Types of Computer Infrastructure:
- Internet Infrastructure
- Network Infrastructure
- Satellite Infrastructure
Many include this under the heading Information Technology.
Digital infrastructure brings together:
It is what allows for "Everything as a Service (XaaS)" platforms.
A lot interest is being generated by blockchain.
This is bringing distributed computing to the forefront. A network of this type is decentralized with a multitude of unrelated servers maintaining and updating the same data. Unlike a centralized system where all servers are under the control of one corporation, blockchain distributes the computing among different parties.
Originally, with the introduction of the Bitcoin network, the database was nothing more than a ledger. This technology is often called distributed ledger technology (DLT). Since that time, the creation of smart contracts on chains such as Ethereum along with text storage on Hive has expanded the utility of these networks.
From this infrastructure, applications and games can be developed that appeal to users. This is often considered to be a part of the eventually transition into Web 3.0, the next evolution of the Internet.
Some areas of integration are:
Money is another area that we see disruption happening. Many focus upon the speculation aspect of cryptocurrency since that is what garnered the attention of Wall Street and the financial media. This is a use case for the larger transition. Digital assets are going to be more than just a medium of exchange, bringing decentralized finance (DeFi) into being.
The development of infrastructure for this purpose reduces the counterparty risk by relying on software as the financial intermediary. These networks are called trustless since there is no need to depend upon a company.
Moving To The Edge
Computing often goes through phases, alternating between centralized and decentralized storage. This a long part of its history, going back to the mainframe.
Distributed computing is altering both storage and compute, moving it closer to the end. Cloud storage was the rage over the past 15 years, replacing personal computers and in-house servers.
The cloud is run by some of the largest companies, by market capitalization, in the world. These include:
Digital infrastructure is constantly adapting, with the evolution suiting the needs of different participants.
An example of the transition is 3Speak. This is a video platform that is working on decentralized storage by the community members. Nodes are set up that applications (or websites) can access, storing the data by the content creator. The actual hosting of the data is using individual storage devices of individual.
The idea is to replace the centralized company behind the storage. Excess capacity that community members have is utilized if they so desire. For providing this service, tokens are distributed as a reward.
A big part of the move to the edge is the advancement of communication systems. As they get faster, able to process more data, it is to the benefit of business leaders to utilize this capability. The benefits are more real time data, allowing for more informed decisions.
This is really evident when it comes to artificial intelligence. Here we are in a data driven area. Speed is often key which means reducing latency.
One industry that really embraced this was finance. Brokerage firms from Wall Street tried to set up their servers as close to the exchanges as possible. When buying and selling different assets utilizing software, a few milliseconds are vital. This spurred the increase in high frequency trading.
The automotive industry is also having to embrace this idea. With the quest for self driving vehicles, companies like Tesla and Google have to ensure the time from the data received to processing is reduced. Here we have human lives at stake.
One approach is to have more of the vital processing done by on-board computers. The centralized hardware is used for training and updating but each vehicles does its own processing.
Over the air updates are also built on top of the infrastructure the companies are creating to ensure the most advanced version is available to all users.
The adoption of smartphones have also forced the infrastructure to be pushed further out. More people are accessing the Internet through these devices as compared to desktops. Developing nations mostly skipped that part of the computing evolution and went straight to mobile.
Application developers are taking on added importance.
Software moves at a pace faster and is more scalable than hardware. As limitations were reached, developers had to take a new approach. For example, the slowing of Moore's Law has created an environment where productivity increases are being achieved by changing aspects such as the data stack. Software architecture is becoming increasingly important.
Security is another issue that is falling to software and application developers. Algorithms are created to monitor the activity that is taking place. When something is flagged, the system takes action based upon the coding. This is often done without human intervention.
Protocols are vital. Interoperability is necessary for infrastructure to communicate. The early developments of the Internet were build in isolation due to the lack of uniform standards. When protocols such as TCP/IP were embraced, development exploded.
As digital infrastructure keeps expanding into new realms, interoperability remains crucial. Networks cannot operate in isolation. Businesses require their infrastructure to connect to a multitude of networks, all serving different purposes.
The future of digital infrastructure is ever expanding.
Projects such as Elon Musk's SpaceX bring satellite Internet to the world only adds to the terrestrial layer of infrastructure. The interconnectivity between these satellites and the end user is vital.
Society is transforming into a digital world at an accelerating pace. Digital twins are being created of products to train service personnel. This is also allowing for collaboration on projects with teams that are geographically spread out.
Many are working on developing digital identification systems that can tied these online IDs to real people. There is great debate about how this should be designed with considerations such as privacy, security, and physical safety are crucial. Infrastructure is going to play a major role in how this is erected.