What is a Bare Metal Server?
A bare metal server describes a physical computer that is dedicated to one customer. Usually, bare metal servers are available on a rental basis from a data centre provider. At OVHcloud, we also call them dedicated servers. What separates them from virtual servers and other server products is that the physical metal box that contains the processor, memory and other components is rented as a unit — or single-tenant environment — and not shared with other customers. The customer chooses the bare metal server’s operating system and is able to customise the server to the specific needs of their workloads.
Why is it called a bare metal server?
It is called a bare metal server because it’s a physical metal server case that contains the customer’s chosen configuration of compute, memory, storage, software and networking components. Prior to the advent of cloud computing, bare metal servers were the original type of servers that organisations would traditionally buy and then set up in a dedicated computer room.
The evolution of bare metal
Before the internet and cloud were ubiquitous, connectivity between physical locations was slow and very expensive. Organisations that wanted to provide their employees with access to business applications would buy bare metal servers and maintain them in their server room. They would use network cables to connect their workers’ desktop computers, or clients, to the servers.
As the global communications infrastructure evolved and it became much easier and cheaper to establish fast, fibre-optic connections between different locations, organisations started consolidating and centralising their server rooms into data centres.
How cloud changed bare metal
The cloud evolved from this situation because there are many advantages and disadvantages when an organisation chooses to run their own bare metal servers in a data centre. Scaling up is slow, time-consuming and requires large upfront capital expenditure, because new hardware has to be ordered and then installed. Scaling down is not cost-effective because if the expensive server hardware has already been paid for, why not use it?
Bare metal server vs virtual server
The lack of flexibility and wasted expenditure on overprovisioning is why resource sharing utilities became widely used and how virtual servers (or virtual machines) became so popular. It was very easy to configure and launch a virtual server on the cloud provider’s hardware. The cost of the hardware is shared among several customers and so each customer pays less than they would for their own server.
Organisations quickly discovered that for some tasks, a virtual server was more efficient because it could be rented when needed, provisioned very quickly and then turned off when no longer required — and because it was rented it didn’t require a large upfront payment.
Virtual server limitations
However, virtual servers do have some limitations and the use of bare metal servers is increasing again. A common use case is when the workload requires super-high performance and security. Virtual servers run on shared hardware and so it’s possible that their performance can be affected by workloads running on other virtual servers that are using the same hardware.
The decision on whether to choose bare metal servers or virtual servers usually comes down to a compromise between price, performance and security. If your workloads need the best possible performance and security, and your budget can handle it, then bare metal offers a convincing solution.
Bare metal CPU v GPU
Certain workloads require massive parallel processing capabilities, which is where Graphical Processing Units (GPUs) outperform Central Processing Units (CPUs). CPUs are multi-purpose processors and designed to carry out a diverse range of tasks. They are the most common type of processor and computers use them to handle input and output operations.
GPUs are not as versatile as CPUs but they are orders of magnitude faster when processing parallel mathematical operations on multiple sets of data. This is because they have thousands of processor cores running simultaneously. This makes them particularly suitable for graphics workloads as well as scientific computation, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Bare metal servers can be customised with very powerful GPUs which makes them a popular choice for graphic design, gaming and even crypto currency mining workloads.
Bare metal servers vs managed bare metal
Managed bare metal describes a cloud service that is run on dedicated bare metal servers. This solution is ideal for organisations that require the performance and security of bare metal servers but don’t want the overheads of managing and maintaining them.
The advantage of managed bare metal is that customers get access to a bare metal server, or a cluster of them, which means performance and security are not affected by other servers in the cloud provider’s data centre. Businesses can use managed bare metal to deploy their web applications without having to worry about the infrastructure.
At OVHcloud our teams will configure and optimise the platform, and then ensure that it remains operational. We include VMware’s vRealize Operations solution with all our Managed Bare Metal Essentials packs.
OVHcloud bare metal server benefits
At OVHcloud we offer a diverse range of bare-metal technology. You can host your website, deploy a high-resilience infrastructure and customise your machine to suit your workloads in a few clicks. We can deliver your server in two minutes, which comes with unlimited traffic and no setup fees.
OVHcloud bare metal servers come with a minimum bandwidth of 500 Mbit/s and can be configured as a dedicated cluster or be part of a hybrid infrastructure across data centres, connected via a high-bandwidth private network. Bare metal servers include a 99.9%+ service level agreement (SLA), anti-DDoS protection and 500GB of free storage space which can be used to store or back up your data.
OVHcloud bare metal server customers can choose from a wide variety of operating systems and directly connect with their server via the OVHcloud Control Panel, or an API.
Bare metal server use cases
Communication in real time requires high-quality audio and video to be transmitted and received at low latency. Processing live video and audio in real time requires high performance hardware and uncompromised performance. Choosing bare metal servers removes the possibility of other data centre users affecting the communications and also helps keep them more secure.
Container platforms such as Docker and Kubernetes can run on virtual machines and bare metal servers. However, if the containerised application is mission-critical, the customer may want to guarantee that its performance will not be affected by a busy infrastructure. For smaller companies, or if running smaller applications, another option would be running two or more containerised apps on a bare metal server and guaranteeing performance instead of risking the applications on virtual servers.
The performance of bare metal servers is superior to virtual machines, which makes them a prime target for workloads that require vast amounts of number crunching. For example, rendering or recording high-resolution graphics, or machine learning and artificial intelligence solutions.
As bare metal servers are not shared between organisations their usage can be likened to having a private cloud. This could be essential when security is a priority.
Control and configuration
Since bare metal servers are only configured for one customer, they are ideal if workloads require specific non-standard components. For example, if an organisation is running applications that require specific hardware, it’s possible to customise bare metal servers to their exact requirements.
Bare metal servers are well suited to host large critical databases that serve a high volume of requests. Using bare metal means the database is more secure and also its performance won’t potentially be compromised by other users of the data centre.
Modern gaming requires complicated graphical environments to be rendered in real time for multiple users. The game tracks all movements and calculates the consequences in real time. One of the biggest issues in gaming is latency, where even a small amount of buffering can ruin the gaming experience. Bare metal servers can provide the performance and connectivity required to run gaming applications without buffering for a smooth experience.
At OVHcloud we offer the ultimate gaming experience with the raw power of water-cooled AMD Ryzen processor-based game dedicated servers. Gamers can play their favourite online games using cutting edge hardware with safety assurance provided by our DDoS protection system.
Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing
IoT devices can generate huge volumes of data that often need processing in real time to find the real insights contained within. Bare metal servers are commonly used for churning through this data and finding the important information, which is then sent to the central network.
In addition, workloads created by driverless cars or augmented and mixed reality applications, which usually operate on the edge of the network, are well suited for the low latency high performance provided by bare metal servers.
Bare metal servers and OVHcloud
OVHcloud provides a choice of bare metal server products including dedicated bare metal servers and managed bare metal using VMware virtualisation.
OVHcloud offers you expertise and a large choice of bare metal options. We can host your website, deploy your high-resilience infrastructure or customise your machine to suit your projects in just a few clicks. OVHcloud can provide delivery of your server in 120 seconds. We offer unlimited traffic and no setup fees with a commitment.
OVHcloud Bare metal servers are the best performing physical servers available and they provide the highest levels of security. For organisations that are running workloads that require intensive computing power and will not compromise on performance or security, bare metal products are the ideal solution.