Next-generation infrastructure can be advantageous for IT, the workforce, and the organization as a whole.
Modern IT infrastructure concepts, however, may not be easily grasped by those who don’t operate in an IT environment.
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Below, we’ll learn a few of the most essential concepts related to cutting-edge infrastructure, from cloud computing to fog computing to composable IT.
Next-Generation Infrastructure: Must-Know Concepts
This guide will cover IT infrastructure concepts from the top down, beginning with “traditional” IT infrastructure before moving into the latest infrastructure trends.
Servers are powerful computers that can host websites, perform computationally intensive tasks, and run applications that are operated from an end user’s device, such as a PC or mobile device.
The client-server model refers to the concept that servers “serve” software, data, and files for use by “clients,” or end users.
Mainframes are like servers, only they are much more powerful and much more expensive. They are designed to run multiple computationally intensive tasks at the same time and are mostly used by large organizations with extensive computing needs.
A data center is a physical location that houses servers, mainframes, and other IT hardware.
These can either be rooms, buildings, or even entire complexes.
Running a data center requires not only a collection of servers and IT hardware, but they also require air conditioning, power supplies, fire suppression systems, and a variety of other infrastructure components.
Some large organizations have their own data centers, but the cost can be prohibitive and it can also lead to wasted resources if some of the data center remains underutilized.
Virtualization, in the context of IT hardware, refers to the creation of a “virtual machine” inside of a completely separate machine.
A server or mainframe, for instance, may create multiple instances of virtual machines, such as a virtual PC that runs Windows.
There are several reasons why virtualization is useful. One is that some software must run on certain machines or operating systems. Anyone who wants to use a Windows application, for instance, needs a machine that runs Windows.
In an enterprise setting, mainframes or servers can be called upon to create and run several virtual machines at the same time, allowing end users, such as employees, to run different applications from a single computer.
Cloud computing combines multiple IT hardware resources into a single hub, and those resources can then be used to create scalable, virtual computing environments.
One distinguishing characteristic between cloud computing and data centers is that clouds are made available over the internet.
Cloud companies, for instance, often deliver cloud functions through the “as-a-service” model. SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, and similar companies all leverage cloud computing to deliver services to their customers.
While cloud computing relies upon servers to perform computing tasks, edge computing brings computation closer to end users’ devices – that is, closer to the “edge” of the network.
There are several benefits to this, including decreased usage of server power, reduced response time, increased insights, and lower bandwidth usage.
As trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT) become more mainstream, edge computing will become more valuable and more common.
Fog computing refers to an architectural style that, like edge computing, distributes computational tasks across a network.
While edge computing refers to placing computational devices near the end user’s device, fog computing leverages nodes that are placed at strategic locations between the cloud and edge layers.
The advantages of this approach are similar to those in edge computing – increased efficiency, reduced reliance on servers, and, according to some, better security.
Composable IT Infrastructure
Like virtualization, composable IT infrastructure refers to the abstraction of computing environments from IT hardware.
Composable IT infrastructure, however, is often a solution implemented within one’s own data center. This approach to IT infrastructure is arguably more fluid, agile, and flexible than other approaches that use virtualization, since computing environments can be provisioned rapidly and automatically.
The distinction between composable infrastructure and other virtualized infrastructure approaches, such as converged infrastructure, is that composable infrastructure can provision actual hardware resources as needed, rather than strictly virtual environments.
Benefits include lower resource consumption, better application performance, and agile computing environments for enterprise applications that need to be operated on-premises and on actual physical hardware.
Choosing the Right Infrastructure
As we can see, infrastructure has come a long way over the past several decades. While mainframes were once the mainstay of enterprise computing, there are now many options to choose from.
When evaluating these choices, there are several questions to consider, such as:
- What type of computing resources do I need?
- Does my organization have applications that must be run on-premises?
- Does my organization need to support remote work?
- What are the security concerns associated with a given approach to infrastructure?
- What are my computing needs today and what will they be in one, two, three, five, and ten years’ time?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of a given approach in terms of efficiency, speed, cost, scalability, and performance?
In short, every approach to infrastructure has its own specific use cases, advantages, and disadvantages. There is never one approach that is better than another – instead, it is best to evaluate one’s own needs, both now and in the post-COVID next normal.