Learn what dedicated and bare metal 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.
The primary benefits of dedicated and bare metal servers are based on 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 we have used the terms interchangeably to this point in the article, dedicated and bare metal servers are similar but not synonymous. Their differences are less about the servers themselves, and more about 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 offer dedicated hardware in something much closer to a cloud service model, with provisioning times in minutes, by the hours, and hardware ranging from inexpensive to top-of-the-line components, including graphic processing units (GPUs). Dedicated servers remain as a lower-priced alternative for users who don’t require these attributes.
Dedicated or 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 a default infrastructure choice for many cloud-native applications. PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) 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 dedicated or bare metal servers is the comparison to virtual servers, and for most companies, the criteria for choice are application- or workload-specific. It is extremely common for a company to use a mix of dedicated/bare metal 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. But dedicated or 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:
- 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.
Dedicated and bare metal servers and IBM Cloud
IBM Cloud offers end users a full-stack platform, with compute choices that include bare metal servers, dedicated hosts and instances, and public, multi-tenant servers. IBM Cloud also offers a managed Kubernetes service, PaaS and FaaS to round out a complete set of compute models to support any application or workload.
To get started, create an IBM Cloud account today.