IT infrastructure consists of a set of physical devices and software applications that are required to operate entire enterprises. But IT infrastructure is also a set of firm wide services budgeted by management and comprising of both human and technical capabilities. These services include the following:
Computing platform used to provide computing services that connect employees, customers and suppliers into a coherent digital environment, including large mainframes, desktop, and laptop computers, and personal digital assistance and internal appliances.
IT management services that plan and develop the infrastructure, coordinate with the business units for IT services, manage accounting for the IT expenditure, and provide project management services.
IT standard services that provide the firm and its business units with policy to determine when, how and which information technology will be used.
IT education services which provide training in system use to employees and offer managerial training on how to plan for and manage IT investment.
IT research and development services that provide the firm with research on potential future IT project and investments that could help the firm differentiate itself in the market place.
This service platform perspective makes it easier to understand the business value provided by infrastructure investment. For instance, in the US, the real business value of a fully loaded personal computer operating at 3 gigahertz that costs about $ 1000 or a high speed internet connection is hard to understand without knowing who will use it and how it will be used.
Define IT infrastructure from both a technology and a services perspective.
Technical perspective: Defined as the shared technology resources that provide the platform for the firm’s specific information system applications. It consists of a set of physical devices and software applications that are required to operate within the entire enterprise.
Service perspective: Defined as providing the foundation for serving customers, working with vendors, and managing internal firm business processes. In this sense, IT infrastructure focuses on the services provided by all the hardware and software. IT infrastructure is a set of firm-wide services budgeted by management and comprising of both human and technical capabilities.
Information technology infrastructure has the shared technology resources that provide the platform for the firm’s specific information system applications. IT infrastructure includes investment in hardware, software and services such as consulting education, and training that are shared across the entire firm or across business units in the firm. An IT infrastructure firm provides the foundation for serving customers, working with vendors, and managing internal firm business processes.
Stages and technology drivers of IT infrastructure evolution
Technology drivers of IT infrastructure evaluation
The changes in IT infrastructure describes the result in development of computer processing, memory chips, storage devices, telecommunication and networking hardware and software design that have exponentially increased computing power while reducing costs.
The term hardware, software and firmware occur frequently in any literature concerned with computer. It is important at the outset to have some understanding of their meanings.
Physical components in computer circuits, keyboards, disk drivers, disk and printers are all examples of pieces of hardware.
Software is a set of instructions, written in specialized language, the execution of which controls the operation of the computer programmes.
Is the permanent storage of programme instruction in hardware. It is usually used to refer to a set of instructions that is permanently encoded on micro-chips.
The term firmware is used because it is the inseparable combination of hardware and software.
(Business information system by Graham Curtis and David Cobham 6th edition 2008).
List each of the eras in IT infrastructure evolution and describe its distinguishing characteristics.
Five stages of IT infrastructure evolution include:
General-purpose mainframe and minicomputer era (1959 to present):
Personal computer era (1981 to present):
Client/server era (1983 to present):
Enterprise computing era (1992 to present):
Evaluation of infrastructure
The IT infrastructure in organisations today is an outgrowth of over fifty years of evolution in computing plate forms. There have been five stages in this evolution, each representing a different configuration of computing power and infrastructure elements. The five eras are general purpose mainframe and minicomputer computing, personal computer, client/server networks, enterprise computing and cloud computing.
IT infrastructure today is composed of 7 major components. These components constitute investment that must be coordinated with one another to provide the firm with a coherent infrastructure.
Describe the evolving mobile platform, grid computing, and cloud computing.
Mobile platform: more and more business computing is moving from PCs and desktop machines to mobile devices like cell phones and smart phones. Data transmissions, Web surfing, e-mail and instant messaging, digital content displays, and data exchanges with internal corporate systems are all available through a mobile digital platform. Net books, small low-cost lightweight subnotebooks that are optimized for wireless communication and Internet access, are included.
