Content providers hoping to compete in today’s ferocious online media market need a server infrastructure that can handle enormous volumes of data on an hourly basis, while also being able to scale as demand grows.
To truly understand what online media companies are up against, let’s take Twitch as an example. The live streaming platform, popular among gamers and vloggers, has generated around 1,400 billion minutes of video content in 2021*, serving around 2.76 million average concurrent users. Given an average 720p HD video will use up around 900 megabytes per hour on a server, we can say that Twitch’s servers handled roughly 46.5 million gigabytes every day throughout the year.
Of course, any content provider hoping to overtake a platform like Twitch needs to match, and even exceed the company’s server capabilities. However, the market is now full of media giants all dealing with similar volumes of data each day, and just staying relevant can be a challenge. Even the smallest degradation in performance can, in the minds of customers, render your platform inferior to rival services.
Bare metal servers are by far the most efficient and most reliable solution for dealing with this extraordinary demand, whether on their own or as a node in a wider infrastructure strategy. The single tenancy approach means you never have to worry about fluctuations in bandwidth, even when your demand scales.
What are bare metal servers?
A bare metal server is a highly customisable physical server that is utilised by a single tenant, i.e. only one customer at a time.
The ‘bare metal’ moniker refers to the idea that the customer benefits from direct access to the hardware, including the storage and memory, without having to deal with pre-installed operating systems or hypervisors. The fact that bare metal servers operate with only one tenant means customers get sole ownership of the server’s resources, avoiding the problem of performance fluctuations during high demand from other users.
You may be thinking that bare metal servers sound an awful lot like dedicated servers, and you’d be right. The two share a number of similarities, including sole tenancy and complete access to hardware. However, bare metal might be best thought of as the next generation of server deployment, and is usually paired with the latest in processor, storage, and memory technology.
Another subtle deviation from dedicated servers is that bare metal is typically far more flexible when it comes to payment options. Hosting companies will usually provide dedicated servers on yearly, or monthly contracts – with bare metal servers it’s a case of monthly or hourly, although cost will vary depending on the package you take. This makes bare metal incredibly useful for those customers that deal with fluctuations in demand, whether that’s a retail site offering Black Friday sales, or a box office app selling tickets for a popular show.
When it comes to deployment, bare metal servers can shine as either a sole hosting option, or when placed in a supporting role. A company may utilise multiple types of hosting, with bare metal acting as a highly configurable overflow, or rely solely on bare metal. Given that bare metal supports multiple types of operating systems, including hypervisors, that usually comes with a bunch of tools to help link with other parts of a network, and that it’s simple to provision with automated deployment, it’s no surprise that it’s becoming the go-to option for myriad situations.
G-Core Labs is one such provider that’s leading the way when it comes to simplified provisioning. Its bare metal as a service platform is built around the principle of automation, allowing customers to provision equipment, configure hardware and spin up new dedicated servers all through APIs. Simply put, this offers scaling potential that’s difficult to challenge.
Why is bare metal so useful to online media platforms?
Protecting one of the most-targeted industries
Security is one of the most challenging aspects of operating a business online, and no matter what industry you operate in, or the size of your company, you’re almost guaranteed to experience a cyber attack in one form or another.
Those in the media industry need to be on higher alert than most businesses, with IBM ranking it the 8th most-targeted industry in 2020**.
Bare metal is one of the most secure forms of server infrastructure available. Given that bare metal operates as a single-tenant environment, resources are allocated to, and controlled by, one customer, isolating them from any system vulnerabilities that may otherwise be present through ‘neighbouring’ users. That control also allows customers to pick and choose what operating systems and tools are deployed, adding and removing software as vulnerabilities are discovered.
Service providers will also offer additional protections on top of the secure foundations of bare metal. Enhanced protections against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks is one of a number of safeguards offered by G-Core Labs, which automatically redirects any suspicious traffic to a threat mitigation system (TMS). This TMS is capable of detecting DDoS attacks while also filtering legitimate traffic to the server, based on policies configured by the customer, meaning the server can stay up and running while the attack is being mitigated.
The biggest advantage of any kind of dedicated server is that they can handle the sort of resource-intensive tasks that would otherwise be difficult to support using virtual machines shared with other users. Bare metal, as you might imagine, is considered the best option in this regard.
In fact, side by side comparisons show that performance can be as much as 17% lower on virtual machines compared to bare metal, according to a benchmark report released in January in the Applied Sciences journal†.
The main reason for this is that bare metal offers pure hardware, with none of the software that comes preinstalled on virtual machines. It’s up to the user what is installed and how it’s all configured, meaning you can create a bespoke system that’s suited perfectly to your needs as a business, free of any unnecessary layers that may otherwise be a drain on resources. You get precisely what you pay for and you know you’ll get every last drop of performance from the hardware configuration you choose.
What hardware is available is dependent on the service provider, however. G-Core Labs is one such provider that has started integrating high-performance hardware to support its customers, including NVM disks and Intel Xeon Scalable Ice Lake processors.
Opportunities to cut costs
Keeping control of resources is a challenge for most businesses, and this is especially true for those running online media platforms requiring 100% uptime and 24/7 availability. Dedicated servers provide a sure-fire way to optimise costs, although bare metal servers only improve your options further.
Bare metal gives you the opportunity to create a bespoke server that fits your needs exactly and, most importantly, you only pay for what you need. You can then monitor the performance of your platform and expand or shrink your server footprint as and when you require. Simply put, you will never feel like you’re paying more than you need at any given time. This degree of flexibility is incredibly important for media companies that will naturally experience fluctuations in daily traffic, and enormous spikes in activity around the release of popular content.
Depending on the packages offered by the service provider, it’s also possible to configure traffic and bandwidth on top of raw server performance. Changing to a new tariff can usually be done without additional cost to the customer.
For example, G-Core Labs’ dedicated server tariff allows customers to customise their deployments, including the option to install RAID or change its type, increase storage volumes and the number of deployed disks, increase memory (RAM) size, opt for solid disk drives (SSDs) or hard drives (HDDs) based on need, and install 10 Gbits/sec network cards. This level of customisation means you never have to pay for something you don’t need.
Even when compared to traditional dedicated servers, the benefits of bare metal are clear. With price plans on a per-hourly basis, it’s a level of flexibility and predictability that’s difficult to replicate.