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Incomplete Thought – Cloudanatomy: Infrastructure, Metastructure & Infostructure

I wanted to be able to take the work I did in developing a visual model to expose the component Cloud SPI layers into their requisite parts from an IT perspective and make it even easier to understand.

Specifically, my goal was to produce another visual and some terminology that would allow me to take it up a level so I might describe Cloud to someone who has a grasp on familiar IT terminology, but do so in a visual way.

Cloudifornication-Cloudanatomy.030I came up with extending the notion of infrastructure as a foundation and layering what I call metastructure and infostructure layers atop.

You can see how I define “metastructure” and “infostructure” in the diagram definitions to the left.

Essentially Infrastructure is comprised of all the compute, network and storage moving parts that we identify as infrastructure today.

Metastructure* is the protocols and mechanisms that provide the interface between the infrastructure layer and the applications and information above it.

Infostructure is the applications and information/content as well as the service definitions that depend upon the other substrates.

Cloudifornication-Cloudanatomy.031These groupings really align well and simplify how I talk about various elements of Cloud.

Specifically, these three layers line up remarkably well with the S, P, I layer demarcation points that I outlined in my Cloud Model (see the extensive discussion here) built before that I use in my Frogs presentation that has met with good reception thus far.

I can drill down as needed, but if I want to summarize from a security perspective where/what I am talking about, I now have three handy and easily understood set of macro-definitions to help me.

What do you think?  I know we’re all pretty buzzworded out these days, but this really seems to resonate with folks up and down the stack I have presented it to.

Update 6/21: Reuven Cohen posted a nice follow-up to this blog on his in regards to his “metaverse” concept.


* I first mentioned the concept of “metastructure” in a post back in Februrary in another Incomplete Thought titled “Incomplete Thought: What Should Come First…Cloud Portability or Interoperability

  1. June 19th, 2009 at 22:19 | #1

    I think the division into Infostructure, Metastructure, and Infrastructure is helpful since it makes clear that the different services are based on each other and it also visualizes the borders between the different levels of control of providers and customers for different service delivery models.

    However, I think the mapping to the terms SaaS, PaaS, IaaS is not so easy and clear. Especially the term PaaS does not match closely to Metastructure. PaaS belongs partly to the Infostructure since it's all about data even when it provides more flexibility and control than a SaaS model. Also, IaaS may comprise functionality of the Metastructure – e.g. in EC2, some security functions are already built in.

  2. June 20th, 2009 at 01:03 | #2

    I quite like 'Infostructure' but I don't quite get 'Metastructure'. I assume you are using the word 'Meta' as in 'Metadata' (rather than the standard meaning of Meta as a prefix http://www.thefreedictionary.com/meta- which really doesn't apply). Metadata refers to 'data about data' which to me doesn't say 'glue' or 'protocols'. It sounds cool, but I'm not sure it really helps describe the type of layer you are talking about.

  3. June 20th, 2009 at 02:27 | #3

    @Justin Foster

    Actually "meta-" is defined as:

    "…denoting something of a higher or second-order kind : metalanguage | metonym."

    Relative to infrastructure, this layer matches this description. Since things like DNS, BGP, etc. essentially glue the infrastructure layer to the apps/info above it, I knicknamed it the "glue" layer.


  4. Mark Preston
    June 23rd, 2009 at 07:16 | #4

    On Metastructure, I see this as the governance structure. The 'something of higher order' governs the abstraction of containers of Applications from the underlying HW. It Governs the Infomation on Infrastructure. It is more that glue and guts, it is key to trust.

  5. June 30th, 2009 at 00:33 | #5

    Hoff, ever seen Phil Wainewright's "Stack for Saas"? (http://blogs.zdnet.com/SAAS/?p=469) Does his "System Services" layer sound like it has some similarities to "Metastructure" to you? I've always been partial to Phil's decomposition — we use it internally as the basis for a "SaaS reference architecture", which, in turn, is meant to guide our apps devs in thinking about what they need to do / worry about if / when they want to move in that direction… One thing I think that we added to Phil's model that I find important is this: we expect a provider to give us the lower layers. The upper layers are where a SaaS app lives. IOW, mapped to your model, I think that Infrastructure and Metastructure are both commodities (or becoming such, with a nod to @swardley) — providers provide these. Infostructure, OTOH, is where we will all compete / differentiate in a business context. Does that make sense?

  6. JimBustovsky
    July 1st, 2011 at 04:26 | #6

    Here is the whole synonyms list for "Metastructure". It's really sounds similar and it's not for you only!

  1. June 23rd, 2009 at 15:17 | #1
  2. July 6th, 2009 at 09:54 | #2
  3. July 15th, 2009 at 22:07 | #3