What Is a Bare Metal Cloud? And When to Use One

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    We’re hearing a lot about the “bare-metal cloud” these days. The idea is that you can have cloud services not on a virtualized infrastructure but running directly on local infrastructure or leased hardware in a remote data center.

    Naturally, this has a lot of people puzzled as to the difference between a bare-metal cloud, a hosted private cloud, and a standard colocation agreement that just happens to be used for dedicated cloud services. And the truth is, there isn’t really much difference at all, save for various vendors’ ability to differentiate on price, flexibility, scale and integration support.

    Some of the latest examples of bare-metal clouds target long-term infrastructure needs like VDI and backup and recovery. Hive-IO’s new software-defined compute solution, for example, provides IaaS support on bare-metal infrastructure, which the company says eliminates vendor-layer complexity and reduces hardware consumption by 30 percent. Hive-IO can be deployed on-premises or in a hosted environment, enabling lightweight infrastructure support for virtual desktops without the usual agents, service line-ups and physical footprints that hamper many VDI deployments. The platform also provides local and/or remote management.

    Internap is also out with an OpenStack-based bare-metal IaaS solution. The AgileServer 2.0 platform offers single, dual and quad socket Intel processors and up to 1 TB of RAM to support a wide range of mission-critical, performance-heavy workloads. The system offers seamless hybridization with the company’s OpenStack-based AgileCloud virtual instances to take advantage of advanced functions like federated identity management, auto-scaling and image transfer to other bare-metal or virtualized environments on colo, managed hosting or on-premises deployments.

    Many platform and cloud providers are also turning to containers in support of bare-metal deployments. Rackspace’s new Carina offering matches bare-metal performance with native container management and orchestration, offering the enterprise a streamlined solution that supports application portability across test/dev and production environments without the complex overhead of a traditional virtualization-based cloud. The company is looking to tie its container offerings with its support for OpenStack to enable highly scalable, multi-cloud application infrastructure.

    But if containers provide bare-metal application support that is both cheaper and less complex than a traditional cloud, what does this say about the future of virtualization in general? While it is unlikely that the trusty virtual machine will go the way of the dinosaur, says InterWorx’ Graeme Caldwell, key applications like web hosting will no doubt benefit from the rapid response and low resource utilization that containerized bare-metal environments provide. That being said, environments that experience a high degree of workload fluctuation would probably be best served by virtual infrastructure given the ease in which virtual machines can be deployed and then decommissioned in response to user demand.

    A bare-metal cloud, then, is not the future of IT infrastructure but more a branch off of the main evolutionary path from physical to virtual and advanced distributed architectures. It isn’t right for all occasions, but it shines when both performance and predictable scale are needed within a tight budget.

    With data requirements and user expectations growing more diverse by the moment, it only helps to have yet another option in the cloud toolkit ready to go.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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