What is IT infrastructure?

IT Infrastructure describes the combined software, hardware, services and IT resources needed for the operation and management of an IT environment.

Whether physical hardware or virtual cloud instances, these elements and their configurations should be recorded in a configuration management system (such as the ServiceNow CMDB) populated via best-in-class IT Operations Management Visibility Tools. These discovery tools can be based on increasingly sophisticated discovery patterns or agent-based collectors installed on each client.

Because IT infrastructure is such an extensive category of assets, it encompasses a wide range of elements. Important components of IT infrastructure include the following:

Software

Software are any programs, applications or other forms of operating information used by a business. This may include content management systems (CMS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), web applications, operating systems and more.

Hardware

Hardware describes the physical components of IT, such as computers, data centres, switches, routers, hubs, servers and mobile devices. Hardware may also be defined as including the facilities that house and secure physical data centres.

Graphic outlining the components of IT infrastructure

Facilities

Overlapping slightly with ‘hardware’, facilities (also called physical plants) are the physical locations, buildings and offices, that provide space for necessary hardware components.

Networks

Networks also overlap with hardware, and are made up of various components, including servers, switches, hubs and routers. Networks allow computers to easily interact and share resources using common communications protocols.

Servers

Servers are a type of computer hardware that may be accessed by multiple users at once, allowing them to share essential resources.

Data centres

When multiple servers are housed at the same location, it is called a ‘data centre’. Data centres are vital elements around which most modern networks are built.

People

Sometimes humorously referred to as ‘meatware’, the people who contribute to and are involved in enterprise IT are also considered part of IT infrastructure. This may refer to teams or departments (such as DevOps or IT), as well as individuals (such as developers, designers, network administrators, IT decision makers and any IT-service end user).

IT infrastructure can be further categorised based on ownership, resources availability and management capabilities. The three major kinds of IT infrastructure are as follows:

Traditional infrastructure

Before the advent of cloud computing and related technologies, all IT infrastructure was managed in-house—businesses owned all the relevant hardware components, enjoying unrestricted freedom in how their IT infrastructure was managed. This traditional approach to IT infrastructure offers some benefits in terms of control and visibility but is often considered very cost and resource intensive; organisations must purchase, manage and maintain their own servers and related hardware, as well as the physical space in which the hardware is housed.

Cloud infrastructure

In cloud-based IT infrastructure, most hardware components are located offsite, owned by third-party providers and rented or leased by companies on an as-needed basis. Organisations can take advantage of these resources on demand, or purchase ‘subscriptions’ which allow them to employ third-party infrastructure for a predetermined duration of time. Cloud infrastructure cuts down on the need for physical components on-site, generally reducing the need for company-managed maintenance and repair, and potentially cutting back on associated costs.

Hyperconverged infrastructure

A hyperconverged IT infrastructure brings management and control of all relevant IT resources into a single, centralised computing interface. As a form of IT infrastructure, hyperconverged infrastructure provides a range of user-centric computing and data-storage solutions designed for scalability and accessibility.

IT infrastructure management describes the control, security and oversight of key IT elements. Just as IT infrastructure includes the full range of IT systems, hardware, programs and resources, IT infrastructure management is likewise an umbrella term encompassing many types of management solutions. This includes the following:

  • Cloud management
  • IT automation
  • Container orchestration
  • OS management
  • Virtualisation management
  • Risk management
  • API management
  • Configuration management

Naturally, every business has different IT objectives and needs; there is no single approach to IT infrastructure that is universally agreed-upon as the paragon solution. That said, there are several common factors that tend to define successful IT infrastructure across essentially every industry:

Reliable storage

IT runs on data, which must itself be responsibly managed and applied to facilitate successful IT infrastructure. IT infrastructure solutions must be capable of automatically storing, backing up and recovering data from across all IT resources. Additionally, built-in reporting and analytics programs can help ensure that IT decision makers have the insights they need to make correct business decisions.

Capable security

With so much riding on IT infrastructure, it’s only natural that organisations would need to protect their solutions from unauthorised access and malicious attacks. IT infrastructure should include redundant checkpoints for ensuring that data availability is secure and exclusive. IT infrastructure security should likewise be regularly updated to protect against evolving threats and newly discovered weaknesses.

Low-latency

IT infrastructure networks must be capable of delivering data fast and consistently, without noticeable latency. This may depend on many of the involved network components, which must operate in tandem.

Wide area networks (WANs)

The pivot to remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a much broader need for non-localised IT availability. WANs not only make it possible for company networks to extend over large geographic areas, but also help by prioritising traffic and assigning increased or decreased bandwidth where appropriate.

Advanced virtualisation

Virtual computer systems empower organisations to run multiple operating systems and applications on a reduced number of servers. This means improved server provisioning, as well as enhanced network uptime and recovery.

Reduced downtime

Downtime is the enemy of any IT solution. Disrupted business operations have the capacity to cost not only revenue, but to also damage brand reputation. The most effective IT infrastructure solutions are those that eliminate system downtime almost entirely, so that essential IT processes and resources remain working and available at all times.

As technology is further integrated into every aspect of business, the supporting infrastructures will likewise grow in complexity. Increased business capability can thus mean reduced technology visibility. Documenting today’s dynamic IT infrastructure is becoming a more challenging task than manual processes and traditional discovery probes can handle. The end result? Infrastructure maps that are fragmented, inaccurate or simply outdated by the time they’re completed. ServiceNow offers a solution to slow-moving tools, with ITOM Visibility.

ITOM Visibility from ServiceNow creates a clear picture of your evolving IT infrastructure. Built-in discovery capabilities maps your technology infrastructure by: (1) employing the latest, most detailed patterns to quickly create a complete inventory of all physical and logical infrastructure elements including custom applications—right as they’re being deployed into the environment; (2) additional capabilities including digital fingerprinting and one-touch service mapping link the infrastructure elements into end-to-end maps that show exactly how business capabilities, services and infrastructure elements relate to and depend upon each other. Additionally, ITOM Visibility automatically locates and catalogues all TLS/SSL certificates within the infrastructure and provides automated workflows to renew expiring certificates. ServiceNow makes it all work.

Enjoy complete service visibility into your infrastructure that scales along with your needs. Try ITOM Visibility from ServiceNow, and get more out of the infrastructure at the heart of your business.

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