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Aug 18, 2023

What Applications Run Best on Bare Metal Servers?

Paul Painter, Director, Solutions Engineering

Bare metal servers are physical servers that are not virtualized, meaning they don’t have a layer of virtualization software between the hardware and the operating system. This characteristic of being “clean” of overhead makes them suitable for certain types of applications that require high performance, dedicated resources, and low-latency access to hardware.

 

Here are Some Examples of Applications that can Benefit from Bare Metal Servers:

 

 

Database Servers:


Databases, especially those handling high transaction volumes, benefit from the direct access to physical resources. This reduces contention and leads to better database performance.

 

Real-Time Applications:


Applications requiring low-latency responses, such as online gaming servers, financial trading platforms, and real-time communication services, benefit from the reduced overhead.

 

High-Performance Web Applications:


Web applications dealing with large numbers of concurrent users and complex processing take advantage of bare metal servers to ensure consistent performance and responsiveness.

 

Dedicated Hosting:


Applications that require complete control over hardware resources, including specific configurations and hardware optimizations, often opt for bare metal server for hosting.

 

Machine Learning and AI Training:

Training complex machine learning and artificial intelligence models often demands significant computational power and memory. Bare metal servers provide the required resources without the overhead introduced by virtualization.

 

High-Performance Computing (HPC):


Applications in scientific research, simulations, financial modeling, and engineering often require massive computational power. Bare metal servers provide dedicated resources and minimize virtualization overhead, resulting in better performance for these compute-intensive workloads.

 

Big Data and Analytics:


Data processing, analytics, and data warehousing tasks often involve large-scale data manipulation and processing. Improved performance and lower latency, which can be crucial for time-sensitive data analysis.

 

 


Certain applications have an absolute need for “clean” access to the underlying hardware, and for performance that comes from dedicated resources. The HorizonIQ Team will partner with you to discuss your specific requirements and how we can help your business achieve even more.

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Paul Painter

Director, Solutions Engineering

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Aug 1, 2019

Bare Metal Cloud: Key Advantages and Critical Use Cases to Gain a Competitive Edge

Layachi Khodja, Solutions Engineer

Cloud environments today are part of the IT infrastructure of most enterprises due to all the benefits they provide, including flexibility, scalability, ease of use and pay-as-you-go consumption and billing.

But not all cloud infrastructure is the same.

In this multicloud world, finding the right fit between a workload and a cloud provider becomes a new challenge. Application components, such as web-based content serving platforms, real-time analytics engines, machine learning clusters and Real-Time Bidding (RTB) engines integrating dozens of partners, all require different features and may call for different providers. Enterprises are looking at application components and IT initiatives on a project by project basis, seeking the right cloud provider for each use case. Easy cloud-to-cloud interconnectivity allows scalable applications to be distributed over infrastructure from multiple providers.

What is Bare Metal Cloud?

Bare Metal cloud is a deployment model that provides unique and valuable advantages, especially compared to the popular virtualized/VM cloud models that are common with hyperscale providers. Let’s explore the benefits of the bare metal cloud model and highlight some use cases where it offers a distinctive edge.

Advantages of the Bare Metal Cloud Model

Both bare metal cloud and the VM-based hyperscale cloud model provide flexibility and scalability. They both allow for DevOps driven provisioning and the infrastructure-as-code approach. They both help with demand-based capacity management and a pay-as-you-go budget allocation.

But bare metal cloud has unique advantages:

Customizability
Whether you need NVMe storage for high IOPS, a specific GPU model, or a unique RAM-to-CPU ratio or RAID level, bare metal cloud is highly customizable. Your physical server can be built to the unique specifications required by your application.

Dedicated Resources
Bare Metal cloud enables high-performance computing, as no virtualization is used and there is no hypervisor overhead. All the compute cycles and resources are dedicated to the application.

Tuned for Performance
Bare metal hardware can be tuned for performance and features, be it disabling hyperthreading in the CPU or changing BIOS and IPMI configurations. In the 2018 report, Price-Performance Analysis: Bare Metal vs. Cloud Hosting, HorizonIQ Bare Metal was tested against IBM and Amazon AWS cloud offerings. In Hadoop cluster performance testing, HorizonIQ’s cluster completed the workload 6% faster than IBM Cloud’s Bare Metal cluster and 6% faster than AWS’s EC2 offering, and 3% faster than AWS’s EMR offering.

