Network Infrastructure

Network infrastructure is made up of the underlying elements of the network that carry out the processing and distribution of network communications. Network infrastructure is typically comprised of hardware, software, and services. 

Network Infrastructure Primer

Overview

When architected well, the network infrastructure provides an interconnected assembly of technologies and tools that work in tandem to empower employees and boost business operations and productivity. 

It’s been said that “the computer is the network” because so many of today’s computer functions are built around accessing and processing information from remote, networked, sources.  But today, it’s really the enterprise that is the network, because the interconnection of customers, employees, data, and software is vital to every aspect of the function of a business. As technology innovations have occurred in every business function, the network has followed close behind, resulting in the rise of the “enterprise network.” An effective enterprise network infrastructure is one that is available, secure, scalable, and robust enough to consistently and reliably drive productivity throughout the business, at all times.  

Core Areas

Network infrastructures are broken down into three core areas: hardware, software, and services. The basics of each core area are covered below, accompanied with a few fundamental examples. 

 

 

Network Hardware

Networking hardware is the physical layer of the network infrastructure that transfers the data within a network. Hardware components encompass the physical devices needed to establish communication between devices on a network. These include cables and wires, network interface cards, hubs, modems, routers, gateways, and so on.

Network Interface Cards (NICs) 

These enable a computer to be identified on, and connected to, the network. In the absence of a network interface card, a computer will not be able to connect to a network. 

They also serve other functions, such as enabling wireless and wired network communications. And as well run some physical layer and data link layer features, simultaneously 

Hubs 

These act as collection points, grouping various devices into a segment.  A hub is an essential networking device, which connects the segments within a LAN and are characterized by the multiple ports on the front panel. Any packet that arrives at one port is evenly copied across other ports so that all connecting segments detect the packets.

Routers 

These are network devices that channel incoming data packets to the intended recipients. Routers allow for interconnected links to be established across networks, and grant internet access to the computers within the network. 

A router can be referred to as a network’s dispatcher. Data being transmitted across a network gets analyzed, and then sent through the best possible route by a router. 

Gateways 

These are the meeting points between two different networks, enabling each to communicate with the other by adopting its protocols. A gateway can be described as an interface that allows for the exchange of data between two different networks by translating the signals or protocols of each network. 

 

 

Network Software

Networking software is another core area, enabling network administrators to deploy, manage, and monitor a network. In network infrastructure, this includes various tools bordering on network operations and management, operating systems, firewall, and network security applications.

Network Monitoring Software 

These tools are used by network administrators to help ensure the network is performing optimally. Reliable monitoring software functions as an all-seeing eye over every other component of a network infrastructure. 

The features transcend monitoring capabilities to include security operations, through real-time notifications at the point of detecting any abnormalities in a network. 

Network operating system (NOS)

This is the computer operating system that provides the features for each component of the network to function. The primary role of the NOS is the provision of fundamental network services and capabilities that allow for multiple network processes in a multiuser environment, simultaneously. 

In a nutshell, NOS software provides an interface for interaction and resource sharing across multiple network devices in a network.

Firewalls 

These are network security devices that monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic, blocking specific traffic based on a defined set of rules. A firewall is used to create a barrier between an enterprise network and other unauthorized external networks, such as public internet. 

Network Security Software 

These provide network protection to help ensure usability, integrity, reliability, and safety of data throughout the network.

 

 

Network Services

The third core area of a network’s infrastructure is network services. These are the applications that provide data storage, manipulation, presentation, and communication. These include a T1 Line, DSL, satellite, and IP addressing.

T1 Line

A T1 Line is high-volume fiber-optic or copper cable that can carry data at a rate of 1.544 mbps (megabits per second), and because of its capacity, hundreds of devices can share it. These cables serve as a dedicated connection line between a service provider and a client’s internet infrastructure. 

Since a client can lease them, they are privatized through the lease period. Consequently, this ensures usage strictly by one client, as well as the reduction of congestion during communication. 

DSL 

Fully noted as “digital subscriber line”; this is a communications medium, mostly in the form of fiber optic cables and copper wires, used to transfer digital data over standard telephone lines. 

It is an innovative alternative to the Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN), which doesn’t provide broadband connections via analog media. 

Satellites

Satellites are a communication technology that provides extensive global coverage and access to information via radio signals transmitted from the earth’s orbit. As part of network infrastructure services, satellites enable the worldwide transmission of data at cost-effective rates. 

Satellites can be classified as repeaters; as they intercept signals emanating from one location or station, and then rebroadcast the signals to another station. The ability to receive and retransmit data is made possible by transponders, which are part of the components of a satellite. 

Internet Protocol (IP) 

The Internet Protocol (IP) is the method by which data is sent from one computer to another on the Internet and within an enterprise network. Each computer on the Internet is assigned at least one IP address that uniquely identifies it from all other computers on the Internet.

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) is a routing technique designed to speed up and shape traffic flows across enterprise wide area and service provider networks. 

MPLS is a more efficient alternative to traditional IP routing, which requires each router to independently determine a packet’s next hop by inspecting the packet’s destination IP address before consulting its own routing table. This process consumes time and hardware resources, potentially resulting in degraded performance for real-time applications such as voice and video.

 

 

Maintaining Performance Visibility across The Network Infrastructure

The multiple domains of a network create several performance visibility challenges onsite and offsite, which is why monitoring network performance, to optimize performance and security is so critical. With one central monitoring platform, it is possible to maintain network visibility to help ensure efficient processing throughout the network. 

Enterprises rely heavily on the communication capabilities provided by a network. With this dependency comes the risk of data breaches, packet loss, communication drops, and so many other anomalies. Left unchecked, any of these situations could easily jeopardize the productivity of an organization. The ability to achieve network performance visibility across the enterprise network is critical to maintaining the performance of the enterprise itself.

The business refrain of  “you can’t manage what you can’t see” is as applicable to network performance as it is to any other business function. If NetOps teams are unable to determine what is going on within a network, it becomes impossible to respond to any issues that arise. 

LiveAction, as an industry leader in enterprise network monitoring, is trusted worldwide by IT professionals, for the provision of all-encompassing network monitoring solutions. 

Contact us today to enable multi-domain performance visibility of your enterprise network.