Infrastructure is a very extensive topic that has many different facets and can go in-depth and many different areas. I am going to be talking in generalities and concepts not details and deep dives. So here we go-
Infrastructure, why is it important for you to be concerned about it? The IT infrastructure is what your computer systems are built upon. Be it server infrastructure, network infrastructure, storage infrastructure, and so on, these are what your systems need to survive if you will. If you think of the system infrastructure in terms of a human body, you can understand you cannot live without any vital parts that make the whole body work. This is the same with IT infrastructure for computerized systems, be it a website, hosted application, mobile application and the list goes on. The major items you need to be aware for any computerized infrastructure is a well architected infrastructure built with security, speed, flexibility, and features that meet the needs of your organization and what it is trying to accomplish.
"Network infrastructure entails all the connectivity between all the systems and to the end users"
One major item that people tend to forget is how the infrastructure is going to be monitored and maintained. Just as when you are born you have a lifetime of checkups and things you need to do to keep you healthy so do you need to remember any piece of infrastructure that goes into your organization, you have to figure out how to keep it as healthy as possible throughout its lifespan. There is a term “from cradle to grave” and that is what you need to think about whenever you put an infrastructure component into your system, it is not enough to think that I put something into production to solve a bottleneck or problem but what is needed to maintain the change throughout its lifespan.
If I continue the theme as the body is an infrastructure and relate it to a computerized infrastructure, we will start at the top and outside and work our way down and internally. Your skin can be thought of as security for your infrastructure, blocks the bad things and let’s only lets certain things out. This is a very important part of the infrastructure so we should not gloss over its importance. Security should be top of mind in anything you put into your environment. Especially now days with PCI (Credit Card requirements), SOX (Sarbanes and Oxley), and other regulations you need to have a secure environment at all times.
Next, let’s go to the head which we use for computing, thinking, logic, this in turn are the servers / processor infrastructure you have in your environment for computing. Things you should think about for the computerized infrastructure is- How much computing do we need for peak? Do we have excess or need more? Do we have a way to share computing power across the organization when needed? There are many more but this is a good start.
When it comes to processing as with other infrastructure items always plan for peak usage. Some newer processing solutions allow for scaling up and down the processing power as needed, especially in hosted environments in the cloud or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
If we move down and inside further, we can think of the blood vessels, heart and nervous system is like the network infrastructure as the communications that goes through cables, fiber and wireless which connects the systems together so does the blood vessels and nerves sends signals and provide life giving oxygen. Network infrastructure entails all the connectivity between all the systems and to the end users. Without the network infrastructure there would be no use for many of the other infrastructures.
As we go down to the next level our stomach stores and processes our food so does the storage infrastructure houses all the data that we need along with the database infrastructure provides ways to access the data.
Now we go to the extremities, and now we are talking software infrastructure, things like software user interfaces, web site pages, mobile applications which allows the data to be accessed and used. The software is what we mostly interface with. As I am typing this article, I am interacting with the Word program, typing, making edits, and son on, and there is an infrastructure behind it supporting my actions both on the keyboard and how it looks on the screen all brought to you via the software infrastructure.
In the end all these, infrastructures provide one basic thing-ways for humans to access, process, disseminate data, information and knowledge to others. Without the pieces and parts that play the different roles in the overall infrastructure we would still be in the world of paper and pen not fingers to keyboard. So next time you are at your office, home or your mobile phone think about all infrastructure parts it takes to get the data that you typed into the computer, through the software, out the wires, to where the data is processed and stored back out to where other people can access it. It gives you a greater appreciation of all the hard working people who supports the computerized infrastructures of the world which allows you to do the computer things you like to do.