Random Thoughts of Nothingness

Blog of Matthew Porter – Husband, Father, Entrepreneur, Geek, MS Warrior, and Ultramarathoner

Tech Companies in Saint Louis – Going and Growing
  • May 16, 2012

The past few years in Saint Louis have been interesting to watch. When Craig and I started the parent company of Contegix as a software development and managed hosting company, there were very few entrepreneurs doing anything here, especially in the tech industry.

In fact, Gabe Lozano from LockerDome and I were chatting about this a few weeks back. Gabe has built an amazing company that continues to excel and grow. He also comes from an entrepreneurial family. His father started Paylinx, a company later acquired by Cybersource, and Appistry, a big data company that started when no one knew what that meant. As Gabe recently put it to me, “There were guys like my dad starting companies from his generation. Then, the younger guys like me began starting companies a few years ago. But almost nothing in your generation .”

With this said, it’s been absolutely incredible to see the proliferation of tech entrepreneurs pop up. Some of them have already exited and gone on to other things. Just as important is that the entrepreneurs are from every generation – Gabe’s, mine, and older. Here are a few that I think are worth spotlighting:

LockerDome (http://lockerdome.com):
Description:LockerDome is a person’s sports identity. LockerDome is the only platform where professional athletes publish their content side-by-side with kids. LockerDome developed the first universal identification system for tracking youth sports content. With a LockerDome ID, an athlete’s sports memories are accessible in one place, forever.
Recent News:LockerDome recently completed a $750k round in December 2011 and added Jim McKelvey to the Board in January 2012.

Gremln (http://gremln.com):
Description:Gremln is a premiere social media marketing toolkit designed to help businesses take control of their social media messages and measure the impact those messages are having on potential customers. Gremln allows users to post messages to their major social networks and tracks the amount of social engagement these messages attract. Gremln users can create quick and easy charts, graphs, and reports to monitor their social progress while maintaining brand integrity across various digital channels.
Recent News: Gremln recently completed Capital Innovators and was in a ReadWriteWeb article.

Bonfyre / OffCampus Media (http://bonfyreapp.com):
Description:Bonfyre is a geo-location app and social media network strictly for college students. Users can only register with a valid school email address from an approved university.
Comment:One of the things I LOVE about Bonfyre is that it allows college students to socialize online without their parents or future employer sniffing around. We like enough to invest in it.
Recent News: Bonfyre raised $750k in capital funding. Newest version released this month.

Aisle411 (http://aisle411.com):
Description:Aisle411 is a smartphone app that allows users to navigate inside stores and guides them to the exact location of a product. For example, a user can enter a grocery list and get a map that takes them to all of the products on the list in the most efficient way.
Recent News: Has raised over $5.5M and recently opened a San Francisco office.

NorseCorp (http://norse-corp.com):
Description:NorseCorp is an emerging provider of innovative Internet security intelligence for all industry verticals. Via our patent-pending IPViking platform, NorseCorp provide real-time intelligence about the most dangerous IP addresses operating in the world at any given time.
Recent News: In April 2012, Norse released it’s nGate Payment Gateway – article.

Slicehost (http://slicehost.com):
Description:Before cloud was even a word printed anywhere except textbooks and meteorological reports, Slicehost was serving up cloud servers to hungry developers and startups. Created by Jason Seats and Matt Tanase, Slicehost was an early and strong player in this community. Slicehost was acquired by Rackspace around October 2008. I think it’s still worth mentioning Slicehost as they were part of this renaissance and change here.
Recent News: Matt has gone on to build another startup, DevStructure.

And this is only the beginning. It also doesn’t acknowledge the companies, like World Wide Technology, which have been here all along.

MiraCloud- CloudStack and The Commitment to Open Source
  • April 3, 2012

Contegix has always been a service company. We utilize and embrace core, foundational technology to deliver technology as a service for our customers. Our amazing customer base has taken our deliverable and built their ideas and dreams on it. As we call it, we provide “technology to empower ideas”. It’s more than a simple tagline. It’s part of our core and mission here.



When we were evaluating technology to build and deploy MiraCloud, our public and private cloud service, there were numerous choices, especially given some of our long term vendor relationships. We had significant requirements that made a single vendor choice for the entire stack both ideal and, yet, nearly impossible. A single large vendor would help ensure the foundation of MiraCloud’s technology would remain resilient and viable long-term. However, it would have been difficult to embrace the multi-hypervisor approach. Enter CloudStack.

