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Picking a Cloud-like Dedicated Hosting Provider

The future is here for dedicated hosting! The landscape today looks a lot more like the cloud — APIs, fast provisioning, and no commitments. It is awesome.

In this post I explore the new age of dedicated hosting and describe my thought process for picking a provider. My wish list of features grows over the course of the post as I encounter more providers. In the end, I choose my favorite and provide the completed checklist.

If you want the quick answer, I chose Packet.


First: I love virtual machines and this site runs on one of those.

But sometimes I want a real host to play with, with real RAID cards and a real, non-virtualized network interface. There are certain performance monitoring counters that aren’t normally exposed (unless Brendan Gregg swoops in) on a VM. Hardware access is still different than a virtualized environment.

I want hardware because I’m hoping it’s easier to learn when there’s fewer abstractions in the way. I’ve been trying to go deeper to understand performance and how some parts of the Linux kernel work. It would be easier not to worry about the abstractions above me (like the hypervisor above my VM) that I can’t see.

Lastly, there’s added jitter from having noisy neighbors when everyone shares a physical host. It’s a little harder to tell where you’re seeing spikes. I don’t want to track steal time.

This was the list of features I started with:

  • shortest-term billing possible: if I use it for an hour, hopefully I pay for an hour.
  • quick provisioning: I want to be able to mess it up and start over quickly.
  • low price: as reasonably close to the same order of magnitude as VPS pricing.
  • out of band access: so I can fix the host if I ruin it.
  • reboot on my own: low-to-no human interaction required so I’m not waiting.

If you’ve ever looked into dedicated hosting in the past, you’ll quickly recognize that my list is borderline unreasonable. If you haven’t, this list probably looks like a pretty mundane wishlist that many VPS providers can offer. The good news is that these two worlds are getting closer and closer.

If you haven’t combed through the dedicated market lately, I hope this writeup gives some fresh perspective into what’s out there.

To find providers, I mainly looked on LowEndBox and WHT’s Dedicated Server Offers forum, along with some general searching on Google and Twitter. Many providers looked exactly like what I expected or remembered, and those aren’t listed in this post.

Looking for a provider triggered my first addition to the running list of qualities I was looking for in a provider:

  • track record: I’d like a provider that isn’t brand new

With that, here’s a few of the interesting ones I saw!

Scaleway (

Scaleway came up early in my search and ticked all of my boxes immediately. They have dirt-cheap “bare-metal” instances with hourly billing and fast provisioning. In fact, the prices are so cheap that I thought I’d be finished my search as soon as I started.

It’s weird to type out, but the thing that threw me off here was their Instagram account. The low prices have to come from somewhere (cheaper hardware), but it wasn’t real to me until I saw a picture.


The “C1” instances

These are probably fine for some use cases, but not for mine. Two extra goals:

  • worth the work: the server should be something I can’t easily throw in my room
  • Intel-based: avoid ARM since I’m already familiar with Intel

I have a 1U server that sounds like a jet engine when I plug it in. I’d like that kind of power, but in not-my-room somewhere.

For the Intel bullet point, it’s primarily because I’ve worked on hosts with Intel CPUs for the past few years. I want to reduce variability while I’m learning things, plus one of my todo items involved playing with PCM. Scaleway does have Atom processors available, but I was mentally already moving on.

Scaleway might be a choice down the line or for a different project.

Delimiter (

Delimiter was really interesting for a few reasons:

  • they have a datacenter in my city
  • reasonable monthly prices for hosts that don’t fit in the palm of my hand
  • unrestricted bandwidth

Unlike the other places in this post, they don’t offer short-term billing.

I saw Delimiter on a WebHostingTalk forum post and fell in love. Their list of reasons for why someone should choose them resonated with me. Here’s a snippet:

  • You’re dealing directly with the datacentre operator…
  • We’re a REAL registered company both in Europe and US; paying taxes and insurance every month…
  • Its the 21st century, Gigabit is standard, no extra charge.
  • High quality, warrantied servers. Not obsolete out of warranty units with broken or insecure IPMI/KVM.

How reassuring! I love the way they approach this copy. These points are only impressive to people that have dealt with the opposite: a kid charging extra for frankenstein eBay hosts. The bandwidth focus from Delimiter here is great too and implies that they’ve actually set up something decent for their network.

You can scroll through the list of hosts available on Delimiter’s website. There’s a wide variety of specs between CPUs, drives, and other hardware.

I hadn’t thought very hard about the hardware besides “whatever is cheap and not a raspberry pi”. This approach doesn’t come with many options, but I noticed that providers generally allowed substituting the default large spinning disk with a small SSD.

