SoftLayer and AWS: What’s the Difference?

People often compare SoftLayer with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

It’s easy to understand why. We’ve both built scalable infrastructure platforms to provide cloud resources to the same broad range of customers—from individual entrepreneurs to the world’s largest enterprises.

But while the desire to compare is understandable, the comparison itself isn’t quite apt. The SoftLayer platform is fundamentally different from AWS.

In fact, AWS could be run on SoftLayer. SoftLayer couldn’t be run on AWS.

AWS provisions in the public cloud.

When AWS started letting customers have virtual machines deployed on the infrastructure that AWS had built for their e-commerce business, AWS accelerated the adoption of virtual server hosting within the existing world of Web hosting.In an AWS cloud environment, customers order the computing and storage resources they need, and AWS deploys those resources on demand. The mechanics of that deployment are important to note, though.

AWS has data centers full of physical servers that are integrated with each other in a massive public cloud environment. These servers are managed and maintained by AWS, and they collectively make up the available cloud infrastructure in the facility.

AWS installs a virtualization layer (also known as hypervisor) on these physical servers to tie the individual nodes into the environment’s total capacity. When a customer orders a cloud server from AWS, this virtualization layer finds a node with the requested resources available and provisions a server image with the customer’s desired operating system, applications, etc. The entire process is quick and automated, and each customer has complete control over the resources he or she ordered.

That virtualization layer is serving a purpose, and it may seem insignificant, but it highlights a critical difference in their platform and ours:

AWS automates and provisions at the hypervisor level, while SoftLayer automates and provisions at the data center level.



SoftLayer and Koding join forces to power a Global Virtual Hackathon

Koding is excited to partner with SoftLayer on its upcoming Global Virtual Hackathon, happening December 12–13, 2015. The event builds on last year’s Hackathon, where more than 60,000 developers participated from all over the world. The winners took home over $35,000 in prizes! This year, we’ve upped the ante to make the event even larger than the last time: the winner will take home a $100,000 grand prize.

“We are working with Koding for this virtual hackathon as part of our commitment to promote open source technology and support the talented community of developers who are dispersed all over the globe,” said Sandy Carter, general manager of Cloud Ecosystem and Developers at IBM. “Cloud-based open source development platforms like Koding make it easier to get software projects started, and hackathons are a great place to show how these kinds of platforms make software development easier and more fun.”

Why a virtual hackathon?
Hackathons are awesome. They allow developers to solve problems in a very short amount of time. The challenge with traditional hackathons is that they require you to be physically present in a room. With more and more of our lives moving online, why be tied to a physical location to solve problems? Virtual hackathons allow talented individuals from all over the world to participate, collaborate, and showcase their skills, regardless of their physical location. Our Global Virtual Hackathon levels the playing field.

Who won last year?
Educational games, especially those that teach programming, were popular to build—and a few actually won! Want to see what the winners built? Click here to check out a fun yet effective game teaching students to program. Learn more about the team of developers and see their code here. Last year, nine winners across three categories took home a prize. To see a list of last year’s winners, see the blog post here.

Tips to be successful and win this year
Here’s some motivation for you: the grand prize is $100,000. (That’s seed capital for your startup idea!)

So how do you win? First and foremost, apply now! Then talk to some friends and maybe even team up. You can also use Koding to find teammates once you’re accepted. Teammates aren’t a requirement but can definitely make for a fun experience and improve your chances of making something amazing.

Once you’re in, get excited! And be sure to start thinking about what you want to build around this year’s themes.



Streamlining the VMware licenses ordering process

IBM and VMware’s agreement (announced in February) enables enterprise customers to extend their existing on-premises workloads to the cloud—specifically, the IBM Cloud. Customers can now leverage VMware technologies with IBM’s worldwide cloud data centers, giving them the power to scale globally without incurring CAPEX and reducing security risks.

So what does this mean to customers’ VMware administrators? They can quickly realize cost-effective hybrid cloud characteristics by deploying into SoftLayer’s enterprise-grade global cloud platform (VMware@SoftLayer). One of these characteristics is that vSphere workloads and catalogs can be provisioned onto VMware vSphere environments within SoftLayer’s data centers without modification to VMware VMs or guests. The use of a common vSphere hypervisor and management/orchestration platform make these deployments possible.

vSphere implementations on SoftLayer also enable utilization of other components. Table 1 contains a list of VMware products that are now available for ordering through the SoftLayer customer portal. Note that prices are subject to change. Visit VMware Solutions for the most current pricing.


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Make the most of Watson Language Translation on Bluemix

How many languages can you speak (sorry, fellow geeks; I mean human languages, not programming)?

