In last month’s blog on SDx, I introduced the buzzword “bi-modal IT” that has been getting a lot of attention in the industry—especially following the latest research by Gartner, which states that 45% of CIOs have already gone bi-modal and 75% are expected to go bi-modal by 2017.
To recap, a bi-modal IT approach is the coexistence of traditional and modern IT practices within the same entity where some applications remain in a traditional environment due to security or reliability issues while other less critical “fail fast” applications operate within a more digital, agile model that supports fast delivery and prototyping of new technologies.
Let’s take a closer look at bi-modal IT from an organizational perspective.
If traditional IT is focused on reliability, security and availability using efficient, well-defined processes, one could say that agile IT is more focused on risk, unpredictability and fast response using newer cutting-edge delivery strategies.
This requires a different set of IT skills, experience and approach that many organizations may ultimately find calls for two different teams—one more pragmatic team to carry out well-planned, long-term critical projects with expected outcomes and ROI, and the other more intuitive to focus on reactive, short-term creative projects aimed to improve customer experience.
For example, the traditional IT team might be focused on optimizing the switching architecture through a planned equipment upgrade or updating its electronic record system. The more agile IT team might be focused on launching (or shall I say “trying out”) a new dynamic application that may or may not succeed, with no major impact to the business if it doesn’t.
With a bi-modal approach, the trick is to make sure that traditional and agile IT teams can work together in a way that maximizes efficiency and follows policy, while still supporting unexpected needs and handling risk.
To this end, the agile IT team will often look elsewhere if traditional IT cannot support their need for fast product delivery. This is where the adoption of cloud-based technologies often comes in and we start to see the coexistence of cloud and non-cloud applications, systems and components within the same organization.
This is also where we see SDx making its mark. By improving programmability, agility and automation across the data center using centralized controls, software-defined networking has the potential to support both traditional IT and agile IT operations—a sort of bi-modal catalyst if you will.
But however the two coexist, they cannot remain as silos. Just because something traditional is working, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t evolve to support the growing needs of the business. At the same time, a highly-successful agile IT endeavor can become policy and part of the traditional core IT process.
The two also need to keep each other in check. Traditional IT needs to ensure that agile IT teams are not taking too much risk that can potentially result in security or compliance issues, while agile IT teams can help drive traditional IT to stay current and relevant to support the needs of the business.
So what does bi-modal IT mean for the data center infrastructure? Whether cloud or non-cloud, or a combination of the two, the business side expects data center infrastructure to have the reliability, performance, scalability and flexibility to support both traditional and agile IT needs. This will ultimately drive the need for simplified hardware and software that can work together via open standards and interoperability, causing many to circumvent traditional vendor lock-in.
It also means that the infrastructure to support bi-modal IT needs to be one that is designed from he ground up to be simple yet flexible with the performance to support the low-latency needs of virtualization, the standards compliance to support open architectures, and the modularity to support scalability and fast deployments.
Having complete visibility, control and management of the infrastructure and data center assets and an understanding of current and future capacity via DCIM can also go a long way in ensuring a successful bi-modal IT approach.
Belden has the data center ready solutions that today’s businesses need to support a flexible, modular, high-performance infrastructure optimized for a bi-modal IT environment, and we have the experts to help you design it from the ground up.
Mike Salvador is a 28-year industry veteran, living the challenge of operating efficient data centers, optimizing the performance of network devices and delivering highly available, highly agile, low-risk data centers. Mike served as Belden’s technical solutions manager from 2012 to 2015.