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The emerging mobile digital platform
As computing increasingly take place over the network, new mobile digital computing platform has emerging communication devices such as cell phone and smart phone, the blackberry and iphone, taking on many functions of hand held computers, including transmission of data, surfing the web, transmitting email and instant messages, displaying digital content, and exchanging data with internal cooperated system. The new mobile platform also includes small low cost light weight sub note books called net books optimized for wireless communication and internet access, with core computing function such as a word processing, and digital e book readers such as amazon, kindle with some web access capabilities. More and more business computing is moving from PCs and desktop machines to these mobile devices; managers are increasingly using these devices to coordinate work and communicate with employees.
Grid computing: connects geographically remote computers into a single network to create a “virtual supercomputer” by combining the computational power of all computers on the grid.
Grid computing takes advantage of the fact that most computers in the United States use their central processing units on average only 25% of the time for the work they have been assigned, leaving these idle resources available for other processing tasks. Grid computing was impossible until high speed internet connection enabled forms to connect remote machines economically and move enormous quantities of data.
Grid computing requires software programmes to control and allocate resources on the grid. Client software communicates with a server software application. The server software breaks data and application code into chunks that are than parcelled out to the grids machines. The client machine can perform their traditional task while running grid application in the background. The business case for using grid computing involves cost saving speed of computation & agility. For example, Royal Dutch/Shell group is using a scalable grid computing platform that improves the accuracy and the speed of its scientific modelling applications to find the best oil reservoirs.
Cloud computing: a model of computing where firms and individuals obtain computing power and software applications over the Internet, rather than purchasing their own hardware and software. Data are stored on powerful servers in massive data centres, and can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection and standard Web browser.
The growing bandwidth power of the internet has pushed the client/server model one step further, towards what is called the “cloud computing model “. Cloud computing refers to a model of computing where firms and individuals obtain computing power and software application over the internet, rather than purchasing their own hardware and software. Currently cloud computing is the fastest growing form of computing, with an estimated market size in 2009 of $8 billion, and a projected size of $160 billion 2012.
In Cloud computing hardware and software capabilities are provided as services on the internet. Data is permanently stored in remote servers in massive data centre and accessed and updated over the internet using clients that include desktop, notebook, entertainment centre net book and mobile devices. For example, google application provides common business application online that are accessed from a web browser, while the software and user data are stored on the server. Since organisation’s using cloud computing generally do not own the infrastructure, they do not have to make large investments in their own hardware and software. Instead, they purchase their computing services from remote providers and pay only for the amount of computing power that is actually used.
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Some analysts believed that cloud computing represents a sea change in the way computing will be performed by corporations, as business computing shift out of private data centres into the cloud computing is more immediately appealing to small and medium size business that lack resources to purchase and own their own hardware and software. However large corporations have huge investment complex proprietary systems supporting unique business process, some of which give them strategic advantages. The most likely is a hybrid computing model where firms will use their own infrastructure for their most essential core activities and adopt cloud computing for a less critical system. Cloud computing will gradually shift firm from having a fixed infrastructure capacity toward a more flexible infrastructure, some of it owned by the firm and some of it rented from joint computing centres owned by computer hardware winders.
Current trends in computer hardware platforms?
Computer hardware platform
In 2008,285 million PCs were shifted worldwide, with a market value or $253 billion. There were Investments of more than US$ 18 billion in hardware manufacturing in India including telecoms hardware. This has stoked expectations of a hardware boom. These components include client machines (desktop PCs, mobile computing devices such as I-phones and blackberrys, and laptops)and server machine. The server market is more complex, using mostly Intel or AMD process in the form of blade servers on racks. Blade servers are ultrathin computers consisting of a circuit board with a processor, memory and network connection that are store in a rack.
The supply of computer hardware has increasingly become concentrated in top firms such as IBM, HP, DELL, SUNMICRO system, three chip producers, Intel AMD and IBM. The industry has collectively settled on Intel as the standard processer, with major exceptions in the server market for Unix and Linux machine, which might use sun or IBM Unix processer.
