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Bare metal vs. virtual servers: Which choice is right for you?

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Before thinking about servers, imagine you need to practice for a triathlon. You probably need appropriate equipment and clothing. In terms of your IT workloads, it is pretty much the same. You need the appropriate server for the best performance.

Cloud providers in the market may make some assumptions about all resources in the cloud being virtualized and shared. With IBM SoftLayer, I can say virtualization is a choice, as it has a flexible set of options and resources that can be shared, dedicated or mixed. The client has the ultimate decision.

SoftLayer offers two flavors of servers. Which one should you choose?

SoftLayer Cloud

Bare metal (dedicated servers)

A bare metal server is all about raw hardware. It is a single-tenant physical server that is completely dedicated to a single customer. You can choose it when you have data-intensive workloads that prioritize performance and reliability. Additionally, you may have graphics processing units (GPUs) working in conjunction with your server’s CPU for high performance computing. You may also have your own virtualized environment by contracting an unmanaged hypervisor. Monthly billing is applied for this option.

Virtual servers 

Virtual servers are an option when you prioritize flexibility and scalability in your environment. They are commonly used for new applications built on cloud with unknown compute needs.

In terms of flexibility, there are two options for virtual servers:

• The first one is the virtual server running on a public node, which means the resources of the physical server are shared with multiple customers, also known as a multitenant environment.

• The second option is the virtual server running on a private node, where the resources of the physical server are dedicated to you, giving you the ability to consume all resources of the server. One customer can have one or more virtual machines in the same server, not sharing with other customers. Monthly or hourly billing is applied for this option.

You can create new bare metal or virtual servers from scratch or create a template of your image and store it in the SoftLayer library. These images can be captured and loaded into your environment, saving you time.

There are two types of images:

Standard images: Standard images can be created and applied only for virtual servers. This allows users to capture an image from an existing virtual server, regardless of its operating system, and create a new server based on the existing image.

Flex images: Flex images support both bare metal and virtual servers. This means you have the ability to capture an image from a physical machine and create a new virtual server based on the physical image. Flex images, unlike standard images, only support a subset of operating systems.

In short, there is no magic involved and you should deeply understand your IT environment before deciding what the best option is for your case. Both have strengths and weaknesses, as with everything in an IT environment.

Which is the best choice for you? Comment below or connect with me on Twitter @ReynaldoMincov  to let me know what you think.

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