These two Companies OneUptime and Prerender are finding that migrating from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to bare metal servers hosted in colocation data centres can lead to substantial cost savings. They have cut costs by over 50% by taking control of their infrastructure while maintaining performance and reliability.
- OneUptime was spending $456K+ annually on a 28-node AWS Kubernetes cluster.
- Prerender projected over $1M per year on AWS services and data transfer.
For many startups and tech companies, AWS seems like an easy choice. It allows you to spin up servers and scale rapidly without investing in your hardware upfront. But as these companies grow, the operating costs on AWS start to add up:
- Monthly bills for instances, storage, data transfer, load balancing services, etc. can exceed $100,000+
- Data transfer costs in particular can be astronomical - $0.08+/GB in some regions
- No control over hardware - "noisy neighbour" problems can affect performance
- Vendor lock-in reduces infrastructure flexibility
Bare metal servers refer to physical servers that are dedicated to a single tenant. In contrast, virtual machines (VMs) are virtualized compute instances that run on shared hardware.
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- Cost - Bare metal eliminates the hidden fees and unpredictable billing associated with the cloud. You pay for the resources you use, with no additional charges for things like egress traffic or API calls.
- Performance - Bare metal allows full access to resources for more consistent high workload performance like high I/O requirements
- Control - Bare metal provides granular hardware control and customization
- Isolation - Dedicated single-tenant resources, so no "noisy neighbour" problems
- Scalability - VMs allow fast automated scaling, bare metal has more limited flexibility
To slash costs, both companies planned and executed systematic migrations from AWS onto the bare metal servers in colocation facilities and both companies have direct access to hardware instead of virtualized instances.
- Set up and tested MicroK8s Kubernetes on bare metal for a subset of traffic
- Gradually shifted more workloads onto new servers over weeks
- Carefully monitored performance and made adjustments
- Once stable, routed all traffic to the bare metal cluster
- Reduced annual costs by 55%+ (saving over $230,000 per year)
- Provisioned bare metal servers and benchmarked performance
- Moved caching and storage services (S3) from AWS services
- Systematically redirected traffic and shut down AWS resources
- Continually stress-tested environment for robustness
- Cut monthly infrastructure costs by 80% (saving $800K+ per year)
Substantial cost savings resulted from careful migrations, as OneUptime achieved an annual cost reduction exceeding 55% (saving over $230K), while Prerender significantly reduced infrastructure costs by 80% (saving over $800K annually).
Technologies like Kubernetes, Docker, Docker and Helm enabled frictionless migrations off AWS by providing:
- Kubernetes - automated container deployment & scaling
- Docker - portable, containerized applications
- Helm - simplified Kubernetes application packaging
Together, these enabled flexibility beyond the public cloud vendors.
Managing your bare metal servers requires significant investments in skilled staff compared to leveraging AWS's services. Transitioning to bare metal means you now need specialized DevOps engineers to handle it.
- Server provisioning, setup, and management
- Network architecture and storage configuration
- Containerization and orchestration
- Migration execution and testing
- Security hardening and access controls
This likely requires adding several additional experienced engineers with skillsets like Kubernetes, Docker, database admin, storage/SAN management etc.
At average salaries of $120-160K per engineer, those human resource costs add up rapidly. Plus server hardware expenses. Plus the loss of integrated AWS services like S3, Cognito, and many others accelerated development.
So you need to hire more backend developers to replicate all that useful functionality you're losing from the cloud provider. Adding 4-6 or more engineers can mean $500K+ in additional annual developer salaries.
In total, you might be spending an extra $2M+ per year in human resources to match what AWS provides out of the box. That's in addition to physical server costs in the range of $200K+.
So while bare metal hosting fees are lower, the human labor tradeoff is real. The efficiency and integrated services of the public cloud should not be discounted when comparing the total cost of ownership. Relying on AWS or any public cloud means less specialized in-house staff is needed. The male labour costs can rapidly diminish potential bare metal shavings.
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For fast-scaling startups, public clouds can end up being far more expensive than bare metal hosting in the long term. The journeys of Prerender and OneUptime highlight how companies can realize major cost savings by moving off AWS onto their bare metal servers.
Their systematic and careful transitions to owned bare metal servers enabled over 50% expense reductions without performance sacrifices or major client impacts. This showcases that while AWS provides power and flexibility, it doesn't always fit every business' needs or long-term budgets. Their experiences prove that companies should continually reassess if public cloud services align with their changing business requirements over time.
In the last I want to ask you, Does managing your own infrastructure make sense from a technical and financial perspective? Why or why not?
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