Additional Security on Dedicated Machine Instances
With a bare metal server, security measures, like full end-to-end encryption or Intel’s Trusted Execution and Open Attestation, can be easily integrated.

Full Hardware Control
Bare metal servers allow full control of the hardware environment. This is especially important when integrating SAN storage, specific firewalls and other unique appliances required by your applications.

Cost Predictability
Bare metal server instances are generally bundled with bandwidth. This eliminates the need to worry about bandwidth cost overages, which tend to cause significant variations in cloud consumption costs and are a major concern for many organizations. For example, the Price Performance Analysis report concluded that HorizonIQ’s Bare Metal machine configuration was 32 percent less expensive than the same configuration running on IBM Cloud. The report can be found for download here.

Efficient Compute Resources
Bare metal cloud offers more cost-effective compute resources when compared to the VM-based model for similar compute capacity in terms of cores, memory and storage.

Bare Metal Cloud Workload Application Use Cases

Given these benefits, a bare metal cloud provides a competitive advantage for many applications. Feedback from customers indicates it is critical for some use cases. Here is a long—but not exhaustive—list of use cases:

  • High-performance computing, where any overhead should be avoided, and hardware components are selected and tuned for maximum performance: e.g., computing clusters for silicon chip design.
  • AdTech and Fintech applications, especially where Real-Time Bidding (RTB) is involved and speedy access to user profiles and assets data is required.
  • Real-time analytics/recommendation engine clusters where specific hardware and storage is needed to support the real-time nature of the workloads.
  • Gaming applications where performance is needed either for raw compute or 3-D rendering. Hardware is commonly tuned for such applications.
  • Workloads where database access time is essential. In such cases, special hardware components are used, or high performance NVMe-based SAN arrays are integrated.
  • Security-oriented applications that leverage unique Intel/AMD CPU features: end-to-end encryption including memory, trust execution environments, etc.
  • Applications with high outbound bandwidth usage, especially collaboration applications based on real-time communications and webRTC platforms.
  • Cases where a dedicated compute environment is needed either by policy, due to business requirements or for compliance.
  • Most applications where compute resource usage is steady and continuous, the application is not dependent on PaaS services, the hardware footprint size is considerable, and cost is a limiting concern.

Is Bare Metal Cloud Your Best Fit?

Bare Metal cloud provides many benefits when compared to virtualization-based cloud offerings.

Bare Metal allows for high performance computing with highly customizable hardware resources that can be tuned up for maximum performance. It offers a dedicated compute environment with more control on the resources and more security in a cost-effective way.

Bare metal cloud can be an attractive solution to consider for your next workload or application and it is a choice validated and proven by some of the largest enterprises with mission-critical applications.

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Layachi Khodja

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Feb 7, 2018

5 Reasons Your Website is Loading So Slowly

INAP

What’s Wrong with My Site?

One of the most frustrating internet experiences is a website failing to load promptly. The only thing worse is when that slow website is your own.

Kissmetrics reports that 40 percent of users will abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. In addition, nearly half (47 percent) of users expect a web page to load in two seconds or less.

When your site is loading slowly, it’s important to diagnose the right issue. You wouldn’t take random medicine without visiting the doctor in the hopes of getting better. Similarly, you’ll want to narrow down the exact issue affecting your site.

There are a variety of different issues that could be causing your site to load slowly. Here are five common reasons you may be experiencing a slowdown.

1. Unoptimized Images

The first common reason for a slow-loading website is unoptimized images. Every image or file on a website needs to be loaded bit by bit. When images are unnecessarily large, they can be a significant drain on your load speed.

Luckily, the solution for unoptimized images is fast and easily managed. This is especially true for what is referred to as lossless images. These are images that can be shrunk down without any perceived loss of picture quality. Bringing your image file sizes down can boost your site speed and performance.

2. Too Many Plugins

Our second offender for slowness can come from too many plugins or addons that you may use in the backend to build your page. Many sites rely on plugins to improve their functionality. Plugins have their place and can bring necessary features to your site. However, using them excessively can slow down your load times and create a poor experience for your users.

If you suspect your plugins are slowing down your site, remove anything non-essential. Curating your site of unnecessary plugins and addons can bring increased speed and performance. Remember, even the most functional site will be ignored if users can’t load it in time!

