These days, most businesses, whatever their size, need and want to be in the cloud. The key point, therefore, is to figure out what cloud implementation is right for them. This often includes deciding between bare metal vs virtual machines (VM). Alternatively, it can mean working out the right combination of the two. If you’re considering this issue, here’s what you need to know.
The original meaning of bare metal was a computer that didn’t have any software on it. Bare metal computers sometimes had firmware (e.g. a BIOS). Often, however, they were literally bare metal (and plastic). In the context of the cloud, however, the term bare metal typically refers to a type of cloud-server set-up.
A bare metal server is a server that is run by a cloud service provider (CSP) but used exclusively by one client (tenant). This arrangement is often known as private infrastructure as a service (IaaS). It is not a true private cloud because the infrastructure is owned by the CSP, not the client. It does, however, perform the same function as one.
Bare metal servers are typically dedicated to a specific purpose. They can be used to host virtual machines. This is, however, fairly unusual.
Virtual machines are essentially simulations of computers running a particular operating system and hardware configuration. They sit on top of a genuine machine and use its hardware.
A software application called a hypervisor sits between the hardware and the virtual machines. It essentially ensures that the hardware behaves the way the virtual machine expects.
Public cloud services essentially allow businesses (and individuals) to create virtual machines on third-party hardware. Businesses can also create virtual machines on their own in-house infrastructure.
There are many reasons why they might choose to do this. One of the most common ones is for testing. Running different virtual machines allows businesses to conduct multiple tests simultaneously without compromising their independence.
The decision between bare metal vs VM essentially boils down to a choice between using private IaaS and using the public cloud. If you’re deciding between bare metal vs VM (or looking at combining them), here are the key points you need to consider.
Set-up is one of the biggest differences between bare metal vs VM. With bare metal, you need to negotiate a contract with a CSP. If you’ve done your groundwork (setting out your needs, wants, and budget), this process should be relatively short. It is, however, inevitably going to take longer than getting started in the public cloud.
Both bare metal and virtual machines are variations of IaaS. This means that it’s highly unusual for either to have set-up fees. With bare metal, you will typically agree on a level of service for an agreed price and payment terms. With virtual machines, you can enter into a contract with the CSP or pay as you go. You can also do a combination of both.
As a rule of thumb, you will get the best deals through committed tariffs. You will get the most flexibility through pay-as-you-go. This is why many businesses aim to use bare metal or virtual machines on committed tariffs for their core needs.
In either case, they can use virtual machines on pay-as-you-go when they need to scale up temporarily. For example, they might increase their use of virtual machines to cope with peak business times. If the scale-up becomes permanent, then they can move to some form of committed tariff.
All cloud implementations can be run to the very highest standards of security. For example, public clouds can be (and are) FedRAMP certified.
With that said, if you use a public cloud (VM), then you need to accept that your data will be put into shared infrastructure. If you use private IaaS (bare metal), then it will be put on infrastructure that is used exclusively by you.
Bare metal offers more scope for customization. Virtual machines offer more scope for quick scalability. For completeness, bare metal servers can be scaled. The process is slower than with virtual machines. This is because it requires you to negotiate a new contract with your vendor. On the other hand, it is usually quicker than with a private cloud, even if you’re using colocation.
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