I added another item to my incredible list of demands:

  • SSDs: I want speed over space

I didn’t pick Delimiter in the end. The billing period was longer than I wanted, and if I broke my host, I’d be blocked on fixing it.

I could see myself happily picking Delimiter for some long-term dedicated hosting. They have some incredible deals that make it pretty affordable too: the servers on clearance are tempting.’s Dedibox (

Cheap, well-known, and fast provisioning. Online’s “Dedibox” deal comes with a (lightweight) Intel Atom processor and SSD is available. What’s not to love?

To be honest, I was getting picky at this point. The number of options out there made me spoiled 🙂

After looking at the different offerings from, I added three bullet points to the bottom of my list. None of these are deal-breakers, but they’re all nice-to-haves:

  • low latency: server location should be within North America
  • USD payment option: avoids credit card fees, avoids mental math
  • no setup fees: for lots of short-term projects, setup fees don’t work

The Dedibox with SSDs was only available in France and came with a 20 Euro setup fee. At one point in this search, I returned to Scaleway’s site and learned that both and Scaleway are subsidiaries of Iliad Group. This didn’t factor into my decision, but was interesting to see that both companies were separately under the same parent.

I don’t remember saying “I won’t choose”, but I ended up leaving this tab open while I kept looking around. ( ticked every box for me. Actually, it ticked boxes I didn’t have written down.

I love everything on their site, especially the level of technical detail upfront. For example, “BGP” is mentioned on the homepage immediately below the fold. That’s exciting for me in pursuit of my educational goal, since I feel like I’ll learn a lot here. The dashboard is great and 2FA is encouraged off the bat.

The work they’re doing in the community is cool. They sponsor and give tech talks at meetups. I signed up and joined their Slack+IRC channel too and the discussion has been interesting. Their documentation is shockingly good too — I had fun reading their CPU Tuning guide.

I was blown away by this: they have spot pricing (for physical hosts!):

Spot pricing on Packet for their "1E" server spec

Spot pricing on Packet for their “1E” server spec, includes a price trend

You can bid a price on the hosts you want. If someone else bids more and capacity is exhausted, your host is wiped and given to the higher bidder. You can use their UI to grab a spot instance, but the serious users of this are wired into their API. Spot pricing on VMs isn’t new, but doing it for hardware is on another level and speaks to their ability to automate their process.

Spinning up a spot instance was the first thing I did. They have different classes of hosts and I picked their “1E” server: a 4 core Xeon with 32G of ECC RAM and 240G SSD, with 2 10G NICs that come bonded out of the box. The host was up with SSH listening in less than 10 minutes.

This spec is normally 50 cents an hour, or ~$365  per month, which is way beyond the bounds of the other providers. But since they bill hourly, I can just “delete” the host when I’m done.

The 1E server in the Atlanta datacenter had a high-end bid of 10 cents per hour. My bid was 11 cents. I used it for 3 hours before deleting it for a total bill of 33 cents. If not outbid, that brings the monthly cost down to 85 bucks.

On my spot host, I upgraded the kernel 3 times, broke it hard once and used their console without a hitch to bring it back. I didn’t even need to do that — I could have deleted the host and started over. The future is HERE.

Their API is slick and everything I’ve looked at so far is just great. Their blog is really neat too and gives a cool peek into the world of running a bare metal cloud startup.


I chose Packet for my bare-metal hosting needs and am very happy with them. I’m still being blown away by the platform and don’t have any complaints at all.

I was able to check every single box on my list. Here’s the full and final list of features I ended up with at the end:

  • shortest-term billing possible: if I use it for an hour, hopefully I pay for an hour.
  • quick provisioning: I want to be able to mess it up and start over quickly.
  • low price: as reasonably close to the same order of magnitude as VPS pricing.
  • out of band access: so I can fix the host if I ruin it.
  • reboot on my own: low-to-no human interaction required so I’m not waiting.
  • track record: I’d like a provider that isn’t brand new
  • worth the work: the server should be something I can’t easily throw in my room
  • Intel chipset: I’m used to this already compared to ARM
  • minimal artificial network limits: if the host has a 1G NIC, I want that and not a 200mbps limit.
  • SSDs: I want speed over space
  • low latency: server location within North America
  • USD payment option: avoiding the CC fee and mental math is nice
  • no setup fees: this is fine for long term but kills short-term projects

That’s it! I hope this review helped uncover some of the recent changes in the world of dedicated hosting.

Did I overlook any other interesting providers in the bare-metal space? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments.

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