3. Code Density

Another issue that could be slowing down your site is overly complicated or dense code. If the underlying developmental infrastructure of your site is dense, the harder it is for browsers to process and load. Thus, the heavier your code, the longer it will take for your users to load.

The solution to dense code may involve a little more expertise but is still manageable. Reducing the HTML markup of your site can bring major improvements and can be accomplished by using HTML tags sparingly and only when necessary.

A few simple fixes include removing HTML comments in scripts and any CDATA blocks in script elements. Another suggestion is to remove or collapse any white space within the code.

4. Shared Servers

If you’re on a shared server, your performance may be impacted by other users on your server. No matter how fast the rest of your site is, being in a queue with other users might drag down your speed.

Solving a server issue is simple and straightforward. If you’re on a shared server, you’ll experience immediate improvements in performance by moving to a dedicated server, which means you’re the only user running off that space (Shameless plug: HorizonIQ offers managed services and bare metal solutions on dedicated servers).

Finding the right service for your needs might take some research on your part, but will bring immediate results in terms of performance and speed.

5. High Traffic

Hold the phone.

Don’t websites want to receive high traffic?

The short answer is “Yes,” but sometimes overwhelming site visits can be too much of a good thing. In this instance, the traffic might be more than your server can handle, causing your site to crash.

When this happens, you may need to look at increasing your bandwidth and improving your underlying infrastructure. If it’s simply a case of outgrowing your previous site build up, you’re going to need to move to a hosting service better suited to the number of visitors that you’re receiving.

A Quick Fix for Your Slow Site

A slow site will drain your users and reduce subscribers. Luckily, a few quick fixes can go a long way towards getting you back up to speed.

HorizonIQ’s data center services can help address the infrastructure problems you might be suffering from crowded servers or bandwidth issues. Our unique solutions allow you the flexibility and scalability to keep your website running at top speed, giving your end users an optimal online experience.

Contact us today to speak with an HorizonIQ representative about how we can help your website move as fast as your business.

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Jun 30, 2014

The few, the proud, the bare metal

Ansley Kilgore

The few, the proud, the bare metalExtra! Extra! Bare-metal cloud is bridging the gap between virtualized IaaS cloud services and dedicated physical servers.

But don’t take our word for it.

Recently, our bare-metal cloud has received lots of attention in the news. Here are a few articles and reports that support our belief in the future of bare-metal cloud.

Scale and performance: The case for bare-metal in the cloud

Scalability, cost and operational efficiency are still driving companies toward the cloud, but the inherent multitenancy of cloud environments creates performance problems as workload volume increases. Arthur Cole of IT Business Edge says Internap’s Cloud Landscape Report survey clearly articulates the problem as “overhead in multi-tenant environments tends to rise to unacceptable levels as volumes rise, which makes the cloud a fickle partner at best when it comes to Big Data analytics and other key initiatives.”

Who would have thought it? Report talks up bare-metal cloud

Forbes contributor Ben Kepes has changed his tune a bit about bare-metal cloud. He initially dismissed the offering and said Internap was simply giving customers a “faster horse,” to borrow the quote from Henry Ford. Ben’s more recent article concedes that bare metal is a viable option for certain real-world use cases. The offering has many of the same features as a standard cloud solution, but without the overhead of virtualization, which many buyers still equate with cloud.

Frost & Sullivan recognizes Internap for bare-metal leadership

A recent Frost & Sullivan report on bare-metal clouds by Lynda Stadtmueller focuses on Internap as one of only two leading providers of the solution. The report is a great introduction to bare-metal cloud, and discusses the pros and cons of virtualization along with the increasing demand for bare metal as a “scalable, cost-efficient way to run high-performance workloads.” The price performance benefits of bare-metal cloud help big data apps achieve better performance and cost-at-scale.

Frost & Sullivan also honored Internap with the 2014 North American Cloud Services: Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award for best practices in the cloud services market. We appreciate the recognition, and are proud to be one of the few providers to offer this non-virtualized cloud solution.

For the performance and security sensitive user, the bare-metal cloud may be the solution

In the ZDNet blog, technology veteran David Chernicoff points out that performance and security concerns are still the main obstacles to cloud adoption, but bare-metal offerings may be able to address these pain points. Having a dedicated server that is not virtualized provides a higher degree of security than a multi-tenant environment.