After significant analysis, we decided upon Cloud.com (now part of Citrix) CloudStack as the foundation of MiraCloud. It was the DNA of the product and its development that made the difference and helped ensure the longterm viability of the technology. This is critical for the protection of our customers. CloudStack’s distributed, resilient architecture made it suitable for our large customer base – from start up to enterprise. It had the demonstrated stability of being in hundreds of private and public production clouds. Due to the hypervisor-agnostic approach, we were able to embrace our view of the modern infrastructure where hypervisors are mixed and matched based upon the financial and technical workload requirements.

For our enterprise customer needs, we were able to harness of the power of enterprise grade hardware and the battle tested VMware hypervisor. This built the foundation of MiraCloud’s enterprise class. For those with lower requirements, MiraCloud is able to provide KVM and Xen to build the respective convenience and business classes. With CloudStack’s architecture as the foundation, MiraCloud is able to deliver the mixture in a secure public environment with single API and web interfaces.

CloudStack’s core has always been open source. This was an important aspect as it helped minimize the risk of vendor lock-in, deliver compatibility with industry standards, and honored our commitment to open source.

We are ecstatic to see the CloudStack product become part of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). ASF is known for being the home of the numerous software projects that are critical to the modern Internet infrastructure. This includes Apache HTTP Server, Tomcat, Maven, and Hadoop. CloudStack joining ASF represents a production-ready enterprise cloud platform fully embracing the power of open source through a deep commitment. This will ensure that CloudStack is developed in a truly open manner that remains focused on customer needs – beyond what a single entity can do. This will help accelerate the adoption of all cloud technologies, including Apache CloudStack, and build upon the amazing base to empower even more ideas.

Congrats, CloudStack, Citrix, and the overall cloud community!

Sign up for MiraCloud now at http://cloud.contegix.com.

A Lesson on Leadership from a Chick-Fil-A Manager
  • July 12, 2011

One thing I love about suburbia is Chick-Fil-A. Thankfully, one recently opened up near our house which has led to a trip 1-2 times per week. We are not the only ones hitting the new addition to the neighborhood. It is slaughtering my predominantly vegetarian diet. This place is always busy… except Sunday (of course).

During the last visit, I noticed something interesting. The manager was not sitting in an office watching the staff from behind glass. He was not at the register directly helping customers and ringing up sales. He was not behind the grill making food. I would like to say that this is a good thing.

So, where was the manager? He was focused on two things – his employees and his customers. He was actively involved in ensuring both of these parties were having a  successful experience.

For the customers, he was greeting them, welcoming them to restaurant, and ensuring the experience was a clean and professional one. I watched the presumably highest paid employee empty the trash from bin to dumpster twice in less than 15 minutes. This was not merely a detail. It was important because it helps ensure the customers have a clean place and the remaining staff could also drive this mission behind the registers and grills and on the dining floor.

For the employees, he was not micro-managing. He was checking in repeatedly to see what if anything they needed – from additional change for registers to food for the grills to lemons for the their awesome diet lemonade. He wanted them to succeed at their mission of helping the customer and taking care of them. There were no excuses about rank or politics about position.

The lesson here is that good managers do the same. They pay attention to the employees and customers. They get the right people, give them the right tools, help where necessary, and know when to get the hell out of the way.

All Begins with The First Ring or Email
  • February 1, 2011

Trust is a foundational aspect of our relationship with each and every customer. Customers are relying on our infrastructure and services to power their respective livelihoods. In colocation, we are taking responsibility for the Three Ps (3Ps) – power, ping, and pipe. In unmanaged cloud, we are taking additional responsibility by covering the hardware and cloud infrastructure. In our managed service (dedicated, cloud, and hybrid), we are taking an extremely large amount of responsibility in covering everything from the 3Ps to hardware to application infrastructure.

Yet, it all begins with trust. Customers need to trust that we will take responsibility and not merely rely on SLA credits to (attempt to) make them happy.

Before we can ever get to service delivery, trust starts with the first time a future customer calls or emails our sales team. Sales must earn the customer’s trust in order for the relationship to be successful. It’s for this reason that we take a drastically different approach to sales.

First and foremost, we do not believe in hard selling. Business Dictionary Online defines “hard selling” as “Applying psychological pressure (by appealing to someone’s fears, greed, or vanity) to persuade the prospect to make a quick purchase decision.” I would also describe the hard sell as “What’s it going to take to get you into this car… err, server/cloud instance today?” approach to selling. Quick purchase decisions, especially for internet infrastructure, can often lead to wrong decisions – for the technology and the business.

