A proof of concept plays a pivotal role in software development. It's a way to test for or demonstrate feasibility of an idea. It's also about rigorously testing a new solution in a controlled environment to identify and rectify potential issues.
Enterprises use POCs to get critical insights into a software project's viability, cost and potential impact before deciding whether to commit greater resources to the project. For vendors, POCs are a crucial sales tool, a way to tangibly demonstrate the value of their solution to prospects.
Creating an effective POC requires an infrastructure that is flexible and cost efficient. Certain types of POCs also have higher than average performance requirements and need granular control of infrastructure configuration. For these POCs, a robust global dedicated cloud service ticks all the boxes.
A foundational element of such a cloud is the ability to remotely provision bare metal servers that are dedicated solely to your workload. In other words, you’re not deploying your POC in cloud VMs running on physical hosts that also run VMs by your cloud provider’s other customers.
Bare metal servers have no hypervisor layer. Your application has direct access to the hardware resources, eliminating the performance overhead that's often added by virtualization. You get an environment with high performance, full control and a lot of configuration flexibility.
Let’s explore some of the unique advantages of building a POC on dedicated cloud infrastructure over traditional shared cloud platforms and applications that benefit from these advantages.
When Dedicated Cloud Makes the Most Sense for a POC
First, let’s take a look at some example scenarios where building a POC in a dedicated, non-virtualized cloud environment makes the most sense.
When it comes to high-performance applications, such as real-time data analytics workloads that process huge volumes of data within milliseconds, dedicated cloud stands out for the raw computational power of bare metal and low-latency capabilities.
Imagine you're building a real-time analytics engine for high-frequency trading. You need to process incoming market data and execute orders within a matter of milliseconds to capitalize on market opportunities. The potential performance overhead of a hypervisor in this use case may directly impact profit.
Dedicated cloud services, like those offered by Equinix, give you bare metal servers that can be provisioned on demand with specific CPU and memory configurations optimized for high-speed data processing. You can quickly spin up a server with fast CPU and storage I/O to build a POC that simulates real-world trading scenarios. This means your POC can directly interact with the hardware while avoiding the latency introduced by hypervisors and offering a more accurate measure of the application's real-world performance. Using dedicated cloud by Equinix specifically, you can deploy your trading application POC in the New York Metro, in close proximity to the Wall Street trading ecosystem, so you can measure performance and latency in a context the workload would likely run in IRL.
Heavy Duty Networking Applications
If you’re building SDN solutions, Virtual Network Functions or an entire CDN, you need full control of the network architecture and configuration of the environment you test on. You have that level of control on Equinix Metal.
You can run your SDN controller on a bare metal server (attached to a top-of-rack switch) and set up the network architecture it will be working with in any way you need. You can test VNFs on real connections to clouds and networks. You can deploy a POC CDN across multiple metros to see it in action and capture real-life performance metrics. You control exactly how and where the packets flow over your network. All the options are there: Layer 2 or Layer 3 networking, VLANs, public IP addresses, Anycast, BGP and so on.
Highly Secure Applications
For applications where security is paramount, such as government or military applications that handle sensitive data, running a POC on bare metal eliminates the risk of a lateral attack, which is normally present in virtualized cloud environments, where your VM is sharing a physical host with other cloud customers’ VMs.
Additionally, in a single-tenant cloud environment of the kind Equinix provides you can interconnect your POC environment’s components using private network links, without exposing anything that needs to be highly secure to the public internet.
Designing Private Cloud Solutions
Deploying a private cloud solution like OpenStack on a cloud platform that’s already running its own hypervisor introduces needless complexity and performance overhead. For a POC aimed at testing the performance and scalability of an OpenStack-based private cloud, you'll want an environment that closely mirrors the final production setup. On-demand bare metal servers can be provisioned to match the exact hardware specifications and network architecture you or your customer plan to use in production.
Mirantis uses Equinix’s dedicated cloud to build and test massive-scale OpenStack private clouds for its enterprise customers. Read how they do this.
Operating System or Kernel Development
If you're working on an operating system or kernel-level development, the granularity and control provided by bare metal servers are essential.
Let's say you're developing a custom Linux kernel optimized for cloud-native applications. Virtualized environments abstract away many of the hardware features that you may need to interact with directly during development and testing.
Bare metal servers give you direct access to the CPU, memory, storage and network cards, letting you fine-tune your OS or kernel for specific hardware configurations. The absence of a hypervisor makes it easier to debug and profile kernel-level code. This leads to a much more efficient development cycle, as you can test changes in a setting that closely mimics your target deployment environment.
The teams behind Alpine Linux and Flatcar Container Linux run builds and tests of their OS releases on dedicated cloud infrastructure by Equinix. Read more about the Alpine team’s and Flatcar team’s approaches.