Internap recognized for its bare-metal cloud leadership

The demand for big data solutions has increased as more organizations turn to consumer and market analytics for strategic insights. New applications are capable of turning vast amounts of data into meaningful information, but in order for these solutions to run effectively, they require more processing power than traditional public cloud offerings can provide. Bare-metal cloud helps bridge the gap between virtual and physical environments by offering the performance of a physical server with the flexibility and control of the cloud.

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Apr 22, 2014

Customer spotlight: AppLovin powers personalized recommendations with bare-metal cloud

Ansley Kilgore

Applovin_Logo_300x150As a fast growing mobile advertising platform, AppLovin processes more than 7 billion ad requests and moves 10 terabytes of data through their system every day. Their solution enables brands to provide highly personalized recommendations, offers and promotions to mobile consumers. By combining known shopping behavior with data insights from customers’ interactions across multiple screens – smartphone, tablet and computer – AppLovin delivers accurate and effective ad targeting and retargeting.

For Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) like AppLovin, timing is everything. With a direct correlation between speed of ad delivery and conversion rate, ads must be served quickly – within 100 milliseconds of the initial request – to reach the target demographic. As an example, if a mobile user is looking at travel deals via a smartphone app, the AppLovin solution can instantly retarget based on past consumer behavior. This dynamic, targeted approach increases the likelihood that a consumer will find what they’re looking for and make a purchase. Analyzing high volumes of data and making smart decisions within a short timeframe requires a reliable, high-performance Internet infrastructure with geographic diversity and scalability.

To accommodate their growing business, AppLovin needed the flexibility to expand into global locations without sacrificing performance. They looked to replace their virtual cloud environment with bare-metal cloud in order to achieve this. MoPub, an ad exchange company and Internap customer, suggested that AppLovin evaluate Internap solutions, and AppLovin now uses Internap Agile services in Santa Clara, New York and Amsterdam.

Geographic diversity
With long-term plans for worldwide scale, AppLovin can expand into Internap’s global locations as their business grows. The ability to establish an infrastructure that is physically closer to customers, partners and RTB (Real Time Bidding) exchanges reduces latency and helps AppLovin respond to and process ad requests within 100ms. Learn more about the dynamics of ad exchanges with DSPs and SSPs here.

Price performance
After running tests in their own environment, AppLovin found that their ad serving front-end application could handle at least 3x more traffic and accommodate increased memory capacity by using Internap bare-metal servers, compared with their previous virtualized cloud environment. Using fewer servers with less resource sharing resulted in reduced volatility and better performance across all tiers of their infrastructure.

Reliability and service relationship
In addition to the global data center locations and high performance bare-metal servers, Internap provides AppLovin with 24/7 global support. Proactive communication and responsiveness are essential to AppLovin, even more so than a SLA or uptime guarantee. While many large-scale public cloud providers have support and customization limitations, Internap’s knowledgeable support team makes sure AppLovin has the hardware and equipment that best fits their needs.

The combination of Internap bare-metal servers, global presence and reliable 24/7 support enable AppLovin to deliver measurable results to their customers. With the right infrastructure in place, AppLovin is well-positioned to scale their business in the future and operate with low latency and better performance.

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Mar 28, 2014

GDC 2014: Trends in the online gaming industry

INAP

online gaming industryInternap was back at GDC last week, and this time we had both a session (with our own Adam Weissmuller and Todd Harris from Hi-Rez Studios) and a booth at the show floor. It was very exciting to interact and learn from the gaming community and listen to their needs and wants, so we can make it easier for their games to launch and flourish. It was also a great opportunity to try out the latest tech, like the VR Headsets from PS4 and Oculus Rift, recently purchased by Facebook.

Here are some of the highlights from our GDC experience:

The morality of F2P
Free-to-play games continue to grow in number, and the way players are monetized has come under scrutiny due to what many players feel are unfair practices. During the conference, much of the F2P talk was focused on shifting people’s perception of the model by assessing whether it hinders gameplay, and the idea of using positive rewards (a.k.a. purchases as a reward) rather than negative ones, where players have to pay when they fail or to try again. But how much is too much? And how can developers still benefit from a F2P system while still keeping their players happy and engaged? The answer seems to lie in creating games that allow players to spend more time in the game without highlighting the monetization aspect of it.

