Use this handy decoder to help you decipher the basics of hybrid IT and explain the differences between composable, converged, hyperconverged and programmable infrastructure, among others

Cloud economics. A discipline that addresses the principles, costs and benefits of cloud computing. Cloud economics helps IT and business executives determine how they can deliver IT services to users with the greatest possible value for the organization, by examining how public or private cloud services will impact the IT budget and staffing needs. The business value of the cloud is best determined by return on investment and total cost of ownership.

Cloud-native applications. These are programs that are designed specifically for a cloud computing architecture. Thanks to the efficiencies enabled by the cloud, organizations can develop and deploy new business applications to meet their customers’ needs more quickly, which can give them a significant advantage in the marketplace. Cloud-native applications are becoming increasingly common as more enterprises move workloads and business processes to the cloud.

Composable infrastructure. A framework  whose physical computer, storage and network fabric resources are pooled and treated as services. Composable infrastructure allows enterprises to build an IT environment that uses these resources independently, so that they are not forced to add unneeded resources. This infrastructure lets organizations operate their data centers in a more cost-effective way by reducing waste and the amount of time needed to deploy new applications.

Fault-tolerance. The ability of a computer system, electronic system or network to provide continuous service, even when one or more of their components fails. Fault tolerance is especially important in systems that require high availability, such as those used for healthcare and public safety. High fault-tolerant systems enable organizations to continue delivering products and services instantaneously, even following a service outage caused by disk failures, power outages or some other factor.

Flexible consumption. A business model based on pay-per-use, which changes how IT products and services, including networking, software and storage, are sold to customers. Cloud services are typically delivered on a flexible consumption basis. The model reduces the risk of enterprises investing too much or too little in IT resources. It can also eliminate the problem of unused capacity, and free up IT resources for new, innovative projects.

Hyperconverged infrastructure. An IT infrastructure framework in which virtualized computing, storage, and networking are tightly integrated within a data center. The software-based architecture that serves as the centerpiece of hyperconvergence is what makes the integration possible. In a hyperconverged IT environment, all the servers, storage systems and networking equipment are intended to work together through an appliance. The simplification stems from the fact that the technology providing the hyperconverged capability comes from a single vendor. Hyperconvergence emerged from the concept of converged infrastructures. But it takes converged infrastructure a step further by adding tighter integration, making it more scalable and cost efficient.

Programmable infrastructure. Sometimes referred to as “infrastructure as a code,” programmable infrastructure is an approach to managing an IT environment using software development techniques rather than the traditional manual processes used by data center operations teams. With programmable infrastructure, automated practices and tools are extended into managing system operations. A potential benefit of this approach is that it can help enterprises more quickly respond to business opportunities through the continuous delivery of applications and services.

Single-pane-of-glass management. A management tool, such as a unified console or dashboard, that gathers data from multiple applications or other sources into a single display. The “glass” can be either a computer monitor or mobile device screen. By having a single-pane view of data, management can gain greater visibility into key IT performance indicators and metrics, and better align technology with the overall business goals of the organization.

Software-defined infrastructure. With a software-defined infrastructure, all of the IT infrastructure is virtualized and provided to users as a service. Management of the environment is fully automated by software, which means configurations of hardware such as servers and storage systems are maintained via intelligent software systems. Setting up traditional infrastructure is labor-intensive and slow, and with a software-defined infrastructure compute, network and storage resources are deployed as services, reducing deployment times from weeks to minutes. Once running, hardware is managed as a set of resources, and software has the intelligence to manage the hardware. Many experts consider software-defined infrastructure to be the next logical step in the progression of cloud services and virtualization.

Virtual machine. An operating system or application environment that is installed on software and imitates the functionality of dedicated hardware such as a server. There are different types of virtual machines, each with different functions. For example, system virtual machines provide a substitute for a real machine, and deliver the functionality needed to execute entire operating systems. Process virtual machines, on the other hand, are designed to execute computer programs in a platform-independent environment. Virtual machines use hardware more efficiently, which decreases the associated maintenance costs and reduces power and cooling demands. End users have the same experience on a virtual machine as they would on dedicated hardware.

Virtual machine provisioning. A systems management process that creates a new virtual machine on a physical host server and allocates computing resources to support the virtual machine. Provisioning includes the setup, configuration and deployment of a development environment on top of a virtual machine so that it's ready for functions such as launching code. The process can help simplify server provisioning and the management of resource allocation at an enterprise. Virtual machine provisioning can reduce power and cooling costs by decreasing the amount of idle data center hardware. Although it can be achieved manually, organizations can automate provisioning by creating a virtual machine template.

Virtualization. The creation of a virtual resource, such as a server, desktop computer, operating system, file, storage system or network, that is abstracted away from the actual underlying hardware of software. A common use of this technology is server virtualization in data centers, in which a software layer called a hypervisor is used to emulate the underlying hardware. Virtualization provides potential benefits including increased flexibility, and cost reductions, which comes from decreased reliance on physical servers and their associated maintenance, cooling, etc.

Workload. The amount of processing that a system has received in order to perform a work task at a given time. It consists of some amount of application programming running in the system and typically a number of users interacting with the system's applications. Examples of workloads would be the processing needed to run a customer relationship management (CRM) application hosted in an organization’s data center, or a smartphone app hosted in a public cloud.