Understanding the terminology and definitions of system infrastructure and integration and how it can help your business.

An Overview of the Terminology and Definitions of IT Infrastructure and How it Helps Businesses Operate

What exactly are system infrastructure and integration?

Information technology (IT) infrastructure is built upon both physical and virtual components. These components support the infrastructure’s operations, storage, processing of data, and data analysis.

Infrastructure can be centralized in a data center or spread across multiple data centers. These decentralized data centers can be controlled by the organization (owner) or by a third-party, such as a cloud provider or a colocation facility.

While the terminology may seem hard to follow, here’s an overview of what makes an infrastructure, down to each component and IT support services.

Infrastructure Components

Data Center Infrastructure

This infrastructure supports the data center hardware with power, cooling, and building elements. This hardware includes:

  • Servers;
  • Storage subsystems;
  • Networking devices—switches, routers, cabling; and,
  • Network appliances—i.e., network firewalls.

To ensure that data is secure and protected from theft or malicious damage, only authorized personnel should have access to the infrastructure. So for IT infrastructure security, data centers also have physical security for the data center building. This type of security includes:

  • Electronic key entry;
  • Video and human surveillance; and,
  • Controlled access to servers and storage.

Internet Infrastructure

Outside of the data center is the Internet infrastructure, which is built by Internet service providers (ISPs). The components of Internet infrastructure include transmission media, such as:

  • Fiber-optic cables;
  • Satellites;
  • Microwave antennas;
  • Routers;
  • Repeaters;
  • Aggregators; and,
  • Load balancers.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has changed the design and use of IT infrastructures.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Model

In this model, businesses access a cloud provider’s data center services and infrastructure. This model provides flexible, on-demand computing.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Model

A third-party provider hosts software, hardware, servers, storage, and other components for IT infrastructure.

Infrastructure Management

The design of IT infrastructure must also support infrastructure management. In the form of software tools, IT administrators can view the infrastructure easily as a whole, or access details about any device in the infrastructure, making for efficient management. They are also able to optimize resources for various workloads and deal with the impact of changes to those resources.

Systems management tools help IT teams to:

  • Configure and manage network devices, storage, and servers;
  • Support remote data centers;
  • Support private and public cloud resources; and,
  • Make use of automation to increase efficiency, reduce human errors, and support a company’s best practices and objectives.

An example of an infrastructure management tool is the Building Management System (BMS). BMS reports on data center facilities, such as:

  • Power usage and efficiency;
  • Physical security activities; and,
  • Temperature and cooling operation.

Types of Infrastructures

As businesses grow and technology advances, businesses can use a variety of infrastructure types to meet current objectives. The different types of infrastructures include:

Immutable Infrastructure

Manages services and software on IT resources by replacing components instead of changing them. For example, instead of using a patch to update an app, IT will deploy a newer app instead, retiring the old app and redirecting traffic to the new one.

Composable Infrastructure

Pools physical computer, storage, and network resources, and treats them like services, so IT administrators don’t have to physically configure hardware to support software applications. Instead, they can manage these resources using software tools with efficient automation.

Dynamic Infrastructure

As workload demands change, this framework will automatically adjust itself. This reduces time, effort, and errors in infrastructure management while improving efficiency. These resources can also be managed manually if needed.

Critical Infrastructure

This type of infrastructure’s assets is essential and require continued operation for the security of a country, its economy, and the public’s health and safety. It often includes remote data centers and cloud resources.

Contact-Center Infrastructure

Includes the physical and virtual resources needed for the effective operations of a call-center facility. The components include automatic call distributors, computer-telephony integration, queue management, and integrated voice response units.

Cloud Infrastructure

Virtualizes resources, making them available over the Internet using application program interfaces, command-line interfaces, or graphical interfaces. The cloud infrastructure allows users to see their resources and services and corresponding costs through user self-service, user-side reporting, and automated billing or chargeback. Cloud storage infrastructure has hardware and software components to support a private or public cloud storage service.

Dark Infrastructure

Also known as shadow IT, this is the part of a framework that has undocumented but active software and services whose function and existence is unknown to the system administrators.

Breakdown of an IT Infrastructure


The physical data centers, housing IT equipment, and necessary power, cooling, and security components.


Routers, switches, firewalls, and load balancers.


Data storage systems, such as network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SAN).


Physical and virtual servers for both on-site and virtual data centers.

Infrastructure Management Tools and Services

Services include Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and domain name system (DNS). Admin use tools to manage all elements of infrastructure, such as:

  • Configuration management;
  • Monitoring;
  • Authentication; and,
  • User directories.


An IT infrastructure supports the delivery of enterprise applications.

How to Build an IT Infrastructure

With the expertise of IT professionals, businesses can create a data center infrastructure by following a process that involves:

  • Analyzing business goals;
  • Deciding on architecture and design; and,
  • Infrastructure optimization and maintenance.

Educating yourself on the basic terminology of IT infrastructure, you can better understand what the experts are talking about and start to learn more about the field of IT. For help expanding or implementing your IT infrastructure for your growing enterprise, consult with system infrastructure and integration specialists.