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How cloud drives 'bi-modal' IT

We take a look at how cloud computing is driving efficiency

Cloud computing is all about efficiency. The cloud model of service-based computing for software application delivery, data storage and analytics aims to be more flexible with the resources that are purchased and implemented.

To be more specific, cloud provides (or at least helps facilitate) capabilities like segmentation, multi-tenant cloud instance separation, containerisation and various forms of componentisation.

We don't need to define each of these elements in precise technical terms because you will already follow the trend - i.e. cloud is good at enabling the separation of independent, inter-dependent (and sometimes dependent) streams of computing power.

Within this subset of the cloud computing ecosystem we find the so-called bimodal approach.

The bimodal model

Bimodal IT is a technology strategy where we subdivide data and applications into two categories based on user requirements, maturity levels and mission critical services.

In bimodal level #1 we keep careful control over our more conventional elements of software. This is the software (and corresponding data) where there is an emphasis on scalability, efficiency, safety and accuracy. In other words, bimodal level #1 is central to the operational wellbeing of the business and its line of needs.

In bimodal level #2 we find software that could be called 'non-sequential' and there is an emphasis on agility and speed. Bimodal mode #2 is not just an area for experimental prototyping testbed software but rather a means of decoupling our approach to software. It enables us to keep legacy systems intact while the IT team trials new Agile extensions and augmentations. Alternatively, it can keep mission critical systems secure while the IT team trials new cloud-based software that has yet to prove its effectiveness, scalability or compatibility with the central IT function.

Gartner's theory and its critics

The theory of bimodal IT was originally posited by analyst research house Gartner. Senior VP of research Peter Sondergaard has been quoted saying that CIOs need to respond to the cataclysmic technology shift within their own organisations.

"The IT organisation can't turn into a digital start-up overnight and, besides, there's a raft of business-critical responsibilities that it simply can't (and absolutely should not) divest," said Sondergaard. The way out of this balancing act (if we follow Gartner's advice) is the bimodal approach.

But not everyone is convinced. The Senior Principal at thought leadership and research firm CSC Leading Edge Forum is Simon Wardley. His view is that the bimodal concept is flawed because it attempts to "bolt on innovation" rather than develop it more organically from inside the existing IT architecture irrespective of cloud services.

Bifurcated reality

So love it or hate it, bimodal IT has a lot of relevance (or at least resonance) with the way we approach our IT stack today, especially regarding forward-looking cloud services. As we attempt to bring cloud online, we will have to juggle with the continued existence of many legacy applications and not everything will migrate overnight. The bifurcation or divergence between so-called systems of record (at the back end) and systems of engagement (at the front end) of IT could be yet another division point at which we attempt to bring split-level IT delivery methodologies into place, whatever name we decide to give them.

Cloud computing is forcing us to re-evaluate the way we perform a lot of core operational functions. We had better get used to some new layering in one form or another as we head skywards.

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