IT analysts are like fashion designers, always searching for something new, even if that means recycling age-old concepts in new terminology. Yet the creative linguistics can often mask more important truths about effectively building and operating IT services. Like successful fashionistas, IT leaders need to stay on top of the latest trends if only to be prepared when the CEO comes back from an industry conference full of questions. As I discuss in this column, one of the hottest buzzwords circulating the industry is Bimodal IT: another Gartner creation like Hype Cycle and Magic Quadrant. As Gartner defines it, Bimodal IT is an organizational model that segments services into two categories based on application requirements, maturity and criticality. “Mode 1 is traditional, emphasizing scalability, efficiency, safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is nonsequential, emphasizing agility and speed.” Seems logical enough and hardly controversial, but also not new. Yet it offers a lesson in how cloud services and engineering practices can improve enterprise IT.
Whether you call it legacy versus emergent systems, Brownfield versus Greenfield deployments or sustaining versus disruptive technologies, the dichotomy between old and new or maintenance and development has been around since the dawn of IT. Each category has always required a different set of investment, management and governance techniques. The difference now is the pace at which new products are developed and refined and a concomitant decrease in useful half-life of mature services.
As I point out, the bifurcation of IT into fast and slow lanes is tied to the DevOps and Agile Development philosophies responsible for most mobile apps and cloud services, concepts that are beginning to revolutionize IT. The strategy is to optimize legacy systems for reliability, stability and security while giving emergent IT projects creative space to rapidly innovate, iterate and yes, fail if necessary.
While stratifying IT development and operations in this manner makes sense, the bimodal model doesn’t fully address the process of transitioning successful new products into core enterprise processes and services. But as the column highlights, the mutability of virtualized cloud services is key to the solution in the form of parallel virtual infrastructure and continuous delivery processes. The beauty of using cloud services is their ethereal nature, where arbitrarily complex infrastructure can be easily created, tweaked, scaled and disposed.
I will have more to say on this topic in the coming months, but a point to remember is that the benefits of cloud services aren’t always, or even primarily centered on cost and efficiency. When used creatively, they can enable rich, highly adaptive services and more efficient IT processes.