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Guide

What Is a Full-stack Infrastructure? A Definitive Guide

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A full-stack infrastructure refers to the full spectrum of software and technologies required to accomplish a certain end product or function within computing.

What Is a Full-stack Infrastructure?

A full-stack infrastructure refers to the entire pre-integrated technology stack, front-end, back-end, and everything in between (i.e., middleware), required to build, test, and deploy an application. 

A “full stack" doesn't necessarily refer to everything in one's infrastructure. For example, databases are critical to running apps, but they are not generally considered part of the full stack, nor is the application layer. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at all things full stack and what it means for your data center.

Inside the Full IT Stack

The full IT stack is a pre-validated, multi-layered architecture that encompasses all aspects of the technology infrastructure. Each layer serves a specific purpose and contributes to the overall functioning of the IT ecosystem. 

The layers of the IT stack include:

  • Resources: on-premises and cloud 
  • Servers
  • Network
  • Operating system
  • Virtualization
  • Database
  • Application middleware
  • Development frameworks
  • Automation and deployment
  • Analytics and monitoring
  • Security

 

Let’s dive into each of these components a bit more.

 

Storage

Storage is a critical aspect of any IT infrastructure, and companies need to determine the most suitable approach for their data storage needs. On-premises storage involves maintaining physical storage devices, such as hard drives, network attached storage (NAS) systems, or storage area networks (SANs) within the organization's data center. This offers direct control and ensures data proximity, which can be beneficial for sensitive or compliance-related data.

Compute

Computing resources are the engine that powers applications and services. On-premises compute infrastructure typically involves owning and managing physical servers within an organization's premises. This grants full control over computing resources, enabling organizations to fine-tune configurations based on their specific requirements.

Cloud computing, on the other hand, offers virtualized compute resources that can be provisioned and scaled on demand. Cloud service providers offer a range of computing options, such as virtual machines (VMs), containers, and serverless computing, allowing organizations to match their workload needs while benefiting from elasticity and cost optimization.

Hybrid cloud computing combines on-premises and cloud resources to achieve flexibility, scalability, and resource optimization. It allows organizations to leverage the cloud for bursting, handling peak workloads, or specific use cases, while relying on on-premises infrastructure for mission-critical or latency-sensitive applications.

Networking

Networking is the foundation of any IT infrastructure, enabling communication between various components. On-premises networking involves configuring and managing physical networking devices such as routers, switches, and firewalls, within an organization's premises. This offers direct control over network configurations, security policies, and bandwidth allocation.

Cloud networking, provided by cloud service providers, allows organizations to create virtual networks and define network configurations using software-defined networking (SDN) principles. Cloud networking offers scalability, ease of configuration, and integration with other cloud services, enabling organizations to build distributed and globally accessible architectures.

In a hybrid cloud deployment, organizations can connect their on-premises network infrastructure with the cloud using secure connectivity options, such as virtual private networks (VPNs) or direct network connections. This allows for seamless integration between on-premises and cloud resources, enabling hybrid applications and hybrid network topologies.

Network

The networking layer provides connectivity between resources. It encompasses routers, switches, firewalls, and other networking devices that facilitate seamless communication and data transfer. The network layer acts as a bridge, connecting various components of the IT stack. A robust network infrastructure ensures reliable connectivity, efficient data transmission, and secure access to resources. Networking technologies like TCP/IP, Ethernet, and VPNs play a pivotal role in establishing and maintaining network connections.

Operating Systems

Operating systems such as Windows and Linux provide the underlying software that enables hardware and software to work together. The operating system (OS) layer provides essential services and manages hardware resources, enabling the execution of applications and efficient use of system capabilities. The OS handles tasks such as process management, memory allocation, device interaction, and file system management, ensuring the smooth operation of the entire stack.

Virtualization

The virtualization layer provides the ability to run multiple operating systems and applications on a single server. This layer includes hypervisors such as VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V. Virtualization technology allows the creation of virtual instances or VMs within a physical server or cloud environment. Virtualization enables consolidation, resource optimization, and scalability. Virtualization also facilitates the rapid provisioning and deployment of new instances, simplifying infrastructure management and maintenance.

Databases

The database layer provides the ability to store, organize, and retrieve data. This layer includes traditional database management systems such as SQL Server and Oracle, application-specific databases such as SAP HANA, and the new OpenDBs such as MySQL and MongoDB. 

Databases are crucial for applications that require persistent data storage and retrieval. Relational databases such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle offer structured data storage, enforcing data integrity through defined schemas and relationships. NoSQL databases like MongoDB and Cassandra provide flexible and scalable storage options for unstructured or semi-structured data. The database layer ensures data consistency, availability, and security.

Application Middleware

The application middleware layer acts as a bridge between the database and the application layer, providing a set of software components that enable applications to work together. This layer includes application servers such as Apache Tomcat and JBoss, web servers, message queues, and APIs. Middleware controls things like session management, caching, and data integration. By enabling efficient communication between applications and databases, the middleware layer improves performance, scalability, and interoperability.

Integrated Management Layer

The latest development in full-stack infrastructures is the emergence of automation and AI-based integrated management solutions. These new tools provide a means for full observability across the stack and can support most of the management functions necessary for basic control over all the layers. Ideally, these solutions include a set of standard REST APIs to make third-party apps and proprietary legacy workloads observable and capable of sending their own alerts to the management layer. The best of these new integrated management offerings leverage AI/ML to identify patterns and learn to automatically (as the need arises) deliver functions such as scalability on demand, reducing the burdens and complexity faced by infrastructure admins. These sophisticated new solutions are finally starting to deliver on the age-old desire for a “single pane of glass.”

