When is Bare Metal the Right Choice for ECommerce?

For the majority of eCommerce businesses, workloads are quite predictable, making bare metal cloud a much more cost effective infrastructure choice than public cloud in many cases.

Swathes of eCommerce founders are understandably drawn to public cloud vendors, such as AWS – enticed by low entry point pricing and offers, as well as the success stories of prominent names. But there are two sides to the public cloud pricing equation, and low entry point prices are invariably offset by premiums elsewhere in the portfolio. Typically, this impacts businesses who do not make use of the scalability aspects of the platform.

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Don’t Mistake Yourself for Amazon

If an eCommerce store experiences massive peaks and troughs in its visitor numbers, the ability to access burstable capacity, and to avoid the need to over-provision to cope with those peaks, represents a very real financial benefit. The reality is, however, that most eCommerce businesses, even the most successful, are quite unlike Amazon, which built AWS to meet its own need for scalability first.

Amazon’s eCommerce business faces unique challenges that arise from its size and success – massive fluctuations in visitor numbers are only the beginning. Amazon also contends with a truly global audience, calling for infrastructure in every region in order to cater for demand while delivering a satisfactory user experience.

On top of this, Amazon’s Big Data collection and storage, analytical power and back office systems all need to scale in line with customer demand too. Their need for burstable capacity is unprecedented.

Add to this, its marketplace offering, which accommodates millions of independent sellers, and the magnitude of these infrastructure challenges becomes even more impressive.

But Amazon is a one-off. The vast majority of eCommerce businesses have very different infrastructure requirements.


The Right Infrastructure for Your ECommerce Business

Fluctuations in visitor numbers to eCommerce websites rarely reach the point where the difference between the average and peak demand for computation power makes paying a premium for public cloud scalability worthwhile.

And while visitor numbers fluctuate, the volume of data being stored for transactions and other processes grows linearly – predictably and slowly in relative terms. The demand for analytical power and business intelligencemeanwhile, though driven by visitor numbers, is in many cases outsourced to third parties and so does not impact the core infrastructure requirements at all.

This predictability in demand, and therefore infrastructure requirements, is further supported by the tendency for successful eCommerce businesses to serve specific markets and geographies well, rather than taking the multi-national broad-line approach.

It rarely makes sense for an eCommerce business to host all of its infrastructure, if any, on the public cloud.


The Business Case for Bare Metal

Unless your workloads are like Amazon’s and you can benefit from access to premium, burstable, pay-as-you-go capacity, bare metal cloud will give you better ROI. It’s well known that, for most examples of always-on instances, a dedicated server within a bare metal cloud environment will cost a fraction of what the public cloud alternative will – once attractive new customer deals have expired, of course.

In addition to the cost advantages, bare metal instances always deliver better performance over time, thanks to their being single tenant and not sharing resources with any other users in any way. Given how vitally important page load and server response times are to the customer experience in eCommerce, this is a distinct advantage in bare metal’s favour.


In conclusion, the low-cost ticket price of public cloud is not what you will end up paying if your workloads are steady or your instances always on. In every case, the best way to ensure you get maximum ROI from your infrastructure, both in terms of cost and performance, is to match it closely to your workloads. Capacity planning is an essential step in cloud deployment of ecommerce businesses and should not be overlooked.

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