Bigstep has unveiled an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform with a twist; instead of allowing customers to provision virtual machines, it is offering bare metal servers that can be used to operate whatever software stack the customer wishes to deploy, whether this is a big data application based on Hadoop or a custom-built private cloud.
Launched today, Bigstep's Full Metal Cloud service is chiefly aimed at customers looking to operate big data analytics applications using tools such as Hadoop or NoSQL, although it could in theory be used to provision a cloud stack or anything the customer wishes.
The advantage of this bare metal approach for operating big data applications is that it delivers the full processing power of the server hardware without the expense of running a hypervisor, Bigstep commercial director Ioana Hreninciuc told V3.
"With Full Metal Cloud, you don't get the loss in performance you see from running a hypervisor. VMware's platform is considered the most mature on the market, but you can get at least twice the performance with Hadoop running on bare metal," she said.
Hreninciuc said Bigstep classifies its service as cloud computing because it offers a self-service portal, operates on a pay-per-use basis, and customers can provision new resources instantly, as they need them. These attributes are all also applicable to more conventional public cloud offerings such as Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Full Metal Cloud is operated using the latest eighth-generation HP server hardware, according to Bigstep, with distributed storage entirely based on solid-state drives (SSDs) for performance, connected using internet small computer system interface (iSCSI).
Although each server node has its own local SSD storage, this will typically be used for scrub disks – temporary data – when operating a Hadoop deployment. Each server boots instead from the centralised iSCSI storage, which is how customers can get their software stack deployed across all the infrastructure they control.
On the networking side, each server has a baseline configuration of four Gigabit Ethernet connections, which can be expanded up to a maximum 44Gbps of connectivity. Customers can also define and update their network configuration via the user portal, or by using a set of application programming interfaces (APIs), Hreninciuc said.
While Bigstep believes that Full Metal Cloud will appeal primarily to customers wishing to run workloads such as big data analytics, it could also be used to stand up a hosted private cloud using OpenStack or whatever they choose to deploy. In the latter scenario, customers would benefit not only from knowing that that their cloud is hosted in a UK data centre, but also that they are not sharing physical infrastructure with anyone else.
"The servers are yours and yours alone. That makes a lot of sense for many enterprise customers," said Hreninciuc.
Pricing, which can be found on Bigstep's website, starts at £0.35 per hour for a Base Instance, comprising a quad-core Xeon server with 8GB of memory. Bigstep offers two pricing options: on-demand is charged by the hour, while reserved is priced on a per-month basis, with a minimum 12-month subscription.
Hreninciuc said that Bigstep's pricing is slightly higher than users might see from Amazon, but that Bigstep offers better value and performance.
"We aim to be more cost effective for a given level of performance," she said.
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