What Is IT Infrastructure? Definition, Building Blocks, and Management Best Practices | (2022)

IT infrastructure is defined as the collection of hardware, software, network systems, facilities, and frameworks that enable IT services delivery to different business units and help maintain its digital presence. This article explains the four key components of IT infrastructure, various types of IT infrastructure architectures, and some infrastructure management best practices.

Table of Contents

  • What Is IT Infrastructure?
  • Building Blocks of IT Infrastructure
  • Types of IT Infrastructure Architectures
  • Top 7 IT Infrastructure Management Best Practices for Enterprises in 2021

What Is IT Infrastructure?

IT infrastructure is the collection of hardware, software, network systems, facilities, and frameworks that enable IT services delivery to different business units and help maintain its digital presence.

As the pace of digital transformation accelerates, organizations are paying more attention to their IT infrastructure as one of the mission-critical drivers of a business. The global IT infrastructure market is growing exponentially, increasing by about $270.5 billion between 2020 and 2024. This indicates a strong CAGR of 18%, getting a partial leg-up due to COVID-19 and its implications on IT.

From small businesses to governments, from independent professionals to entire countries – every organizational unit needs IT infrastructure to operate a digitally connected business. For example, it might be possible to run a Mom and Pop store with zero IT infrastructure, relying entirely on manual and paper processes. However, suppose you modernize the business to any extent (accepting card payments, offering online delivery, participating in ecommerce, sending customers updates via WhatsApp, etc.). In that case, you will need to invest in IT infrastructure.

Today, a robust IT infrastructure can act as a significant competitive advantage for an organization. According to Wipro’s State of IT Infrastructure Report 2020, 75% of businesses are looking to upgrade the outdated infrastructure to leverage new technologies such as AI, ML, AR/VR, 5G, automation, and blockchain. 16% have IoT-based solutions owned by the IT infrastructure team and not the business unit team.

As your IT infrastructure becomes more complex with time and new technology adoption, you need sophisticated IT infrastructure management tools to help you keep up. That’s why, for 6% of organizations, AIOps plays a central role in infrastructure management, with more organizations at the pilot stage.

Another important concept related to IT infrastructure is the notion of in-house vs. managed operations. Small-to-mid-sized businesses (particularly if they are non-digital natives), like a retail chain or a hospitality group), can choose to partner with a third-party provider who can manage the IT infrastructure remotely, with the occasional site visit. Large organizations and digital-native companies typically choose to host and manage their IT operations via in-house teams and owned infrastructure instead of outsourcing.

But no matter the scale or your strategy for infrastructure management, an organization’s IT infrastructure will necessarily comprise four components.

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Building Blocks of IT Infrastructure

As mentioned in the previous section, a modern organization of any size will rely on four crucial IT building blocks. These can be categorized into further sub-components, as discussed below:

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Building Blocks of IT Infrastructure

1. Hardware

Hardware refers to all the physical parts, components, and equipment that goes into maintaining an organization’s IT infrastructure. For a micro-business like a Mom and Pop store, this could be a single PC and a printer. Mid-sized businesses could use a set of PCs for their workforce, one or two servers for hosting their ecommerce/business portal, and perhaps an additional security appliance.

Large organizations have extensive technology systems and large facilities like data centers to house them. When you opt for a managed IT services provider, you can rent the hardware components of your infrastructure instead of purchasing them outright.

The sub-components of IT hardware include the following:

    • Standalone servers
    • Personal computers and workstations, such as laptops and points of sale
    • Physical router equipment
    • Headphones, printers, collaboration devices, and other peripherals
    • Data centers or server rooms

2. Software

Software is any infrastructure component that requires additional hardware as a host environment. Hardware and software work together to form a holistic IT setup. This includes a single PC that uses a software OS, a suite of productivity apps and security software, a large multi-ecosystem setup with different endpoints. It also includes Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems, containerized environments to build applications, and cloud storage hosted on a remote server.

Software components have increasingly become central to IT operations, replacing a lot of the traditional hardware components. For instance, it is now possible to have software-based network routers, OTT-deployed applications instead of physical drives or CDs, and next-generation firewalls (NGFW) rather than a hardware appliance.

