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3 key advantages of using SoftLayer for cloud deployment

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Whenever you think about choosing a cloud provider, there are a few obvious questions to consider. Reputation and capabilities are certainly two of the first ones that come to mind. But there are also topics that usually don’t get that much thought in the initial selection process, even though they should. SoftLayer offers a few key advantages over other cloud vendors that you should be aware of before making a decision on which cloud vendor to choose.

I am going to focus on just three of the many distinct capabilities in SoftLayer that will make a huge difference to your cloud deployments:

• Choice of deployment infrastructure
• Unified management for the entire platform
• Triple Network Architecture with a dedicated backend network

Why do these capabilities matter for cloud?

Choice of deployment infrastructure

Typical cloud solutions offer one way to deploy your infrastructure: as a virtual machine (VM) in a shared environment.

SoftLayer offers three main ways to deploy your solution to the cloud:

• Virtual compute instances
• Bare metal servers
• Private cloud

The virtual compute instance is a virtual machine with certain options. It is worth noting though that SoftLayer offers a wealth of configuration options for any given VM, including very granular options on virtual hardware (processors, memory, type of storage, type of networking) rather than just offering small, medium or large VM sizes like some other cloud providers.

Bare metal servers are just what the name implies. When you request a bare metal server you get to specify exactly what kind of machine you would like. You can specify which processor you want, how many cores it should have, how much memory it should have, what kind of storage is available, as well as networking options and more. Additionally, you get to choose which operating system (OS) to initially load on the server. Once the server has been configured (which takes between two and four hours) you have complete control over the server. You can load any operating system as long as it runs on the x86 platform. And the advantage of having a bare metal server available should be quite obvious:

• You own the entire server. There are no competing VMs on the server, just whatever you load.
• You have full access to the hardware including Graphical Processing Units. This can be important for software that is licensed based only on the hardware or software that needs access to a physical box (like a license server).

Private clouds are a combination of the previous two deployment options. If you set up a private cloud with SoftLayer you get to choose which hypervisor to use and no one else will be on this private cloud. So there are no competing VMs in your cloud unless they have been created by you.

Unified management

The entire SoftLayer platform is built on top of a technology called Infrastructure Management System (IMS). Everything in the platform is controlled by IMS. This includes provisioning and de-provisioning of services, logging, billing and alerts. SoftLayer has been making very conscious design decisions when building the platform, emphasizing the automation of service provisioning over any kind of manual intervention. No matter the service (bare metal servers, virtual compute instances, billing or alerts) the platform is controlled by IMS.

Every interaction with the system happens through IMS. For this purpose, SoftLayer provides a rich set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that expose every capability in the system in a programmatic fashion. This API uses Representational State Transfer (REST) but also offers language bindings for the most common programming languages. This way, SoftLayer’s customers have the option of controlling the entire environment from their applications.

Additionally, SoftLayer uses this API to provide the management console as well as a wide range of mobile management apps.

Triple Network Architecture with dedicated backend network

SoftLayer offers a wide range of data centers as well as Network Points of Presence (PoPs) throughout the world. Connecting these data centers and PoPs is a redundant, very high-speed network. Therefore, no traffic between data centers or PoPs is ever routed over the Internet but rather stays in SoftLayer’s private network.

Better yet, all network traffic on the internal network is unmetered and therefore free. This creates very compelling deployment architecture opportunities, especially for failover and disaster recovery where it is now possible to mirror data between data centers without having to pay for the (sometimes significant) traffic between data centers.

The Triple Network Architecture provides three network interfaces to each and every server regardless of if it is a bare metal server or a virtual compute instance. These include:

• Public Internet Access
• Private Network
• Management Access

More details about this architecture can be found at the SoftLayer Blog.

Summary

SoftLayer provides a set of key features that set the platform apart from the industry. The ability to deploy to bare metal servers, virtual compute instances and private clouds makes complex deployment architectures possible. The unified management of the platform makes it easy to consume the wide range of services that SoftLayer offers. Triple Network Architecture with a high-speed internal network provides a robust and fast way to move data.

For those of you already on SoftLayer: are there any other SoftLayer advantages that stood out to you when you started your journey into the SoftLayer cloud?

For more information please visit http://www.softlayer.com or contact me on Twitter at @wkulhanek.

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