What is Bare Metal cloud?

Male performing a back flip with clouds in the background
29 January 2021

Bare metal cloud is the perfect middle ground between traditional public cloud and dedicated bare metal servers. It provides the flexibility and scalability of the traditional public cloud with the performance and stability of bare metal.

In just a few years since the “cloud revolution” transformed the tech industry, a new model – the bare metal cloud – promises the next generation of flexible yet high-performance computing.

Bare metal cloud has emerged as a hybrid solution to address the limitations of the two dominant forms of computing today, dedicated servers and cloud. It has been projected to grow 37% over the next 4 years and demonstrates a market shift from Capital expenditure (CapEx) to Operational Expense (OpEx) financial models.

But, to understand why industries are making this shift, and whether you should too, first we need to take a look at the history of modern IT infrastructure.

Table of Contents

The history of modern IT infrastructure

Most infrastructure solutions today stem from the same origins, the humble server. The introduction of cloud split the industry into two general categories; dedicated or bare metal servers, and virtual cloud servers.
Let’s illustrate this with a tale of two brothers, Jack and Bill.

A tale of two infrastructure options

Jack and Bill both started businesses that required moderate IT infrastructure. Both brothers started by purchasing on-premise physical servers, and hiring staff to configure and manage those machines.

This worked especially well for Jack, who’s business processed huge amounts of data constantly. But Bill, who’s infrastructure needs were constantly fluctuating, found himself saddled with big costs and hardware that eventually went obsolete. When the possibility of cloud came along, Bill jumped at the chance to simplify his IT needs.

Thanks to virtualization, Bill could order the exact amount of capacity he needed instead of a whole machine, hosted virtually by his provider in a data center. The nature of virtual machines meant he could scale up or down whenever he wanted.

Where both businesses had started on physical servers, the business that required more dynamic workloads benefitted enormously from the cloud’s flexible and scalable model.

Diversifying IT needs

The cloud provided an alternative to the static model of bare metal infrastructure. But when a business becomes more complex, its functions and therefore needs become to diversify. However, for infrastructure, they still had to choose one solution or other to suit their multifaceted needs, often creating some kind of trade-off.

Take our example, for instance. After some time, Jack’s business needed to build and test some applications but Jack didn’t want to purchase extra bare metal servers. They were expensive and would have no more use after the applications were shipped.

Naturally, Jack turned to his brother Bill for advice. Maybe now was the time to try out the cloud? But after using the public cloud for several years, Bill had found that the cloud was coming up short when it came to performance.

Over time, the business that used bare metal servers found itself in need of the flexibility and scalability of the cloud. Meanwhile, the business operating on the cloud found that it couldn’t always provide the stability and performance needed for high-processing workloads.

The limitations of cloud

When the cloud emerged on the market, it came with the promise of freedom, cost-savings, and limitless growth. However, one area where the cloud comes up short is with high-performance workloads.
Partly, because virtual machines (VMs) have to sacrifice some power towards running the hypervisors that make the public cloud possible. And partly because the cloud is distributing the machine resources between other tenants, making it very unpredictable.

In Bill’s case, he needed large amounts of processing power at different peaks throughout the year. Using his cloud infrastructure for this harmed his other processes. But opting for a bare metal option required too much commitment and pricing overhead.

In the end, each business has what the other needs.
Jack’s bare-metal-based business has single-tenant powerful servers, but he needs short-term scalability and flexibility.
Bill’s cloud-based infrastructure has a flexible and scalable cloud, but it doesn’t give him the stable performance that he sometimes needed.

In both cases, neither were willing to trade-off the advantages that they both enjoyed.

Bare metal cloud: The best of both worlds

Thankfully, in an industry where innovation is the name of the game, it hasn’t taken long for a new solution to be proposed – the bare metal cloud.

A solution for both Jack and Bill!

Bare metal cloud is the best of both worlds. It offers dedicated resources on demand. Meaning, that a business can rent out a powerful bare-metal server for a short-term period like public cloud resources. With this model, you can just use the capacity that you need. No need to sign up for costly resources that will sit unused past their needed moment.

What is bare metal cloud, exactly?

As mentioned previously, the bare metal cloud, like i3D.net’s Flex Metal, is the middle-ground between bare metal and cloud infrastructure models.

Bare metal cloud offers single-tenant servers on a flexible, pay-per-use model. Because the hardware is not shared with other tenants, it avoids the overheads of a hypervisor and the noisy neighbors effect. It is an on-demand virtual service, which the client can access typically through an online portal or API.

Because customers have access to the whole machine, they can have a lot more control over it and the configuration. The resource is then typically billed on monthly cycles. The bare metal cloud is the perfect example of the market shift from Capital expenditure financial model to Operational expense.

Operational Expense vs Capital Expenditure

Older IT infrastructure business models required the business to buy up the technology assets needed such as servers and equipment, or capital expenditure (CapEx). This meant that the businesses were also stuck with them when they became obsolete.

However, increasingly, businesses have been looking towards Operational expenses (OpEx) models, where a vendor owns and provides the hardware models, and the customers just pay the costs for operating the equipment.

Overall, the trend towards Infrastructure-as-a-service is indicative of the demand for OpEx options. With bare metal cloud, the hosting provider owns the servers and hardware, and the clients simply rents it on an OpEx model. No longer needing to spend money on buying infrastructure assets, OpEx models like bare metal cloud offer the convenience of providing it as a rental, turning infrastructure from a physical asset into a service – or infrastructure-as-a-service

What's the difference between bare metal cloud and IaaS? 

There are three categories of cloud technology: 

Infrastructure-as-a-Service usually refers to virtualized resources, however, those resources are still running on real physical hardware. Instead, IaaS can be thought of as how resources are delivered – in a pay-per-use fashion. Seeing as bare metal cloud is an on-demand service, it is included as a subset of the IaaS bracket.  

Bare metal cloud VS public cloud

When it comes to these two technologies, there is no definitive “better” option. It all depends on the business and their specific needs.  

The pros and cons of each model can greatly shift depending on the amount and length of use. Take price, for example. Virtual cloud servers are generally considered cheaper. But if performance is a priority, then bare metal cloud at short term usages can work out as more cost-effective, because that same processing power would require a lot more virtual servers. Furthermore, full control of a server gives tenants the option to customize.

Or a business may have other specific needs that become the deciding factor. Backup capability is one, for instance, with traditional cloud able to take instant snapshots, while bare metal cloud requires a more lengthy backup process. Similarly with provisioning times. While bare metal cloud only takes around 15 minutes to be up and running, that could be critical for a business that needs the near-instant roll-out of public cloud. 

Another key difference for some businesses is security. The multi-tenant nature of traditional clouds can create security risks that are mitigated when you have a whole bare metal machine to yourself. 

Ultimately, every business needs to consider a multitude of factors when evaluating any infrastructure model. The biggest advantage of bare metal cloud is the level of diversity and choice that it adds to the market, reducing the number of compromises that companies need to make. 

Comparison table of pros and cons between bare metal cloud and public cloud
Main Take-Aways

Bare metal cloud emerged as a solution to the limitations of both traditional servers and public cloud. This new model of IT infrastructure provides high-performance single-tenant machines in a flexible OpEx model. Bare metal cloud is part of IaaS category of computing.