Technically Speaking

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Why Move to a Bare-Metal Cloud Infrastructure

In the 1960s computers were expensive, and not easily affordable even by companies. The concept of multitenancy started with time-sharing, which allowed multiple users to access the same computer resource, without having to acquire it.

Bare-metal is about high-scalability, low-latency, enhanced security and reduced costs. To understand these benefits correctly, we begin at the beginning.

 

1. A Short History of Multitenancy

In the 1960s computers were expensive, and not easily affordable even by companies. The concept of multitenancy started with time-sharing, which allowed multiple users to access the same computer resource, without having to acquire it.

Time-sharing was one of the significant milestones in a very long journey of IT development that takes us today to the Internet and computing clouds. The cloud is the single most significant example of multitenancy the IT world has to offer. The computing cloud enables an enormous number of users to make use of the same infrastructure: by sharing that infrastructure, the costs lower. Also, the cloud provides additional advantages like easy backups and facilitates the use of software or even enables the running of very complex calculations on multiple computers.

Internet clouds are known to most users as the place where you keep your phone backups, the documents from work and maybe the area that safely stores your most precious cat pics. However, the power of the cloud for organizations is far-reaching, and it is skyrocketing the profits of those companies and organizations that make the best use of it.

2. The Various Types of Computing Clouds

There are many criteria based upon which we have different classifications of computing clouds: if we judge by location, we have private clouds privately located, public clouds, and hybrid clouds, that combine the best of both worlds. A straightforward example of a public cloud is an Internet cloud storage service like WeTransfer.

Based on the services provided, there are many types of clouds, and they are named using the Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) way of calling such services. We have Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) that rents the whole infrastructure to multiple tenants; we have Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that leases the infrastructure with software running on it; we have Storage-as-a-Service (SaaS) which only rents data storage; and so on. You got the picture, based on what you rent, you access a different type of service.

Another important attribute that separates clouds is virtualization: there are clouds that use virtualization and clouds that do not, known to as metal clouds (or bare-metal clouds). Clouds using virtualization use Virtual Machines (VMs) inside an operating system, and each tenant accesses a Virtual Machine. Virtualization clouds are at times called Hypervisor clouds because they make use of a VMM (Virtual Machine Monitor) that is called a hypervisor. That hypervisor handles the management of resources between several VMs occupying the same infrastructure, but that hypervisor always sits within an operating system. Bare-metal clouds may use a hypervisor to host different operating systems, but that hypervisor never sits within an operating system and maybe even embedded in the firmware of that infrastructure.

3. Virtualization vs. Bare-Metal Clouds

Now that we understand what clouds are and understand the various types of clouds, and of the services that they offer, we may begin to delve into the very subject of this piece: a comparative analysis of the benefits of using either a virtualization cloud or a bare-metal cloud.

Let’s showcase the significant differences between the two first, and then move to analyze the actual impact of these differences on companies or organizations:

The Access to the Server:

With VMs, the access to the physical server is done only through the hypervisor, which filters and interprets every request and causes delays and loss in performance. Bare-metal servers, on the other hand, are entirely allocated physical servers, and therefore you have unrestricted access to your machines and can identify the exact hardware at the component level.

Performance:

The performance of the VMs may suffer at any time because VMs move from server to server, and this leads to unpredictable task performance and sudden budget increase. The performance of bare-metal clouds is more consistent as bare-metal servers are never moved or reconfigured without your specific request or permission, making compute instances deliver predictable and consistent performance every day.

Hardware Quality:

The quality of the physical hardware or the actual workload on the machine are unknown with VMs, and the vendors could use cheap, outdated equipment and oversell infrastructure. With bare-metal clouds, the user has direct access to the infrastructure and can verify the quality of the hardware: for example, at Bigstep, our bare-metal servers are powered only by the latest Intel Xeon processors.

Security:

Running a VM inside an operating system may seem to provide an extra level of security, but that is not precisely the case. The operating system that runs your VM is just as subject to external hacking, exploits or viruses. In the case of such an emergency, you do not have direct access to that operating system, which may freeze your data in place or alter it before the system administrator of the upper layer operating system can take action. With bare-metal servers, you have direct access to the infrastructure, and your software engineer may fix things just in time.

Costs:

The cost of cloud services has reached an all-time low. If you are a new adopter of cloud services, there is no actual difference between VM costs and bare-metal costs.

However, if you are already using VM cloud services, the cost of moving your data to bare-metal may be a bit higher, but it is worth it long-term, and depending on your operations, it may be even profitable short-term.

4. Actual Benefits of Moving a Company’s Data to a Bare-Metal Cloud

Short answer: it depends, but most likely yes.

If you are not using any cloud services you are most likely missing out, and if you are using VMs instead of bare-metal, you are wasting valuable resources, and those add up each month that you waste by not migrating.

Bare-Metal Clouds Are Low-Latency and Save Time

Bare-metal servers are backed by an underlying hardware architecture that delivers the highest possible performance. Bigstep uses high-grade hardware, and each one of our servers and all of their components are provided by, bought directly from, and pre-tested for quality by HP.

This infrastructure enables the lowest latency on the market and depending on your business, low latency may be a crucial requirement. Even if it is not vital, it is still an excellent bonus, as you do things faster without paying more, but less.

Added to the low-latency inside the cloud, our pre-configured compute instance environments also save time and effort - everything is done in a couple of minutes with very few clicks.

The Security on Bare-Metal Is Enhanced

Multiple VMs occupy the same space: this increases the risk of hacking or some processes of one VM affecting the processes of another VM which can lead to many vulnerability issues. By occupying the whole operating system, bare-metal clouds are faster, safer, and reduce the chances of hacking or interference.

Let’s provide an example that is entirely in plain sight: the recent Intel vulnerabilities. Dubbed Meltdown and Spectre, these vulnerabilities were a far more significant problem for the virtualization clouds to address. The lack of direct access to the hardware and to the higher level operating system running the VMs made direct patching by the user impossible, as the user did not even know what that hardware his VM was running on was. The user had to wait for the cloud’s system administrator to patch the vulnerabilities. Even patching by the system administrator proved more difficult than on a bare-metal cloud because, as we have previously explained, the hardware components in the virtualization clouds are of different brands and qualities, so many different patches had to be applied, and some patches were not even available.

Bare-Metal Makes No Compromise on Scalability

The bare-metal cloud empowers you to start with a small server prototype and to go at full blast afterward. Bare-metal clouds are just as scalable as VMs: there is no compromise. With a click of a button or an API call, you can adjust the resources you require and you only pay for what you use.

Bigstep, for example, uses a system of pay-per-use pricing based on your running time and the respective hardware specs, and our system enables predictable budgeting and cost control.

Running Big Data Analysis on Bare-Metal Yields Better Results

The low latency, the higher processing power and the improved security of the bare-metal cloud make big data software run smoother. Compared to virtualized clouds, bare-metal clouds run the big data applications faster and the applications yield better results. The resulted analysis makes more accurate predictions and your business team can make better use of it.

Please keep in mind that in May 2018, the European Union will enforce the GDPR, a set of regulations regarding the privacy of data, and your cloud provider should be GDPR-compliant. Bigstep is fully GDPR-compliant.

5. Final Words

The bare-metal cloud makes things more accessible by removing the OS hypervisor and provides direct access to the raw power of the infrastructure. The protection from users and software that the virtualization appears to offer comes at too high cost and is only apparent as we previously explained. Resources are wasted, and virtualization clouds are more vulnerable than bare-metal clouds are.

 

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