Infrastructure is the foundation or framework that supports a system or organization. In computing, information technology infrastructure is composed of physical and virtual resources that support the flow, storage, processing and analysis of data. Infrastructure may be centralized within a data center, or it may be decentralized and spread across several data centers that are either controlled by the organization or by a third party, such as a colocation facility or cloud provider.

Infrastructure components

Data center infrastructure often includes the power, cooling and building elements necessary to support data center hardware. The data center hardware infrastructure usually involves servers; storage subsystems; networking devices, like switches, routers and physical cabling; and dedicated network appliances, such as network firewalls.

A data center infrastructure also requires careful consideration of IT infrastructure security. This can include physical security for the building, such as electronic key entry, constant video and human surveillance of the premises, carefully controlled access to the server and storage spaces, and so on. This ensures only authorized personnel can access the data center hardware infrastructure and reduces the potential for malicious damage or data theft.

Outside of the data center is an internet infrastructure, which includes transmission media, such as fiber optic cables, satellites, microwave-line of sight-antennas, routers, aggregators, repeaters, load balancers and other network components that control transmission paths. Internet infrastructures are designed, built and operated by internet service providers (ISPs), such as Verizon and AT&T. When a business engages an ISP for internet access, the ISP typically ties into the data center infrastructure within a dedicated and secured building space.

The role of cloud computing is changing the way infrastructures are designed and implemented. Where traditional, business-owned data centers are private, capital-intensive resources, cloud computing enables organizations to access a cloud provider's data center infrastructure and services for a fee. This infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) model allows flexible computing on demand. Users can invoke a cloud provider's compute, storage and services without the need to deploy those resources locally -- and adjust cloud infrastructure usage as workload needs change.

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) model offers similar benefits for specific workloads. A third-party provider hosts hardware, software, servers, storage and other infrastructure components, and it allows users to access the provider's hosted workloads instead of deploying and maintaining those workloads locally. For example, users can employ SaaS workloads for databases, HR applications, analytical applications, office productivity suites and many others.

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