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Google joins bare-metal cloud fray

Google could attract more legacy application workloads through new bare-metal cloud instances, but it's unclear how they measure up to competitors on manageability and cost.

Google has introduced bare-metal cloud deployment options geared for legacy applications such as SAP, for which customers require high levels of performance along with deeper virtualization controls.

"[Bare metal] is clearly an area of focus of Google," and one underscored by its recent acquisition of CloudSimple for running VMware workloads on Google Cloud, said Deepak Mohan, an analyst at IDC.

Deepak MohanDeepak Mohan

IBM, AWS and Azure have their own bare-metal cloud offerings, which allow them to support an ESXi hypervisor installation for VMware, and Bare Metal Solution will apparently underpin CloudSimple's VMware service on Google, Mohan added.

But Google will also be able to support other workloads that can benefit from bare metal availability, such as machine learning, real-time analytics, gaming and graphical rendering. Bare-metal cloud instances also avert the "noisy neighbor" problem that can crop up in virtualized environments as clustered VMs seek out computing resources, and do away with the general hit to performance known commonly as the "hypervisor tax."

Google's bare-metal cloud instances offer a dedicated interconnect to customers and tie into all native Google Cloud services, according to a blog post. The hardware has been certified to run "multiple enterprise applications," including ones built on top of Oracle's database, Google said.

Oracle, which lags far behind in the IaaS market, has sought to preserve some of those workloads as customers move to the cloud.

This is clearly an area of focus of Google.
Deepak MohanAnalyst, IDC

Earlier this year, it formed a cloud interoperability partnership with Microsoft, pushing a use case wherein customers could run enterprise application logic and presentation tiers on Azure infrastructure, while tying back to an Oracle database running on bare-metal servers or specialized Exadata hardware in Oracle's cloud.

Not all competitive details laid bare

Overall, bare-metal cloud is a niche market, but by some estimates it is growing quickly.

Among hyperscalers such as AWS, Google and Microsoft, the battleground is in early days, with AWS only making its bare-metal offerings generally available in May 2018. Microsoft has mostly positioned bare metal for memory-intensive workloads such as SAP HANA, while also offering it underneath CloudSimple's VMware service for Azure.

Meanwhile, Google's bare-metal cloud service is fully managed by Google, provides a set of provisioning tools for customers, and will have unified billing with other Google Cloud services, according to the blog.

How smoothly this all works together could be a key differentiator for Google in comparison with rival bare-metal providers. Management of bare-metal machines can be more granular than traditional IaaS, which can mean increased flexibility as well as complexity.

Google's Bare Metal Solution instances are based on x86 systems that range from 16 cores with 384 GB of DRAM, to 112 cores with 3,072 GB of DRAM. Storage comes in 1 TB chunks, with customers able to choose between all-flash or a mix of storage types. Google also plans to offer custom compute configurations to customers with that need.

It also remains to be seen how price-competitive Google is on bare metal compared with competitors, which includes providers such as Packet, CenturyLink and Rackspace.

The company didn't immediately provide costs for Bare Metal Solution instances, but said the hardware can be purchased via monthly subscription, with the best deals for customers that sign 36-month terms. Google won't charge for data movement between Bare Metal Solution instances and general-purpose Google Cloud infrastructure if it occurs in the same cloud region.

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