How Is game publishing changing?
Publishing has undergone constant change from the days of the old big publishing houses, and that continues to be true now that developers have a wider array of options that allow them to distribute their games. Some publishers have become developers and vice-versa while most small developers have turned to app stores to find the right audience. Although none of this is breaking news, what is noteworthy in the publishing scene is that regardless of popular perception, app stores remain a small yet growing publishing segment, and there is increased consolidation in the market with companies like Tencent leading the charge (they currently own Riot and Epic games among others).

Games in the cloud
Using the cloud to develop and deploy games has been an ongoing trend for several years, and as expected, VMs have continued to become faster and more efficient in order to meet increasing demands. Currently, some cloud and hosting providers are offering specialized cloud instances whose specs may cater more strongly to game developers, while other developers are turning towards bare-metal cloud to find the performance they seek. Additionally, platforms like Unity are entering the cloud space to help developers monetize and market their games while others like Microsoft, and their newly unveiled DirectX 12, are introducing APIs to improve CPU and GPU usage.

With all the developments happening in the world of gaming, GDC was a great opportunity to interact with the gaming community and keep up to date on the latest trends.

Check out our presentation from GDC with Hi-Rez Studios, Building a Scalable Infrastructure Platform for SMITE, Global Agenda and Tribes: Ascend.

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Jan 30, 2014

Survey reveals demand for high-performance cloud solutions

Ansley Kilgore

Cloud Survey Infographic_350x236

It’s no secret that public cloud solutions can’t always provide the level of performance required by real-time, data-intensive applications. A recent survey of Internet infrastructure decision makers highlighted the growing demand for high-performance, non-virtualized cloud solutions, such as bare-metal cloud.

Price Performance
The survey revealed that organizations commonly evaluate public cloud providers based on price and performance, yet these two factors remain top challenges even after cloud adoption. As more servers are added to accommodate business growth and scale, the price performance ratio becomes less favorable, resulting in higher volatility and inconsistent throughput. Dedicated bare-metal servers provide an alternative to virtualized public cloud, and can help establish a high-performance cloud environment using fewer servers than would be required in a virtual cloud environment.

The virtualization myth
The survey also highlights the widespread misperception that virtualization is a defining characteristic of public cloud. Organizations hosting big data applications in the cloud are showing interest in non-virtualized IaaS alternatives, such as bare-metal public cloud, which offers dedicated resources and eliminates problems with “noisy neighbors”.

For full survey results, download the report here.

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Jan 16, 2014

Distil Networks expands service offerings with consolidated infrastructure from Internap

Ansley Kilgore

Distil NetworksThe number of malicious bots trolling the Internet is increasing every year, wreaking havoc on defenseless websites and slowing down online applications. To stop this madness, Distil Networks has developed technology to help enterprises block automated non-human visitors, providing protection from content theft, data mining, web scraping and fraud. Founded in 2011, Distil Networks boasts a 99.9% effectiveness rate along with a quick setup process, and most recently, a new private cloud deployment offering for customers that prefer an on-premise solution.

To ensure reliable, high quality protection for their customers’ websites, Distil Networks has established an effective IT infrastructure foundation which includes Internap’s bare-metal cloud and managed hosting services.

Prior to transitioning their services to Internap, Distil Networks provisioned cloud servers from multiple providers – including Internap – to spin up compute power as needed, load software and manage it in different locations. But as their business grew, Distil Networks required a more automated deployment process, which led them to integrate each provider’s API into the Distil Networks infrastructure. But the unique rules of so many individual providers actually complicated matters, and Distil Networks struggled to create an automated, uniform deployment process. As a result, deployments took longer, the likelihood of mistakes increased and extra development time was often needed.

No more ‘scattered deployments’
Distil Networks required an IT infrastructure that could provide the necessary integration to streamline deployments, along with the scalability to meet growing demands for their solution.