Overselling customers is absolutely not about the customer. It’s about the sales person making a quota or attempting to pay for his/her car, house, etc. If we oversell a customer, it breaks down the trust relationship with the customer. This makes the jobs of our support engineers, our account managers, and our customer service representatives even harder. Customers need to know that when we recommend more CPU or RAM, it is to solve a challenge or problem – not to make an arbitrary quota that means nothing to the customer.

It’s for these reasons that we have strict controls in place to ensure we never lose sight and engage in these activities. Account managers and customer service representatives are non-commission positions. They are compensated based upon salary and customer satisfaction. In addition, they have the power to null-and-void a commission if we ever engage in this type of activity. Thankfully, we have never had to do such.

For us, sales is about learning. We are provided a wonderful opportunity to learn about what customers are doing and what they need/want. We get to share our experiences and knowledge to help customers make the right choices. Sometimes the right choice is with us. Other times, it may not be. It’s their decision. Regardless, we are committed to being honest throughout the process and earning the business. Trust must start here.


DRY – How I Became Healthier and Lighter, and Experience A “High” A Few Times A Week
  • January 9, 2011

Sadly, I had not focused on my health the past few years. The crazy hours between 3 kids and a growing company had taken the toll on my health and appearance. I decided that walking into Spring 2010 it was time for a change. I had reached an unhealthy 199 lbs. and did not want to cross over the mind startling 200 lb. mark.  This is weight unhealthy on a 5’9″ medium-sized frame.

Within a few short months of this, I had lost a substantial amount of weight. In September, I ran into a friend I had not seen in 18 months. His words were “You are freaking me out! I didn’t even recognize you.” The total as of today is over 40 lbs. The amount of weight is important and could be considered a great success, but it’s not what I actually care about. Weight was merely an indicating factor. It was never the goal.

FWIW, I stopped caring about my weight at the start of this journey after reading “Born Round” by Frank Bruni.

I feel much better. I have significantly more energy and think clearer. I am taking care of myself and more focused.

So, what has been the “secret” to the weightloss success? Sorry folks, there is no magic pill. I did simple things that I now call DRY – diet, running, and yoga. Here is the breakdown and tools that helped me:

Diet – First, I want to be clear that I do not mean “diet” by the following definition:
“such a selection or a limitation on the amount a person eats for reducing weight”. I mean “diet” as defined by “food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health”. Therefore, I focus on a few key critical factors of my diet – calories, protein, and cholesterol. This is not about restriction. This is about balance and providing nutrition.

I watch and document the food I consume. Every drop. Every nibble. Every meal. It’s amazing to watch how the nutritional elements, especially calories, add up. It does hold me accountable and forces me to be honest with myself. For calories, I aim for approximately net 1800 calories per day. Therefore, if exercise burns an additional 1000 calories, I add this back into my caloric consumption for the day. Often this is difficult

  • Tool Used My Daily Plate from Livestrong.com makes the tracking of nutrition and exercise manageable and relatively easy. The website is free, and the iPhone/iPad application is $2.99. It contains a database of almost every food, including menu items from every national restaurant, and exercises to calculate calories burned. Want to know how many calories and protein grams a Taco Bell Fresco Chicken Soft Taco has or how many calories per minute are burned doing Hatha Yoga? They are in there. When a food or exercise are not, one can manually enter the calories.

Running (Phase 1) – I am now running 3-4 days a week, even in the cold weather of Saint Louis. If you follow my twitter feed, you may have noticed how addicted I am to this. Most weeks, I am averaging 25-32 miles per week. For 2011, I have a personal goal of 1500 miles, 1 half marathon, and 1 full marathon. This would have been unimaginable a year ago.  I once told Courtney that I would rather walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding with blisters on my feet from running than being pushed down the aisle in a wheelchair due to ailments caused by not taking care of my health, such as Type II diabetes.

Given that I had not run anything more than sprints in a few years, I started with the Couch to 5K (C25k) exercise program in late February/early March 2010. It is a 9 week program that consists of 3 workouts per week and helps condition a beginner to run a 5k. Each run progressively challenges the runner without overdoing it and risking injury. It is critical for the body to be conditioned properly for any new activity. The muscles, joints, and heart are not designed to be jump started like a car battery.

  • Tool UsedC25k iPhone app. The C25k app costs $2.99 and guides one through the program and makes the timings on each run thoughtless. Just start it, select music, and go!  One can always print out the program for free and use the Clock app.

Running (Phase 2) – After I finished the C25k routine, I focused on my form and started actually enjoying running. I was able to quickly start adding miles to runs, overall miles per week, and number of runs per week. In October 2010, I met my goal of running 100 miles in a single month. The last 3 days of the month, I added over 20 miles and felt great. It’s safe to say that I have experience a “runner’s high” on any run past 2-3 miles.

