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What is Bare Metal Programming?

Posted on by Michael Flores Feliz | Updated:
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Bare metal programming is a low-level type of programming that is hardcoded to a system at the hardware level and operates without an abstraction layer or operating system (OS). It also interlinks with the hardware, considering the specific build of components.

Two examples of bare metal hypervisors or virtual machine monitors (VMMs) that programmers may work with are VMware and kernel-based virtual machines (KVM).

What is Bare Metal Software?

The development of bare metal software leads to an embedded system that creates a real-time operating system (RTOS). An RTOS is code written on bare metal directly to the hardware of choice at the lowest system level. Developers use bare metal programming to create such software, an essential option for design teams.

The typical nature of an RTOS is an endless loop. It has infinite loop tasks and terminating tasks, but the main loop task is continuous. RTOS are also called schedulers due to their ability to loop or end running operations depending on the stated condition.

An example of this programming statement is called a do-while loop. This kind of loop executes a specific block of code at least once and then repeats it or terminates depending on certain boolean (true or false) conditions at the end of the code.

Bare metal applications run directly from the preloader, allowing full customization to increase workloads instead of a virtualization layer. In addition, this feature allows the activation and destruction of any instance at the lowest level, ensuring the bare metal code resembles the appropriate infrastructure.

Bare metal software includes higher security to ensure efficient completion of simplified operations with advanced memory handling. This automated task can yield better results over hosted hypervisors. In addition, bare metal software is more secure because it reduces the attack surface.

Features include a single-tenant environment, making it more powerful than a regular virtual machine. 

How Does Bare Metal Programming Work?

Often, bare metal programs have a minimal bootloader to bring about the clock, memory, and processor then proceed to the main program. This action allows the creation of a memory map of hardware registrars of microcontrollers. But bare metal application embedded systems need a startup file to perform initial hardware initialization, memory stack/heap setup.

Bare metal programming is similar to bootloaders or firmware. The direct code connects all components that lead to the initialization or start-up of a hardware device. This bare metal code resembles what a machine language is. It doesn’t need to run through layers of additional software but instead runs straight to the system.

Benefits of Bare Metal Programming

There are multiple benefits to bare metal programming. First, it is not from scratch, meaning there are tools to assist in its creation. Also, libraries are combined with bare metal, offering basic functionality like file structures in peripherals and setting up the design configuration. This functionality gives developers time to provide custom settings and adapt scripts for businesses.

The code is straightforward and runs directly on the chip or microcontroller. Scalability is also possible due to its single-tenant nature and increased code safety. In addition, this action requires less memory and provides more power efficiency in controlling hardware microcontrollers.

Drawbacks of Bare Metal Programming

Provisioning involves installing an OS or Type 1 bare metal hypervisor directly on a computer's hardware. Bootstrapping involves loading code instructions when a device is turned on or booted. However, there are a few drawbacks to bootstrapping and provisioning. 

One drawback is the constant input/output (I/O) memory routines for handling multiple tasks at startup. If it doesn’t go smoothly, it produces a system failure, requiring troubleshooting to revive it. Unfortunately, fixing system failure requires technical ability since bare metal code does not provide error logs unless implemented. Also, irregular outputs are not displayed unless custom coded.

Finally, the debugging style requires flashing bare metal code to be 100 percent functional.

Wrap Up

Safety and security are vital concerns while designing embedded systems. The bare metal industry continues to flourish and find effective ways to protect these systems. As a result, there is a demand for bare metal programming skills.

Liquid Web’s Cloud Dedicated bare metal servers offer dedicated server processing power and resources in a cloud platform’s instant provisioning and flexibility. If you’re looking for a powerful cloud-based solution in a single-tenant, stand-alone server, Liquid Web’s Cloud Dedicated servers are the way to go.

And if your needs require a robust, scalable, highly available cloud infrastructure, Liquid Web offers our Managed Private Cloud powered by VMware and NetApp as the right solution. With our built-in cloud hypervisor technology, the only limitation to the number of VMs you can deploy is the resources you have available. Contact our sales team to set up your solution today.

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About the Author: Michael Flores Feliz

Michael Flores Feliz is a Linux Technician at Liquid Web and an up-and-coming DevOPs engineer. He is also a big car fanatic. His motto is long live Linux and Linux support.

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