Bimodal IT the Future of the Data Center or Another Empty Buzzword

By: Morpheus Data

Few ideas have polarized IT managers more than bimodal IT: Is it the key to modernizing the data center, or a sure-fire recipe for disaster? Some analysts claim adoption of the model — which runs agile and legacy development projects in parallel — is well underway. Others assert that the model is a rehash of an inherently flawed approach that dates to the beginning of the century. The upshot: There’s more than one way to manage change.

Depending on who you believe, bimodal IT is either the cure for everything that ails data centers, or a lame attempt to preserve the data silos that threaten the survival of companies of all sizes and types. As usual, the truth is positioned somewhere between these two extremes.

Technology research firm Gartner is credited as the creator and chief promoter of the concept. In a January 14, 2015, article on ZDNet, Adjuvi Chief Strategy Officer Dion Hinchcliffe presents bimodal/multimodal IT as a way for organizations to adopt agile development and other new technologies quickly, while retaining the reliability, stability, and security of traditional IT processes.

In the bimodal approach to IT, the agile development model is implemented in parallel with conventional IT workflows. Source: ZDNet

According to Hinchcliffe, Gartner’s bimodal IT architecture is one mode too few. He cites the trimodal design proposed by Simon Wardley, which Wardley explains in a November 16, 2014, post on the Gardeviance blog. Wardley labels the three modes as pioneers, settlers, and city planners; the added twist is an overlay of self-organizing cell-based structures in which each cell conforms to the two-pizza model (a development team small enough to feed with only two pizzas — hold the anchovies).

The trimodal IT model divides pioneers, settlers, and city planners, each of which is subdivided into cells for easier manageability. Source: Simon Wardley

Wardley criticizes the bimodal-IT concept in a November 13, 2014, post on the same blog, stating that it’s “2004 dressed up as 2014 and it is guaranteed to get you into a mess.” The agile developers work fast and don’t mind errors — in fact, they depend on them. The traditional developers work slowly and deliberately, and they have a low tolerance for errors. This is bound to lead to a stalemate, according to Wardley.

Bimodal IT: ‘Rock-solid fluidity’ or ‘balderdash’?

One of bimodal IT’s most vehement critics is Intellyx President Jason Bloomberg, who calls the concept “balderdash.” Bloomberg’s October 12, 2014, post on the company’s blog states that Gartner is simply telling its clients what they want to hear rather than what the need to hear. Bimodal IT, he claims, is nothing more than an excuse for continuing to do IT poorly.

Bloomberg admits that change is difficult and expensive, and there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken. However, change is occurring throughout organizations at a rapid pace — mostly originating from outside the data center. The need to maintain compliance, security, and other governance persists when IT modernizes, but governance must be done in a more agile, automated way.

Gartner Fellow Daryl Plummer counters this criticism by pointing out that adoption of the bimodal-IT model is well underway. In an October 6, 2014, press release, Plummer claims it is both “rock solid” and “fluid”; he states that 45 percent of CIOs report they now have a “fast mode of operation.” Gartner projects that 75 percent of IT organizations will have some form of bimodal in place by 2017.

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