What are Bare Metal Servers?

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A bare metal server is a physical server that provides dedicated server hosting for a single tenant. Unlike multi-tenant servers in the cloud (those that share their compute and storage resources between different tenants in a virtual environment), a bare metal server provides a single tenant with access to 100% of its resources. 

With a bare metal server, a tenant gains root server access and readily available server resources. They also experience less latency, as there is no noisy neighbor effect or additional layers of software between the user and the physical hardware of the server. This is because traditional bare metal servers feature an operating system (OS) that’s installed directly onto the hard disk of the computer’s hardware. What’s more, a bare metal server is also highly customizable, and things like server security can be optimized based on the unique needs of the tenant. 

Several organizations find great performance, security, and reliability with dedicated physical servers, no matter if they are deployed in on-premises data centers or off-site with a bare metal cloud service provider. If you’re confused about just what a bare metal server is, this guide will help you define bare metal and if a bare metal server is a good fit for your company’s digital infrastructure. 

Bare Metal Terminology to Know

Conversations around bare metal servers can get a bit confusing, especially for those who are new to the concept or terminology. Here are some common terms you’ll come across related to bare metal servers:

  • Bare Metal: The phrase bare metal is primarily used in reference to a physical, single-tenant dedicated server—or a server that does not share resources between multiple tenants in a virtualized environment. However, to properly define bare metal, it’s important to understand that all server environments—including bare metal and virtualized—are based on physical server hardware. Remember, bare metal simply refers to dedicated servers that are isolated to a single tenant.
  • Virtualization: Virtualization is the process of creating virtual, software-based solutions for processes that normally require physical platforms. Bare metal servers can use virtualization software known as hypervisors to create virtual machines (VMs). These VMs are isolated virtual server instances that exist on top of a physical bare metal server, and each VM shares the server’s processing power, memory, and storage. 
  • Hypervisors: A hypervisor, or virtual machine monitor (VMM), is software that can create and monitor VMs on bare metal servers. Typically, bare metal hypervisors (known as Type 1 hypervisors) are installed directly on a bare metal server’s physical hardware. This means they have direct access to server resources and can logically assign dedicated portions of processing power, memory, and storage to each VM running on the server. 
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): Infrastructure-as-a-Service refers to the renting out of cloud-based bare metal servers for computing, storage, and management of these servers. IaaS solutions provide both provisioning and management of your server infrastructure, which includes the bare metal servers themselves, as well as things like connectivity, security, and electricity. 

How Does a Bare Metal Server Work?

Bare metal servers work by providing your organization with computing and storage needs directly on a physical server that’s dedicated to you. This means that you have full access to all the server’s resources, which enables your team to optimize your server infrastructure for your organization’s unique needs. 

A few key benefits of bare metal servers include the following:

  • Isolation: On a bare metal server, your organization’s sensitive data is securely isolated on a physical server that’s dedicated to you. 
  • Performance: Because bare metal servers provide you with 100% of their resources, you can count on reliable performance without experiencing the latency that can occur in shared virtual server environments. 
  • Control: With bare metal servers, you gain root access to the server, giving you the control to optimize it to your needs and maximize performance, security, and reliability.
  • Predictable Costs: While virtual shared servers are generally more cost effective, they can also be potentially volatile—especially when it comes to a lack of security and latency. With a bare metal server, you get the advantage of more predictable costs.
The motherboard of a bare metal server

What is a Bare Metal Server Used For?

While virtual shared servers are becoming more capable of handling enterprise-level needs, industries that require high-level server resources and must meet stringent data security compliance regulations are typically better off with bare metal servers. 

Industries that continue to rely heavily on the performance, security, and reliability of bare metal servers include:

  • Finance.
  • Health.
  • Retail.
  • eCommerce.

Your organization doesn’t have to fall under any of these categories to benefit from a bare metal server. If your organization requires high levels of computing capacity or you must adhere to compliance regulations, a bare metal server is likely the best, most dependable option for you.

How Long Does it Take to Deploy a Bare Metal Server?

An average deployment of bare metal servers takes between a few hours and several days to provision. While one of the biggest perks about virtual servers is that they can be spun up in minutes, a bare metal server’s top-tier performance, customized security, and dependability are unrivaled compared to virtual server options. 

What are the Differences Between Bare Metal and Cloud Hosting?

The differences between bare metal and cloud hosting have a lot to do with the differences between single-tenant servers vs multi-tenant servers

One of the biggest differences between bare metal servers (single-tenant) and cloud hosting (multi-tenant) is that bare metal servers offer dedicated resources to your organization. Alternatively, cloud hosting typically requires you to share virtual resources from one physical server with other tenants. 

Another big difference between bare metal and cloud hosting relates to security. While cloud security in a multi-tenant virtual server environment can be robust, there’s an inherent security advantage: bare metal servers offer complete isolation. This enables organizations to implement their own comprehensive security policies while avoiding the vulnerabilities associated with a shared virtual server environment.

Server control is also a major difference between the two hosting options. Where cloud hosting controls are limited and mostly managed by the service provider, bare metal servers provide root server access. This means you can do things like choose your own OS, server hardware resources, control panel (cPanel, Plesk, Interworx), and software. 

Lastly, bare metal servers work directly from the physical hardware to provide an advanced level of performance that’s not hindered by the added hypervisor layer required to run VMs (virtual machines). VMs in a shared virtual server environment cannot circumvent this added software layer when accessing server resources, which could introduce latency. 

bare metal server illustration of a file cabinet on right with folders coming out and the left side is a cloud with a lock and server rack.

Explore the Benefits of Bare Metal Servers with Liquid Web

A few key features of Liquid Web's bare metal server hosting include:

If a bare metal server hosting solution meets your organization’s needs, Liquid Web has you covered. Liquid Web provides both traditional bare metal servers and cloud dedicated bare metal servers. While traditional bare metal servers offer the most isolation and performance, you will sacrifice some flexibility in terms of timeliness with resource management (upgrades or downgrades). With cloud dedicated bare metal servers, you get the flexibility that the cloud is known for with the performance, security, and reliability of a bare metal server.

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About the Author

David Richards

David Richards has been an educator, a Technology Director, and now a Windows Administrator for 20+ years. He’s an English major with a love for technology and helping others find ways to use technology more effectively. In his free time, Dave loves to read, play games, and spend time his family.

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