Cloud or Bare Metal Server? What's The Difference?

15 Oct 2020 by Bob West

Bare metal servers are very similar to dedicated servers in that they are both single-tenant machines. This type of machine provides users with total access to the hardware. It is possible to have such access as single-tenant machines do not use a hypervisor layer - layers that create a virtual machine (VM) and place it on the server. To eliminate the requirement for layers, the operating system is loaded straight onto the server. This direct loading results in some of the most high-performance servers on the market.

With bare metal servers, there is an ability to configure the processor, memory (unshared), and storage. VMs do not have the same ability because the providers control the hardware. 

Both these servers provide users with stable performance because the hardware is powering their applications and web hosting solely. The critical difference between bare metal and a dedicated server boils down to how flexible the contract is and the quality of the hardware.

You get high-spec processors, RAM, NVMe solid-state drives, and other hardware products with bare metal servers. Dedicated servers do not come with these high-end capabilities.

As for contracts, bare-metal servers give you a more flexible billing option. You only pay for the time you use them, and they even have a pay-by-the-hour option.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

IaaS is a cloud-based service operating in a distributed environment. This environment is made up of multi-tenant virtual servers.

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By using an IaaS, a business can negate the need to own and manage servers. They rent the capability from a cloud-based service provider.

Renting resources rather than owning them means that a company can maintain strict control of costs, paying for only what they need. There is no cost for installation, configuration, and management. Once you pay for the service, it is available to use, and the provider looks after the rest. When you opt for IaaS, your business can access their virtual server without owning the hardware.

IaaS or Bare Metal Cloud?

Bare metal servers are a subset of IaaS, but they offer different service levels, although they share the same cloud characteristic. IaaS is utilizing virtual resources, as do bare metal servers that use dedicated servers.

With both IaaS and bare metal servers, you can use the operating system and apps of your choosing. The difference between the two is that IaaS does not afford you any infrastructure control. It is the provider who manages infrastructure, with your business being limited within the restrictions of a virtual environment.

On the other hand, bare metal servers allow your business to configure a dedicated server in the fashion you choose. It gives you control to install VMs and hypervisors as you wish. 

Bare Metal Servers Working in the Cloud

With a cloud-based host, you have access to a private area with the same access you would have in a public environment. The difference is that you have more control of the virtual machines and how they perform. Also, as the servers are dedicated, you will not experience any resource restrictions. Instead, you will enjoy the full capacity of processing that a virtual server cannot give you. 

Another benefit is that you will have control over the server regarding any compliance measures you need to adhere to. If you have high-intensity business in terms of server capacity, such as streaming or gaming, this solution will be a good fit for you.

Bare Metal Cloud Server Benefits

Costs vs. Capital

For IT solutions, you have two options as to how you buy servers—purchasing them so that you are the owner, which involves a capital outlay, or renting server capacity on an ongoing basis. The latter option is paid as part of your operating costs.

Making a capital purchase is risky in the IT environment, as you don't know how your business or the environment will change in the following few years. This uncertainty can lead to you purchasing the wrong hardware or specifications.

With an IaaS, you have flexibility in your operational costs, and you will always have updated hardware and applications. You will also be able to keep hold of your capital with this option.

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Increased Performance

Bare metal servers allow you to customize your hardware to meet the needs of your business. To do this, you will not have the same overhead as you would with a VM. You will also have access to increased processing power because there is no requirement for a hypervisor. On top of this, there is no impact on other tenants' workloads.

Hybrid Deployment

Bare metal servers can be used if there is to be any hybridization in the cloud. In such a case, they can be used to protect sensitive data or intensive workloads. Such instances would be expected in mobile gaming, for example. A bare metal server would act as the centerpiece of such an infrastructure. You would also have the capability of shifting your workloads between several connected environments with this model.

Lower Transfer Costs For Big Data 

Keeping your costs low when you have intensive workloads is critical, so you need a solution that can provide this as well as high performance. A bare metal server offers you a more cost-effective solution to your data transfer, reducing your bandwidth and transfer costs. 

Having a managed service with a hyper-scale cloud provider is often less costly than a single-tenant solution. However, they do not always keep your operational costs low. The reason is that cloud providers usually charge more for traffic and bandwidth, whereas bare metal plans minimize your overhead.

If you use software that can optimize or leverage hardware features, using bare metal will optimize your cloud costs. They will also help improve your density or performance by allowing custom configurations. You can optimize infrastructure to individual features so that it matches your performance needs. This optimization will enable you to achieve more with costs.

Dedicated Resources - Bare Metal vs VMs

As previously mentioned, having bare metal and dedicated hardware offers you an advantage. Dedicated servers mean there is no sharing of storage, connection, or bandwidth. It also affords better privacy and security as your data is confined from other tenants.

