Rackspace Announces OnMetal Server Availability, Pricing

The company is offering customers bare-metal cloud servers that can be spun up as quickly as VMs and bring better performance.


Rackspace's much publicized OnMetal bare-metal cloud service is now generally available, with a per-minute pricing plan that could range from $550 to $1,800 a month.

The cloud service provider introduced the bare-metal servers last month, with officials saying such systems will enable customers to scale their workloads without the performance consistency issues that can occur in virtualized and multitenant cloud environments and without the associated management and management headaches.

With the OnMetal Cloud Servers systems, businesses with applications that are difficult to scale in a virtualized cloud will get dedicated bare-metal systems on which to run their workloads, giving them greater control over the compute resources running their applications.

Businesses increasingly are leveraging cloud environments for their workloads, getting the elasticity and availability they need due to the virtualization and multitenancy most clouds—including Rackspace's—offer. In multitenant clouds, multiple businesses share the same physical compute, storage and networking resources, which are partitioned via virtualization.

The downside is that, in such multitenant environments, customers can't always count on consistent performance from all the data center resources.

"Why did cloud-based startups have such a hard time scaling 'in the cloud?'" Ev Kontsevoy, director of products at Rackspace Hosting, wrote in a post on the company blog when the OnMetal program was announced in June. "The short answer: multi-tenancy. Multi-tenancy in clouds leads to inconsistency in performance behaviors, a noticeable increase in the complexity of the application and increased engineering spend to address that complexity."

OnMetal servers offer customers single-tenant systems that run the same OpenStack API that is found in Rackspace's cloud. They can be provisioned as quickly as virtual machines, and are built using Rackspace's own design that leverages the work of the Open Compute Project.

"They are also incredibly large, so you'll need fewer of them," Kontsevoy wrote.

The OnMetal Cloud Servers come in three versions. The OnMetal Compute system offers 10 Intel Xeon E5 cores and 32GB of memory, and is aimed at large-scale Web servers, application servers and load balancers. The systems are about 14 percent faster than virtualized servers, officials said. OnMetal Memory includes 12 cores and 512GB of RAM for caches, search indexes and in-memory analytics, according to company officials. The system is optimized to get the most gigabits of RAM per dollar.

OnMetal I/O is aimed at offering the most database transactions per dollar, with 20 cores, 128GB of RAM and a 3.2TB PCI-Express flash drive. The system can run such workloads as NoSQL data stores, traditional SQL databases and online transaction processing (OLTP) applications, officials said.

The pricing range Rackspace outlined—$550 for OnMetal Compute, $1,650 for Memory and $1,800 for I/O—is based on average monthly estimates, according to company officials.

Rackspace in June tested the systems with some customers in a limited availability release, and the response was good, Kontsevoy wrote in another post on the company blog.

"Our customers have shown great interest," he wrote. "Some of them are looking to move away from the unpredictable nature of virtualized, multi-tenant environments, while others are intrigued by our promise of 'elasticity of the cloud, plus economy of colocation'—particularly the economy side of it."

The OnMetal servers are currently available in the company's data center in Northern Virginia and will be made available in other North American data centers later in the year. They'll be available in Rackspace's international data servers in 2015.

The new systems come as questions about Rackspace's future continue to arise. While the company has been a key cloud services pioneer and OpenStack developer, competition with such giants as Amazon Web Services and Google has impacted the company's financial numbers. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in May, company officials said they had hired banker Stanley Morgan to help them explore possible partnerships or buyers.

That kicked off speculation about which vendors might be in line to buy Rackspace—officials with Cisco Systems and IBM both said their companies were not interested—while others have debated whether the company would go private.