SoftLayer announced new service level and features to their Bare Metal Servers today. Continuing their march towards delivering dedicated servers at virtual server pricing and service levels, SoftLayer announced that they will now offer setup in under 30 minutes and hourly billing options. The 30 minute set up is available on a variety of pre-configured hardware platforms with a choice of CentOS, Debian, FreeBSD, or Ubuntu operating systems.
I had a chance to speak with Marc Jones, CTO of SoftLayer about the new offering. Jones and SoftLayer have long held the belief that a hypervisor is not necessary for a cloud. In fact by giving customers their own dedicated hardware, it is SoftLayer’s view that they are providing a superior platform for their customers cloud requirements. The SoftLayer bare metal servers are integrated into the entire SoftLayer/IBM platform including storage, virtual and other assets.
Two areas where virtual hypervisor based cloud solutions did offer an advantage perhaps was the time to get up and running and the flexibility of on demand computing billing. Those are the two areas SoftLayer is hitting head on with this latest offering.
By having pre-configured hardware specs, it makes it much easier for SoftLayer to spin up the server. Imagine these different server configurations already mounted in a data center. Now when an order is placed it is just a matter of installing OS and other required software. This could be done via scripts. In fact Jones mentioned that SoftLayer uses a variety of tools like Chef/Puppet and some home grown tools to accomplish server configuration. This automation is what is allowing SoftLayer to offer 30 minute set ups.
The configurations available and the hourly rates for them are as follows:
|Intel 1270||4||3.4GHz||8GB||2x1TB SATA||$0.46|
|Intel 1270||4||3.4GHz||32GB||2x400GB SSD||$1.09|
|Intel 2620||12||2.0GHz||32GB||4x1TTB SATA||$1.24|
|Intel 1270||16||2.0GHz||64GB||4x1TB SATA||$1.30|
Depending on who you speak to, spinning up a new server on AWS or other public cloud providers can take as little 10 minutes. So that is still significantly faster than having a dedicated server provisioned on SoftLayer. But really is there such a big penalty in waiting less than 30 minutes versus 10 minutes? In exchange you are getting a dedicated piece of hardware. Also from an hourly price perspective, the bare metal server option is still more expensive. But again with this latest release SoftLayer is moving closer to approaching virtual, hypervisor based IaaS levels.
Jones said that further refinements and improvements will hopefully see SoftLayer continue to narrow the gap between speed of setup and pricing with virtual cloud offerings. But he firmly believes that the advantages to having your own server outweigh the shrinking set up gap and pricing difference.
Another big plus in the SoftLayer model is its integration with IBM’s offerings. Blue Mix, IBM’s PaaS offering runs on SoftLayer. In fact most of IBM’s cloud offerings are powered by SoftLayer. As part of this SoftLayer is opening up 15 new data centers with the 6th of these in Melbourne, Australia opening today.
To be sure there are critics who say that without the hypervisor, SoftLayer’s flavor of cloud is not “true” cloud. But as the old saying goes, if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, it must be a duck. With hourly pricing, rapid fulfillment, scalability and more, bare metal servers is more than enough cloud with some distinct advantages.