Advantages of Building a POC on a Dedicated Cloud
Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of using a dedicated non-virtualized cloud environment for a proof of concept to provide a greater understanding of the scenarios in which this style of infrastructure is the right fit.
Flexibility to Modify Your System
When you're building a proof of concept, you need to be able to make quick and precise changes to your system's configuration. A non-virtualized single-tenant cloud gives you full control over your environment and the freedom to change it, from the operating system and other installed software to hardware settings. This level of flexibility isn't generally available in traditional cloud computing setups, where you have to contend with predefined settings and limitations imposed by a shared, virtualized infrastructure.
The absence of a hypervisor also means there are no extra layers of software between your applications and the hardware. This translates to better performance and faster execution.
For instance, if you're working on a POC for a real-time analytics engine, the engine must be able to process large streams of incoming data and output insights in real time. In a traditional cloud setting, you'll find that the virtualization layer imposes latency that makes it difficult to get to those real-time results.
With bare metal, you can finetune CPU clock speeds or adjust memory allocation specifically for your needs. If your analytics engine performs better on a Linux-based system with particular real-time extensions, you can easily make those changes.
Running a POC on an Equinix dedicated cloud, you can quickly reconfigure hardware specs or spin up a different server if initial tests reveal bottlenecks. You can then quickly iterate through configurations until you find the one that meets all your performance metrics. You’re never stuck with a suboptimal environment.
Full Control Over Hardware and Software
A dedicated cloud is a good fit for POCs that require closely monitoring and managing every aspect of the system to quickly isolate and resolve any issues. With bare metal servers you can dig deep into system logs, monitor hardware-level metrics and observe the behavior of your application. You can manipulate system settings at a granular level to examine how each change impacts your metrics.
In a traditional cloud environment the infrastructure is abstracted and shared among multiple tenants. Not only do you have no access to the underlying hardware, you are exposed to “noisy neighbor” performance fluctuations as different users’ VMs contend for host resources they’re sharing. Additionally, resource allocation in cloud systems is typically not as granular and can be prone to oversubscription, meaning you may not get the resources you think you're paying for.
Another important aspect is the level of control over the operating system. Equinix dedicated cloud offers a set of natively supported OS images like traditional cloud providers do, but there is also the option to provision any image you like using custom iPXE.
Specialized Infrastructure With Cloudlike Flexibility
The cloud’s ability to spin infrastructure up and down temporarily makes it a great fit for the naturally transitory POC environments. For reasons outlined above, however, virtualized clouds don’t really work for all types of POCs.
Projects that require deep hardware access and control, flexible networking configurations and high performance can use a dedicated cloud service like Equinix’s to meet their specific POC environment criteria without buying, hosting and managing the equipment themselves. The infrastructure can be provisioned and managed via a web GUI or using familiar Infrastructure-as-Code tools and techniques via the robust Equinix Metal API.
Specialized Infrastructure at the Edge
If your POC is for an application where low latency is crucial, a dedicated cloud like Equinix’s enables you to deploy application logic in any of the dozens of major metros around the world. These are densely populated areas, which means processing is done physically close to the maximum number of end users or devices that can be served from a single location.
This capability is also useful in situations where infrastructure must be in particular locations to ensure content localization and compliance with data sovereignty regulations.
Raw Performance for Compute-Intensive Applications
If your POC is for an application where every bit of performance counts, bare metal is a compelling choice, providing the full power of server CPU, memory and network resources without the performance overhead that virtualization in many cases adds. Your application also isn’t fighting for resources with another user’s applications as it would in a virtualized cloud environment.
Equinix offers a variety of x86 CPUs by Intel or AMD, as well as Arm servers by Ampere. You can choose from a list of different network card, boot drive, memory and storage configurations, as well as the operating system, and know that the resources provisioned will not be used by anything other than your application.
The bottom line is that a non-virtualized dedicated cloud environment has a lot to offer to developers who need to run a proof of concept for an application where control and performance are paramount. The only other way to meet these needs is to buy and host the POC infrastructure on premises, which requires a high upfront capital investment and ongoing operating costs for a deployment that’s temporary by definition.
The elastic pay-as-you-go consumption model of cloud services is a natural fit for temporary deployments, and in many cases choosing a traditional virtualized cloud platform for this purpose is a no-brainer. However, in cases where there is no room for compromise on either control or performance, a dedicated bare metal cloud provides the flexible consumption model without compromising the other requirements.
Equinix amplifies the power of this style of infrastructure with an unrivaled API, which enables developers to take advantage of dedicated cloud using familiar cloud native infrastructure-as-code tools and techniques, global scale and the ability to architect the network exactly the way the customer’s POC deployment requires.
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