Defining the Modern Bare Metal Cloud
This is first in a series of contributed articles leading up to KubeCon + CloudNativeCon in October.
Often referred to as bare metal as a service (BMaaS), bare metal cloud can be defined as a single-tenant environment with the full self-service versatility of the cloud. Its surge in popularity has motivated providers to push bare metal cloud well beyond its original capabilities to cater to the needs of modern workloads and cloud native organizations. By 2026, the platform is expected to attain a compound annual growth rate of 38.5%.
Considering the expanded set of use cases it now addresses, bare metal cloud needs a new definition.
Cloudier than Metal, More Solid than Cloud
To define the bare metal cloud of today, we need to look at its key features, including:
- Dedicated resources
- No “noisy neighbors”
- Easy scalability
- API provisioning
- Flexible billing
The “solid” part involves the absence of a hypervisor. It gives users access to the server’s physical components and lets them optimize their CPU, RAM and storage resources. Single tenancy eliminates performance, security and resource-contention issues commonly attributed to shared virtualized environments.
The “cloud” in bare metal cloud mostly refers to hourly or monthly billing options and API-driven provisioning. This platform supports automation both during and after deployment, letting developers use APIs or CLIs to set up, scale and manage their infrastructure programmatically. We’re still just scratching the surface, though.
Enter Modern Bare Metal Cloud
What we have defined so far as bare metal cloud usually comes with the following drawbacks:
- High cost per server instance
- Environment setup overhead (OS, hypervisor, container stack, etc.)
- Limited server customization options
- Limited number of available server instances
- (However, many bare metal cloud offerings on today’s market show no signs of the shortcomings mentioned above.)
- Enabling customization
Modern bare metal cloud providers offer preconfigured, workload-optimized servers that can be deployed in minutes from anywhere across the globe. Some even offer workload-specific hardware accelerators such as persistent memory preconfigured on their systems. This gives organizations turnkey access to powerful technologies they can use to boost the performance and reliability of their workloads while reducing their total cost of ownership.
To further abstract the infrastructure setup overhead, providers have embraced open source software solutions such as Canonical’s MAAS, letting you deploy instances with preinstalled OS. Usually, you can choose between Linux distros, such as Ubuntu, Debian, or CentOS, and Windows Server, or hypervisor solutions such as VMware ESXi. To further adapt the solution to your exact requirements, some providers even give you the option to install a custom OS image.
While you cannot handpick individual stack components, choosing from dozens of servers powered by the latest hardware, software and network technologies surely helps teams optimize their IT.
Supporting Cloud Native
CNCF’s Annual Survey 2021 showed us that 90% of Kubernetes users use cloud-managed services. Since Kubernetes goes hand-in-hand with cloud native, its mainstream status has propelled bare metal cloud into interesting integrations.
You can now find bare metal cloud solutions with preinstalled open source K8s management platforms such as SUSE Rancher. Leveraging these, organizations can simplify the deployment and management of complex container environments at scale and gain easy access to enterprise-level Kubernetes hosted on bare metal.
Providers also invest more time and effort in delivering regularly updated GitHub pages offering a Kubernetes controller or a Docker Machine driver for their solution. The repos usually include Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) modules that simplify infrastructure provisioning and management via popular tools such as Terraform, Ansible and Pulumi.
Such support lets DevOps teams seamlessly integrate bare metal servers into their workflows and provision resources directly from their preferred environments.
Driving the Hybrid Cloud
Bare metal cloud has become a go-to solution for distributed workloads and organizations looking to accelerate their cloud adoption. Its dedicated resources and high-performance hardware make it ideal for sensitive, demanding or legacy workloads that are often incompatible with virtualized environments. Data centers that host bare metal cloud often provide direct access to cloud on-ramps or software-defined networks that let organizations interconnect their bare-metal-hosted apps with their favorite hyperscale cloud-service providers.
This enables anything from cloud resource bursting to access to petabytes of disaggregated storage, allowing teams to easily distribute their workloads across different ecosystems and optimize IT costs.
Is It for You?
Bare metal cloud is often contrasted with the highly flexible public cloud.
If we compare the two today, it’s clear that the lines that set them apart get quite blurry:
If you choose the modern bare metal cloud, you get most of the public cloud features with added control, freedom, transparency and direct access to hardware.
In minutes, bare metal cloud lets you deploy anything from test environments for virtualized or containerized apps to enterprise, multinode K8s clusters managed by SUSE Rancher. The platform supports public and custom IPs and even lets you install a custom OS or select one of the available Linux, Windows or VMware systems.
Here are who can benefit from the features mentioned above:
- E-commerce, FinTech, health care and legal — Low latency, increased security and scalability help organizations stay compliant and ensure optimal customer experience during peak traffic.
- Data-driven organizations — The latest hardware technologies support complex frameworks and accelerate data-intensive workloads such as artificial intelligence, machine learning database analytics or high-performance computing.
- DevOps teams — IaC integration helps developers align bare metal cloud to their CI/CD pipelines and automate provisioning of physical, virtualized or containerized environments.
- Game servers and render farms — Robust compute, storage and network resources available globally provide access to the latest, high-performance hardware and eliminate latency.
- Edge and IoT applications — Present in edge data centers, the platform brings compute close to IoT and provides access to 5G, supporting new generations of apps and workloads.
All things considered, we can define bare metal cloud as a constantly evolving, versatile and powerful IT infrastructure solution supporting fast-paced, cloud native organizations. It gives you direct access not just to its underlying resources, but to the latest software and hardware technologies that simplify and optimize modern workloads and workflows.