Bimodal IT Is Not The Death of Traditional IT

Nick Earle

Not The Death of Traditional IT

If you are a CIO, no doubt you are getting pressure from your line of business managers to provide a more agile IT environment so they can take advantage of faster, easier to use cloud applications. If you’re not providing those services, they are probably using them anyway and storing sensitive data in public clouds. On average we’re finding that enterprises are using 675 cloud services, which is 15 to 22 times more than the CIO is aware of. And not all of those services are secure, encrypted or compliant, which means your organization’s data is at risk. By the way, that also means your job as CIO is at risk!

One way to help solve this issue is to have an IT environment that serves both traditional IT and agile IT. Despite the fact that some industry pundits think bimodal IT is the death of traditional IT, we believe it’s the opposite. Workloads are demanding that IT managers look at different models to support their constituents, including models they can run and operate versus those they can run in a hosted or on-demand environment. But it’s important to have a vision and strategy for BOTH environments, otherwise IT managers risk compromising their IT and cloud future. We’re not the only ones who believe this.

Gartner’s Lydia Leong also thinks that organizations will need bimodal IT. As she says “Traditional IT is focused on ‘doing IT right’ with a strong emphasis on efficiency and safety, approval-based governance and price-for-performance. Agile IT is focused on ‘doing IT fast’, supporting prototyping and iterative development, rapid delivery, continuous and process-based governance, and value to the business (being business-centric and close to the customer).” Both modes of classic traditional IT and agile IT can operate better together and enhance each other, but only if there is a solid strategy and management layer in place.

Pets or Cattle?

Many leaders in the cloud computing space love to talk about a metaphor called “pets and cattle,” which identifies ways in which servers are treated in a given environment. “Pets” refer to servers that are unique, lovingly cared for, named after Gods, and brought back to health when they get sick. “Cattle” refers to servers that are almost identical to one another, built to perform, identified as a number and, in the event that it gets sick, you end its life and replace it with another cheap resource.

The “pets or cattle” metaphor is a useful framework for determining how to best optimize IT resources based on the type of workloads you are implementing. In a growing world of hyper-scale architectures, fail-fast cultures, and “innovate or die” mentality, paying the same amount of attention to all of the company’s IT assets could result in unsustainable inefficiencies at a higher cost. Many in the industry would argue that you need to move everything to the “cattle” model to take advantage of this new world of computing – but that would be a huge mistake, as not everything is meant to be “in” the cloud, or run “like” a cloud. This is why we believe there are two models of computing. One model is for the core business services aka the “systems of record,” where there might be too much risk (or too little benefit) to move into a shared infrastructure mode. The other model is for your new services, “Fast IT” and your innovation engine for developers. Geoffrey Moore refers to this as the “systems of engagement” – the perfect storm of mobile, big data, cloud and social. After all, 50 billion connected devices by 2020 will require a whole new architecture. In order to be competitive today, you need to be able to focus on both – but that doesn’t mean that you should be “operating” both.

Bimodal IT Management Layer

I overheard one of my colleagues say that “just because you can raise a show dog, doesn’t mean you can manage a farm.” This is the crux of the bimodal “pets versus cattle” operation portion of the debate. Why do many of my own industry peers promote one over the other? Because they have made that shift, or they work exclusively in the “cattle” business, and want everyone to come with them. But choice is important and architectures matter in enterprise IT. For traditional “systems of record’ workloads that continue to be core to the business, enterprise IT should continue to raise their show dogs and manage their data center with all the control, policy and rigidness that is required to ensure that they are meeting the business needs when it comes to compliance, operational responsibility and security. However, for the new innovation and the push towards digitization, enterprise IT should look at the opportunity to operationalize differently. Cattle are easy to buy, but it takes a different skill to raise and manage over time – and not everyone can put down a sick animal (it’s in our human nature to want to fix it). This is why it is important to find a partner in the cloud space that can give you the economics, elasticity, scale and performance that a “systems of engagement” architecture delivers, with the core business benefits that come with traditional “systems of record” architecture.

By Nick Earle

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