Unmasking the Cloud: Bare Metal vs. Hyperscalers and the Route to Cost-Effective Workloads

By: UPSTACK, in partnership with Hivelocity

Not so long ago, large public cloud solutions were heralded as the shiny new tools set to revolutionize business efficiency, flexibility, and innovation. They were like a premium commercial real estate complex, complete with an array of convenient amenities that enticed large numbers of businesses into relocating their operational infrastructures.

However, it didn’t take long for most organizations to discover that the cost of operating in the cloud often surpassed their on-premises expenditure. Unexpected financial obligations, comparable to paying for an unutilized conference room or unused parking spaces in a commercial property, or even encountering prohibitive fees to relocate your equipment and inventory from a building where you’re already paying significant lease charges, served as a stark financial wake-up call.

In today’s unpredictable economic landscape where recession fears linger, many businesses that have felt the sting of these expenses are contemplating or already in the process of repatriating workloads to private or hybrid environments. But does this mean we should swing the pendulum back entirely and write off most cloud solutions, reserving them only for large and highly elastic workloads?

The short answer is, definitely not. While large-scale public cloud providers have been riding the wave of their feature-rich environments and sheer scale to rack up staggering profit margins, a different breed of providers – bare metal cloud providers – have been rapidly innovating. They’ve been crafting more cost-effective cloud alternatives that cater to companies of all sizes, including small and medium businesses (SMBs).

This article aims to demystify the key differences between polished public cloud offerings and the raw, powerful simplicity of bare metal cloud solutions by:

  • Delving into when and why bare metal options make sound business sense
  • Comparing the management and security considerations for each approach
  • Highlighting the 5 critical attributes necessary for an effective bare metal cloud experience.

Choosing the right cloud: the case for bare metal in predictable workloads

It’s undeniable that the hyperscalers provide invaluable services to some types of businesses. Their offerings are especially well suited for companies that require dynamic scaling to accommodate hundreds of thousands or even millions of users. They are also convenient for businesses that need access to an extensive selection of microservices to help drive innovation.

For businesses with predictable workloads, on the other hand, hyperscaler environments often become prohibitively expensive over time. Initial benefits such as avoiding upfront hardware costs and ongoing maintenance may be quickly overshadowed by accumulating costs from factors such as data egress fees, unused or underutilized resources, and vendor price increases. The rapidly escalating costs are a testament to why major providers regularly report immense profits. Moreover, once you’re in a hyperscaler environment, repatriating or shifting workloads can require significant efforts, creating a form of vendor lock-in that makes for difficult decisions.

Table 1: Comparing Hyperscaler vs. Bare Metal Cloud Costs by Month*

Outbound Data Transfer
Provider Type Inbound Data Transfer 3,000 GB (10 Mbps) 9,000 GB (30 Mbps) 15,000 GB (30 Mbps) 30,000 GB (100 Mbps) 150,000 Gb (500 Mbps)
Hyperscaler Not Free $255 $768 $1,285 $2,470 $10,967
Bare Metal Free Included – ~$150 Included – ~$450 Included – ~$750 ~$100 – ~$1500 ~$1,300 – ~$7,500
* Hyperscaler numbers are averages of the top 3 public cloud providers. Bare metal numbers are a range for top-end solution providers.

Today, businesses that went all in on public cloud are searching for ways to optimize their monthly expenses, and many are turning to bare metal cloud solutions, which offer superior cost-efficiency for predictable workloads. For most use cases, bare metal provides the best value in terms of computing power and data egress per dollar spent.

Even companies that don’t fully migrate their infrastructure from the public cloud can realize substantial cost savings by shifting specific workloads that either require a consistent amount of CPU power or use a high amount of egress bandwidth. Depending on the provider, organizations that switch to bare metal cloud solutions for their computing needs could potentially save up to 80%. Bare metal solutions come with an added advantage: they eliminate the overhead or performance tax from virtualization and microservices running in the background, thereby maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of your resources.

Furthermore, bare metal servers provide dedicated resources without the noisy-neighbor effect that can be present in shared, virtualized environments. They also offer more transparency and control over the hardware, allowing for customization and optimization based on specific needs. In other words, bare metal solutions provide businesses with the performance of on-premises hardware without sacrificing the flexibility and convenience of cloud services.

