Rackspace brings dedicated hardware to the cloud with OnMetal

Patricio Robles
Jun. 24 2014, 11:50AM EDT

Hosting provider Rackspace has launched OnMetal, a new hosting offering that give customers the ability to scale their infrastructure using dedicated hardware the same way they do with their existing multi-tenant cloud offering.

As Ev Kontsevoy, Director of Product at Rackspace Hosting, explained "OnMetal combines the simplicity of consistent performance and the economy of colocation with the elasticity of the cloud." With OnMetal, customers can provision single-tenant, bare metal servers instantly and manage them through the same control panel and API that they use to manage their virtual cloud servers.

Like Rackspace's multi-tenant virtual servers, OnMetal servers are OpenStack-based and Rackspace customers can build architectures that leverage both Rackspace offerings together. Customers pay for OnMetal, which is currently in a limited availability release, the same way they do for virtual machines: pay-as-you-go, prorated down to the minute.

According to Kontsevoy, "OnMetal is for large or quickly-growing Internet businesses thinking about moving from colo to cloud, or vice versa." The goal: increase simplicity, lower costs. "Running your high-traffic production environment on consistently performing bare-metal machines means less over-engineering, more simplicity and – ultimately – lower costs."

The next big trend in hosting?

Cloud hosting offerings from companies like Rackspace and Amazon have exploded in popularity in recent years. And for good reason. From an economic perspective, being able to scale up and down, paying only for the resources needed at any given moment, is very appealing to many companies. And from a management perspective, the ability to provision and manage infrastructure programatically using an API offers an incredible level of efficiency and flexibility.

But multi-tenant, virtual machine-based cloud hosting is far from perfect, a fact many companies have learned first-hand trying to scale in these environments. As Rackspace's Kontsevoy notes, virtual machines have an inherent performance "virtualization tax" and multi-tenant environments are vulnerable to the so-called "noisy neighbor" problem in which one customer's performance is negatively impacted by another customer's resource utilization on the same physical machine. For certain companies, issues like these negate the theoretical advantages of cloud hosting, prompting some to move back to traditional dedicated hosting environments.

With OnMetal, Rackspace is seeking to provide the economic and management advantages of the current crop of cloud hosting offerings with the power of dedicated bare metal machines. That's significant and could represent the next big trend in hosting.

As Zach Rosen, CEO of hosted Drupal platform provider Pantheon Systems, observed, "We’ve all been trained to think of the cloud as generic virtual machines on demand. [Virtual machines] have had their decade. The future ‘Cloud’ will be built with containers deployed across bare-metal servers provisioned via API."

If that proves to be true, expect to see other major hosting providers launch similar offerings of their own. And expect those with the best and most widely used APIs to find it easiest to compete in this new market.

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