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Strategic Advisor

Bimodal IT, VMware, and Cloud-Native Apps

pdPatrick Daigle is a Senior Systems Engineer and CTO Ambassador in Montreal, Canada. As part of VMware’s Technical Services organization, he works with large enterprises across Canada, leveraging the VMware Software-Defined Enterprise to help IT organizations bring quicker value to the business. He is also a contributor to VMware’s Cloud-Native Apps team. 




In 2014, Gartner introduced the concept of Bimodal IT, the idea that enterprises need two speeds of doing IT: traditional IT (Gartner calls this Mode 1), and agile IT (Gartner calls this Mode 2). Gartner observes that, in this new era of mobile cloud computing (or 3rd platform), every company is a software company; unless companies can rapidly produce software to adapt to changes in the market, they will fall behind. However, also according to Gartner, most mature companies currently rely on a stack of legacy processes, platforms and applications to run their business. With Bimodal IT, companies run two modes, each with their own process and tools. Traditional IT is pre-occupied with running the business with priorities like efficiency and control, while agile IT strives to bring quick value to business through iterative development and continuous delivery.

This is an attractive model: IT can avoid the risks associated with introducing operational changes too rapidly, but still allow the company to fully embrace the agility enabled by new technologies. I am seeing more and more customers embrace it. It does, however, raise some interesting questions. How do we manage flow between modes? How do we take the lessons learned from Mode 2 to help evolve Mode 1? How do we avoid just creating a new “agile IT silo” and, instead, apply agile IT principles across the enterprise to iteratively improve our people, process and technology and foster business transformation?

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A customer I met recently told me that they managed to quickly re-engineer their online presence by applying Mode 2 at a project level and developing a 3rd platform web application, allowing the business to improve their customer reach. This new application, however, is still tightly coupled to a legacy backend system. VMware’s current infrastructure stack comprised of VMware vSphere®, VMware vRealize™, VMware NSX™ and VMware vCloud® Air™ is well suited to run these types of “platform 2.5” applications.

However, customers starting a greenfield Mode 2 initiative will require a different stack. This new stack needs to be optimized for next-generation applications (e.g. applying the Twelve-Factor App principles, applications built on micro-services architecture) and leveraging Linux-based and often open-sourced technology (such as containers). The Cloud-Native Apps team at VMware is busy defining and developing that new stack. VMware has recently made a number of announcements in this space:

  • vSphere’s Instant Clone feature can be leveraged by developers to spin up VMs and Containers together instantly. Instant Clone allows for lightning-fast cloning and provisioning of running VMs, and provides the efficiency of containers with the isolation, resource management, and operations management benefits of VMs.
  • VMware kicked-off the new year hosting a blueprint working group to start defining an application-centric blueprint that declaratively defines that application, and allows reliable re-instantiation across different infrastructures.
  • VMware has also announced integrations for Docker Machine across vSphere, VMware Fusion®, and vCloud Air. We’ve also provided extensions for Google Kubernetes and Mesosphere to manage all those new container workloads.
  • vRealize Code Stream models application release pipelines to take artifacts generated by Continuous Integration from development and move it from development, to QA, to production with a gating process between stages.

While we are building this new stack, we recognize that the two modes require radically different tools; we are designing commonality at the infrastructure level to ease the transformation and help bridge the gap between the two modes.

Ultimately, VMware is working to provide a unified solution that supports traditional and agile IT, and achieves operational consistency regardless of application architecture.