Today, the question facing most businesses isn’t so much whether or not they want to be in the cloud. It’s how they want to be in the cloud. This means looking carefully at issues such as bare metal vs dedicated server. If you are choosing between them, or thinking of combining them, here is a simple guide to what you need to know.
Before the cloud, the term “bare metal” was generally used to describe a computer without an operating system. In many cases, bare metal computers did not even have firmware. This use of the term still exists.
In the context of the cloud, however, the term “bare metal” is generally used to describe a machine that is owned by a cloud service provider (CSP) but assigned to a single client (tenant). These bare metal servers typically do have operating systems. It may, however, be possible to make an arrangement with a CSP for them to be provided without one.
This arrangement is often known as private IaaS. It is more convenient for businesses than running their own private clouds (even with colocation). At the same time, it gives them the same sort of control and customization options they would expect in that environment.
The term dedicated server can be (and often is) used as a synonym for bare metal server or private IaaS. It can, however, also be used to refer to the servers used in a private cloud. When people use the term “bare metal vs dedicated server”, this is probably what they mean.
With dedicated servers, the client owns them and is fully responsible for their management. This responsibility can be delegated completely or partly. For example, a third-party managed service provider might take care of day-to-day management while the business’s own IT team would take care of customizations.
If you are weighing the advantages and disadvantages of bare metal vs dedicated server, here are the key points you should consider.
Getting set up on bare metal is definitely easier than getting set up on dedicated servers. With bare metal, you simply negotiate a contract with a single vendor. With dedicated servers, you have to make arrangements to purchase everything you need. You also need to arrange for your purchases to be installed in your chosen location.
You do not need to do all this with in-house resources. You will, however, almost certainly need to hire multiple vendors and manage all of them effectively. Alternatively, you can hire a single vendor and have them manage all the other vendors. You would, however, need to go through a thorough recruitment process. You would also need to work with them very closely.
With bare metal, you negotiate payment terms with your vendor. You may be required to make some level of upfront payment. It is, however, more likely that the provision of the bare metal servers will simply be charged as a service. That is essentially why its formal name is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
With dedicated servers, you will need to purchase hardware and software. You may also need to pay for extra labor. Having said that, hardware purchases can be paid in installments. Hardware can also be leased. Similarly, it is now standard for software to be sold as a service.
If you are running your own private data center, then setting it up is likely to require significant capital expenditure. If, however, you are using colocation, by contrast, you are essentially using a data center as a service.
The ongoing costs of bare metal are likely to be fairly similar to the ongoing costs of dedicated servers. The one point to note is that bare metal pushes the risks associated with hardware failure onto the vendor. Dedicated servers push it onto the business.
The issue with hardware failure generally is not the cost of replacement hardware. It is the disruption caused while the fault is being dealt with. It may also be the cost of the labor required to solve the problem. You may therefore want to take steps to mitigate this risk (e.g. insurance).
Assuming you use colocation, the management overheads of bare metal and dedicated servers are very similar.
Dedicated servers require a bit more supervision because you need to take care of the hardware and operating system. In particular, you need to make sure that the operating system is promptly updated and kept secure. Overall, however, this only creates a little extra work.
If you are running a private data center, by contrast, then the management overheads are significantly higher than with bare metal.
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