Cloud computing has nearly taken over as the dominant IT strategy for many organizations. Given the tremendous flexibility offered by cloud providers, it’s hardly surprising that company after company has made the decision to migrate their data and applications into the cloud. However, just because these services offer several benefits doesn’t mean that they’re the best choice for every organization or application. Bare metal servers provide a compelling alternative for deployments looking to replicate the advantages of on-premises equipment in a cost-effective colocation environment.
What Is a Bare Metal Server?
While the term “bare metal server” might sound like a lone, unadorned server strapped into an exposed rack with a tangle of cables tumbling out from the back, this image isn’t all that far removed from reality. That’s because a bare metal server is largely defined by its somewhat solitary nature. Although a cabinet could contain several of them, they are noteworthy for being a single machine with 100 percent of its computing resources dedicated to a single tenant. That lone tenant installs any operating system and applications they see fit on the machine and then configure it to meet their unique business needs.
This description will likely sound quite similar to how just about every server operating in an on-premise data solution works. That’s because physical, private servers organizations deploy in-house as part of their IT stack are technically considered bare metal servers. In practice, however, the phrase is reserved for colocated servers that are rented out to tenants for use. A good shorthand definition of a bare metal server, then, might be “one server, one tenant” because only one organization uses it to store data and run applications with that machine’s processing resources. Even though the server might be in a cabinet with servers being for other purposes, no other data center customer has access to it.
Bare Metal Servers vs Virtual Machines
For many years, physical servers were the only option available to organizations regardless of where they intended to deploy them. Renting a bare metal server in a colocation data center wasn’t much different in practical terms than migrating private servers into the same facility or keeping them on-premises. Each server had its own operating system and lacked any means of parceling out its processing resources to separate users.
All of that changed with the development of virtual machines (VMs) through virtualization, which helped to fuel the cloud computing revolution. A VM is created by a hypervisor program that divides the server’s processing resources into compartmentalized segments that can all draw upon the same pool of resources. Each unit functions much like an independent server with its own operating system, applications, and networking configurations.
Since it had to divide its processing resources, a server couldn’t provide high-level performance to all of its VMs at the same time. However, cloud computing providers expanded the basic concept by networking several servers together in order to create a massive pool of computing power and then deploying hypervisors to partition those resources into VMs that could draw upon theoretically limitless processing and storage capacity.
Organizations that choose to deploy applications on VMs have the ability to rapidly scale their IT capacity as they grow and can hand the toil of maintaining physical infrastructure off to their cloud provider. This flexibility provides a number of benefits to growing companies that may have difficulty projecting what their IT needs will be a few years down the line. However, it isn’t always the best choice for every situation.
5 Benefits of a Bare Metal Server
Bare metal servers offer a number of unique advantages over VMs and cloud computing solutions in general. For organizations with very specific IT requirements, they are often an ideal choice that provides outstanding flexibility without locking spending into a vendor-specific solution.
One of the fundamental concerns some companies have with VMs is the fact that multiple clients are hosting their data and applications on the same machine (or group of connected machines). In the event of a data breach, it would theoretically be possible for a cybercriminal to move laterally between VMs and access data stored within the broader cloud environment. Although this situation is highly unlikely due to the extensive security controls in place, the mere possibility of such an occurrence is far too great a risk for many organizations to tolerate. Since only one client stores data and runs applications on a bare metal server, they provide much greater reassurance to companies needing to isolate their applications and maintain associated compliance requirements.
2. Performance & Flexibility
Virtual machines might be able to draw upon distributed cloud computing resources, but they can rarely compete with the raw power of a bare metal server drawing directly upon its own processing capabilities. Since applications running on these servers don’t have to compete for resources, they’re frequently able to run faster and more efficiently. Organizations also have better flexibility with bare metal servers by being able to fully customize CPU, RAM and Storage to meet their specific requirements versus the limitation of choice with pre-defined VM’s. These custom configurations with bare metal translates into better performance and responsivness for applications. Provisioning multiple bare metal servers in a colocation data center is often the best way to provide data heavy, customer-facing systems with the power they need to meet demand.
Just because a bare metal server is a piece of physical hardware doesn’t mean it can’t take advantage of the power of cloud computing services. Thanks to hybrid and multi-cloud deployments, colocation customers can store their sensitive data and mission critical applications on bare metal servers while connecting to the expansive resources of the world’s leading cloud platforms. Whether they’re linked through direct cross-connections or through a software-defined network service, bare metal servers can form the essential hub of a broader hybrid network that combines the best of physical and virtual computing capabilities.
While it may seem counterintuitive to identify cost savings of physical equipment compared to cloud-based infrastructure, it’s important to remember that IaaS bare metal servers are also a form of operational expense rather than a capital one. Rather than purchasing and maintaining the servers in an on-premises environment, organizations are instead renting them and handing the day-to-day management of the machines and their associated infrastructure off to a colocation provider. This allows them to invest valuable technology resources in developing innovative new solutions and products rather than dedicating resources to the toil of asset management.
Although the leading cloud providers talk a good game about system uptime, they frequently fall short of those lofty ambitions (as evidenced by the major AWS outage in December 2021). Given the complexity of cloud services, their uptime reliability rarely exceeds 99.9 percent, which might sound impressive, but still translates into nearly an hour of downtime every month and almost nine hours of downtime per year. Colocation data centers hosting bare metal servers, on the other hand, frequently have the redundancies in place to deliver much higher uptime SLAs. This ensures data and applications will always be available even in the event of an unexpected disaster.
Unlock Your IT Potential with Evoque Data Centers
Whether you're looking to provision dedicated bare metal servers or migrate your existing IT assets into a more efficient and versatile colocation infrastructure, Evoque’s network of data centers provide all the flexibility your organization needs to thrive in a rapidly evolving market. With more than two dozen facilities offering outstanding uptime, security, and connectivity around the world, our data center and cloud consulting solutions have helped hundreds of customers transition to an application-first Multi-Generational Infrastructure Strategy.
To learn more about how Evoque Data Center Solutions can help you maximize the potential of your digital transformation strategy, talk to one of our solutions experts today.