by Richard Fichera, Forrester Research

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Trecho: The Small But Notable Class Of Bare-Metal Providers Will Expand

The bare-metal cloud market is represented by a relatively limited number of players, but these
players include some venerable names. Because this model has merit, we expect the group to expand
greatly in 2015. Among the most notable current providers are:

IBM SoftLayer ( SoftLayer was one of the innovators in bare-metal cloud
and was acquired by IBM in 2013. SoftLayer offers a wide range of bare-metal and VM cloud
resources as well as comprehensive services in the tradition of IBM. SoftLayer was an innovator
in providing a comprehensive application programming interface (API) management layer
for its bare-metal cloud, an innovation that other providers have subsequently mimicked.
SoftLayer has the largest network of data centers of the current bare-metal providers, with
approximately 21 locations in the Americas, Europe, and Asia, and has close ties to IBM’s
managed cloud services. Since acquiring SoftLayer, IBM has invested heavily in it, making it one
of the centerpieces of its cloud delivery strategy. The Bluemix platform, a cornerstone of IBM’s
overall corporate strategy, is built atop SoftLayer.2 Like its competitors, SoftLayer emphasizes its
ability to link its cloud offerings to customer-owned infrastructure. It does not offer a colocation
service of its own, but rather uses DirectLink (similar to Amazon Web Services DirectConnect)
interconnects to link SoftLayer infrastructure to customers’ on-premises facilities or to
equipment hosted in an IBM data center. The latter positions a low-latency private network
inside IBM’s ecosystem.

Internap ( Internap’s roots are in high-performance network services
and hosting. It provides a combination of dedicated hosting and bare-metal cloud with strong
offerings to create dedicated high-speed interconnects between client hardware assets both
within and between their multiple data centers. These interconnects enable customers to
hybridize bare-metal cloud and dedicated hosting with other Internap infrastructure services,
including OpenStack-based public cloud, colocation, and managed hosting, to fit specific
workload needs. Internap is also aggressively introducing high-performance shared storage
offerings for both its managed hosting and bare-metal customers. Internap has a wide range
of automated bare-metal and virtual servers, available in monthly and hourly configurations,
and offers a self-service portal, API access, and operational assistance services to its clients. It
manages 16 North American data centers in addition to locations in London, Amsterdam,
Tokyo, Singapore, and Hong Kong. It claims that its geographic span and ability to offer routeoptimized
bandwidth and dedicated private connectivity give it an advantage for clients seeking
a global footprint.

Rackspace ( With its origins as a hosting provider, Rackspace added
bare-metal cloud as an adjunct to the dedicated installations of its clients. Rackspace focuses on
larger dedicated servers, and its economics are optimized for large customers looking for big
machines (32-plus gigabytes of RAM and PCIe flash storage). Rackspace has servers with up to
512 gigabytes (GB) of RAM as well as database-optimized nodes with 32 cores and 3.2-terabyte
(TB) flash and density-optimized offerings.4 Rackspace expects to derive service revenue from
operational assistance to its dedicated hosting customers. A substantial minority of Rackspace
bare-metal customers also have some form of dedicated hosting relationship with Rackspace.
Rackspace is heavily concentrated in North America but has locations in London, Hong Kong,
and Sydney.

OVH ( OVH is a European hosting provider that transitioned into offering both
VM-based and bare-metal cloud offerings from a footprint of predominantly European data
centers (two are in Canada). OVH also offers dedicated hosting. Like its competitors, it offers
the ability to create private dedicated connections between geographically distributed OVH
data centers with its vRack connectivity offering. With a reported total of 180,000 servers, OVH
claims to be the largest hosting provider in Europe and No. 3 in the world. While it doesn’t
have as strong a global presence as its major North American competitors, OVH is a sound
alternative in Europe and is building a more global presence with its foray into Canada.
Forrester expects the roster of providers to increase as the benefits of this cloud variant become more
widely recognized. Bare-metal cloud will never be the dominant cloud deployment model, but it will
gain traction as part of a continuum from pure VM offerings to dedicated hosting and colocation.