Bare metal clouds are gaining a lot of momentum in the telecommunications industry—but why? What is a bare metal cloud, and what are the benefits of using it? In this post, we answer these questions and more.
Back to the basics
To better understand bare metal clouds, we first need to know what Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and virtualization are.
IaaS is an on-demand provisioning of compute, storage and network, through the cloud, with a pay-as-you-go model (assuming you're using a public cloud provider or chargeback if your organization provides the IaaS). IaaS provides access to infrastructure resources which are multi-tenant, where the provider shares the infrastructure resources with multiple clients driven by virtualization.
Virtualization enables running multiple operating systems with varied configurations as virtual machines (VM) on a single physical machine concurrently, in which a software layer known as virtual machine monitor or hypervisor is required.
What is a bare metal server and a bare metal cloud?
A bare metal server is a physical server dedicated to a single tenant or user. They allow for high-performance computing and highly-customizable hardware resources that can be optimized for maximum performance. On a bare metal server, the operating system is directly installed and the applications run natively on the operating system.
Bare metal cloud designates a service that can provision bare metal servers with varied capabilities (compute, storage, and network) to customers on-demand, through a cloud pay-as-you-go model.
Bare metal cloud provides the customer access to a dedicated server, without virtualization. The absence of virtualization allows access to the server’s direct hardware processing power, with the ability to provision workloads—without the overhead of the virtualization layer.
What are the benefits of bare metal clouds?
Some benefits of bare metal clouds include:
This includes the ability to leverage dedicated resources tuned for performance, customized to match your needs for storage, processing and memory.
With a simpler network setup, it allows reduced complexity in troubleshooting, and makes it easier to automate patching and deployments.
More cost effective
Running Kubernetes on bare metal can help you avoid the cost for virtualization software and the operating system (OS) running on the VM.
It can also reduce labor costs (by managing less complex systems when compared to systems with a virtualization layer), and infrastructure costs, which leverage the complete server resources for running workloads.
A strong incentive to using distinct physical machines is reducing potential security risks from sharing multi-tenant infrastructure.
Whenever an application workload is run inside a container or a virtual machine, there is a chance of escape attacks allowing the attacker unauthorized access to the host OS and other VMs running on that host.
Utilizing physical resources directly might be the ideal approach when the virtual separation of software-defined solutions is not considered secure enough.
At present, there are several regulated industries (and government mandates in the public sector) that require a fully distinct physical machine to run unique workloads (e.g., baselining the performance of a hosted application, cost and performance modeling, license restrictions, and security considerations).
A general use case illustration is an important workload running on a piece of infrastructure that needs to be fully isolated from shared resources, ensuring the service is not impacted in case of a severe incident.
Why is bare metal cloud continuing to gain momentum in the Telecommunications industry?
Now that we know what bare metal clouds are and their benefits, let’s look at why they’re interesting for the telecommunications industry.
With 5G rollouts gaining traction, telecom operators have greatly boosted initiatives to virtualize parts of their mobile networks, referred as virtualized Radio Access Network (vRAN)—largely viewed as a step forward in the evolution of mobile networks.
vRAN allows the operators to run their baseband functions as software, but also requires the need to perform complex processing with low latency, demanding the utilization of edge deployments, and straining limited capacities.
Bare metal cloud helps solve this problem by removing the virtualization layer, resulting in more efficient utilization of available resources.
Bare metal cloud use cases in the telecommunications industry
Bare metal cloud adaptability and flexibility—particularly for the edge computing model—is demonstrated in a variety of instances, including fully automated application deployments and infrastructure scaling similar to public cloud platforms while saving costs by running optimized workloads.
For example, bare metal cloud:
Provides full control on the hardware resources, and the ability to run open source and/or commercial software best suited to customer needs.
Is designed and constructed with inherent high capacity and low latency— making it ideal for edge workloads like media streaming, cloud gaming, internet of things (IoT) devices like smart homes and autonomous vehicles, augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR), etc.
Provides a low footprint option to run edge workloads in a hybrid environment with dynamic scaling.
Datacenter-as-a-Service (DCaaS) is another common use case within the telecom industry where companies are able to leverage the physical infrastructure within their existing data centers and provide a cloud-like experience to customers by provisioning bare metal servers on-demand that can scale dynamically and charge by usage.
Since DCaaS allows remote access to storage, compute, and network resources through Wide Area Network (WAN), bare metal servers in DCaaS could be leveraged to run resource intensive workloads like hypervisors, databases, Kubernetes platforms, networking technologies in a scalable environment.
What are the technologies supporting the bare metal cloud?
There are several open source platforms and technologies like OpenStack and Ironic powering the implementation of bare metal cloud for companies wanting to build a private cloud that includes bare metal—while using the existing datacenter infrastructure and provisioning bare metal servers to their internal customers in a cloud configuration.
If internal expertise or resources are constrained, companies can consider public cloud providers like AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Alibaba Cloud for bare metal cloud services, which offer several hardware configurations with pay-as-you-go and reserved plans.
Red Hat OpenStack Platform is a cloud computing platform that virtualizes resources from industry-standard hardware, organizes those resources into clouds, and manages them so users can access what they need, when they need it.
To learn more about how Red Hat’s open solutions in the telecommunications sector drive infrastructure modernization and digital transformation, we invite you here.
About the author
Anil Yeluguri has 18 years of information technology experience, designing and implementing solutions for telecom, healthcare, hospitality, utilities and bioinformatics industries. He is experienced in various open source and application modernization technologies including cloud-native architecture and distributed enterprise application design.