Of the many providers that Distil Networks used at the time, only one was able to meet their requirements. Internap had facilities in the right locations, along with IP and colocation services that gave Distil Networks the ability to integrate, even in colos. Initially, Distil Networks only utilized Internap’s bare-metal cloud in New York, but they soon transitioned services from their other providers to Internap. Today, Distil Networks uses Internap’s bare-metal cloud in five locations around the globe, plus Internap managed hosting service in London, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Enhanced performance
Distil Networks was concerned that transitioning to one provider would have an impact on network performance, but Internap exceeded their expectations. According to Rami Essaid, Co-Founder & CEO of Distil Networks, “We ended up doing performance tests, and Internap came out really strong, beating out the performance of our existing infrastructure. It wasn’t just a check mark; it became something to convince us even further that we should move.”

Automated deployment
Through Internap’s integrated services, Distil Networks successfully established a uniform deployment process. No longer did they have to work around the restrictions of many different providers, and as a result, new customer deployments now take place quickly and efficiently.

Improved customer experience
In addition to a speedy deployment, Distil Networks customers benefit from faster network connectivity and better redundancy thanks to the speed of Internap’s Performance IPTM service. Customers receive even better protection and security from Distil Networks technology due to performance gains.

Expanded service portfolio
As a result of consolidating their services with Internap, Distil Networks was able to spend more time innovating instead of troubleshooting. Their latest initiative is a new private cloud deployment option that gives customers the ability to install the Distil Networks software on-premise. Customers no longer need to route through the Distil Networks infrastructure; the software can be deployed on the customers’ own servers or in the data center of their choosing.

For Distil Networks, improving their performance and operational efficiencies didn’t require an overhaul of their architecture. Distil Networks has successfully transitioned from a scattered deployment to an automated, integrated process by using Internap solutions. As a result of consolidating their services under one provider, Distil Networks can focus on scaling out their business and creating new product offerings with the IT infrastructure foundation provided by Internap.

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Dec 3, 2013

The performance gap between bare metal and virtual clouds

Ansley Kilgore

Cloud_spectator_300x150Cloud Spectator, an international cloud analyst group, produces research reports that focus on infrastructure pricing and server performance to help businesses make informed purchase decisions. Their latest report includes test results comparing Internap’s bare-metal cloud with virtual offerings from Amazon and Rackspace. The results? Bare-metal servers outperformed comparable virtualized servers by a significant margin in most tests.

To be honest, we at Internap expected bare-metal cloud to deliver better results than its virtualized counterparts. While a single-tenant environment will generally provide more processing power than a comparable multi-tenant environment, we were astounded at how much better the bare-metal servers performed. The Cloud Spectator report highlights this performance gap, and we hope IT decision makers find these tests helpful when evaluating cloud solutions.

Bare metal vs virtualization

Unlike virtual servers, bare-metal servers don’t have a hypervisor, making the entire physical server dedicated to a single tenant. Like virtual IaaS cloud instances, bare-metal servers can be self-provisioned via an API or portal, giving users the ability to scale up or down as needed. Bare metal applies the flexibility and agility of the cloud to physical servers.

So what does this tell us? Organizations that rely on virtualized cloud environments now have the option to use dedicated servers in the same way that they currently use an IaaS cloud server. For data-intensive applications that require direct access to physical hardware, bare-metal cloud offers the ability to better manage your workload. Based on scenarios from our customers, moving from a virtualized cloud environment to bare metal can increase performance and make costs more predictable.

Price matters

All businesses, large or small, have to justify their purchase decisions. Bare-metal servers allow you to spend less money and get better performance. Even if your workload doesn’t need superior performance, bare metal can reduce your overall server count and give you better control over server usage, which translates to reduced costs. For IT decision makers who need to get the most bang for their buck, bare-metal cloud is a great option.

Download the Cloud Spectator report to see how bare-metal cloud stacks up against virtualized cloud environments.

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Oct 25, 2013

Getting existential on your IaaS

INAP

Getting existential on your IaaSIt’s hard to believe that there are such widespread misconceptions about what constitutes a “cloud” in the IaaS space.

This is evidenced by cloud blogger Ben Kepes’ article yesterday, “Server Huggers and Henry T Ford’s Faster Horse,” which took pretty aggressive aim at bare-metal clouds, and more specifically, our Cloud Spectator report that showed the performance-price benefits of bare-metal vs. virtual cloud. The reality is that IaaS is evolving, and it isn’t always tied to virtualization, although it seems difficult for some to leave this notion behind.