An environment such as this is beneficial for businesses that hold personal data or a high volume of data, requiring predictable and constant resources. It provides a higher level of processing than VMs as well as improved performance.

For massive databases, game servers, rendering, software development, data analytics, transcoding, website hosting, machine learning, artificial intelligence, or planning application services, dedicated servers are an excellent solution. If your requirements are data-heavy, a dedicated server is a choice to make.

In a virtual environment, there are instances when you could experience the 'noisy neighbor.' This situation arises when VMs are competing for resources. Having dedicated hardware will provide you with the same ability to scale, the same flexibility and efficiency as VM clouds, but with none of the hassle of sharing resources.

Dedicated servers can be configured to your needs, such as RAM requirements, processor, amount of storage, etc. The power of a dedicated server ranges from moderate to high, and they come with huge memories, allowing you to make your dedicated server as powerful as you need. The customized configuration also allows you to use any bare metal OS you want, adding your choice's control panels and software.

Compliance and Cloud Security

Bare metal servers address compliance and security issues better than VMs because it provides a single-tenant environment. Bare metal servers will provide you with an improved application and data performance while maintaining high-level security.

When there is no virtualization, there is no overhead for a hypervisor, so the performance benefits. Most virtual environments and cloud solutions come with security risks. You have no security concerns on a single-tenant platform because all the resources are allocated to one user. 

Virtual environments can also suffer security issues if stringent industry regulations bound you. Understanding these regulations is essential to providing adequate protection to sensitive data. With bare metal servers, you have a solution that is configurable to regulated workloads.

Performance Benefits For Your Business

If your company is large or expanding and you have large data requirements, you will benefit from bare metal servers. Private clouds are also advantageous for companies requiring enhanced security for their data, such as law or medical firms.

Bare Metal Cloud - Running Containers

If you need to run containers, bare metal clouds can provide this capability. Deploying containers is an alternative to installing VMs on the server.

Containers require less overhead than virtual machines, and this is because they can isolate applications from wherever they're being run. So, rather than a hefty VM, you have the option to install just what you require to run the application in the container. The remainder of the guest operating system can be done away with.

The IT industry trend is veering away from VMs, with containers becoming the more popular option because they are so efficient. Newer VMs have to copy an OS along with its configuration, whereas containers have bespoke processes, network stacks, and file systems virtualized atop of a host OS or VM. Containers use less memory because they use identical libraries and share the OS kernel.

Cloud-Native Infrastructure and Applications

Deploying Kubernetes was the old industry trend for deploying cloud-native infrastructure, but this involved some complexity. To make things simpler, bare metal cloud-native architecture is now being used, and this is referred to as Kubernetes bare metal. With this solution, there is no need for a virtualization layer in the cloud.

Cloud-native applications get deployed into a container directly onto the bare metal cloud. As a result, you have less overhead, save costs, and fewer bottlenecks because there is no requirement for a guest OS, and network implementation is simplified.

The Uniqueness of Bare Metal Management

With a bare metal provider, you will have command-line interfaces and cloud management interface consoles. They also offer automated API-driven servers and streamlined activities, including DNS setup, rebooting servers, upgrading network storage, and access/identify access management. 

As well as this, bare metal providers give you RBAC (Role-based Access Control ) and 2-factor authentication, which allows you to adjust security settings. Your system administrator can use these to conduct a reset power cycle. This action is not possible on a VM cloud.

Recovery, Back-up, and Restoring

Bare metal's back-up and restore lets your IT people recreate from scratch using a different system. This facility ensures that your business can recover from a catastrophic physical or natural disasters such as fire or flood.

The restore and recovery solutions are automated and require little human input. This automation makes them fast and simple to set up. 

Disaster recovery in a cloud environment is quicker than manual back-up systems, and it is virtually error-free. Recovery will save your IT staff time as they would otherwise have to back-up other systems due to the catastrophic failure.

Various recovery solutions are backed-up incrementally, and this saves on bandwidth and storage space. Using snapshots, you can recover the latest back-up of your data from any previous point that is available.

If you were ever to be in the situation where you needed to restore data from an off-site back-up, having a local back-up is recommended. A local back-up would ensure data availability, and having a cloud recovery solution achieves this in minutes.

Using a secure cloud to store your data comes with several advantages, the first of which is that your data is held in a purpose-built facility. These facilities are equipped with advanced security systems. They will also provide you with a third-party center for back-up and recovery. All of these facilities enable you to harness speed rather than relying on global internet traffic.

Author

Bob West

Bob West, MBA is a tech enthusiast with a deep-rooted passion for cloud, data centers, connectivity, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. He was instrumental in the building of Datacenters.com in 2011 and has been in the technology industry since 2005. It’s his belief that data centers will become increasingly important for next-generation technologies – IoT, edge computing, interconnection, and Ai.

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