IT Infrastructure Architecture model

The definition of infrastructure as I defined it in my book is based on the IT systems model as shown below. In this model processes use information, and this information is stored and managed using applications. Applications need application platforms and infrastructure to run. All of this is managed by various categories of systems management.

A model is always a simplified version of reality, useful to explain a certain point; not covering all details. Therefore, the infrastructure model is not perfect. Remember, as George E. P. Box stated: “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.”

Organizations implement business processes to fulfil their mission and vision. These processes are organization specific – they are the main differentiators between organizations. As an example, some business processes in an insurance company could be: claim registration, claim payment, and create invoice.

Business processes create and use information. In our example, information could be the claim’s date or the number of dollars on an invoice. Information is typically entered, stored and processed using applications.
Functional management is the category of systems management that ensures the system is configured to perform the needed business functions.

The applications building block includes three types of applications:

  • Client applications typically run on end user devices like PCs and laptops. Examples of client applications are web browsers, word processors, and email clients.
  • Office applications provide standard server based applications most organizations use. Examples are mail servers, portals, collaboration tools, and instant messaging servers. Most organizations run these office applications more or less out of the box.
  • Business specific applications are applications that are typically highly customized or custom built. Some examples are Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, and applications that are created for a specific business process (like an insurance management system).

Applications management is responsible for the configuration and technical operations of the applications.

Most applications need some additional services, known as application platforms, that enable them to work. We can identify the following services as part of the application platform building block:

  • Front-end servers are typically web servers (like Apache HTTP Server and Microsoft Internet Information Services – IIS) that provide end users with interactions to applications by presenting application screens in web browsers.
  • Application servers act as containers running the actual application. Examples are Java or .Net application servers and frameworks (like IBM WebSphere, Apache Tomcat, Red Hat JBoss, and Windows .Net).
  • Connectivity entails FTP servers, Extraction, Transformation and Load (ETL) servers, and Enterprise Service Buses (ESBs) like Microsoft BizTalk, the TIBCO Service Bus, IBM MQ, and SAP NetWeaver PI.
  • Databases, also known as database management systems (DBMSs), provide a way to store and retrieve structured data. Examples are Oracle RDBMS, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, and MySQL.

Application platforms are typically managed by systems managers specialized in the specific technology.

The following infrastructure building blocks can be depicted:

  • End User Devices are the devices used by end users to work with applications, like PCs, laptops, thin clients, mobile devices, and printers.
  • Operating Systems are collections of programs that manage a computer’s internal workings: its memory, processors, devices, and file system.
  • Compute are the physical and virtual computers in the datacenter, also known as servers.
  • Storage are systems that store data. They include hard disks, tapes, Direct Attached Storage (DAS), Network Attached Storage (NAS), and Storage Area Networks (SANs).
  • Networking connects all components. This building block includes routers, switches, firewalls, WANs (wide area networks), LAN, dial-in, internet access, and VPNs (Virtual Private Network), and (on the network application level) relatively simple services like DNS, DHCP, and time services, necessary for the infrastructure to work properly.
  • Datacenters are locations that host most IT infrastructure hardware. They include facilities like uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC), computer racks, and physical security measures.

Please note that these building blocks are not per definition hierarchically related. For instance, servers need both networking and storage, and both are equally important.

Infrastructure management includes processes like ITIL and DevOps, and tools like monitoring, backup, and logging.

An IT system does not only provide functionality to users; functionality is supported by non-functional attributes. Non-functional attributes are the effect of the configuration of each IT system component, both on the infrastructure level and above.

Although many other non-functional attributes are defined, availability, performance, and security are almost always the essential ones in IT infrastructure architectures.

This entry was posted on Friday 16 November 2012

Earlier articles

Security at cloud providers not getting better because of government regulation

The cloud is as insecure as its configuration

Infrastructure as code

My Book

DevOps for infrastructure

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

(Hyper) Converged Infrastructure

Object storage

Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV)

Software Defined Storage (SDS)

What's the point of using Docker containers?

Identity and Access Management

Using user profiles to determine infrastructure load

Public wireless networks

Supercomputer architecture

Desktop virtualization

Stakeholder management

x86 platform architecture

Midrange systems architecture

Mainframe Architecture

Software Defined Data Center - SDDC

The Virtualization Model

What are concurrent users?

Performance and availability monitoring in levels

UX/UI has no business rules

Technical debt: a time related issue

Solution shaping workshops

Architecture life cycle

Project managers and architects

Using ArchiMate for describing infrastructures

Kruchten’s 4+1 views for solution architecture

The SEI stack of solution architecture frameworks

TOGAF and infrastructure architecture

The Zachman framework

An introduction to architecture frameworks

How to handle a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack

Architecture Principles

Views and viewpoints explained

Stakeholders and their concerns

Skills of a solution architect architect

Solution architects versus enterprise architects

Definition of IT Architecture

What is Big Data?

How to make your IT "Greener"

What is Cloud computing and IaaS?

Purchasing of IT infrastructure technologies and services

IDS/IPS systems

IP Protocol (IPv4) classes and subnets

Infrastructure Architecture - Course materials

Introduction to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

IT Infrastructure Architecture model

Fire prevention in the datacenter

Where to build your datacenter

Availability - Fall-back, hot site, warm site

Reliabilty of infrastructure components

Human factors in availability of systems

Business Continuity Management (BCM) and Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)

Performance - Design for use

Performance concepts - Load balancing

Performance concepts - Scaling

Performance concept - Caching

Perceived performance

Ethical hacking

The first computers

Open group ITAC /Open CA Certification

Sjaak Laan

Recommended links

Ruth Malan
Gaudi site
Esther Barthel's site on virtualization
Eltjo Poort's site on architecture


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