Bare-metal clouds trade virtualization for performance

Cloud customers with performance or security demands are turning to hypervisor-free bare-metal cloud offerings

Sometimes, for either performance or security reasons, customers don't want to use a public or a private cloud with virtualized infrastructure. Service providers are increasingly responding to this, and one analyst says there is increasing demand for bare-metal clouds.

Internap, the cloud, managed hosting, and co-location service provider, is the latest to jump into the arena with its Agile Hosting offering announced last week. In a bare-metal cloud offering, customers get automated provisioning of dedicated managed hosting environments, meaning they are not taxed by a hypervisor virtualization platform that can cause performance lag.

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Until recently, provisioning managed hosting environments usually took anywhere from hours to days to weeks for the service provider to manually configure an offering for a customer, says Carl Brooks, a cloud analyst at Tier 1, which is a division of 451 Research. Using automation technology acquired from the $30 million acquisition of Voxel last year, Internap rolled out preconfigured, automatic provisioning of managed host compute power. "It's the power to access a bare metal server, with the flexibility and agility of a cloud service," Brooks says.

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Internap is not the first to offer the service, Brooks says. SoftLayer has an automated co-location, managed hosting, and cloud offering similar to Internap's. Rackspace has made some moves in automating managed hosting environments and allowing for portability of workloads between those and cloud environments, Brooks says. Liquid Web and New Servers, also known as, are other players. Brooks says he expects it to be a trend that will pick up.

For the user, having access to bare-metal servers is attractive from a performance perspective. By having dedicated servers that are not virtualized, and therefore do not have a hypervisor layer, users can experience an uptick in speed, Brooks says, in some cases as much as 10 percent depending on the application. This can be an attractive option for high-performance compute needs, advanced Web 2.0 developers, or applications that require a large amount of database resources. Basically any situation "where the performance matters the most," he says. While users have had access to managed hosting environments of dedicated bare-metal servers in the past, the ability to automate the provisioning of them, leading to faster access to the servers by end-users is the wave of recent advancements, Brooks says.

Internap's Agile Hosting offering gives customers access to a variety of Intel-based servers, ranging from single processor to dual processor and storage servers. Prices range from $179 per month for a 2.53GHz quad-core processor with 4GB of RAM, up to a 2x 240GB solid-state hard drive with up to 96GB of RAM for up to $1,648 per month. Three of the 12 offerings are instantly configurable, while the others can be configured in one to 12 hours, says Paul Carmody, Internap's SVP of product management and business development. "This gives customers the ability to order online, instantly deploy and leverage the performance of optimized IP delivery that Internap has been known for," he says.

From a service provider perspective, it makes sense for them to automate the delivery of managed hosting, cloud, and co-location services, Brooks says. It's a natural evolution he expects many providers to roll out and for customers to increasingly demand. The instant configurations, though, do require the providers to have adequate infrastructure to meet demand, so providers must make sure they have enough infrastructure resources to service customers. In Internap's case, the company is leveraging resources from a network of data centers around the world, including in New York, Dallas, and Santa Clara, as well as Amsterdam and Singapore.

"More people are going to expect and demand cloud-like performance from managed hosting and dedicated environments eventually," Brooks says. You can get a virtual private cloud from Amazon or a number of other providers, he says, but as customers continue to use all three services -- cloud, co-lo, and managed hosting -- they will want easy on, easy off deployments of each and the ability to move workloads across various environments, which he says is something service providers are continuing to work on.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social media. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

This story, "Bare-metal clouds trade virtualization for performance" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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