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Who's the boss?

I recently sent an email at work, that talked a lot about some of the more academic sides of "infrastructure". Particularly the notion of where infrastructure gets it's direction and workload from. So I thought I'd share a few of those thoughts here.

Infrastructure is a bit of a weird beast. It's a foundational piece of any technology deployment, but in most cases it isn't the "focus" of the deployment. Infrastructure is both independent-yet-dependent. It stands at a crossroads between two distinct worlds.

First, infrastructure is independent, in the sense that it is agnostic. It can be built in a similar fashion if you're deploying a bookstore, financial application, music player, or blog. There are general concepts, principles and tactics (see The HiSSS of Infrastructure series...) that are universal to whatever application you are building and deploying. So by that standard, infrastructure is a thing unto itself.

But yet, infrastructure is nothing by itself. It's the foundation upon which cool things are built. Without an application or service being deployed upon it, it's pointless. So therefore infrastructure is dependent upon being "used" by something greater than itself. It's purpose is fulfilled by being used.

So there are three main areas in which infrastructure takes it's direction.

  1. Internal - There are things that infrastructure needs to do, to maintain itself and keep functioning. Things like security updates, hardware maintenance and general design updates, all come from initiatives internal to itself. There is a cadre of work that is built on these internal pressures. 
  2. Future-forward - The second area usually comes from a development team, and revolves around planning for the future. Investing in new technologies and their foundational pieces is a key part of infrastructure's work. People always have a million good ideas, and they need a solid foundation to make them reality.
  3. Reactive/Preventative - This stream of work comes from the discovery of issues that need to be addressed in the infrastructure. Service issues, capacity management, and general problem resolution are the third key workstream for a strong base.
These three areas make up the scope of work that an infrastructure team works on, and understanding and working within a fully agreed understanding of the importance of foundation, and building a house on solid ground, always benefits an entire initiative. 

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