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Who Does and Doesn't Need Bare-Metal Cloud Computing?

With bare-metal cloud computing, customers get almost the same level of access to resources that they would have with an on-premises server.

At first glance, bare-metal cloud computing may sound like an oxymoron. If you need bare-metal infrastructure, why would you pay a cloud provider to deliver it to you? Actually, there are potentially several reasons. Read on for an overview of when it does and doesn't make sense to leverage bare-metal cloud computing services.

What Is Bare-Metal Cloud Computing?

Bare-metal cloud computing is a cloud infrastructure model in which customers have access to bare-metal servers, rather than virtual machines or other software-defined environments.

Most cloud services don't offer bare-metal access. Instead, cloud providers give customers access only to virtual machines, serverless functions, software-defined storage or other types of resources where they can't directly interact with the underlying hardware that hosts their workloads.

With bare-metal cloud computing, customers get almost the same level of access to resources that they would have if the resources were hosted on an on-premises server. 

Which Problems Does Bare-Metal Cloud Solve?

Bare-metal cloud computing solves several problems:

  • Control: With bare metal, businesses get more control over physical infrastructure than they could ever hope to achieve from a VM or other software-defined environment.
  • Performance: Workloads tend to run faster on bare metal than they would when they are running on top of a hypervisor.
  • Support for specialized workloads: Certain types of workloads, such as those that require direct access to video rendering hardware, can run only on bare-metal servers. Bare-metal cloud makes it possible to run these services within the cloud
  • Security: A bare-metal cloud service is more secure than one in which multiple customers run virtualized services that are hosted on the same shared physical server, in the sense that a security problem in someone else's VM can't spill over into yours. That said, it's worth noting that bare-metal cloud servers can introduce their own security issues.

When Should You Use Bare-Metal Cloud Computing?

For the majority of workloads, such as hosting a conventional application or website, bare-metal cloud services aren't necessary. Any performance hit that your workload suffers due to the virtualization layer on which it is hosted can be offset by increasing the virtual hardware resources allocated to the workload. In general, the risk of a security event in someone else's VM spilling over into yours is minimal in modern clouds. And most workloads don't need direct access to physical hardware.

But, in situations where you do require special levels of control, performance or security that you can't meet using traditional cloud infrastructure, bare-metal cloud computing makes sense.

Bare-metal Cloud As an Enabler of Cloud Migration

It's wisest to think of bare-metal cloud computing as an alternative not to other cloud services, but to on-prem data centers. The real value of bare-metal cloud is that it offers a way for businesses to migrate workloads to the cloud when those workloads require special functionality that would otherwise be available only on-prem.

So, if you find yourself saying, "We'd love to move everything to the cloud, but we just can't run [insert mission-critical app name here] in a VM," bare-metal cloud offers a way for you to move fully into the cloud.

When Should You Adopt Bare-Metal Cloud?

If you're already running all of your workloads happily using conventional cloud services, there is likely no need to add bare-metal cloud to the mix. The exception is if you are facing particular performance shortcomings that could be addressed by moving workloads to bare-metal cloud servers.

On the other hand, as noted above, bare-metal cloud is a great solution in cases where you have some workloads lingering on-prem due to dependency on bare-metal servers and you want to get them into the cloud.

How Does Bare Metal Impact Your Cloud Environment?

From a management and administration perspective, there are no real differences between bare-metal cloud services and traditional cloud services. You can deploy and monitor bare-metal cloud instances using the same tools and metrics that you would with any other type of workload.

Note, however, that you'll generally pay more for bare-metal cloud infrastructure, so you can expect your cloud bill to go up.

Learn more

If you're interested in exploring bare-metal cloud services, read up on what vendors like Google have been doing recently on this front. It's also worth checking out ways that companies are trying to deliver "near-bare-metal" services without actually requiring the use of bare-metal servers, which may be a solution for some businesses that need more performance than the conventional cloud can provide.

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