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Cloud vs. Shared Hosting? Why Bare Metal Servers are the new King

Cloud vs. Shared Hosting? Why Bare Metal Servers are the new King
August 10
09:16 2018

We’re used to seeing the word ‘cloud’ stuck in front of basically every technological term out there. And while tech-savvy individuals have a decent grasp of what ‘the cloud’ is, the same can’t be said for all its potential applications. Cloud hosting, for example, which is the alternative to running websites on shared hosting or dedicated servers.

Websites are of course hosted, or stored, on servers. But organisations and individuals are often faced with the question: what type of server is the best fit? Let’s look briefly at the three main options:
• Shared hosting
• Dedicated server hosting
• Cloud or virtual private server (VPS) hosting

– You Pays Your Money…

Shared hosting is by far the most common option for small businesses and individuals, consisting as it does of many websites hosted on a single server, and offering extremely good value for money as a result. A website on shared hosting can handle up to 30,000 visitors per month, which is all that most sites need. Shared hosting is also very simple to set up, making it ideal for the beginner or non-technical user, and packages usually come with unlimited bandwidth.

Dedicated server hosting on the other hand, is a single server hosting the website(s) or application(s) of a single user. The advantage of having a dedicated server is that the entire server is focused on optimum performance, all the time. While dedicated hosting can be expensive, its huge amount of processing power means that it’s worth the cost if your website requires very fast page-load times, a dedicated IP, and the ability to handle a lot of traffic – as many as 100,000 visitors per month, for example. Dedicated servers are very secure and often offer several IPs for multiple services that need to be kept separate.

Cloud hosting, also known as virtual private server (VPS) hosting, is probably the most difficult to describe out of the three types.

Imagine a computer with thousands of processors, terabytes of RAM, and unlimited hard drive space. Then imagine that, for an hourly fee, you could access as much or as little of those resources as you needed at short notice. In a sense, it’s the best of both worlds: a huge amount of computing resources, similar to that of a single dedicated server, but for an affordable price comparable to that of shared hosting – and with the benefit of scalability and flexibility thrown in.

With more customisation options than shared hosting, VPS hosting is also good for the more technically inclined, and usually caters to programmers and web designers.

– Bare Metal Servers

But there’s one other option that we haven’t mentioned so far: bare metal server hosting. This is a relatively recent development that offers a hybrid solution, providing performance and cost-effectiveness by combining the best bits of both dedicated hardware and cloud technology. Bare metal servers are not completely new – they’re more like a reinvention of dedicated servers – but they differ from dedicated servers in how they integrate with cloud-based technologies to offer increased flexibility and cost control.

Bare metal servers are ‘physical’ servers, not virtual, and they’re also ‘single tenant’, meaning that each one belongs to a single customer. While each server may run any amount of work for the customer, or may have multiple simultaneous users, a bare metal server is nevertheless dedicated entirely to the one customer – either an organisation or individual – who rents it. Unlike many servers in a data centre, these machines are not shared between multiple customers.

Bare metal servers are designed to deal with significant, but short-term, processing needs. Data can be stored, processed or analysed on a server for as long as is necessary, and then the server can be wound back down when it’s no longer needed. This way, resources aren’t wasted, and there’s no need to continue running the server for longer than necessary.

The contrast with VPS hosting or cloud servers is that in a typical cloud server infrastructure, there could be dozens of virtual machines running on the same physical server, each with its own processing requirements. Bare metal servers are single-tenant, so resources are dedicated to only one user who can count on guaranteed performance.

– Bare Metal = No Hypervisor = Best Performance

Bare metal servers offer higher performance by eliminating the hypervisor layer (the virtual machine monitor which creates and runs VMs and manages the execution of the guest operating systems). Running the hypervisor is a drain on resources which inevitably leads to a degradation in performance on cloud servers. However, there is no hypervisor layer on bare metal servers (because they are dedicated, physical machines), so this overhead, and the resulting performance hit, is eliminated.

From a technical perspective, a bare metal server is basically the same as a dedicated server – one that offers high-performance resources that are dedicated to one user – but with the advantage of flexible, pay-as-you-use billing and no contracts.

– It’s All About the Hybrid

Bare metal servers really come into their own when they’re combined with a more traditional cloud infrastructure. If you already have a cluster of virtual machines hosting your website for example, you can link your bare metal server to your VMs and have them work together.

High-performance bare metal servers are ideal for situations where companies need to perform short-term, data-intensive functions without any kind of overhead performance penalties, such as big data processing. Previously, organisations couldn’t put these workloads into the cloud without accepting lower performance levels, but with bare metal servers that risk is eliminated.

To summarise its selling point, the bare metal/cloud hybrid solution provides a way to complement or substitute virtualised cloud services with a dedicated server environment that eliminates the hypervisor overhead, but without sacrificing flexibility, scalability and efficiency.

About Author

Fasthosts

Fasthosts

Simon Yeoman, General Manager at Fasthosts, joined the business in October 2008. Simon has led in a variety of senior positions including his current role as Fasthosts General Manager and Financial Director. With his experience of web hosting and cloud technology, he continues to influence and challenge the company to meet new and higher standards. Simon is an active advocate for trust and transparency in the industry. For more information on Fasthosts, please visit https://www.fasthosts.co.uk

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