring to the fact that we are changing how we do business. We are bringing together two different organizations and combining the best components of each to drive the most value for our customers.

This inevitably means that customers are going to see some change in how they interact with SoftLayer. For example, the portal is going to morph into something that is much better than what SoftLayer or the Planet were doing separately and new product additions will arrive by combining The Planet offers with SoftLayer’s automated (automagic from now on) implementation and service delivery. We think these things are big wins for the existing and new customers.

A tangible example that I can talk about now (we need time to get portals and new products to market!) revolves around SLAs. The new SLAs will work to the benefit of existing Softlayer and the Planet customers as well as new customers.

The SoftLayer SLA is improved upon by changing the SLA for hardware and hardware upgrades. The old world considered a 4 hour promise before credits started to accumulate; the new world moves that to 2 hours. In addition, service outage credits start accumulating after 30 minutes of down time versus 43 minutes under the old 99.9% uptime guarantee.

The Planet SLA is improved upon by introducing a hardware SLA across the board versus just for customers of a managed services product. In addition to the 100% uptime promise that we are keeping, we have erased the need for a customer to raise a ticket before the clock starts ticking. Once there is a problem, we start the clock running.

At the end of the day, the reason we have SLAs in place is simple. Service credits on next month’s invoice are of less value to you than the fact that the SLA is driving SoftLayer to deliver on a service promise. If it’s broke, we are going to fix it. Think of the service credits as a bonus – the real value is getting your stuff up and running again.

-Steven

February 26, 2010

Hero or Failure?

You’re hired, welcome to the company! All you techies out there have heard that before. Then for the first couple of weeks you get the luxury of, “just take a look around the network and see what you see, make a note of what is good and what needs some work”. You make a few notes during your two week honeymoon period and then you hit the ground running. You make changes to a few of the server configs to speed them up, and you notice that there are a couple of hard drives in the server farm that are showing they are about to fail and you make a note to get that fixed. Everyone on the team hails your progress, smarts, and work ethic and thinks they have made the right choice. Even though the in-house gear is a little old you have made changes that made things faster and more redundant in your first month. Great Job! You are on your way to the Information Systems Hero title.

Everything is going along great at about the 8 month point. You have made a few key decisions along the way and have some of your gear outsourced now. All the ancient hardware onsite has been retired and liquidated and just a few core machines remain. You still have a large storage device and a tape robot onsite for your backups and you keep the tape library safely offsite. All is good in the department.

If you want to be the Hero skip to the word HERO / If you want to be a failure please skip 2 paragraphs to the word FAILURE

HERO

You have a free day or two in which nothing pressing needs to be addressed and you decide to look into the backup rotation and type. After spending a little time looking at it and not feeling comfortable you make the decision to create a secondary backup into the cloud as a test. After a little setup and tinkering you finish up and go on with your daily tasks.

A few months later your onsite storage device hard fails and there is massive data loss. A new system is delivered the same day and once the setup is complete the tapes are delivered and the restore process starts. Three hours into the restore a bad tape is encountered and again you are faced with massive data loss. The entire group is now in panic mode. It suddenly hits you that you setup a test backup offsite. What are the odds that it is still functioning and you will be able to get the data? With help from the entire department you get the network right and the data transfer starts. About one hour later the data is restored and your employees are happy not to mention your boss. You are now an IT hero.

FAILURE

A few months later your onsite storage device hard fails and there is massive data loss. A new system is delivered the same day and once the setup is complete the tapes are delivered and the restore process starts. Three hours into the restore a bad tape is encountered and again you are faced with massive data loss. The entire group is now in panic mode. After many attempts at trying to repair the damaged tape and having multiple experts look at the failed storage device. You and your team realize that 5 days of data will be lost and have to be recreated. Not a great day for your team. You are now an IT failure.

Moral of the story?

Use the tools the world provides to stay ahead of the curve. All it takes is one mistake to be a failure.

August 5, 2009

SLales Motivation 101

We have a pretty good sales team here at SoftLayer, quite honestly I couldn’t ask for a better group than the one we have.  It’s pretty common for us to have various sales contests and awards to keep the team motivated and focused in the right direction, however last month I decided to try something a little different.  Lance and I set a pretty lofty sales goal for the team (one I didn’t really think they would achieve), and told them that if they reached the goal I would shave my head completely bald.

As the month progressed, I began to realize the genius of this contest.  The team was focused, driven by the desire to see their boss publically humiliated.  SLales worked extra hours, came in early, stayed late, made calls, sent emails, followed up every lead, they did everything possible to exceed the goal.  Looking back on it as their manager, it was a beautiful thing to watch and I’ve never been more proud of my team.