Dispelling management myths

If you’re thinking that managing bare metal environments sounds like more work than managing a feature-rich hyperscaler environment, you’re not alone. However, this commonly held belief is usually based on misconceptions about management best practices in each context.

In hyperscaler environments, users often mistakenly believe that they can simply spin up virtual machines as needed without having to harden or monitor them. In reality, however, there are a significant number of instances in public clouds that are unsecured, lack backup, and don’t run with high availability. This is often due to confusion about the extent of services and security public cloud providers deliver by default. In other words, even in public clouds, vigilant and proactive management is critical.

When it comes to bare metal, the management needs and challenges largely mirror those of public cloud environments. However, the perception that bare metal is more work-intensive may stem from its association with traditional on-premises infrastructure. That’s why it’s important to realize that modern bare metal cloud solutions are designed with ease of management in mind, offering the raw performance of dedicated hardware with the automation and flexibility typically associated with cloud environments.

Ultimately, if your organization is effectively managing your environment in the public cloud, transitioning to bare metal environments should not add complexities. Just like on-prem or in the public cloud, you need to harden your environment and manage backups. If you’ve been handling these aspects well in the public cloud, the move to bare metal shouldn’t pose any steep learning curves.

Moreover, many bare metal providers offer robust APIs and automation tools that can integrate with your existing DevOps workflows, which further simplifies management tasks and provides similar levels of flexibility and control as found in hyperscale environments.

Unboxing bare metal solutions: A checklist for success

Historically, bare metal solution models differed substantially from public cloud offerings. Ordering a server and spinning it up used to take days. Networking servers across different locations demanded expertise and time, as did the configuration of custom images. Furthermore, convenient features like hourly billing were usually off the table. 

Today’s leading-edge bare metal offerings increasingly mirror public cloud offerings minus the multitude of niche-use-case micro services. However, as with any technology offering, not all bare metal solutions deliver the same ease of use and value. That’s why, in addition to considering things like hardware specs and egress fees, it’s also crucial to seek solutions that can deliver the usability, performance, and reliability you need. Key considerations include: 

  • Network automation: Simplified management is key. The ability to automate the setup, deployment, and management of connections for VMs in the public cloud and bare metal across different data centers and locations is especially valuable for handling cloud-native workloads, such as those designed for Kubernetes environments.
  • Flexible billing models: Features like hourly billing can maximize flexibility, enabling you to run proofs of concept or manage traffic for planned short-term events cost-effectively.
  • Data center locations: Proximity matters for performance, and not only in terms of physical distance. As latency can significantly impact user experience, choosing data centers close to your major user bases can be a critical factor. Also consider data sovereignty laws, which may necessitate keeping data in specific regions or countries.
  • Automated scalability: Look for the ability to streamline the addition of new compute and storage resources. Some bare metal providers, for example, integrate with Terraform—an open-source infrastructure-as-code solution—making it available through an API.
  • Reputable support. Ultimately, if you’re running your environment in a third-party data center it’s critical to have access to reliable, round-the-clock support that can swiftly and competently address any issues that might arise.

Explore bare metal cloud solutions with Hivelocity

Hivelocity logo
Hivelocity provides dedicated servers, bare metal cloud, and colocation hosting solutions to customers from over 130 countries worldwide. Featuring 38 world-class, edge-ready data centers, strategically positioned in 36 cities across 4 continents,Hivelocity’s expansive global footprintallows users to reach 80% of the world’s internet population in under 25 milliseconds. All their data centers are SSAE18 Type 2 and ISAE 3402 certified, and HIPAA and PCI compliant services are also available. It’s all backed by award-winning 24/7 support, an average 15-minute ticket response time, and a 99.99% network uptime SLA.

Optimize your cloud strategy with guidance from UPSTACK experts

Choosing a cloud provider is a big decision with potentially significant business implications. UPSTACK’s technology experts rely on a deep understanding of the cloud ecosystem to provide unbiased recommendations based on your organization’s unique needs and goals. Whether you’re considering public, private, hybrid, bare metal, or multi-cloud solutions, our team has the knowledge and experience to expertly guide your decision-making process. We navigate the complexity of the cloud landscape on your behalf, empowering your organization to make informed decisions and select the best solution for your specific use cases and workloads.

Ready to find the best cloud solution for your organization? Contact UPSTACK’s technology experts today.

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