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Three Layers Of Computing

Computers and computing have become an integral part of our daily lives. Different people use different categories of computing facilities. These computing facilities can be segmented into three categories: 

■ Infrastructure 

■ Platform 

■ Application

 These three categories of computing facilities form three layers in the basic architecture of computing. Figure 1.1 represents the relationships between these three entities.


1.4.1 Infrastructure 

The bottom layer or the foundation is the ‘computing infrastructure’ facility. This includes all physical computing devices or hardware components like the processor, memory, network, storage devices and other hardware appliances. Infrastructure refers to computing resources in their bare-metal form (without any layer of software installed over them, not even the operating system). This layer needs basic amenities like electric supply, cooling system etc. 

1.4.2 Platform 

In computing, platform is the underlying system over which applications run. It can be said that the platform consists of the physical computing device (hardware) loaded with layer(s) of software where the program or application can run. The term ‘computing platform’ refers to different abstract levels. It consists of: 

■ Certain hardware components, only. 

■ Hardware loaded with an operating system (OS). 

■ Hardware and OS, additionally, loaded with run-time libraries.

Hardware alone can be considered as the platform in case of embedded systems, where physical resources can be accessed without any operating system. 

A fully configured physical computer loaded with an operating system is considered as a platform for computing. Different platforms can be installed over the same computing infrastructure. Linux or Windows operating systems installed over the same physical computer (computing infrastructure) can provide two different computing platforms.  

The platform layer is also the place where software developers work. Hence Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) and runtimes are part of this layer. Java Development Kit (JDK) or .NET are examples of popular computing frameworks. Software applications can be developed and run over these platforms.

Platform layer provides the platform to execute the applications; in addition it facilitates application development activities.

1.4.3 Application 

Applications (application software) constitute the topmost layer of this layered architecture. This layer generally provides interfaces for interaction with external systems (human or machine) and is accessed by end users of computing. A user actually works on the application layer while he or she is going to edit a document, play a game or use the calculator in a computer. At this layer, organizations access enterprise applications using application interfaces to run their business. 

Different types of people work at different layers of computing. They need to have different skill-sets and knowledge. Figure 1.3 shows the general users or subscribers of three different computing layers.

An upper layer in this architecture is dependent on underlying layer(s). Access to the topmost layer effectively consumes facilities from all underlying layers. Thus, a person working online or offline with some software application on a personal computing device or directly accessing the Internet basically consumes all these three facilities together. 

Figure 1.4 illustrates the different constituents of the three layer of computing. In this figure, the term ‘compute’ refers to the set of resources required for assembling a computing system or computer, particularly processor and memory components.

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