The sub-components of IT software include:

    • Operating system (OS) variants and distributions
    • Third-party apps for productivity, testing, security, etc.
    • SaaS apps (desktop-based and web-based) and perpetual license software
    • In-house built software applications, marketplaces, and services
    • Application building, hosting, and production environments like the cloud or containers
    • Software-based utilities such as NGFW, routers, ANC software, connectors, APIs, etc.

3. Network

Technically, this is an optional component of IT infrastructure but has now become a must-have for any modern business environment. Without networking systems, you’d have standalone, local devices without access to public or private internet. The network component powers many other building blocks of IT operations today, including cloud-based processes, SaaS apps, and over-the-air delivery.

Networks comprise both hardware and software components and the configurations you set up to control and manage network access for various users. Carrier licenses and partnerships with telecom providers can also be considered the networking aspect of IT infrastructure management.

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The sub-components of a network include:

    • Different types of cables for private and public internet connectivity (CAT 5/6/7, fiber optics, etc.)
    • Networking appliances like firewalls, routers, and switches
    • Software components like software-based firewalls, SDN infrastructure, etc.
    • Application interfaces to configure the network
    • Application interfaces to manage user access, network security, bandwidth allocation, etc.
    • Web servers to act as a connecting hub for networked IT activities

At the end of the day, nearly all infrastructure components can be classified as either hardware or software. But understanding these deeper nuances and technology possibilities can help you achieve a more mature IT landscape.

Also Read: Why Enterprises Are Shifting to Event-driven Architectures

Types of IT Infrastructure Architectures

An IT infrastructure architecture defines how you design and structure your IT components for better performance, simpler management, scalability, and cost-efficiency. There are several types of IT infrastructure architectures that you could choose from, depending on the size and nature of your organization. The various types of IT infrastructure architectures are listed below.

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Common Types of Infrastructure Architectures

1. Traditional infrastructure

In a traditional architecture design, IT components typically exist on-premises and in silos. The company purchases most IT equipment and software, relying primarily on an in-house team to keep the engines running. Different locations may have different IT teams heading them, and systems across business units, offices, and regions exist in silos. You will find this type of IT infrastructure architecture in small-to-mid-sized, non-digital native organizations.

2. Converged architecture

This type of IT infrastructure architecture seeks to address the fragmentation found in traditional infrastructure. It groups related IT components into a single, optimized hub and sets up connected workflows for centralized visibility. Available resources are grouped into “resource pools” shared by different applications and processes depending on priority and business policies. The cloud has further enabled converged IT infrastructure architectures, making it easier to consolidate, centralize, and disburse resources.

3. Composable disaggregated infrastructure

This is a sub-type of converged architecture but uses on-premise IT components. It is an emerging technology that allows physical data centers to behave like a virtual server so that resources can be allocated on-demand. Composable disaggregated infrastructure is powered by high-speed, low-latency networks that allow for speedy resource allocation and minimal downtimes. This type of IT infrastructure architecture is an emerging alternative for large, digital-native enterprises.

4. Hyper-converged infrastructure

Like a converged IT infrastructure architecture, hyper-converged infrastructure breaks down silos and enables centralized management – but it uses software components hosted on a hypervisor to achieve this. Its key components include software-defined storage, software-defined networking, and, of course, the hypervisor, enabling resource federation across processes. This type of IT infrastructure architecture usually operates using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers.

5. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

Valued at just $31.61 billion in 2019, IaaS is expected to cross $202 billion by 2027, in line with the trend of moving away from hardware-heavy IT infrastructure architectures. IaaS uses online services to replace physical computing resources and components, running either on a public cloud or private hypervisors/virtual machines. It is similar to hyper-converged infrastructures, but the IT services are provided and maintained entirely by a third party as per an aaS, subscription-based licensing model.

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6. Infrastructure as code

This is a specific IT infrastructure management approach that lets you maintain and maneuver the architecture using software applications or lines of code instead of physical hardware configurations or UI settings. Infrastructure as a code applies to both hardware and software IT components, with strategically deployed code helping to monitor processes, provision resources, enforce security, and perform other activities.

7. Cloud-based architecture

The cloud is rapidly becoming the default environment for hosting IT infrastructure components, with the option of migrating fully to a public cloud, dividing processes between on-premise and cloud environments, having your own private cloud, or implementing managed cloud services. Today, most organizations choose the hybrid cloud route, where there is a mix of on-premise and cloud resources and the co-existence of private and multiple cloud vendors.