It ended up being close (down to the final hours on Friday actually).  However, SLales stepped up to the plate and met the challenge.  They worked together like a well oiled machine and overcame numerous obstacles, with the singular vision of seeing their boss embarrassed.  They succeeded as a team, and here is the payoff:

July 17, 2009

Combinations

As you may have noticed from a previous blog a while back, we here at SoftLayer really like Whataburger quite a bit. For those of you not lucky enough to live in the southern part of the US, Whataburger has a chain of hamburger restaurants that started in Texas but now stretches across the south from Florida to Arizona. For the record, their breakfast taquitos and hamburgers are second to none.

Every so often Whataburger runs an ad that states there are over 34,000 different ways that you can order your Whataburger. Every time I see this ad it makes me wonder, how many possible ways can you order a server with SoftLayer? I’ve always said to myself “one day I will calculate this and write a blog about it”, but I never seemed to get around to it until now. My ultimate motivation to complete this calculation came while discussing our “perceived” limited configuration options with a customer due to having a set of “standard” solutions.

As I started to research the math involved in this calculation, I quickly realized that the total number of combinations for all servers and services we offer would be too much to comprehend or calculate. Therefore I limited the scope to just options for a Nehalem processor server. I also enlisted the help of Greg Kinman, one of our interns, to help me with the math to make sure we got it right. Those Kinmans are multiplying around here (almost as fast as the configuration options)…

Greg calculated that there are 96,631,664,476,185,600,000 different ways to order a Nehalem server. That’s 97 quintillion possibilities for just one server when you take into account the various hardware, software, and service options! Once you start to consider ALL the server options and cloud instances offered, it seems to me that unlimited would be a better description for the configurations SoftLayer offers.

Greg, I owe you lunch for helping me with the calculations today. How about Whataburger?

October 16, 2008

X-Ray Technology

Some of you who have known me for a while know my uncanny ability to get seriously injured during my time away from work. For the others, I’ll give some background:

1.A few years ago while racing SamF on ATVs, I managed to nearly destroy my wrist in a pretty nasty crash. My wrist was dislocated along with some of the bone being crushed as well; here is the X-ray before the put me back together. Luckily after a couple of months of “external fixation” they were able to put everything back in place. Yes, I wore that around the office and typed one handed for quite some time.

2.Last year I had another accident were ironically SamF was involved again. We were removing a trailer from the hitch of his truck before another ATV ride when the trailer slipped, landing on my leg leaving a significant cut in the back of my leg. Luckily I missed the tendon and quite a few stitches I was good as new (except the nasty scar left over).

3.Despite no ATVs trips and no longer hanging around SamF, I still managed to injure myself again recently. This time I broke my elbow (into 3 different pieces). While I wish I had a great story for this injury, this time I was just clumsy…. I slipped and fell on the dock at a marina. This time they fixed me up with “internal fixation” this time. Here is the X-ray of what my elbow looks like currently.

What I found most interesting during my last hospital visit was the advancement in X-ray technology over the past few years. Notice the wrist X-ray is the old standard film, while the elbow X-ray is digital. X-rays now are real time so the doctor can instantly see the picture as its being taken with no waiting for film development. The results were so instantaneous, I could see the grimacing look on the doctor’s face and knew it was bad before he could even get out the words “do you have an orthopedic surgeon you would like us to call?”

My only disappointment was that upon leaving the hospital after surgery the next day, they gave me a CD with the x-rays to bring to the doctor’s office. Why can’t they have a server at SoftLayer which stores the X-ray and allows the doctor’s office to download the files as necessary? I guess for now I’ll be happy with digital X-Rays finally, but somebody needs to work on this.

-Steven

P.S. If you see a ticket update from me in the next couple of weeks with a typo, go easy on me. Typing one handed isn’t very easy.

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February 15, 2008

Ordering Lunch - How Hard Can it Be?

Every so often on a slammed sale days, I offer to pay for lunch for the sales team to keep everyone at their desks focused on sales rather than worrying about food. Other times, a very nice customer might offer to pay for lunch one day for the sales team. Regardless of the situation, I usually task someone with ordering and picking up the food so the rest of the team can focus on sales. Seems pretty simple right? Somehow it never seems to go as planned.

Here are two examples:

How to spend $200 on lunch for 6:

Daniel one of our Senior Account Managers calls me on his way into work (he comes in at 11:00PM), here is the conversation:

Daniel: "Hey Steven, I see its really slammed at work want me to pick up lunch on the way in?"