I can not stress form enough when running. I firmly believe this has been a huge factor in the ability to add miles safely and without injury!

  • Tool UsedRunkeeper. I love this application. For the month of January 2011, the Runkeeper Pro version is free for iPhone and Android. This application tracks your runs (and other distance based activities) via GPS. It records and calculates pace, time, calories, etc. The calories can easily be plugged back into Daily Plate as a manual entry for exercise. Activities are plotted on a map and all activity is synced between the website and mobile phone.

Yoga – I was recommended yoga by a friend (and customer) 4 years ago. After doing some research, I decided to give it a try in late May 2007. I immediately fell in love with the physical and mental aspects of it. It also had the added benefit of helping address some (genetic) back issues I have.

Courtney and I turned Tuesday evening yoga into a weekly date night. Every Tuesday you can catch us at the a yoga class at Jane’s House. They conduct classes in a predominantly hatha style and offer something from beginner to advance.  My goal in 2011 is to increase yoga to 2-3 per week.

  • Tool Used – None, just a great teacher and studio! Once again, the calorie count was added to Daily Plate.

I hope this posts and these tool can help others.  Leave a comment or hit me up on twitter if you have questions.

2011 New Year Resolutions
  • January 9, 2011
  • 1 Comment

A little late but better than never.  I really wanted to think about this and examine the impact before committing.

With further ado, here are my resolutions for 2011:

  1. Run 1500 miles over the course of the year.
  2. Complete a minimum of 1 half-marathon and 1 full marathon.
  3. Blog more often with a minimum of twice per month across Contegix and personal blog.
A VIEW FROM THE (NON) CORNER OFFICE: Programmers, You Need the Sysadmin. And Vice Versa.
  • July 29, 2010

By: Matthew Porter

Programmers, You Need the Sysadmin. And Vice Versa.

In honor of System Administrator Appreciation Day, I decided to revisit an article from last year regarding the role of system administrators in the world of cloud computing. At Contegix, system administrators (our engineers) make up the overwhelming majority of our staff. Employing a significant engineering staff is a necessity as a provider. They are responsible for delivering hosting and cloud solutions to our customers. The article addresses the question of whether system administrators are needed when there is no physical or network infrastructure.

In October 2009, George Reese wrote an article for O’Reilly Community titled “Your Cloud Needs a Sys Admin”. The article discusses how and why system administrators are still needed, even in the age of cloud computing. George breaks it down to a simple point—divide responsibilities based upon skill sets and knowledge.

System administrators have had the role of hardware procurement removed in the world of cloud computing. This is a huge benefit as it is often (but not always) mind numbing work for most administrators. They are now allowed to focus on where they can deliver the highest value — the development and long term maintenance of the application infrastructure. (No one buys a dedicated or cloud server to receive pings back. It’s always been about the applications!) Specifically, this represents the planning of application infrastructure, reducing risks and liability in it, and managing infrastructure across the ever changing landscape of application, user, and environment requirements.

If George is right, as we believe he is, I think we could see the overall evolution and expansion of what defines cloud computing. In reality, cloud computing is outsourcing at its core definition. A company outsources a portion or all of their Internet infrastructure requirements to another company specializing specifically in it. The system administrator outsources the procurement of infrastructure to a company specializing in its delivery. This is a physical outsourcing. Yet, what is the next step?

Our belief is that the outsourcing will extend beyond just the infrastructure into the system administration of the infrastructure and application stack. For Contegix, this represents the promise of our managed services — delivered for dedicated infrastructure as Beyond Managed Hosting and for cloud infrastructure as Cloud Cover. We often see this as a blend of our customers’ system administration team and our system administrators. We work together to supplement and compliment the other party, and both parties dive deeper and take responsibility for the application stack. It also allows our customers to focus on their core business.

I think there is also another important, overlooked point in the article. System administrators need developers. System administrators are great at writing scripts and programs to make their lives easier. Yet, system administrators are not specialists at building the applications. At Contegix, we follow the same principle in often using outsourced development blended with some internal development.

At the time the article was published, we had just launched our public cloud offering. This represented our first step into a platform that allowed customers to decide whether they wanted unmanaged or managed. I remember reading the article and wondering how this would be reflected in our cloud. Today, cloud computing with our Cloud Cover represents a double digit percentage of our cloud offering.