I’m actually surprised that Ben suffers from this misconception since I’ve enjoyed many of his previous articles on OpenStack and open source, but in this case, I think he’s just plain wrong. As many still do, Ben equates cloud to virtualization and goes on to cite two important cloud influencers that we both mutually respect – Dave Nielsen and Joe Weinman – on the attributes that make up “cloud”. Here they are (combined and consolidated):

  • On-demand
  • Self-service
  • Scalable
  • Measurable
  • Common
  • Location-independent
  • Online
  • Utility

I totally agree with these characteristics, and I’ll even add another requirement of my own – programmable. It’s not enough to simply provide a self-service portal to create a true infrastructure “cloud”; functionality has to be completely exposed and programmable over an API.

I also absolutely agree with Ben that cloud is more about changing business models than it is about changing technologies. Indeed, in the infrastructure world, how IT is consumed is undergoing a fundamental shift. With “cloud”, you don’t have to spend the capex or plan for the worst case. Instead, you can pay for what you need, when you need it. And, it’s all commoditizing rapidly.

So, back to the virtualization topic. I’ll agree that virtualization is an enabler of a lot of clouds, but it’s definitely not a requirement. It’s interesting that “virtualized” isn’t on either Nielsen’s or Weinman’s list. Nor is it in the NIST definition.

What if we could get all of the things on our mutually-agreed-upon list for “cloud” but without virtualization? We can.

Our bare-metal cloud is just commodity compute. Each server has CPU, RAM, and disk(s). It’s provisioned over an API (or a portal). You can install pretty much any flavor of Linux and Windows. It’s available to you within a few minutes (generally about 5-10). It’s very elastic and is billed on an hourly basis – you can spin them up and throw them away when you’re done.

Only, with our bare-metal cloud, there is no hypervisor. The server nodes aren’t sliced and diced by the likes of KVM and Xen. Instead, each node is dedicated to you. All of the disk’s blinking lights are yours. There’s no noisy neighbor problem or co-tenancy issue and no virtualization overhead.

I think it’s also worth pointing out the confusion and overlapping usage around “bare metal” terminology in the industry. A true bare-metal cloud delivers on the agility (and the shift in business models) that the cloud brings. Many providers are cloud-washing dedicated hosting, which is often sold on a term contract and offers zero automation or elasticity. That’s not what is happening here.

We think bare-metal cloud has a lot of interesting implications, and we’re not alone. Before Voxel was bought by Internap, it was one of the first companies to make dedicated, bare-metal servers available over an API in 2009. Soon after, many of our competitors (including Softlayer, recently bought by IBM) did the same thing.

As I mentioned above, we also understand the value of and offer a fully-virtualized cloud. There’s no doubt that the hypervisor gives you interesting options, and it’s a big enabler. We leave the choice with our customers as to whether they want their instances to be virtualized or not. They can make that decision on a per instance basis, depending on the best match for their specific application and workload. And, they can use the same API, IP addresses and images regardless of whether the server is virtualized or not. A lot of them choose to deploy a beefy bare-metal server (loaded to the gills with SSDs) for high-end databases. Do they suddenly turn into “server huggers” if they do?

But don’t just take my word for it. OpenStack has a top-level project that’s focused on bare-metal cloud. The reason? Because for some workloads, it makes more sense. A lot more sense.

Admittedly, it’s early days in OpenStack land and the project is just getting rolling. Even in the latest stable release of OpenStack (Havannah), they use the term “hard hat required” with regard to bare-metal functionality. Nonetheless, we are actively working on launching the next version of our bare-metal cloud platform that will be largely OpenStack under the hood. We think it’s one of the most interesting and fast-moving projects in the infrastructure cloud space. We’re adding a lot of our own value on top of OpenStack, including expertise and technology around bare-metal cloud garnered over the last 4 years.

How am I going to break the bad news to our engineering team and all of the bare-metal OpenStack developers in the industry that we are all “server huggers”? Creating so-called “cloud” server instances that aren’t virtualized? Blasphemy!

At the end of the day, I’ll put an Internap bare-metal cloud server up against the equivalent price-point Amazon instance any time.

It’s not a religious argument – it’s all about the right tool for the job. This is the reason for our broad approach to hybrid IT infrastructure.

Ben’s article was well-written and provocative, I’ll give him that. Maybe he should consider trying his hand at fiction instead.

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