Steven: "Sure, go ahead no one has had time to get up from their desk much less get lunch. Pick something up an Ill buy lunch today for the team".

Daniel: "What should I get"

Steven: "Whatever is fine, gotta go the phone is ringing"

Daniel shows up a bit later with a ton of food, enough to feed half the office not just sales. A really nice Fajitas feast with all the fixings, hot sauce, cheese, beans, guacamole, rice, pretty much everything. I thought to myself, wow Daniel did a really good job here this is excellent. Then I get the bill... It was over $200 for takeout lunch for 6 people. I promptly tell Daniel he is no longer on lunch delivery team, and that $200 for lunch is a bit much. Two months later I am still trying to work up the courage to put that one on an expense report.

How to spend $25 on lunch for 10:

A particularly grateful customer contacted us saying that he wanted to buy lunch for the sales and a couple of networking team members that helped him out with a recent issue. Mary another one of our Senior Account Managers was tasked with the order this time and after much discussion back and forth between Pizza and Mexican food, we settle on Mexican food. I am thinking to myself, thank goodness Daniel isn't in charge of this order, Vik (the customer) probably doesn't want to pay $200 for lunch. When the food arrives, I step out into the sales area to examine the feast. Much to my surprise there is only two very small bags of food half full.

I announce out loud:

"Where is the rest of the food? This isn't close to enough to feed 10 people."
I'm told "that's it, that's all we got".

No cheese, no hot sauce, no guacamole... this is a far cry from the spread Daniel got last time and there was no chance of it feeding 8 people. Ultimately I send someone back for more food.

So what is the lesson learned here? The sale team is excellent at selling SoftLayer services, and managing customer relationships. They can tell you the difference between and why you want a Single processor 5000 series server vs. a Single processor 3000 series server, they can tell you why your video streaming site needs to run on a server with SAS drives and not SATAII drives, and they can tell you all about StorageLayer and how it can help you. What cant they do for you? They can't get the Mexican food order for lunch correct.

Next time we will stick with Pizza.

-Steven

December 24, 2007

SLales Fun

As the leader of the SoftLayer Sales team, I like to think of myself as a well respected yet lovable boss that my employees loves to work with. However as all managers are from time to time, I can sometimes be the least liked person on the team due to the difficult decisions I have to make. So when my beloved team decided to create the JibJab snowball fight and post it on the SL forums, it was no wonder I ended up being the one who got hit where the sun doesn't shine with a snowball.

After seeing their video, I decided to make my own little JibJab video to show the sales team that I know what really goes on in the sales area when I am not around.

-Steven

June 18, 2007

Has the Sales Process Changed?

When I first ventured out into the real world beyond the shelter of reality I refer to as college, my professional career started far away from the hosting industry. My first position was with a financial services firm with two clear goals:

  1. Pass the Series 7 exam in 5 weeks
  2. Learn how to “work the phones”

I soon found out that "working the phones" basically meant cold calling prospects, sometimes as many as 500 dials a day. We referred to this process as "dialing for dollars". In the financial services world your phone was your lifeline, all the top guys would tell you that if you mastered the art of a phone call, you where golden. After hearing the word "NO" millions of times and developing a really thick skin, I eventually got comfortable on the phone soliciting new customers. The appointments soon followed and I began to build my book of clients. I spent my career as a financial adviser communicating through tools such as telephone, meetings, and seminars which served as the foundation for building my business.

After living through both sides of the dot-com bubble in the stock market and seeing a lot of devastated stock portfolios, I was surprised to learn about a few thriving hosting companies. Much of what I was hearing about these companies was in stark contrast to the feeling on Wall Street, but after a lot of arm twisting from Lance I took a leap of faith and went to work as an enterprise sales representative.

It didn’t take long for me to realize my trustworthy tools for building clients from my previous career were archaic in this new environment. I was introduced to a world where the methods of communication were foreign to me. Email, IM, text messages, sales chat, forums, blogs, ticketing systems were all new to me and never used in my previous career because of compliance and regulatory issues. I realized I needed to embrace these new methods because it was the method my customers and prospects preferred to use. As I became more comfortable using these new channels, my career progressed into management where my responsibilities were expanded to help others.

I find it impossible to explain to my old financial adviser buddies how SoftLayer is building its client base. When I tell them our sales process involves posting in forums and spending hours on sales chat, they look at me like I am from a different world. I’ve learned to explain it like this:

The sales process really hasn’t changed; it is the same stuff that has been taught for a hundred years. What has changed is the method in which we communicate. Instead of forcing people to communicate in uncomfortable old school methods, we focus on communicating with customers and prospects on their terms in a way they prefer to do business.

-Steven

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