IBM makes its bare metal servers available to rent per hour

IBM drives down the time to spin up its SoftLayer bare metal servers to under 30 minutes and makes servers available to rent on an hourly, rather than monthly, basis.

IBM is making its SoftLayer bare metal servers available to rent on an hourly basis in an attempt to broaden the workloads run on the service.

SoftLayer is an IBM-owned company that offers bare metal servers and virtualised infrastructure as a service. Previously the shortest time its bare metal servers could be hired for was one month, limiting their suitability for companies wanting to lease infrastructure for short periods.

IBM SoftLayer bare metal servers are single-tenant, physical servers. They are capable of more consistent performance than multi-tenant virtual machines offered by cloud service providers, as each bare metal server doesn't have the overhead of running a hypervisor and is dedicated to a single customer.

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Starting prices for IBM's bare metal servers are above what SoftLayer, as well as its competitors, charge for renting virtual machines. The cheapest option for hiring a bare metal server is $0.46 per hour, for a server running a 3.4 GHz Intel Xeon E3-1270 processor, with 8GB of RAM and 2TB of HDD storage.

These bare metal servers are aimed at carrying out workloads that are slightly more computationally and demanding than those typically carried out using cloud infrastructure, as Mark Jones, CTO of SoftLayer, explained.

"We have customers that may do big data-related workloads where they want to analyse large datasets or even partial datasets. Our bare metal platform really offers optimal performance for those sorts of workloads," he said.

Making these servers available on an hourly basis will allow companies to spin up servers for a quick analysis and then spin them down, he said.

The trade-off with the bare metal servers is they can't be provisioned as rapidly as virtual machines. While VMs on a service like AWS EC2 can be provisioned in less than 10 minutes it typically takes less than 30 minutes to get an IBM SoftLayer bare metal server up and running.

"Customers, once they learn about our platform and understand it's capabilities, will usually put their steady state workloads on bare metal," said Jones, adding that virtualised public cloud infrastructure is better suited to workloads where unpredictable spikes in demand require rapid provisioning of additional capacity.

Even though the bare metal servers aren't running a hypervisor the provisioning and setup of the bare metal servers is automated, using proprietary software developed by IBM Softlayer.

Rackspace offers a similar bare metal service with its OnMetal offering, which Rackspace claims is able to spin up servers in "minutes".

IBM also launched another datacentre today as part of its $1.2bn build out of SoftLayer's infrastructure worldwide. The new datacentre in Melbourne, Australia is the sixth of 15 new datacentres that IBM will launch this year, more than doubling the size SoftLayer's computing estate.

IBM has been investing heavily in building out SoftLayer's infrastructure in an attempt to match the scale of the cloud service incumbents - such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft - which have reportedly each spent upwards of $10bn growing their global network of datacentres.

The prices and specs of the IBM SoftLayer bare metal servers are shown below. The systems are available from all SoftLayer datacentres and in four base configurations, with CentOS, Red Hat, FreeBSD, or Ubuntu operating system installed.

  Cores / processors Core speed RAM   Price / hour
Intel 1270 4 3.4GHz 8GB 2x1TB SATA $0.46
Intel 1270 4 3.4GHz 32GB 2x400GB SATA $1.09
Intel 2620 12 2.0GHz 32GB 4x1TB SATA $1.24
Intel 2620 16 2.0GHz 64GB 4x1TB SATA $1.32