A couple of months ago I wrote a post that criticized bare metal clouds, the approach towards cloud infrastructure that eschews virtualization and rather, as the name implies, builds cloud services directly on top of physical servers. I accused proponents of bare metal cloud of being “server huggers” and likened the situation to Henry Ford’s famous quote about customers thinking they wanted a faster horse. Well, it didn’t take long to get a response – Raj Dutt, SVP at Internap, countered my post with a well thought out (and, I must say, good humored considering I’d just called his baby ugly) post.
Dutt rightly pointed out that neither the NIST definition for cloud, nor commonly accepted industry definitions have virtualization as a core requirement. Dutt agreed that virtualization is an enabler of clouds, but isn’t a requirement. He pointed out that Internap’s bare metal cloud has all the features of a “regular” cloud – it’s provisioned over and API, can run whatever operating system the user requires, spins up rapidly etc. The only thing different between it and clouds from the likes of Azure or AWS is that Internap doesn’t use a hypervisor. Server nodes are dedicated to users – no economic overhead to be suffered through using a hypervisor and no potential “noisy neighbor” syndrome. Dutt ended his post with an insightful line:
“It’s not a religious argument – it’s all about the right tool for the job. This is the reason for our broad approach to hybrid IT infrastructure.”
Given all this history then, it was interesting to hear of a report that cloud analyst Lynda Stadtmueller of Frost and Sullivan wrote specifically about bare metal clouds. In her report, Stadtmueller examines bare metal cloud generally, and specific examples from Softlayer and Internap (and, before you ask, the vendors didn’t pay for this report).
Stadtmueller concluded that for some customers, bare metal has a real use case. In particular customers who are concerned about multi-tenancy and the perceived or actual security issues around it. Indeed she quoted a recent finding that suggested that 73% of IT decision makes cite “poor or inconsistent application performance” as a key reason for choosing to not place certain workloads in the cloud.