IBM Collaboration QuickStart image on SoftLayer – stumbling setup process

I really like the idea behind the IBM Collaboration QuickStart image on SoftLayer (Niklas posted here). Helping new developers to get in touch with ICS technologies without going through installation hell.

Personally I like to test things before I recommend them to others. So did I with the QuickStart image. Or better – with the SoftLayer account creation process. On slide 17 in the above link Paul Bastide has stated “We are going to skip the account setup…”. Now I know why.

Here is a short history of my personal experience:

15:50
I went to the SoftLayer website to create a new account

16:00
I gave up and started a live chat with a sales rep. He told me, that I have to order something to get an account. But didn’t want to order “something” – I wanted the QuickStart image. I’ve been told than that I should order “storage”. It’s free as long as I wouldn’t upload something. Mmmh. Ok.

16:05
Went through the order process, entered address data, credit card data, phone number and so on. I’ve ordered storage.

16:09
An email has been sent to me: “The order ###### is currently under review by a member of our sales team.” Honestly I was suprised. No confirmation, no login data. And I ordered for 0 EUR. So what’s about this review…?

17:15
Somebody from the US tried to call my via phone. I wasn’t available (on another phone).

17:20
SoftLayer sent me an order confirmation. And that they need to speek to me as part of their verification process. Hey – that’s a real cool one-click-order-customer-experience.

17:40
I called them (remember – I’m in Germany, they are in the US). A nice guy validated my order number than, asked for some of the data I’ve entered during the order process like the last digits of the credit card. In addition he sent me an email on which I had to reply during the call. IMHO no real verification process as everything (beside the credit card) could have been faked. Throw-away phones or email addresses are common nowadays.
I’ve been told that the order is now confirmed and that they’ll send me the login details shortly.

22:10
Finally I received the order confirmation and my login data.

So it took around 6 hours to get a ‘free’ account. In short: the process is not – at least for me – intuitive. I haven’t expected a simple AWS-like process. But that was far too complicated. I’m wondering how many people wouldn’t start a live chat for “starting” with the account creation process…

One hint: you’ve to remember the login url which they send to you with your credentials. Because there is no login button on the main website.

The rest of the process was fairly quite straightforward (using the IBM slide deck). There are only some small things IBM/SoftLayer should consider to rethink:

  • You have to choose your plan (per month or per hour) before you see prices. And you can’t change your plan after configuration. So you have to go back and forth for comparing prices.
  • Define preset hardware requierements. The QuickImage runs a lot of stuff, like Domino, Sametime, Connections on on this box. 1 GB of RAM as the default isn’t enough. And if you don’t know how much you’ll need you’ll probably get suprised when starting the VM.

From a cost perspective it’s really, really great. It’s IMHO a no-brainer. Let’s say you’d use the QuickImage with 2×2.0 GHz Cores and 12GB of RAM. You’ll pay 0.54 USD/hour for that (choosing the hourly plan). So if you run the image only during working hours (10h/day) for 250 days/year you’ll have to pay 1,350 USD/year. Compare that to the sheer amount of work that would be needed to setup the environment of the QuickStart image. And not speeking about the needed hardware, licenses, power etc.

So what’s the summary of this post? SoftLayer is great technology and pricing (at least for the QuickStart image) is awesome. The setup process and handling is not so “easy” as one may expect nowadays. There’s room for improvement – especially when you’re targeting new developers.