Some of the key types of cloud-based IT infrastructure architecture are:

    • 100% public cloud using AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, or any other public provider
    • 100% private cloud, with applications, data, and processes hosted off-premise in remote servers
    • Managed cloud, where an external IT partner manages the private/public/hybrid cloud
    • Multi-cloud using a combination of multiple public cloud vendors
    • Hybrid cloud, where public, private, and on-premise systems coexist

The cloud is central to several tenets of IT architecture design – for example, it enables IaaS deployment and can simplify converged architectures.

These IT infrastructure architectures vary in terms of the costs and efforts required and their functional capabilities. Typically, on-premise systems are more popular among mid-sized to large enterprises that can manage them in-house and invest in their growing maturity without a lot of external support.

The cloud is popular among enterprises of every size, thanks to its incredible scalability from the smallest to large, distributed organizations. Converged, hyper-converged, code-enabled, IaaS, and composable disaggregated infrastructure are usually leveraged by digital-native businesses that leverage technology as a key part of their primary market offerings.

Finally, traditional or primitive architectures are still common among micro and small businesses, which are just starting on their digital transformation journeys.

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Top 7 IT Infrastructure Management Best Practices for Enterprises in 2021

Given the numerous IT infrastructure components available today, and the various architectures you could choose from, managing the entire landscape can seem like a formidable task. To manage your IT infrastructure effectively and enable uninterrupted digital operations, here are the key best practices to remember.

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IT Infrastructure Management Best Practices

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1. Benchmark your current and projected level of digital maturity

Your selection of IT infrastructure architecture will depend on your digital dependencies at the moment and the level of maturity you’re looking to achieve over the next few quarters. For example, if you have only two offices in a single region, traditional architecture might suffice. However, if you plan to scale – adding new offices, hiring a remote team, increasing throughput, etc. – you will need cloud-readiness at some point. In that case, it is best to start with a cloud-first vision in place rather than investing in expensive on-premise systems.

2. Find labor arbitrage opportunities through managed IT services

Managed services providers could dramatically transform your IT infrastructure management capabilities without adding to your labor costs or efforts. This is due to two reasons – first, the resources are shared across organizations, lowering the cost footprint for each tenant. Second, they typically leverage best-cost locations to reduce the expenses of hiring highly skilled IT professionals. A managed provider can remotely operate your IT infrastructure and maintain performance as per SLAs, with onsite intervention as necessary.

3. Explore how AIOps could streamline IT infrastructure management

As the name suggests, AIOps uses the power of artificial intelligence to monitor and manage IT environments. According to research, only 6% of organizations have implemented AIOps in a meaningful way, with 94% either not implementing or stuck in limited pilot stages. There is a lot of potential in this space, as AIOps could automate tasks like simple IT ticket resolution, flagging anomalous activity, resource allocation based on application priority, IT log analysis, service provisioning, and more.

4. Clarify ownership of resources, assets, and processes between the business and IT teams

As digital technology becomes more intertwined with business processes, the question of ownership is inevitable. For example, information management systems could be owned by IT or by the HR department, which primarily leverages it for HRIS. It is vital to clarify ownership as part of your IT infrastructure management blueprint so that there is a clear line of accountability for issue resolution, performance, extensions, and budget management. You could even set up a center of excellence for specific components to drive collaboration between business and IT.

5. Outline a cloud-first roadmap

There are several benefits of migrating to the cloud – not only does it improve resiliency (as demonstrated last year, during the shift to remote work), but it could also reduce your total cost of ownership (TCO) by up to 40%. The cloud enables ease of access from multiple locations and by off-premise users. It also paves the way for agile development using containers. If you haven’t migrated to the cloud already, this should be a top agenda item for the next few quarters, starting with a hybrid cloud strategy.

6. Protect your IT supply chain from security vulnerabilities and attacks

Supply chain attacks are an undeniable reality in today’s connected IT environments, heavily dependent on third-party providers and partners. Vulnerabilities at the time of device manufacturing, firmware setup, shipping, remote software upgrades, etc., can cause gaps in your security posture that are overlooked as they are not built or provisioned in-house. That’s why you need to conduct rigorous security assessments for third-party alliances and regularly audit your IT infrastructure for any gaps.

