Bi-modal IT is emerging as the predominant means of transitioning from legacy, static infrastructure to hybrid, software-defined architectures. But there is still quite a bit of confusion as to what it means and whether it is truly necessary in order to capitalize on the opportunities presented by emerging digital markets.
The term was coined by Gartner about five years ago as a way to describe the way in which the enterprise should guide IT spend over the coming decade. The idea is that traditional infrastructure is best at supporting traditional applications like CRM and ERP while hybrid, software-defined infrastructure will house new mobile- and cloud-facing functions such as Big Data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT). As Windows IT Pro’s Cheryl Ajluni points out, Mode 1 is traditional and sequential while Mode 2 is exploratory and non-linear. By understanding the differences between the two, and recognizing that Mode 1 still has a role to play going forward, the enterprise can better plan the migration path to next-generation IT.
One of the key differences is the way in which applications and infrastructure are developed, deployed and managed, says Architecting IT’s Chris Evans. Traditional IT, of course, will stick with standard management stacks that oversee IT operations directly, while emerging infrastructure will pursue the Dev/Ops model that gives development teams the ability to craft specialized application architectures. There are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches, of course, so application teams should have a working knowledge of their options when designing products. Dev/Ops, for instance, is less risk-averse than traditional IT, and in fact accepts the notion that bugs and security flaws will creep into the environment no matter what you do, so it is best to minimize the damage rather than try to prevent it altogether.
But why segment IT in this way at all? Doesn’t that just bring more complexity to an already complex data ecosystem? In reality, says Alsbridge Managing Director Eleanor Winn, bi-modal reduces complexity because it brings together those elements in the enterprise that are trying to run the business with those that are trying to change it to confront the realities of the new digital economy. This is not an easy task for the CIO, who must communicate the business imperatives of both models to these various factions while at the same time addressing each of their needs through common governance and system renewal policies. The only alternative to bi-modal at this point is to either forklift the entire IT infrastructure and jeopardize legacy business models, or remain entrenched in static IT to the detriment of future competitiveness.
The bi-modal model is one of the primary drivers of ‘composable infrastructure,’ according to HPE’s Brad Parks. By adopting an architecture that treats infrastructure as code, organizations will be able to spin up data environments that can more easily meet the demands of traditional and emerging applications. The challenge will be to get to a point where physical, virtual and containerized apps can be mapped instantly and dynamically to the proper resources, particularly when trying to harness compute, networking and storage for multi-tenant workloads.
In a perfect world, IT infrastructure would be able to do whatever was necessary for it to fulfill application objectives. And perhaps with the proper mix of modular hardware and software management we will get there someday.
In the meantime, the enterprise will have to straddle the fence between old and new IT, and to work out the mechanisms to bring them together before someone who is unburdened by old IT figures out how to re-invent the business model.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.