Bare metal, also known as private IaaS, has become increasingly popular over recent years. For many businesses, it provides a convenient medium between a true private cloud and a public cloud. If you are trying to decide whether or not bare metal is the right choice for your business, here is a quick guide to what you need to know.
In a cloud context, the term bare metal typically refers to a particular kind of managed service arrangement. A cloud service provider (CSP) provides infrastructure for the exclusive use of a single client (tenant). This infrastructure will generally include servers with an operating system but no other software.
The CSP will manage the infrastructure in much the same way as a regular managed service provider would. In particular, they will generally take ownership of keeping the server’s operating system up-to-date. The client will take care of everything above the operating system layer.
This does not mean the client has to manage everything in-house. Businesses can and often do outsource at least some of the work to manage service providers. It just means that it is the business’s responsibility to ensure that the work is done.
How bare metal compares to other options
The two main alternatives to bare metal are private clouds and fully public clouds. You do not have to use bare metal instead of either of these. You can use bare metal in combination with either (or both) of them. If you do, however, you will need to pick the right combination. With that in mind, here is a quick guide to how bare metal compares to these options in key areas.
Bare metal is easier to set up than a private cloud, even if you are using colocation. It is vastly easier to set up than a private data center. With bare metal, you simply negotiate a contract with a vendor. Once this is agreed upon, it becomes their responsibility to take care of the necessary hardware (and operating systems).
By contrast, bare metal requires more effort to set up than the public cloud. With the public cloud, you can essentially just set up an account and payment method and get started. This is unlikely to get you the most cost-effective deal. It can, however, get you up and running quickly.
Since bare metal is effectively infrastructure as a service it is usually billed as such. In other words, it is highly unlikely that there will be any upfront fees.
On the other hand, since it is private infrastructure as a service, it is very likely that you will be required to make some kind of minimum commitment. Even if you are not required to, you will probably get more advantageous pricing if you do.
How this compares to full private and public clouds depends on your implementation. For example, if you implement a private cloud, you can buy hardware or lease it. Your decision will determine whether or not you have upfront costs. Likewise, a lot of software is now sold as a service.
Similarly, the fact that you can use the public cloud on a pay-as-you-go basis does not mean that you should. You are likely to get far better value from committed tariffs. In general, therefore, you should use them as much as possible. Keep pay-as-you-go for when you need to scale quickly and/or temporarily.
Bare metal offers more scope for customization than the public cloud but less than a true private cloud. You can expect a lot of scope to customize the operating system. You can expect at least some flexibility in your possible hardware configurations.
At the end of the day, however, your CSP will still be providing the hardware (and usually the operating system). That means you are going to have to choose from the options they offer.
On the plus side, most CSPs have enough choices to keep most businesses happy. On the minus side, however, they are unlikely to support anything really niche. For example, if you are running legacy applications that need very specific hardware, bare metal may not be an option for you right now.
Bare metal can be easier to scale quickly than a private cloud, even if you are using colocation. It cannot, however, be scaled up and down with a few mouse clicks in the same way as a regular public cloud.
With bare metal, the client’s security responsibilities are roughly the same as they are with the public cloud. The client has less direct responsibility for security than with a true private cloud. With that said, ultimately, the client is always responsible for ensuring that their data is kept safe. They can delegate tasks to vendors but not overall accountability.
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