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Don’t forget the Bare Metal Cloud

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By Jonathan Wisler, General Manager EMEA, SoftLayer

I just got back from the Cloud World Forum in London. There was some very good new technology, and having talked to literally hundreds of people about IaaS, I am still amazed by the perception that it is only a virtual server offering affair. So let me say it as clear as possible: It is NOT. You can now have a truly hybrid cloud infrastructure that include public clouds (virtual), bare metal clouds (dedicated servers) and private clouds (your own private VM farm).

A little history about SoftLayer. We were started in the kitchen of one of the founders with the goal to revolutionize the hosting industry by removing the pain points for customers and operations. Our founders did not limit themselves to selling only servers with hypervisors, they wanted to get the customers the compute power and network performance when they needed it and with minimal effort. They developed what we now call “infrastructure as a service” before anyone was calling it the cloud. It was not about selling virtualization technology. It was about quick deployment times, consumption based billing, automation, control and accessibility through a common API.

So why is this important? If I could sum it up in one word: performance. While virtual servers are valuable for certain applications like web applications and gaming front ends, given they are a shared tenant environment, you will trade off performance and reliability for speedy deployment.

This is where bare metal cloud comes in. You can still deploy them quickly, in 1-4 hours, rather than 5-15 minutes for virtual servers. But since this is a single tenant environment, you can get more compute power and network throughput. Just for an internal benchmark, we did some performance testing on our Riak database engineered servers and we got huge performance differences. We have heard from some customers that performance improvement of bare metal is 10-20 times over virtual only. I have also worked on customer migrations from a pure virtual environment to a hybrid of bare metal plus virtual servers. On average we can cut their monthly billings in half while improving reliability and performance.

I am not aiming to start a debate on virtual vs. bare metal because they are both valuable. The point is you can have both…
I am not aiming to start a debate on virtual vs. bare metal because they are both valuable. It really depends on your application’s performance and elasticity requirements. The point is you can have both, sitting on the same network architecture, accessible through any pane of glass, with pay-as-you model and complete with an API. Also known as “the cloud.” The question is what tools will be the best to optimize the performance of your architecture. Cloud computing infrastructure now has the options you need to make sure your customers, whether they are external or internal, get the experience they need and expect.