Meet the cloud behind your favorite apps (and it’s not AWS)

You might have heard of SoftLayer, but if you’re like me, you probably didn’t know the cloud provider is hosting operations for some of the web’s hottest apps. I assumed SoftLayer is more like enterprise cloud provider Terremark (s vz) than it is like developer favorite Amazon Web Services (s amzn) — at least in its customer base if not in its technology — but I might have been wrong.
Here’s a list of services that run at least partially on the SoftLayer platform and that helped show me just how wrong I was:

  • Tumblr
  • SendGrid
  • SlideShare
  • Struq
  • Cloudant
  • Host Gator
  • Modx
  • Citrix
  • ZipServers

Even Heroku (s crm), the platform-as-a-service provider famously built atop AWS, is a SoftLayer customer, although Heroku CEO Byron Sebastian declined to comment on how it’s using SoftLayer (or that it’s using it at all). That these companies use SoftLayer doesn’t mean they don’t also use AWS or another cloud, but the fact that they’ve all chosen to use SoftLayer says a lot about the experience of hosting with it.
Chief Marketing Officer Simon West, who worked at Terremark prior to joining SoftLayer, says the company owes a lot to its focus on automation from the start. The provisioning system was built before anything else, he said, and the APIs are very comprehensive. They cover everything SoftLayer offers, including bare metal servers, and customers use the same APIs SoftLayer uses internally.
If you want to use dedicated servers in one location and cloud servers in another, they all run and are managed across the same platform. And it offers a lot — cloud computing, dedicated servers and managed hosting across 13 data centers and more than 100,000 servers.
In traditional IT shops, West joked, “your worst nightmare is waking up Monday morning and finding your infrastructure has scaled itself by 300 percent over the weekend.” You’ll get fired.
But companies operating at Internet scale know “there ought to be a correlation between infrastructure and revenue.” You’ll get the Ferrari and parking spot if you build atop a platform that allows that type of scalability, he said.  I’m sure OMGPOP would vouch for SoftLayer’s ability to make that happen.