Development Frameworks

The development frameworks layer provides a set of tools, libraries, and reusable resources that streamline the software development process and enable developers to create applications. These frameworks provide predefined structures and functionalities, simplifying application development and promoting code efficiency. Examples include Django, Ruby on Rails, and Angular. Development frameworks accelerate the development lifecycle, enhance code reusability, and facilitate the creation of robust and scalable applications.

Automation and Deployment

The automation and deployment layer provides the ability to automate the deployment of applications and services. This layer includes tools that automate tasks such as code compilation, testing, configuration management, and deployment. Continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) is also a very important part of automation and deployment, enabling organizations to automate the software development lifecycle and ensure faster, more reliable application delivery. Automation enhances efficiency, reduces human errors, and facilitates rapid deployment of changes.

Analytics and Monitoring

The analytics and monitoring layer provides the ability to monitor and analyze the performance of applications and services. This layer, which includes tools such as Nagios and Splunk, empowers organizations to gain valuable insights into their IT infrastructure and application performance. It involves tools for collecting and analyzing system metrics, log data, and user behavior. Monitoring solutions help identify performance bottlenecks, detect anomalies, and ensure the overall health and availability of the IT stack. Analytics capabilities enable data-driven decision-making, capacity planning, and resource optimization.

Security

Security is a paramount concern across all layers of the IT stack. The security layer, which includes tools such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems, protects applications and services from unauthorized access, breaches, and other types of malicious activities. Encryption, access controls, and identity management are other key aspects of all security layers. Implementing robust security measures ensures data confidentiality, integrity, and availability, safeguarding the entire IT ecosystem.

Build vs. Buy for Your Full-stack Infrastructure

When the industry was transitioning from proprietary to open systems, and from monolithic mainframes and departmental computing to distributed desktop computing models, the build vs. buy argument for your full-stack infrastructure was still very much in play.  

However, since then, “buy” has clearly won. 

Today, we all inherently understand that trying to build one's own multi-layered infrastructure from piece parts is way too risky and ultimately too difficult to support. Piecing together a solution is simply too time-consuming and costly because of all the things that go into the process:

  • Identifying best-of-breed parts 
  • Negotiating with multiple vendors
  • Dealing with longer buying cycles and therefore longer deployment time
  • The extreme cost of testing and integrating
  • The challenge of supporting a multi-vendor environment
  • The issues associated with rev and feature changes

This is why a fully pre-integrated full stack makes as much sense in the cloud as it does on-prem. Cloud providers like AWS live and breathe efficient IT but have still made the (very smart) decision to go with pre-validated designs for their full stacks, even with their army of dedicated IT personnel.

Read: FlashStack Delivers Software-defined, Intelligent Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure

 

Cloud vs. On-prem Infrastructure vs. Hybrid Cloud: Key Considerations

Both cloud and on-prem environments provide a full stack, but there are key differences:

Trade-offs

The difference between cloud and on-prem is the difference between running apps and workloads remotely (cloud) vs. locally (on-prem), which trades direct control and security for convenience and reduced internal IT overhead. 

Understanding the Real Costs

In the public cloud, users manage an SLA with their provider, while in an on-prem environment, users manage these systems themselves. There are costs and trade-offs associated with each case. At one time, the motivation for going to the cloud was cost savings. However, there's been a backlash against this; now that cloud has been around for a while, users are finding they have not saved money as expected and in fact, may even be paying more. This has spawned a repatriation of data and apps back to local, on-prem environments.

Hybrid Cloud

For these reasons many IT consumers have settled on the increasingly popular hybrid cloud model.  This generally means customers run some applications in either a public or private cloud, and some applications remain on-prem. The decision about which app to run where usually depends on which environment will be most beneficial to that particular operation.  

Companies often offload standardized business applications (e.g., packaged enterprise apps like SAP and Epic) to the cloud for better efficiencies and so that internal IT staff are free to work on more strategic solutions and end-user support. Custom applications or workloads very strategic or unique to one’s line of business tend to be brought in-house where IT can apply their specialized business knowledge.

But regardless of architecture, somewhere, somebody is running an integrated full stack to support a company’s operations and workloads.

Why FlashStack for Your Full Stack

A full-stack infrastructure is a comprehensive solution that includes all necessary components to develop, deploy, and operate applications and services. It provides a simplified and integrated approach to managing the technology infrastructure. It can also provide cost savings and advanced automation and management capabilities. Understanding the different components of full-stack infrastructure can help businesses make informed decisions about the best solution for their needs. As the IT world evolves, there will no doubt be more components added to the full stack.  

To keep your stack running smoothly, you need a unified, easily scalable infrastructure optimized for hybrid cloud. That’s exactly what FlashStack® by Pure Storage and Cisco offers: integrated compute, network, and storage that makes it simpler than ever to scale on premises to a hybrid cloud with unified management and flexible consumption for every workload.

Looking to reduce your data center footprint and energy usage by more than 80%? FlashStack was redesigned from the ground up to be the most sustainable infrastructure on the planet.

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