You've covered all of the hardware basics you're going to need for now. We've covered CPUs, RAM, disks, NICs, GPUs, switches, and routers. That's a lot to cover, but trust me when I say it was worth it. That knowledge might seem too low-level or irrelevant today, but knowing how computers operate from the ground up is critical.
- Central Processing Unit
The CPU is the brains of the operation. It operates on a clock speed, which represents the number of cycles per second. The faster, the better (in almost all cases.) Modern CPUs all have multiple cores, too, enabling them to process multiple instructions in parallel.
CPUs also have an architecture that allows them to talk a particular instruction set. Applications (software) have to be compiled to this particular architecture otherwise it won't execute.
Processors operate at 32-bit or 64-bit. Most CPUs produced today are 64-bit as it's simply faster and better overall.
Finally, you should remember that when you're provisioning Cloud based infrastructure you'll get a particular number of CPUs (which will be called vCPUs or some variation of that.) These represent individual cores.
- Random Access Memory
RAM is non-persistent storage used to hold application data. When you run software on your system, it's loaded into RAM and then the CPU is instructed to execute the application. It's read from RAM and the instructions are processed in order.
RAM chips come in different standards: DRAM, SRAM and SDRAM. It's SDRAM that you'll be working with, but not directly. Currently most systems have DDR4 SDRAM, but DDR5 is the next standard hitting the market.
RAM is non-persistent, but extremely fast. When the electrical current to the RAM chips is halted any data stored on it is lost.
You should be aware of the denominations that RAM is measured in, primarily gigabytes (GB), but also megabytes (MB).
Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and Solid State Drives (SSD) are used for long term, persistent storage. HDDs are slower than SSDs, but offer a better price to storage ratio versus SSDs. That gap is closing, however.
SSDs are extremely fast, especially in the latest form factor/standard of NVMe. You'll need to provision SSDs when you need extremely fast data access, such as databases with heavy workloads or small file servers dealing with a large amount of requests.
You'll need to know the difference between the two and know when to provision the right type.
- Network Interface Card
Without a NIC, a computer is isolated. With a NIC, a computer can connect to a local network and speak to other computers. This is why we have the Internet today: because computers use NICs to talk to one another.
When working in the Cloud, NICs are still a thing and you'll need to understand what they're used for so that you can provision more complex networking requirements in the future.
- Graphics Processing Unit
GPUs aren't something you'll be working with very often, if at all, but they are a thing in Cloud due to their specialist nature.
I believe GPUs will see a growing presence in the Cloud, especially as Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning workloads become more common.
The networking switch gives us our Local Area Network (LAN). Without switches, computers could not talk to routers, which allows us to talk to other networks, including those over the Internet.
You'll highly likely to be going through some sort of switching hardware as you navigate your way around this book. There will be several switches along the way.
Although you won't provision switches in the Cloud, you still need to understand the high level concepts around this fundamental piece of networking hardware.
Finally, the networking router connects networks together (which are represented by switches, essentially), allowing systems connected to one network to talk to systems in another network.
The Internet is a network of networks. It works because we have routers moving data between networks.
Navigating around this book, you'll go through several switches, but you'll go through even more routers.
Now check out the self-assessment and the chapter's project work, and well done on completing your first chapter.