Infrastructure refers to an enterprise’s collection of physical and virtual products that comprise its framework for information technology (IT) operations. It includes hardware, software, networks, data centers, and facilities, plus related equipment used to develop, test, operate, manage, and support IT services. Infrastructure does not include the organization’s employees nor the documentation or processes used in operating and managing IT functions.
An organization’s infrastructure is built using a robust catalog of various technologies. The specific implementation and scale of these elements are unique to each organization. Typical infrastructure components include:
- Hardware, or the physical elements including servers, switches, and routers
- Software, or the application elements including the operating system software, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software
- Networking, or the connectivity elements including Internet protocols, a firewall, and security monitoring tools
Types of infrastructure
In traditional infrastructure, all of the components listed above are owned by the organization, operated in-house, and managed independently of one another. Traditional infrastructure offers organizations more control over their systems, but it can also be costly and impractical for those with lean IT teams and budget restrictions.
Two common alternatives to traditional infrastructure are converged infrastructure (CI) and hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) systems. Both types of infrastructure are characterized by an optimized, tightly-integrated collection of IT components that removes silos from compute, storage, networking, and virtualization resources.
Management of CI resources is typically handled by a discrete hardware component that serves a singular purpose. HCI is similar in nature to CI, but HCI resources are managed by a software solution as opposed to one or more hardware components.
A fourth type of common infrastructure especially for smaller organizations is cloud infrastructure. This is sometimes referred to as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) when the cloud infrastructure is supplied by an external cloud services provider. Unlike traditional infrastructure or even CI/HCI, cloud infrastructure makes it easy to scale up or down the amount of resources an organization has to meet its needs.