7. Invest in backup and disaster recovery infrastructure

The backup and disaster recovery (BDR) aspect of IT infrastructure management shouldn’t be overlooked because the company is focused only on business operations and performance. A strong BDR plan, backed by IT infrastructure components such as remote storage servers, alternate/backup networks, cloud data backups, and DLP software, can help you tide over unexpected periods of challenge and change. It is vital to protect against natural disasters and acts of God, as well as unforeseeable downtimes, cyberattacks, and workforce-related issues.

These seven best practices can help you select the best-fit IT infrastructure for your organization, staying within your cost and roadmap estimates while driving performance and value generation. Remember to prioritize scalability when investing in any new IT infrastructure component, as the digital landscape is likely to continue evolving rapidly over time and influence nearly every business operation – from product development to supply chains, from facility management to HR.

Finally, IT teams must maintain detailed documentation of infrastructure components, upgrades, and processes. This will prevent shadow IT components (i.e., parts of IT infrastructure that are invisible and outside your governance) from cropping up, maintaining security and sustainable growth.

Are you planning to invest in IT infrastructure this year? Comment below or let us know on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. We would love to hear from you!

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FAQs

What are the building blocks of IT infrastructure? ›

Its key components include software-defined storage, software-defined networking, and, of course, the hypervisor, enabling resource federation across processes.

What is the meaning of IT infrastructure? ›

IT infrastructure is the system of hardware, software, facilities and service components that support the delivery of business systems and IT-enabled processes.

What are the 4 components of IT infrastructure? ›

These components include hardware, software, networking components, an operating system (OS), and data storage, all of which are used to deliver IT services and solutions.

What are the 3 types of IT infrastructure? ›

There are essentially 3 pieces to IT infrastructures: infrastructure hardware, software and networking.

What is infrastructure and management? ›

Infrastructure management is the management of both technical and operational components—including hardware, software, policies, processes, data, facilities and equipment—for business effectiveness. It may be divided into systems management, network management and storage management.

What are the 4 types of infrastructure? ›

9 types of infrastructure
  • Aviation. Flying is a form of travel that allows people to cross long distances in a much shorter time than driving or taking a train. ...
  • Telecommunications. ...
  • Bridges. ...
  • Power and energy. ...
  • Railways. ...
  • Roadways. ...
  • Water. ...
  • Waste management.
25 May 2021

What are the 5 building blocks? ›

Psychologist Martin Seligman has helped to simplify the concept by breaking it down into five building blocks, known as PERMA.
...
PERMA: The five building blocks of wellbeing
  • Positive emotions.
  • Engagement.
  • Relationships.
  • Meaning.
  • Achievement.

What are examples of building infrastructure? ›

Examples include roads, highways, and bridges, as well as the assets required to make them operational such as transit buses, vehicles, and oil refineries. Technical systems such as networking equipment and cabling are considered hard infrastructure and provide a critical function to support business operations.

What are the five importance of infrastructure? ›

Infrastructure enables trade, powers businesses, connects workers to their jobs, creates opportunities for struggling communities and protects the nation from an increasingly unpredictable natural environment.

What is the purpose of infrastructure? ›

Critical infrastructure aims to reduce the number of disruptions to the workforce, importing and exporting, and economic activities. Supports quality of life: Without infrastructure, access to clean drinking water, food, health care, communications systems, and housing would not be possible.

What is another name for infrastructure? ›

synonyms for infrastructure

On this page you'll find 21 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to infrastructure, such as: base, framework, footing, groundwork, root, and support.

What are the stages of IT infrastructure? ›

The five stages of IT infrastructure evolution are as follows: the mainframe era, the personal computer era, the client/server era, the enterprise computing era, and the cloud and mobile computing era.

What are the basic infrastructure? ›

In an organization or for a country, a basic infrastructure includes communication and transportation, sewage, water, education system, health system, clean drinking water, and monetary system.

What are the 5 key critical infrastructure sectors? ›

Critical infrastructure includes the vast network of highways, connecting bridges and tunnels, railways, utilities and buildings necessary to maintain normalcy in daily life. Transportation, commerce, clean water and electricity all rely on these vital systems.

