Marc Jones, CTO of Softlayer
Marc Jones, CTO of Softlayer

How did you end up working with Cloud technology, and what excites you about the future for it?

I started my career in hosting technology back in the mid 90s, right when the first dot-com boom began. As hosting technology matured and naturally evolved into cloud, so did my career.

Cloud has become so transformational for companies of all sizes, across all industries. It is rare that you get to be part of such a large shift in technology that drastically impacts the way that companies conduct business. And now those same technologies are extending beyond traditional businesses to disruptive startups in all industries, with the latest being IoT and wearables.

What’s the most significant or interesting user study you know of with Softlayer? Any major problems it has solved for clients? 

Coriell Life Sciences is an interesting customer story. The company went through SoftLayer’s Catalyst startup program and received IBM’s prestigious Global Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2014. Coriell Life Sciences bridges the gap between genomic information and patient care by bringing genetic interpretations into physicians’ hands in a way that’s clinically relevant and humanly readable. The company’s technology can look at a patient’s genetic makeup and determine whether a prescribed drug will be beneficial to a patient, if the patient will have an adverse reaction, and how a typical dose might be adjusted for the patient—all before the drug is prescribed.

When looking for an IT infrastructure provider to support its genomic research, Coriell had to consider its needs for robust computing (genome research requires billions of data points), and an extremely secure environment, as the data collected by the company is sensitive and requires privacy protection measures. It had to balance those needs with cost and flexibility for the future.

With IBM Cloud and SoftLayer, Coriell uses both virtual and bare metal servers to handle all its data safely and cost-effectively. It can control its infrastructure down to the smallest details of server and network configuration, and has the flexibility to scale and build for future needs without being locked into a specific architecture or long-term contract. And most importantly, they haven’t had to worry about maintaining their infrastructure—their resources have been freed up to stay focused on innovative application and development. If you want to read more about their story, go to http://cdn.softlayer.com/case-studies/CoriellLife-Case-Study.pdf.

How do you think Cloud infrastructure will change over the next year?

We will continue to see an evolution of core cloud services across compute, network, storage, and security. New technologies will be focused on performance and scalability, and we’ll see more services that are specifically built to be “cloud native.” These applications and products will leverage underlying cloud building blocks to deliver services with a strong focus on data and analytics.

Additionally, applications and services that were typically focused on large enterprises or large workloads will become more accessible to smaller companies as a means for adding more intelligence or gleaning more insights from users.

What are the major players you are competing with, and how does your solution get an edge on theirs?

IBM Cloud competes with most of the major cloud providers in the industry, but our focus is directed on our customers and their very specific needs. We have an edge when it comes to:

Visibility and Control

SoftLayer’s infrastructure lets you control and see even the smallest details of your cloud. You know exactly where your servers reside—not just the region, but the exact city and data center—and you can even see the serial numbers of your bare metal machines. Our unique visibility gives you the power to customize, configure, and control your cloud based on your needs. We try to mimic the level of control you have over your on-premises servers.

Bare Metal

We’re one of the few cloud providers that offer bare metal in addition to virtual servers. The bare metal option gives customers distinct advantages. For example, some customers choose bare metal for security concerns – they want to know they have the entire machine to themselves. And most opt for bare metal for performance, so that they don’t have to worry about the lag caused by a hypervisor. They get the entire machine’s compute power to themselves. This is especially important for customers with compute and I/O heavy workloads, like those managing loads of data, analytics, and media rendering.

Global Private Network

SoftLayer delivers unmatched scalability and control because we’ve built a different kind of network—a network within networks, which includes public, private, and management levels. Our global private network is a big differentiator for us because it connects all of our SoftLayer data centers and points of presence (PoPs), enabling customers to seamlessly connect their services to other SoftLayer data centers all around the world. It doesn’t cost them anything to move data between their servers within our data centers, and they can take advantage of our update and patch servers, software repositories, backend services, and more without interfering with public network traffic.

Global Footprint

Last but not least is our global footprint. As I mentioned before, SoftLayer’s visibility allows customers to decide exactly which servers should live in certain cities and data centers. This is key for customers who want to keep their data in a certain country due to regulatory concerns, and for those who want to reach end users faster in certain areas. As we continue to grow our global cloud footprint, we provide even more local onramps into the IBM Cloud, which integrates data and applications for users all around the world.

Do you have any advice for young technical professionals looking to find the right career path? 

Find something you are passionate about, something that interests you, and something that motivates you. Get as much hands on experience with it as possible, and know that whatever career you may start with—whatever you think you might want to do—it can and most likely will change. Be flexible and embrace the journey.

If you look at the field of data science, and its related fields, what do you see as the greatest opportunity areas for the future?

Today, the advances in technology make it easier to generate and collect tremendous amounts of data. With cloud, compute and storage have become more accessible and cheaper, making it easier for companies of all sizes to store and analyze data. As a result, we’re seeing even more data creation.

The challenge is to understand how to derive value from all this data. We’re seeing increased demand for data scientists who can analyze data in a way that provides new and interesting insights. Companies want to use this data to difference themselves, become more efficient, and improve products and services as well as customer satisfaction. Finding great data scientists is really hard right now; the demand far outweighs the supply.

(image credit: NASA)

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