Businesses can benefit from autonomic computing, virtualization, and multicore processors.
Benefits of autonomic computing include systems that automatically do the following:
Optimize and tune themselves
Heal themselves when broken
Protect themselves from outside intruders and self-destruction
Reduce maintenance costs
Reduce downtime from system crashes
Benefits of server virtualization include:
Run more than one operating system at the same time on a single machine.
Increase server utilization rates to 70 percent or higher.
Reduce hardware expenditures. Higher utilization rates translate into fewer computers required to process the same amount of work.
Mask server resources from server users.
Reduce power expenditures.
Run legacy applications on older versions of an operating system on the same server as newer applications.
Facilitate centralization of hardware administration.
Benefits of multi-core processors:
Cost savings by reducing power requirements and hardware sprawl
Less costly to maintain as fewer systems need to be monitored.
Performance and productivity benefits beyond the capabilities of today’s single-core processors.
Handle the exponential growth of digital data and the globalization of the Internet.
Meet the demands of sophisticated software applications under development.
Run applications more efficiently than single-core processors – giving users the ability to keep working even while running the most processor intensive task in the background.
Increase performance in areas such as data mining, mathematical analysis, and Web serving.
Current trends in software platforms
Define and describe open source software and Linux and explain their business benefits.
Open-source software provides all computer users with free access to the program code so they can modify the code, fix errors in it, or make improvements. Open-source software is not owned by any company or individual. A global network of programmers and users manage and modify the software. By definition, open-source software is not restricted to any specific operating system or hardware technology. Several large software companies are converting some of their commercial programs to open source.
Linux is the most well-known open-source software. It’s a UNIX-like operating system that can be downloaded from the Internet, free of charge, or purchased for a small fee from companies that provide additional tools for the software. It is reliable, compactly designed, and capable of running on many different hardware platforms, including servers, handheld computers, and consumer electronics. Linux has become popular during the past few years as a robust low-cost alternative to UNIX and the Windows operating system.
Thousands of open-source programs are available from hundreds of Web sites. Businesses can choose from a range of open-source software including operating systems, office suites, Web browsers, and games. Open-source software allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership. It provides more robust software that’s often more secure than proprietary software.
Declining communications costs and the internet.
A fourth technology driver transforming IT infrastructure is the rapid decline in the costs of communication and exponential growth in the size of the internet. An estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide now have internet access. The exponentially declining cost of communication both over the internet and over telephone network (which increasingly are based on the internet). As communication costs falls towards very small numbers and approach zero, utilization of communication and computing facilities explodes. To take advantage of the business value associated with the internet, firms must greatly expand the power of their clients/server networks, desktop clients, and mobile computing devices. There is every reason to believe these trends will continue. One reason for the growth in the internet population is the rapid decline in internet connection and overall communication cost. The cost per kilo bits of internet access has fallen exponentially since 1995. Digital subscriber line DSL and cable modems now deliver kilobits of communication for a retail price of around two cents.
Standards and network effects
Today’s enterprise infrastructure and internet computing would be impossible both now and in the future-without agreements among manufacturers and widespread consumer acceptance of technology standards. Technology standards are specifications that establish the compatibility of product and the ability to communicate in a network.
Technology standard unleashing powerful economy of scale and resulting in price declines has resulted in manufacturers focussing on the product built to a single standard. Without these economies of scale, computing of any sort would be far more expensive than currently is the case.
In the 1990s, corporations started moving towards standard computing and communication plate forms. Windows PC with the windows operating system and micro soft office desktop productivity applications became the standard desktop and mobile client computing platform. Widespread adoption of the UNIX has made possible the replacement of proprietary and expensive main frame infrastructure. In telecommunications, the Ethernet standard enabled PCs to connect together in small local area network, and TCP/IP standard enable these LANs to be connected into firm-wide networks, and ultimately, to the internet.
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