A Comparison of Bare Metal to Virtualization to Containers

Last Updated on May 17, 2019 by Shaun Snapp

Executive Summary

  • The choices around server modalities can be overwhelming.
  • See how the various servers modalities compare to one another and are scored.


The server modality is how the server is managed. Infrastructure is made up of both hardware and software servers. Any entity can use a combination of the various server modalities to create their optimal environment.

In just 15 years, both virtualization and containerization have appeared, greatly increasing the options for server management. IT departments had just adjusted to a virtualized environment when containers appeared on the scene.

Making Sense of it All

As the number of options for server management has increased, the complexity of decision making has also increased. In some cases, the server modalities replace each other — or that is they are competitive, but in other cases they are complementary. And within each modality, there are many options, and they continue to grow and get better.

But using any of them means having the skills or using consulting firms with the skills in that specific area. So while it looks like the options are plentiful, there is a learning curve and implementation timeline for all of them. A constant feature of the media coverage of these various technologies is a general impression given that each IT department has both an unlimited research budget, and an unlimited ability to try and optimize the different server modalities. Neither of these general impressions is true.

The Top Level Server Strategy Versus the Sub Strategy

The top-level strategy of IT departments must be to keep current on the various server modality technologies to determine the appropriate combination or match for their needs. And before reviewing these many options within each modality (for instance KVM versus VMware for virtualization, or Kubernetes versus Docker Swarm for containerization, or OpenStack versus Google Kubernetes Engine), it is beneficial to review the various strengths and weaknesses of each of the modalities. Furthermore, there is an additional decision as to whether each of these server modalities should be used in both on-premises and in the cloud. For example, AWS, while a cloud provider, offers bare metal. This means that every server modality is available on both deployment modalities.

To see the details of each server modality select the link.