Oracle Releases Bare Metal Cloud Services

Oracle Corp. today announced the general availability of its new Bare Metal Cloud Services, which the company is billing as the next generation of its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

The new IaaS product provides a "bare metal" cloud -- servers with no Oracle software running on them -- in a virtualized network environment that delivers high performance Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS), network block storage, object storage and VPN connectivity. The new services interoperate with existing Oracle Public Cloud services, and they can be provisioned on-demand, by console or API, with pay-for-what-you-use billing.

The Bare Metal services will be available initially in a new US-Southwest region in Phoenix consisting of three completely fault-independent Availability Domains that are physically separated from one another. A "region" is a localized geographic area; an Availability Domain is one or more datacenters located within each region. Because the domains are isolated from each other -- they don't share power for cooling, for example -- they are less likely to fail simultaneously. The domains are connected by a high-bandwidth network that maintains a sub-millisecond latency across multiple domains in the region. A second region is due to come online in Ashburn, Va., in a few months, the company has said.

What Oracle is calling its first-generation IaaS has served as the foundation for the company's own clouds. The Bare Metal services represent "Generation 2" and were reportedly built from scratch by a Seattle-based team of rock-star developers who worked previously on Amazon Web Service (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

Deepak Patil, vice president of development in Oracle's IaaS Platform group, was one of the founding members of the Azure development team at Microsoft. He moved to Oracle just over a year ago to work on the Bare Metal project.

"It was a compellingly awesome proposition for me and others who came to Oracle to work on this project," Patil told ADTmag. "Thomas [Kurian, Oracle's president of Product Development,] and the rest of Oracle's leadership said, Hey, you guys have built successful, very large-scale, global cloud platforms over the better part of the last decade. You made a lot of mistakes, learned a lot of lessons, and talked with thousands of customers. How would you like to take what you've learned, start with a clean slate, and build the first second-generation cloud platform in the industry? I mean really, how could anyone say no to that?"

More important than this particular product announcement, Patil said, is the Generation 2 foundational model and infrastructure on which the core Bare Metal Cloud Services were built. "We took a step back and took a looked at the infrastructure, network, and software ecosystems and made some fundamentally differentiating decisions," he said.

At the heart of this new model is the Software Defined Network (SDN), Patil said.

"One of the things we learned over the past decade is that much of the magic of the cloud happens in the network," he said. "And so for us, the network is the platform. A lot of the Gen 1 cloud platforms out there have, for example, put I/O virtualization in the hypervisor. We took I/O virtualization out of the hypervisor and put it into the network -- a bump in the wire that sits outside the host server. That not only takes the overhead of hypervisor out of the servers, but allows us to fundamentally differentiate with the network. We have built a very flat, non-blocking, completely non-oversubscribed virtual relay network that is highly scalable and secure."

Another differentiator Patil points to: Oracle is the only large-scale cloud provider to build its entire hardware stack in-house. "Having people who are designing my hardware next door to me allows me to integrate the two systems in fairly unprecedented ways," he said.

Oracle's release of its Bare Metal Cloud Services is just the beginning of a wave of releases enabled by this new infrastructure -- this isolation of the management control plane from the servers, Patil said. In the future, Oracle plans to virtual machines and containers on the same network, and even allow customers to bring "any middle boxes" to the system.

"It's just the start of the journey for us," he said.

Oracle previewed its new Bare Metal Cloud Services at its annual OpenWorld conference last month. During his conference keynote, Oracle executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison declared, "Amazon's lead is over." Bare Metal "delivers twice the compute, twice the memory, four times the storage and ten times more I/O at a 20 percent lower price than Amazon Web Services," he said in an earlier statement, adding that this release "represents a huge new cloud opportunity for Oracle to layer on top of our rapidly growing SaaS and PaaS businesses."

Gartner analyst Lydia Leong got an early look at Bare Metal in September. In a blog post she described it as "a true software-defined cloud IaaS offering, provisioned in minutes and billed by the hour. This sets it apart from more hosting-like bare-metal offerings such as IBM SoftLayer, Internap and Cogeco Peer 1."

But she added, "... I would characterize this early offering as minimum viable product; it is the foundation of a future competitive offering, rather than a competitive offering today."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].