Take a look inside SoftLayer's new UK data centre

Picture credit: SoftLayer

Six months after it was launched, IBM and SoftLayer opened the doors of its new UK data centre to the media, with IBM UK&I cloud leader Doug Clark and SoftLayer CTO Marc Jones in attendance to review 2014 and look forward to the year ahead.

The data centre in Chessington, run by Digital Realty, was until 2012 a shipping warehouse before being converted. Each pod, which Jones pointed out had the same design in every SoftLayer data centre, has 150 racks, 4000 physical nodes, and a 10,000 ft² isolated zone. Alongside the usual mix of generators is a series of car batteries to share the load for the first few minutes while the generators whir up.

The compute nodes which power SAP HANA have as much as 1TB of memory

2014 has been an extremely busy year for both IBM and SoftLayer, with a mix of the familiar, such as the partnership with SAP's in-memory database HANA, and the unfamiliar. Firmly in the latter category includes IBM's deals with Twitterand Docker, which Clark called "positively disruptive." Part of SAP HANA runs on SoftLayer, and Jones noted the compute nodes that power it have as much as one terabyte of memory each.

Picture credit: SoftLayer

The event also featured customer testimonials from Gyrocom and GoCardless, although SoftLayer was keen to emphasise others, most notably "poster child" WhatsApp, which is run entirely on the SoftLayer infrastructure, as well as Cloudant, which before being acquired by IBM was a "major" SoftLayer customer.

For each customer, SoftLayer's expertise in bare metal servers was a key differentiator alongside, naturally, location. This publication has extensively covered the geography of newly built data centres, not just from a data sovereignty view with European customers wanting their data to reside in European data houses, but also within the UK; greater connectivity and relatively similar latency means vendors can choose their build sites a bit further away from London.

SoftLayer's expertise in bare metal servers was a key differentiator for all customers

GoCardless CTO Harry Marr explained how the startup was also looking at AWS, but eventually plumped for SoftLayer. Marr noted how GoCardless was "having real problems with the cloud" when initially attempting to scale, mainly due to multi-tenancy issues and the 'noisy neighbour'. As regular readers of this publication will remember, IBM secured a patent last year to solve that very issue, utilising software defined networking (SDN) to ensure virtual machines give consistent network performance.

Clark noted the importance of SoftLayer in IBM's strategy going forward, describing the IaaS provider in a slide as the "foundation of the IBM cloud portfolio", as well as explaining SoftLayer was a "fundamental" and "maybe dominant" piece of the hybrid cloud equation.

Another interesting nugget came in the form of developers; with 18.2 million developers in the world, only 25% develop on the cloud. Clark expects both numbers to rise, with IBM predicting the overall figure will increase to 26 million in the coming years. Jones noted SoftLayer has an API, and a small team of API evangelists to aid customer integration.

"If anybody takes their eye off the ball, woe betide them in this new world," said Clark.

Elsewhere, it was confirmed that SoftLayer's CEO Lance Crosby has left IBM 20 months after his company was acquired. "We wish Lance Crosby the best as he takes a well deserved break before pursuing new endeavours," a statement from IBM read. Earlier this month it was confirmed that Robert LeBlanc, an IBM veteran, had moved into the role of head of cloud.

Another picture of the SoftLayer data centre can be found below:

Disclaimer: Your correspondent's travel expenses for this story were paid for by IBM SoftLayer.

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31 Jan 2015, 4:58 a.m.

Scam, dont trust this company.


3 Feb 2015, 9:50 p.m.

So its empty. Either that's a very bad size by emphasizing the bare, in bare-metal, or extreme optimism of future business. I don't think showing an empty data center, especially an opportunity missed to show IBM servers, is really that great of advertising/marketing.