Infrastructure refers to an enterprise’s collection of physical and virtual products that comprise its framework for information technology (IT) operations. It includes all the elements needed to deliver IT services to an enterprise and its users. Infrastructure does not include the organization’s employees nor the documentation or processes used in operating and managing IT functions.
In this definition...
The history of IT infrastructure
The concept of IT infrastructure began to emerge around 1959 with the development of the mainframe computer. The first mainframe computer was the IBM 1401 and 7090, which later evolved to the IBM 360 Mainframe computer in 1965. As the first commercial computer, mainframes provided time-sharing, multitasking, and virtual memory. Mainframe computers are now powerful enough to support thousands of online remote terminals at one time.
The first enterprise computing infrastructure was implemented in 1992. Firms shifted to networking standards and software tools that would integrate disparate networks and applications throughout the firm into an enterprise-wide infrastructure. Enterprise computers allowed information to flow freely through the organization and between the firm and other organizations. Evolving from enterprise computing, IT infrastructures matured more in the early 2000s to cloud computing. Cloud computing provides access to a shared pool of computing resources over the network, deriving from the Internet, and includes thousands of computers are located in cloud data centers.
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.
What is IT infrastructure management?
Enterprises utilize IT infrastructure management to reduce duplication of effort, ensure compliance to IT standards, improve the flow of information, promote IT interoperability and reduce overall IT costs. Infrastructure management tools (IMT) are often a solution for businesses to manage their IT infrastructure to give organizations an aerial view of their information system.
Developed as a security incident and Events Management (SIEM) and an IT monitoring tool intended for IT incident management.
Cloud-based IMT that focuses on infrastructure monitoring and analytics, with integration support.
Designed with on-network management automation options, ConnectWide Automate includes a cloud-based reporting system that analyzes the structure while solving issues such as information bottlenecks.
SolarWinds’ Windows Server IMT emphasizes network device status along with network performance and includes operations thresholds linked to alerts.
Site24x7 monitors servers and services with network monitoring, including checking device health and traffic volumes with a cloud-based service.
This article was reviewed and updated by Amanda Scheldt in February 2022.