Daily Grateful – Newspaper Delivery
  • June 15, 2010

One of the biggest lessons I learned the EO MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program was from one of the last instructors/teachers/presenters, Barrett Ersek.  It was the core lesson of his presentation, but a gem he quickly talked about.  Everyday I am trying to find something for which I am grateful.

I noted this lesson to a fellow Contegian who asked me today what it was.  The answer is “home delivery newspapers”.  Why?

Oddly, it came from a minor inconvenience.  I dropped off the children at grandma’s this morning.  For one reason or another, no one heard us ring the door bell or knock on the door for ten minutes.  Yes, this went on for TEN MINUTES.   My 5-yo son Gabe decided he had waited long enough.  So, he grabbed the newspaper waiting on the porch and began to smack the door while yelling “Let me in! I can’t take this any more. We are burning up.”

So why am I grateful?  Because that simple newspaper in the hands of my son made me laugh with full abandonment. It took me out of the thoughts of a stressful day ahead.

Lifetime Goals (aka Bucket List)
  • June 6, 2010

I was on retreat a few weeks back. As part of the retreat, I had to set some lifetime goals, also known as a bucket list. The best way to keep me honest and to the list is too publish them.  Sorry for those marked confidential – need to keep some mystery.

  2. Run an ultra marathon. (Completed May 18, 2013)
  3. Run Leadville Trail 100. (Completed August 19, 2018)
  4. Walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding.
  5. Take a Mediterranean cruise with Courtney.
  6. Earn a Masters’ degree.
  7. Drive across the country with the family in RV for the summer.
  8. Own a house with a pool.
  10. Do yoga 3-4 times per week consistently.
  11. Visit India for a yoga enlightenment journey.
  12. Run for public office.
  13. Learn to dance in a manner that doesn’t cause embarrassment.
  14. See Jimmy Buffett in concert in Key West.
  15. Go to Burning Man.
  16. Go to Mardi Gras.
  17. Live in Sydney for the winter.
  18. Start an incubator in Saint Louis.
  19. Get my pilot’s license.
  20. Put my children through college.
  21. Become a yoga teacher.
  22. Fly on a private jet across an ocean to another country.
  23. Buy a new house. (Completed January 6, 2012)
  24. Own a house/villa in Italy.
  25. Fix my relationship with my grandmother. (Completed before she left us in January 2014)
  26. Stay in an Ice Hotel.
  27. Learn to play an instrument, any instrument.
  28. Ice skating on Christmas Eve in Times Square.
  29. Take a pub trip through Ireland with buddies. (Completed August 2012)
  30. Learn to surf. (Completed March 2016)
  31. Own a Ferrari/Maserati sports car.
  32. Do a stand up routine at amateur night.
  33. Have dinner with Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak. (Good bye, Steve Jobs. Completed dinner with Steve Wozniak January 28, 2014.)
  34. Fly in a fighter jet.
  35. Attend the Oscars and walk the red carpet.
  36. Do the polar bear plunge.
  37. Have dinner with Dave Chappell.
  38. Attend TED.
  39. Write an autobiography for my children and grandchildren.
  40. Write a book with every lesson I have learned to pass along to my children. (IN PROGRESS)
  41. Create a charitable family foundation.
  42. Scuba dive in Australia.
  43. Ride a gondola in Venice.
  44. Go on an African safari.
  45. Celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary.
  46. Spend 2+ weeks in Fiji with Courtney.
  47. Oktoberfest in Munich. (Completed October 2013)
  48. See the Northern Lights in Scandanavia.
  49. Spend a summer in France touring the hillsides visiting wineries with Courtney and the children.
  50. Be a good father.
  51. Learn to speak Italian.
  52. Take my children and grandchildren on a cruise.
  53. See Bill Clinton speak. (Completed December 12, 2012)

UPDATED : August 27, 2019.
UPDATED : January 29, 2014.
UPDATED : December 18, 2012.

Cloud Templates – What Do You Want To See?
  • November 2, 2009

When we began building Contegix, we realized it was always about the applications. No one buys a server (physical or virtual) to run a ping and get some ICMP packets. The Internet has, and always will be, about the applications. Therefore, we made the application infrastructure the core of our management and focus of our hosting services.

As we build out cloud templates, we want to extend this belief into the templates themselves. It can not be about just the operating system. Each template has been built “The Contegix Way”. These are built using the components and deployment methodologies that have served our customers for years and continue to do so today. Some of these target developers, some for system administrator implementors, and some target application users. Below is our list, but we want your feedback.

For developers:

For system administrators / application implementors:

For application users:

Yet, we want to hear – what do you want to see in a cloud template and ready to deploy in less than 5 minutes? Please leave comments.