Bimodal IT, PaaS and Containers what are they all about?

The IT industry is a constant source of new terms, acronyms and technologies that are hard to understand, but keep alive the myth that IT is all very complex!

Let’s start with Bimodal IT; a term introduced by Gartner to describe two modes of delivering IT.

Bimodal IT  refers to having two modes of IT, each designed to develop and deliver information- and technology-intensive services in its own way. Mode 1 is traditional, emphasizing scalability, efficiency, safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is nonsequential, emphasizing agility and speed.

Gartner: Bimodal IT

The term is commonly used with reference to operating IT infrastructures that span the traditional in house IT (Mode 1) and the new agile and fast cloud model (Mode 2), integrating both is also commonly referred to as a hybrid cloud.

The big technology vendors that are transitioning their businesses from traditional product and service provision to cloud. Vendors such as Microsoft, VMware and IBM all pitch that Hybrid Cloud is what it is all about and Bimodal IT is the future.

Now, this may well be the case for the near future, but you have to question is it really the answer?

All that has really happened is this has layered in another level of complexity. We also have to question the approaches that both the vendors and customers are taking to this mode of operation as typically most customers will be operating in this way, using virtual machines and attempting to move workloads between cloud environments.

The question has to be asked, is using Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) really a transition Mode 2?

Whilst it can be argued that the virtual infrastructure in the form of IaaS delivered by a hyperscale cloud provider can be considered agile and fast, I would argue that the ability to deploy or move a virtual machine is actually somewhere between Mode 1 & 2 (mode 1.5??).

With IaaS, it is relatively easy and fast to deploy and there is a large amount of resource that can be consumed at the click of a button, but does that environment really deliver agility back to a organisation?

There is still the requirement to build and con gure ‘the stack’ within the virtual machine and whilst technologies like Openstack, Chef and Puppet have made those things easier, the layers still exist and are often custom built on a per application basis.

We see many IT Professionals get overly attached to ‘the stack’ but it delivers limited value to the business. As IT professionals, we have to understand that the value of IT to the business is derived from the application. It is the application that enables and automates the business process, allowing an organization to either make money, save money or deliver better service to its customers.

So if it is all about the application, how can we best deploy them in a Bimodal IT world?

When we look at an organisations digital strategy and how new applications are developed for use in the cloud we see that they are increasingly being developed as what is termed “cloud native” and will typically be developed using the twelve-factor app methodology. By developing applications this way and deploying them to the cloud, applications are considered Mode 2 applications. In this mode applications can deliver the scalability, e ciency, agility and speed that businesses need to deliver digital innovation, new business models and remain competitive.

The role of of PaaS and containers for Mode 2 applications

PaaS and application containers such as Docker are both enablers and essential for Mode 2 applications but both deliver different outcomes.

Simply put, containers deliver application portability, whilst PaaS delivers application development efficiency.

If you have a large organisation with a big team of developers, PaaS will deliver significant efficiency, agility and consistency across your development teams, reducing development costs, improving speed and delivering better quality software. Containers however, will allow you to quickly and simply deploy your application to any supporting cloud, allowing you to take advantage of better pricing, higher performance or to simply operate the application within a compliant jurisdiction.

Together, PaaS and Containers provide the tools developers need to build cloud native, Mode 2 applications that comply with the twelve-factor methodology and can be deployed to the best execution venue. This is important when we also consider the move from monolithic applications to microservices as an application architecture.

In computing, microservices is a software architecture style, in which complex applications are composed of small, independent processes communicating with each other using language- agnostic APIs. These services are small, highly decoupled and focus on doing a small task.   

Wikipedia – Microservices

So why are microservices important to Bi-modal IT?

By developing applications that are decoupled in to a microservices architecture, it allows the application to be highly scalable, highly available and run natively on cloud environments. This is important when organisations want to frequently roll out updates, even multiple times a day such as organisations like Amazon and Netflix already do. Consequently, it’s no longer adequate to develop simple, monolithic web applications that serve up HTML to desktop browsers.

Likewise as more companies develop more microservices and publish them as services available to more people then an organisation can easily change the component services they may have developed or use for new ones that may be more cost effective, faster or more reliable. Many of us would have understood this as a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), I guess we could call it a Cloud Oriented Architecture today!

All these new technologies and new capabilities are great and they clearly deliver outcomes that organisations absolutely need to deliver their digital strategies to enable better customer service or maintain competitive advantage (Blockbuster anyone?), but we regularly see many enterprises today who have a signi cant investment in custom built software that already contains the business logic they need and they all have some big questions that they need to answer:

  • Do I have to redevelop my existing applications to be Mode 2 or use cloud
  • How much redevelopment will be required?
  • How much will the redevelopment cost?
  • How much time will it take to complete redevelopment?
  • Which cloud platforms will my application work on?

Analysis Paralysis

The typical situation we experience is that nding the answer to these questions is too hard so analysis paralysis ensues and nothing happens.

In the absence of answers to these critical questions, we often see enterprises “throw the baby out with the bathwater” as the next best option is to just redevelop the whole application and whilst that may have some signi cant merit, it means that the original investment in developing a core business enabling application, is thrown out, Furthermore, development of the new application will take a long time, there will be a signi cant period of parallel support to be considered and overall value creation is delayed.

The big problem in nding the answers to these key questions and making an informed business decision, based on empirical data, is that most organisations are loath to go back in to their source code to work out the answer as it is not a straight forward thing to do.

There are many factors that are unknown and can in uence the ability to understand enough about the current application to get the answers they need to make a decision.

  • Are the original developers still with the organisation?
  • Do we have any/correct application documentation?
  • Is the code well commented?
  • There were different developers at different times working on the code
  • How much redundant code or technical debt is there in the code?
  • The version of the language is no longer supported

Transforming to Mode 2

At Fedr8, we understand that the key to transforming to Mode 2 is about enabling change through the application.

Our software is specifically developed to provide these answers and address the problems associated with moving legacy applications that are not cloud native, into the cloud.

The Fedr8 Application Modernisation Suite (AMS), helps organisations answer the questions about what it will take to move their application to the cloud or shift to Mode 2 so that the organisation can make an informed decision about which cloud will be right for them, which mode of operation will be right and how long and how much it will cost to get there.

No need for analysis paralysis, Fedr8 AMS has the answers that facilitate action and allow organisations to make the move and adopt a Mode 2, true cloud computing model whilst leveraging the existing investments in applications.


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