By: IBM Cloud Education

Learn what dedicated servers are, how they compare to virtual servers, and what use cases they best support.

What are dedicated and bare metal servers?

Both dedicated and bare metal servers are a form of cloud services in which the user rents a physical machine from a provider that is not shared with any other tenants.

Unlike traditional cloud computing, which is based on virtual machines, dedicated servers do not come with a hypervisor pre-installed and give the user complete control over their server infrastructure.

With a dedicated server, because users get complete control over the physical machine, they have the flexibility to choose their own operating system, avoid the “noisy neighbor” challenges of shared infrastructure, and finely tune hardware and software for specific, often data-intensive, workloads.

Bare metal and dedicated servers

Along with virtual servers, networking, and storage, bare metal servers are a foundational component of the IaaS stack in cloud computing.

Benefits

The primary benefits of bare metal servers are based in the access end users have to hardware resources. The advantages of this approach include the following:

  • Enhanced physical isolation and the associated security and regulatory benefits
  • Greater processing power
  • Complete control of their software stack
  • More consistent disk and network I/O performance
  • Greater Quality of Service (QoS) by eliminating the noisy neighbor phenomenon

Taken together, dedicated and bare metal servers have an important role in the infrastructure mix for many companies due to their unique combination of performance and control.

Dedicated vs. bare metal servers

While used interchangeably up to this point, dedicated and bare metal are ultimately closely related topics, but not synonymous. Their differences are found less in the servers themselves, and more in how they are delivered by the provider.

Historically, dedicated servers have been associated with long provisioning times, billing increments of months or years, and often low-end, or even dated, hardware.

The concept of bare metal servers rose as a response to the sometimes negative associations with dedicated servers and hosting. Providers specializing in bare metal servers offered dedicated hardware in something much closer to a cloud service model, where provisioning times could be measured in minutes, billing in hours, and hardware ranged from inexpensive to top of the line components, including GPUs.

Because much of the value users derive from leveraging cloud and hosting providers comes from the management and operations of the services they provide, the differences in the service model are critically important for many users.

Why choose a bare metal server vs. a virtual server?

Today, available compute options for cloud services go beyond just bare metal and cloud servers. Containers are becoming as a default infrastructure choice for many cloud-native applications, PaaS has an important niche of the applications market for developers that don’t want to manage an OS or runtime environment, and serverless computing is emerging as the model of choice for cloud purists.

But the comparison most users still gravitate toward when evaluating bare metal or dedicated servers is the comparison to virtual servers. For most companies, the either/or for dedicated vs. virtual servers is not a blanket statement so much as it’s an application- or workload-specific statement. It is extremely common for a company to use a mix of dedicated and virtualized resources across their cloud environment.

Virtual servers are the more common model of cloud compute because they offer greater resource density, faster provisioning times, and the ability to scale up and down quickly as needs dictate.

Bare metal servers are the right fit for a few primary use cases that take advantage of the combination of attributes centered around dedicated resources, greater processing power, and more consistent disk and network I/O performance.

Three types of applications that fit these use cases

  • Performance-centric app and data workloads: The complete access and control over hardware resources makes bare metal a good match for workloads such as HPC, big data, high-performance databases as well as gaming and finance workloads.
  • Apps with complex security or regulatory requirements: The combination of a global data center footprint with physical resource separation has helped many organizations adopt cloud while simultaneously meeting complex security and regulatory demands.
  • Large, steady state workloads: For applications such as ERP, CRM, or SCM that have a relatively stable set of ongoing, resource demands, bare metal can also be a good fit.

Bare metal servers and IBM Cloud

IBM Cloud offers end users a full-stack platform that includes compute choices like bare metal servers, virtual servers, a managed Kubernetes service, PaaS, and FaaS.

IBM Cloud customers often use bare metal and virtual servers in combination with one another and in combination with our portfolio of services that includes Watson, Blockchain, and more.

IBM Cloud data centers are available around the globe to help you meet your regulatory and latency objectives.

To get started, create an IBM Cloud account today.

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