Every day people across the globe depend more and more on the Internet for their day-to-day activities, increasing the need for software to support multiple languages to accommodate the growing diversity of its users. If you work developing software, this means it is only a matter of time before you get tasked to translate your applications.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could learn something with just a few key strokes? Just like Neo in The Matrix when he learns kung fu. Well, wish no more! I’ll show you how to teach your applications to speak in multiple languages with just a few key strokes using Watson’s Language Translation service, available through Bluemix. It provides on-the-fly translation between many languages. You pay only for what you use and it’s consumable through web services, which means pretty much any application can connect to it—and it’s platform and technology agnostic!

I’ll show you how easy it is to create a PHP program with language translation capabilities using Watson’s service.

Step 1: The client.

You can write your own code to interact with Watson’s Translation API, but why should you? The work is already done for you. You can pull in the client via Composer, the de-facto dependency manager for PHP. Make sure you have Composer installed, then create a composer.json file with the following contents:



Bringing the power of GPUs to cloud

The GPU was invented by NVIDIA back in 1999 as a way to quickly render computer graphics by offloading the computational burden from the CPU. A great deal has happened since then—GPUs are now enablers for leading edge deep learning, scientific research, design, and “fast data” querying startups that have ambitions of changing the world.

That’s because GPUs are very efficient at manipulating computer graphics, image processing, and other computationally intensive high performance computing (HPC) applications. Their highly parallel structure makes them more effective than general purpose CPUs for algorithms where the processing of large blocks of data is done in parallel. GPUs, capable of handling multiple calculations at the same time, also have a major performance advantage. This is the reason SoftLayer (now part of IBM Cloud) has brought these capabilities to a broader audience.

We support the NVIDIA Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform, which makes HPC capabilities more accessible to, and affordable for, everyone. Companies like Artomatix and MapD are using our NVIDIA GPU offerings to achieve unprecedented speed and performance, traditionally only achievable by building or renting an HPC lab.

By provisioning SoftLayer bare metal servers with cutting-edge NVIDIA GPU accelerators, any business can harness the processing power needed for HPC. This enables businesses to manage the most complex, compute-intensive workloads—from deep learning and big data analytics to video effects—using affordable, on-demand computing infrastructure.

Take a look at some of the groundbreaking results companies like MapD are experiencing using GPU-enabled technology running on IBM Cloud. They’re making big data exploration visually interactive and insightful by using NVIDIA Tesla K80 GPU accelerators running on SoftLayer bare metal servers.

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For a Limited Time Only: Free POWER8 Servers

So maybe you’ve heard that POWER8 servers are now available from SoftLayer. But did you know you can try them for free?

Yep. That’s right. For. Free.

Even better: We’re excited to extend this offer to our new and existing customers. For a limited time only, our customers can take up to $2,238 off their entire order using promo code FREEPOWER8.

That’s a nice round number. (Not!)

I bet you’re wondering how we came up with that number. Well, $2,238 gets you the biggest, baddest POWER8-est machine we offer: POWER8 C812L-SSD, loaded with 10 cores, 3.49GHz, 512GB RAM, and 2x960GB SSDs. Of course, if you don’t need that much POWER (pun intended), we offer three other configs that might fit your lifestyle a little bit better.



Semantics: “Public,” “Private,” and “Hybrid” in Cloud Computing, Part II

Welcome back! In the second post in this two-part series, we’ll look at the third definition of “public” and “private,” and we’ll have that broader discussion about “hybrid”—and we’ll figure out where we go after the dust has cleared on the semantics. If you missed the first part of our series, take a moment to get up to speed here before you dive in.

Definition 3—Control: Bare Metal v. Virtual

A third school of thought in the “public v. private” conversation is actually an extension of Definition 2, but with an important distinction. In order for infrastructure to be “private,” no one else (not even the infrastructure provider) can have access to a given hardware node.

In Definition 2, a hardware node provisioned for single-tenancy would be considered private. That single-tenant environment could provide customers with control of the server at the bare metal level—or it could provide control at the operating system level on top of a provider-managed hypervisor. In Definition 3, the latter example would not be considered “private” because the infrastructure provider has some level of control over the server in the form of the virtualization hypervisor.

Under Definition 3, infrastructure provisioned with full control over bare metal hardware is “private,” while any provider-virtualized or shared environment would be considered “public.” With complete, uninterrupted control down to the bare metal, a user can monitor all access and activity on the infrastructure and secure it from any third-party usage.

Defining “public cloud” and “private cloud” using the bare metal versus virtual delineation is easy. If a user orders infrastructure resources from a provider, and those resources are delivered from a shared, virtualized environment, that infrastructure would be considered public cloud. If the user orders a number of bare metal servers and chooses to install and maintain his or her own virtualization layer across those bare metal servers, that environment would be a private cloud.