Internap, CenturyLink Say Bare-Metal Is Hot

Managed service providers are turning outsourced services into more cloud-like offerings; bare-metal servers in the cloud now a trend on the rise.
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Internap and CenturyLink are blurring the line between old-fashioned outsourcing and modern cloud services. In the process, offering bare-metal servers in the cloud is becoming a broad-based trend.

The cloud is distinguished by how it grants the owner of a system continued control, sometimes termed "programmatic control," over what's running, even though it's in a remote cloud data center. With traditional outsourcing, the owner hired someone else to run the system, say Microsoft Exchange server or a big SAP application, with the results of its operation sent to the owner.

Internap announced Wednesday it will offer bare-metal servers, previously a function of a managed service or outsourcing provider, in its Internap Public Cloud in London and Hong Kong. It is already offering them in Dallas, the New York metro area, Santa Clara, Calif., Singapore, and Amsterdam.

Bare-metal servers would appear to be a throwback to the bad old days of one application per server in the enterprise data center. It was a mark of overprovisioning -- the bare-metal server was usually only utilized at 10-15% of capacity or less -- but IT system administrators liked them because they avoided application conflicts and outages. First virtualization, then multi-tenant cloud services, reduced reliance on the bare-metal server. Amazon Web Services, on the other hand, has built its dominant position by offering only virtual servers.

[Want to learn more about bare-metal in the cloud? See Rackspace Touts Containers On Bare Metal Servers.]

Internap is offering its bare-metal servers in what it calls its Bare-Metal Cloud. As in a cloud setting, they can be fired up on demand and will be charged for by the hour, instead of on a monthly contractual basis. But Internap is responsible for their constant operation, storage service, and network provisioning.

Christian Primeau, senior VP and general manager of cloud and hosting, said Internap found in a recent survey of IT managers that 59% who were hosting big data systems in the cloud were experiencing "performance challenges." A big data system on a bare-metal server will avoid being subject to hyperactive "noisy neighbors" stealing CPU cycles, choking storage I/O gateways, he said in the announcement.

In addition, Internap will also offer bare-metal servers in its AgileCloud, which will add elasticity of service, or the ability to add more servers to the workload if needed. Customers self-provision the servers through a portal that gives them access to an OpenStack provisioning and management system. Such servers would be useful for database servers with fluctuating demand or large ERP workloads that need to be up all the time.

Atlanta-based Internap is the latest of a series of managed service providers who have re-oriented their data centers toward the cloud. The bulk of Rackspace's business still comes from managed services, but it sees the future of its business moving to on-demand cloud services.

On June 20, Rackspace announced its OnMetal service, or bare-metal servers in the cloud dedicated to a single customer that run in an on-demand, self-provisioning fashion by the customer and billed for by the hour.

CenturyLink, which acquired both Savvis and Tier 3 service providers, is converting former managed hosting services into its CenturyLink Cloud platform. It will integrate hosted systems such as Active Directory, Apache Server, Apache Tomcat, Microsoft Internet Information Services, Microsoft SQL Server, and MySQL as on-demand, billed-by-the-hour cloud services. It will also offer pre-configured Windows Servers and Red Hat Enterprise Linux Servers, ready for workload assignment, in its public cloud.

CenturyLink will still guarantee the uptime and operation of both the servers and applications, but customers will be able to start, stop, and provision them with data and applications as they see fit. The cloud centers providing such services are in Santa Clara, Calif., and Sterling, Va. The services became available June 30.

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