What are the five major categories of IT infrastructure? ›

PRIMARY ELEMENTS OF IT INFRASTRUCTURE

Hardware, software, data management technology, network infrastructure, and information systems comprise IT infrastructure components.

What is an example of IT infrastructure? ›

Here are some examples: Communication services such as voice, email, messaging and collaboration tools. Networking refers to basic connectivity such as wired and mobile internet. Data processing are for computing infrastructure such as a cloud computing platform that allows data processing to be scaled up and down.

What is the best definition of management? ›

: the act or art of managing : the conducting or supervising of something (such as a business) Business improved under the management of new owners. : judicious use of means to accomplish an end.

What is the most important part of IT infrastructure? ›

Network connectivity is the most fundamental part of any IT infrastructure. You and your employees will depend on a variety of services on a daily basis. These include everything from sending emails to clients and accessing project management tools to videoconferencing with colleagues all over the world.

What is the role of IT infrastructure services? ›

IT infrastructure management service (IMS) is about administering and managing technology, information and data in a proactive way. Its scope ranges from the desktop to networking, storage, data, security and cloud-based services - not forgetting the people employed to keep everything working.

What are the 2 types of infrastructure? ›

Social infrastructure, which includes schools, affordable housing and hospitals. Economic infrastructure, which includes roads, communication, sewage, water, airports and power.

What is infrastructure work? ›

What is an Infrastructure Project? Infrastructure projects focus on the development and maintenance of services, facilities, and systems. These can be funded by private companies, publicly, or combined as a public-private partnership (a collaboration of government entities and private sector companies).

What are the characteristics of infrastructure? ›

Financial Characteristics of Infrastructure
  • Stable and steady cash flows. The potential for steady cash flows is one of the main attractive features of infrastructure. ...
  • Non-cyclical. ...
  • Low variable costs. ...
  • High leverage.
23 Oct 2022

What are the 4 types of building blocks? ›

  • Aerated concrete or 'aircrete' block. ...
  • Hemp block. ...
  • Unfired clay block. ...
  • Insulated concrete form (ICF) blocks.

What are the 3 pillars of Organisation building block? ›

The three design elements of organizational structure are: Functions, Location, and Authority. Use these three building blocks to avoid some common pitfalls and design the right new structure for your business stage and strategy.

What is an IT infrastructure project? ›

The IT infrastructure consists of all elements that support the management and usability of data and information. These include the physical hardware and facilities (including data centers), data storage and retrieval, network systems, legacy interfaces, and software to support the business goals of an enterprise.

What is the difference between building and infrastructure? ›

Many people believe that building and infrastructure are the same. However, this is not always the case. Infrastructure is the physical structure of a society or city, such as roads, bridges, and hospitals. Buildings are the physical structures that make up society, such as homes, schools, and businesses.

What is building and infrastructure? ›

Infrastructure is often seen as a prerequisite to economic development and is even defined as the “basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.” In other words, without infrastructure, the operation of a society ...

What are the benefits of infrastructure? ›

It helps transport goods and services and enables people to access work, schools and recreational activities, which also play a role in the economy. Without any improvement, the transport system will hinder continuous economic growth, especially in rural areas.

What are the key elements of infrastructure planning? ›

Infrastructure planning involves designing optimal infrastructure elements such as server hardware, network capacity, storage capacity to satisfy the scalability, availability and performance requirements. This is normally done through sizing and capacity planning activities.

What was the original meaning of infrastructure? ›

The Latin roots of infrastructure mean simply “underneath or below the structure.” This word was in fact never used by Romans; it was coined in French from Latin parts in the late 1800s, initially used (unsurprisingly) to refer to the substructure or foundation of a building, road, or railroad bed.

Is Google an infrastructure? ›

Google's infrastructure provides various storage services and distributed file systems (for example, Spanner and Colossus), and a central key management service. Applications at Google access physical storage by using storage infrastructure. We use several layers of encryption to protect data at rest.

What language is infrastructure? ›

Infrastructure Coding Languages. System administrators have been using scripts to automate infrastructure management tasks for decades. General-purpose scripting languages like Bash, Perl, PowerShell, Ruby, and Python are still an essential part of an infrastructure team's toolkit.

