Bare metal servers are dedicated servers that offer unparalleled performance, control, and security. Raw processing power, the absence of hypervisor overhead, and dedicated resources are just some of the benefits that bare metal servers offer to users.
This article explains everything you need to know about bare metal servers and their benefits and explains how to best set up and manage them.
What Is a Bare Metal Server?
A bare metal server is a physical server dedicated entirely to a single user. It allows direct access to the server’s hardware without any virtualization. This gives the user full control over every aspect of the infrastructure, including the choice of operating system, hardware configurations, and applications.
By avoiding virtualization and hypervisor overhead, a bare metal server provides the superior performance that comes with all the processing power and memory being allocated to a single tenant. The isolation inherent in bare metal servers means that users avoid the “noisy neighbor” problem, enjoying enhanced security and stability. These features make metal servers ideal for high-performance computing, large databases, or gaming servers.
Bare Metal Server Structure
A traditional bare metal server consists of just two layers: the physical hardware and the software. The server hardware, such as the central processing unit (CPU), memory (RAM), storage drives (SSDs or HDDs), and network connections, is housed in a specialized data center that oversees security and ensures optimal performance and reliability.
Unlike virtual environments, where hardware is abstracted and distributed among several virtual machines (VMs), a bare metal server allocates all resources to a single tenant. The user chooses an operating system and configurations that align with the specific needs of application deployment and performance.
This simple structure and the absence of an intervening hypervisor layer make bare metal servers exceptionally powerful and efficient.
Bare metal servers can also come with a thin layer of virtualization. These hypervisor-based bare metal servers, or Type-1 hypervisors, still provide direct access to physical hardware but add a layer of abstraction for improved management of computing resources. A bare metal hypervisor is installed directly on the server’s hardware and runs multiple virtual machines with their own operating systems. This allows multiple isolated environments to function independently on the same server, ensuring performance, security, and stability.
Bare Metal Server Initial Setup
The initial setup of a bare metal server includes several crucial steps:
- Hardware selection and configuration. Choosing the appropriate hardware includes deciding on the necessary CPU power, RAM, storage capacity, networking capabilities, and other elements that contribute to the successful development and deployment of applications.
- Physical setup. After selecting the hardware, it is necessary to install it in a server room or data center. This includes ensuring adequate power supply, cooling systems, and physical security, as well as providing bandwidth for connectivity.
- Operating system installation. The user selects an operating system based on their business needs. The OS is installed directly on the server’s hardware.
- Configuration and optimization. After installing the operating system, the user configures the server by setting up user accounts, deploying security protocols, and installing software and applications. During this step, it is necessary to ensure that the network configurations provide maximum efficiency and performance.
- Maintenance and monitoring. Continuous maintenance and monitoring ensure that the operating system and applications are up to date, and all security protocols are in place. Regularly checking the state of the physical servers makes certain that all components are functioning correctly.
Benefits of Using a Bare Metal Server
Bare metal servers offer various benefits, including:
- Optimized performance. Without the hypervisor layer, bare metal servers allow direct access to resources without interruption, even for resource-intensive tasks.
- Dedicated resources. In a bare metal server environment, all resources are dedicated to a single user.
- Enhanced security and reliability. The physical isolation of the bare metal server ensures data is segregated and safe from breaches or other cyber threats.
- Customization and control. Users have full control over the configuration of a bare metal server, including choosing the operating system, hardware specifications, etc.
- Reduced overhead. Without the overhead of virtualization, bare metal servers operate more efficiently, granting users unparalleled performance.
- Predictable costs. Bare metal servers come with predictable pricing models and fixed costs that do not fluctuate based on usage.
- Compliance. For organizations operating in highly regulated industries, bare metal servers make it easier to achieve the level of data protection necessary for compliance.
Who Should Use a Bare Metal Server?
Bare metal servers are suitable for many types of users and organizations, including:
- Large enterprises with resource-intensive applications.
- High-traffic websites and ecommerce platforms.
- Gaming companies hosting multiplayer games.
- Organizations with stringent security requirements.
- IT and cloud service providers.
- Companies with stable, predictable workloads.
- Research institutions and universities.
- Media and entertainment companies.
- Development and testing environments.
- Businesses requiring hybrid IT environments.
How to Manage Bare Metal Servers?
These are the key aspects of managing bare metal servers.
1. Maintain and Upgrade Hardware
Regularly check and maintain the physical hardware of the server, including components such as CPUs, memory, storage drives, etc. Monitoring the components’ health and replacing them before they cause damage guarantees optimal and uninterrupted performance.
2. Update the Operating System and Software
Install, update, and maintain the operating system and software running on the server for overall performance and stability. This includes managing licenses and ensuring compatibility between the OS, software applications, and hardware.
3. Optimize the Security Measures
Implement robust security measures to protect the server from internal and external threats. This includes installing firewalls, managing access controls, and using intrusion detection systems. Security patching, encryption of sensitive data, and regular security audits also help protect critical business operations.
4. Backup and Disaster Recovery
Regularly back up data and system configurations to avoid data loss in case of disaster. Furthermore, a robust disaster recovery plan will enable you to restore operations swiftly if a major incident occurs.
5. Manage Network Configuration
Configure and manage the server’s network settings to ensure optimal performance and the highest security. This includes managing IP addresses, setting up VLANs, configuring routers and switches, and always ensuring reliable connectivity.
6. Monitor Performance for Optimization
Continuously monitor server performance through metrics such as CPU usage, memory usage, disk activity, and network traffic. This will help you avoid performance bottlenecks, optimize resource allocation, and plan for future usage.
7. Use Automated Management Tools
Server management tools automate routine tasks such as updates, backups, and monitoring, while configuration management software guarantees consistency across server environments.
8. Manage User Accounts and Resources
By managing user accounts, permissions, and resources, organizations achieve optimal resource allocation and usage depending on the user’s or application’s needs.
9. Ensure Compliance and Auditing
Organizations must ensure that the server is compliant with the regulatory standards of the industry in which they operate. Regular compliance audits help them identify and remediate potential issues.
10. Provide Technical Support and Troubleshooting
Organizations should have a reliable support system that addresses hardware and software issues. The quick resolution of problems rests on a skilled technical team or support service from the server vendor.
To Lease or To Buy – Which Is Better?
The decision between buying or leasing a bare metal server depends on several factors, including the organization’s budget, long-term IT strategy, and specific business needs.
Buying a server comes with a significant upfront investment but provides complete control over hardware. This can be cost-effective in the long run, especially for organizations with predictable workloads that don’t anticipate needing frequent hardware upgrades. However, a bare metal server does require the organization to handle all maintenance and upgrades, which can be time-consuming and require higher levels of expertise.
On the other hand, leasing a server provides more flexibility and comes with fewer expenses. This makes it suitable for small businesses and startups with fluctuating workloads. Leasing makes it easy to scale operations and hands over the responsibility of maintenance and upgrades to the server provider. On the downside, it allows fewer customization options and less control.
A Solution for High-Demand Hosting
With complete isolation and full resource utilization by a single user, bare metal servers are a powerful solution for web hosting and data management. They are especially beneficial for organizations that demand high-performance resources while maintaining tight control over their IT environment and compliance with strict security requirements.