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What is IT infrastructure?

Information technology infrastructure, or IT infrastructure, refers to the combined components needed for the operation and management of enterprise IT services and IT environments.

Why is IT infrastructure important?

Technology powers nearly every aspect of today’s businesses, from an individual employee’s work to operations to goods and services. When properly networked, technology can be optimized to improve communication, create efficiencies and increase productivity.

If an IT infrastructure is flexible, reliable and secure, it can help an enterprise meet its goals and provide a competitive edge in the market. Alternatively, if an IT infrastructure isn’t properly implemented, businesses can face connectivity, productivity and security issues, like system disruptions and breaches. Overall, having a properly implemented infrastructure can be a factor in whether a business is profitable or not.

With an IT infrastructure, a company can:

  • Provide a positive customer experience by providing uninterrupted access to its website and online store.

  • Develop and start solutions to market with speed.

  • Collect data in real time to make quick decisions.

  • Improve employee productivity.
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How do the components of IT infrastructure work?

The components of IT infrastructure are made up of interdependent elements, and the two core groups of components are hardware and software. Hardware uses software—like an operating system—to work. Likewise, an operating system manages system resources and hardware. Operating systems also connect software applications and physical resources using networking components.


Hardware components can include:

  • Desktop computers
  • Servers
  • Data centers
  • Hubs
  • Routers
  • Switches
  • Facilities


Software components can include:

  • Content management systems (CMS)
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
  • Operating systems
  • Web servers

Facilities or physical plants provide space for networking hardware, servers and data centers. It also includes the network cabling in office buildings to connect components of an IT infrastructure together.

Networks are composed of switches, routers, hubs and servers. Switches connect network devices like routers, servers and others on local area networks (LAN). Routers allow devices on different LANs to communicate and move packets between networks. Hubs connect multiple networking devices to act as a single component.

A core hardware component needed for an enterprise IT infrastructure is a server. Servers are essentially computers that allow multiple users to access and share resources.

Server room/data center
Organizations house multiple servers in rooms called server rooms or data centers. Data centers are the core of most networks.

Types of infrastructure
The two primary types of IT infrastructure are traditional and cloud infrastructure.
Traditional infrastructure

A traditional IT infrastructure is made up of the usual hardware and software components: facilities, data centers, servers, networking hardware desktop computers and enterprise application software solutions. Typically, this infrastructure setup requires more power, physical space and money than other infrastructure types. A traditional infrastructure is typically installed on-premises for company-only or private use.

Learn more about IT infrastructure solutions
Cloud infrastructure

A cloud computing IT infrastructure is similar to traditional infrastructure. However, end users can access the infrastructure via the internet, with the ability to use computing resources without installing on-premises through virtualization. Virtualization connects physical servers maintained by a service provider at any or many geographical locations. Then, it divides and abstracts resources, like storage, to make them accessible to users almost anywhere an internet connection can be made. Because cloud infrastructure is often public, it’s usually referred to as a public cloud.

Learn about on-premises infrastructures for hybrid cloud
An optimal IT infrastructure

IT infrastructure setups vary by business needs and goals, but some goals are universal for every enterprise. The optimal infrastructure provides a business high-performance storage, a low-latency network, security, an optimized wide area network (WAN), virtualization and zero downtime.

  • High-performance storage systems store and back up data and include a data recovery system in case of disasters.

  • Low-latency networks use enterprise-level infrastructure components to reduce the delay of data flow.

  • Secure infrastructures include systems that control information access and data availability. It can also safeguard a business against breaches and cyberattacks wherever the data resides, maintaining the customers’ trust.

  • WANs manage the network by prioritizing traffic and giving certain applications more or less bandwidth as needed.

  • Virtualization provides faster server provisioning, increases uptime, improves disaster recovery and saves energy.

  • Zero downtime aims to reduce disruptions to business operations and eliminates system downtime to keep costs down and profits up.
Resources Continuing the IT infrastructure conversations

Examine how IT and other parts of an organization can work together to capitalize on IT trends. Learn how these groups can use these trends for competitive advantage to deliver the capabilities for business success today and well into the future.

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What is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

Get an introduction to cloud services like IaaS. Learn about its components and advantages and how it relates to platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS), bare metal as a service (BMaaS), containers and serverless computing.

What is a mainframe?

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What is IT management?

Get familiar with what IT management is, what the management essentials are and what the key features of effective IT management are.

Infrastructure development resources

Browse the IBM® Developer Infrastructure page for articles, open projects, content collections, tutorials, videos, blog posts and events.

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