Are you looking for a highly scalable, flexible and fast solution for your IT backbone?

Understanding the difference between bare metal or virtualized environments will allow you to make an informed decision.

Take the time here to master the basics:

What are the requirements for your project regarding performance, density, and compliance? These terms will determine your deployment strategy, including the ability to run virtualized environments.

What is Bare Metal?

Bare Metal is just another way of saying “Dedicated Server.”

This is a single tenant environment with direct access to underlying hardware technology without any hypervisor overhead. Bare metal can support many kinds of operating systems on top of its core performance.

The term bare metal refers to direct access to the hardware. It includes the ability to leverage all of its specific features which would not be accessible with a hypervisor. This would only emulate that environment through virtualization.

a lady with a clipboard in a data center looking at a rack of hypervisors

Who is Bare Metal Ideal For?

The bare metal environment works well for many types of workloads regardless of company size.

Enterprise data centers require granular resource and access management, high level of security, and ability to scale. Single tenant environments can perform better and do not run into the risk of “noisy neighbors.” There is less risk involved from a security perspective due to physical isolation.

What are the Major Features of Bare Metal?

Bare metal servers are dedicated to one client and are never physically shared with more than one customer. If that client chooses to run a virtualized platform on top of it, they create a multitenant environment themselves. Bare metal is often the most streamlined way to command resources.

With bare metal, clients can avoid what is known as the “noisy neighbor effect” that is present in the hypervisor environment.

These servers can also run equally well in individually owned data centers or co-location, held by IT service providers/IaaS providers. A business also has the option to rent a bare metal server easily on a subscription from a managed service provider.

The primary advantage a bare metal environment is its separation.

The system does not need to run inside of any other operating system. However, it still provides all of the services to the virtual environments that are necessary.

multi-tenant server vs single tenant server

What is a Hypervisor?

A bare-metal hypervisor or a Type 1 hypervisor, is virtualization software that is installed on hardware directly.

At its core, the hypervisor is the host or operating system.

It is structured to allow for the virtualization of underlying hardware components to function as if they have direct access to the hardware. The hypervisor enables a computer to separate its operating system from its core physical structure and hardware. From this position, the hypervisor can give a physical host the ability to operate many virtual units.

It allows for the opportunity to house many clients on the same server. Bare metal virtualization allows for a much denser deployment at the cost of the overhead and limited ability to leverage all hardware features.

Each client will experience a simulation of its own dedicated server. However, the physical resources of the server such as CPU cycles, memory, and network bandwidth are being shared between all tenants on the server.

The hypervisor is all about flexibility and scalability. Hypervisors allow for a much more dense utilization of hardware, especially in situations where not all physical resources are being used. Virtualization could, but does not require an underlying OS. Especially when speaking about datacenter related production workloads. Datacenters look at hypervisors being deployed on top of bare metal servers and not within the OS.

The type of image that a virtual environment creates also determines the performance of a hypervisor.

Microsoft, Citrix, and VMware have the three most popular hypervisor systems. The Hyper-V, Systems XenServer and ESX brands, respectively, represent the majority of the hypervisor market today.

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What Are The Benefits Of Bare Metal?

Without the use of bare metal, tenants receive isolation and security within the traditional hypervisor infrastructure. However, the “noisy neighbor” effect may still exist.

If one physical server is overloaded with requests or consumption from one of the tenants on the server, isolation becomes a disadvantage. The bare metal environment completely avoids this situation.

Bare metal also gives administrators the option to increase resources through the ability to add new hardware.

Here are a few more of the benefits:

  • Lower overhead costs – Virtualization platforms incur more overhead than bare metal because no hypervisor layer is taking the processing power of the server. With less overhead, the responsiveness and the overall speed of a solution will improve. Bare metal also allows for more hardware customization, which can improve speed and responsiveness.
  • Cost effective for data transfer – Bare metal providers often offer much more cost-effective approaches to outbound data transfer. Dedicated server environments could potentially provide several terabytes of free data transfer. All else being equal, virtualized environments would not be able to match these initial offers. However, these scenarios are dependant upon server offers and partnerships and never guaranteed.
  • Flexible deployment – Server configurations can be incredibly precise. Depending on your workload, you may be able to mix bare metal and virtual environments.
  • QoS – Quality of Service often work to eliminate the problem of the “noisy neighbor” occur in the bare metal environment. This can be considered a financial advantage as well as a technical one. If something goes wrong, a client has someone to hold accountable on paper. However, as with any SLA, this may vary on a case-by-case basis.
  • Higher security – Organizations that are very security sensitive may worry about falling short of regulatory compliance standards in a hypervisor multitenant environment. This is one of the most common reason that some companies are reluctant to move into the cloud. Bare metal servers make it very possible to create an entirely physical separation of resources. Remember, virtualization does not mean less security by default. Security is incredibly complex and broad terminology, and there are many factors involved.
blue doors of a server room

What Are The Benefits Of Bare Metal Hypervisors?

You may not need the elite performance of a single tenant, bare metal server. Your company may be able to better utilize resources by using a hypervisor. Hypervisors have many benefits, even when compared to the highly efficient and scalable bare-metal solution.

Choose a hypervisor when you have a dynamic workload, and you do not need to have an absolute cutting edge performance. Workloads that need to be spun up and run for only a short period before they are turned off are perfect for this environment.

  • Backup and protection – Virtual machines are much easier to secure than traditional applications. Before a real app can be backed up, it must be paused first. This process is very time consuming, and it may cause the app a substantial downtime. A virtual machine’s memory space can be captured quickly and easily using a snapshot tool. This snapshot can then be saved to a disk in a matter of moments. Every snapshot that is taken can be recalled, restoring lost or damaged information to a user on demand.
  • Improved hardware utilization – A bare metal server may only play host to a single application and operating system. A hypervisor uses much more of the available resources from the network to host multiple VM instances. Each of these instances can run an entirely independent application and operating system on the same physical system.
  • Improved mobility – The structure of the VM makes it very mobile because it is an independent entity separate from the underlying hardware. A VM can be migrated between any remote or local virtual servers that have enough available resources. This can be done at any point in time with effectively no disruption. This occurs so often that it has a buzzword: live migration. That said, a virtual machine can be moved to the same hypervisor environment on a different underlying infrastructure as long as it can run the hypervisor. Ultimate mobility is achieved with containerization.
  • Adequate security – Virtual instances created by a hypervisor are isolated logically from each other, even if they are not separated physically. Although they may be on the same physical server, they do not have any fundamental knowledge of each other. If one is attacked or suffers an error, the problem does not move directly to another. Although the noisy neighbor effect may occur, hypervisors are incredibly secure although they are not physically dedicated to a single client.
bare metal hypervisor vs standard hosting

Making the Best Decision for Your Project

Every situation is different, and each requires looking at all solutions available. In the end, there is no definite answer for a bare metal server with native workload versus bare metal with a hypervisor and virtualized workloads. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, so it comes down making sure that all areas of the business are met.

Once evaluated, the decisions will be made by what your team is most comfortable with and what best fits your needs. Testing both systems is recommended to validate performance as well as how it impacts your infrastructure and your service management.

With the proper understanding of security, scalability, and flexibility, you should be primed with enough tools to narrow down your decision. With some guidance and testing, a bare metal hypervisor could be the solution your business has been looking for.

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