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 Vrijdag 16 November 2012

Earlier articles

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

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

Computer crime

Introduction to Cryptography

Introduction to Risk management

The history of UNIX and Linux

The history of Microsoft Windows

Engelse woorden in het Nederlands

Infosecurity beurs 2010

The history of Storage

The history of Networking

The first computers

Cloud: waar staat mijn data?

Tips voor het behalen van uw ITAC / Open CA certificaat

Ervaringen met het bestuderen van TOGAF

De beveiliging van uw data in de cloud

Proof of concept

Een consistente back-up? Nergens voor nodig.

Measuring Enterprise Architecture Maturity

The Long Tail

Open group ITAC /Open CA Certification

Human factors in security

Google outage

SAS 70

De Mythe van de Man-Maand

TOGAF 9 - wat is veranderd?

DYA: Ontwikkelen Zonder architectuur

Landelijk Architectuur Congres LAC 2008

InfoSecurity beurs 2008

Spam is big business

Waarom IT projecten mislukken

Stroom en koeling

Laat beheerders meedraaien in projecten

De zeven eigenschappen van effectief leiderschap


Een ontmoeting met John Zachman

Open CA (voorheen: ITAC) - IT Architect certification

Persoonlijk Informatie Eigendom


Live computable webcast

Lezing Trends in IT Security

Hardeningscontrole en hacktesting


Information Lifecycle Management - Wat is ILM

LEAP: de trip naar Redmond

LEAP: De laatste Nederlandse masterclasses

Scada systemen

LEAP - Halverwege de Nederlandse masterclasses

Beveiliging van data - Het kasteel en de tank

Waarom je geen ICT architect moet worden

Non-functional requirements

Redenen om te backuppen

Log analyse - gebruik logging informatie

LEAP - Microsoft Lead Enterprise Architect Program

Archivering data - more than backup

Patterns in IT architectuur

Tot de dood ons scheidt

High Availability clusters

Hoe geef ik een goede presentatie

Lagen in ICT Beveiliging

Zachman architectuur model

High performance clusters en grids

Redenen om te kiezen voor Open Source software

Monitoring door systeembeheerders

Wat is VMS?

IT Architectuur certificeringen

Storage Area Network's (SAN's)

Systeembeheer documentatie

Wat zijn Rootkits

Virtualisatie van operating systems

Kenmerken van Open Source software

Linux certificering: RHCE en LPI

99,999% beschikbaarheid

Het infrastructuur model

Sjaak Laan

Recommended links

Genootschap voor Informatie Architecten
Ruth Malan
Gaudi site
XR Magazine
Esther Barthel's site on virtualization
Eltjo Poort's site on architecture


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