What are IT infrastructure requirements? ›

But there are a number of infrastructure elements that organizations need to bear in mind when evaluating potential IaaS providers.
  • 1 Computing performance. ...
  • 2 Storage capacity. ...
  • 3 Networking infrastructure. ...
  • 4 Security. ...
  • 5 Keep it cost-effective.
18 Nov 2021

How many categories of infrastructure management has? ›

Key takeaways. IT Infrastructure management is sometimes divided into three components: systems management, storage management, and network management.

What are the types of IT infrastructure services? ›

Infrastructure services include communication services, networking, data processing and storage, platforms through which businesses can share content and media, knowledge management, systems, applications, IoT, user devices, resilience.

What is the infrastructure answer? ›

Answer: The term infrastructure refers to the underlying tangible and organisational structures that are essential for the smooth and prosperous functioning of an economy. In other words, infrastructure is regarded as a core support system that enables an economy to grow and develop.

What is infrastructure diagram? ›

A technology infrastructure diagram provides a high-level graphical view of the physical architecture required to support the application architecture.

What are five best management information practices? ›

Information Management Best Practices
  • Define the perfect strategy.
  • 2- Establish clear roles and responsibilities.
  • 3- Understand your current information environment.
  • 4- Develop an IM plan.
  • 5- Ensure all employees have access to the same tools, data, and systems.
  • 6- Implement an effective governance model.
14 Nov 2022

What are the five areas of IT infrastructure? ›

Top 5 Elements of Enterprise IT Infrastructure
  • Business Continuity. This, in IT speak, is commonly called your backup plan, but experts are quick to point out that it's not anywhere close to what a comprehensive business continuity plan should be. ...
  • User Access. ...
  • IT Assets. ...
  • Security. ...
  • Reliability / Scalability.
7 Feb 2017

What are top five issues in terms of managing and protecting IT infrastructure? ›

The top 5 IT infrastructure management challenges & solutions:
  • Increasing complexity. ...
  • Demand for more availability and security. ...
  • Lack Integration & vendor freedom. ...
  • Multiple devices. ...
  • Legacy devices.

What are the 4 stages of information management? ›

Each of these steps, gathering, storing, distributing, and deleting are critical when responsible for a client's information management. Taking these steps will help your client manage their information in a proper and secure way.

What are the 10 principles of management? ›

The fourteen principles of management created by Henri Fayol are explained below.
  • Division of Work- ...
  • Authority and Responsibility- ...
  • Discipline- ...
  • Unity of Command- ...
  • Unity of Direction- ...
  • Subordination of Individual Interest- ...
  • Remuneration- ...
  • Centralization-

What are the 7 C's of project management? ›

There are seven core elements that if considered will contribute to the organization's project decision-making process. The seven elements (7 C's) are: customers, competitors, capabilities, cost, channels, communication, and coordination.

What are the six 6 types of project management methods? ›

Specific examples of project management methodologies – each with its unique advantages and limitations – include, but are not limited to Agile, Waterfall, Critical Path, Scrum, Lean Six Sigma and PRINCE2.

What are the 7 principles of project management? ›

The 7 Principles
  • Continued Business Justification. A project must make good business sense. ...
  • Learn from Experience. Project teams should take lessons from previous projects into account. ...
  • Define Roles and Responsibilities. ...
  • Manage by Stages. ...
  • Manage by Exception. ...
  • Focus on Products. ...
  • Tailor to the Environment.
19 Sept 2016

What is infrastructure and give 3 examples? ›

What Is Infrastructure? Infrastructure is defined as the basic physical systems of a business, region, or nation and often involves the production of public goods or production processes. Examples of infrastructure include transportation systems, communication networks, sewage, water, and school systems.

What is the main role of infrastructure management? ›

Share: IT infrastructure management service (IMS) is about administering and managing technology, information and data in a proactive way. Its scope ranges from the desktop to networking, storage, data, security and cloud-based services - not forgetting the people employed to keep everything working.

Why is infrastructure management important? ›

IT infrastructure management's goal is to structure and govern the functions in charge of a wide range of technical processes, which often involve hardware, software, and networking in both real and virtual environments. The key goal is to keep corporate productivity high while minimizing downtime.

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