Agility & Stability Are Imperative-But Can Your Data Center Support Bimodal IT?

Rajendran Avadaiappan, CIO, Aligned Energy
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Rajendran Avadaiappan, CIO, Aligned Energy

Rajendran Avadaiappan, CIO, Aligned Energy

With heavy pressures on business to be innovative, agile, and quick-to-market, today’s CIO is as much focused on technology innovation as on installing, operating, and maintaining systems. After all, digital innovation is key for every company. But at the same time, functioning organizations need stability too. 

Bimodal IT enables you to do both – be agile enough to exploit new business opportunities and at the same time stable enough to maintain internal systems and processes.

“Implementing bimodal IT requires changes in how you hire IT professionals, how you allocate IT resources – and how you run your data center.” 

Bimodal IT is a term coined by Gartner in 2014. The firm’s research had shown that the most successful organizations have two modes of IT, with different people, processes, and tools supporting each. Mode 1 focuses on stability; it is “traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy.” Mode 2 focuses on agility; it is “exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed.” 

Not New, but Increasingly Essential 

The ability to support existing services and respond to market opportunities has always been important for IT. But the rapid acceleration in the pace of digital change makes it imperative for IT to be able to run at two speeds at once. 

The pressure comes partly from customers and partly from employees who, as consumers, have become used to rapid technology advances from the likes of Google and Facebook. We’re used to getting what we want, when we want it as consumers, and also expect to have the same when it comes to work. Hence organizations face pressure to innovate internally from employees and externally from customers. An organization that can’t deliver risks being outdone by competitors that can. 

None of those pressures change the fact that IT still has to do what it has always done–maintain the ERP and CRM and all the other enterprise applications, monitor and control security incidents, keep email services up and running, ensure employees can access their work remotely, troubleshoot hardware problems, manage the network…the list is endless! 

IT Has to Balance Between Stability and Agility 

Organizations need to balance agility and stability. The risks of not getting that balance right are significant. On one hand, you risk losing out to your competition, because you’re not agile enough to deliver the innovation your customers and employees expect. On the other hand, you risk internal failure, from not providing enough stability for internal processes.  

No doubt, for CIOs, it’s a double-edged sword. 

Exactly how an organization strikes the balance between stability and agility depends on what stage of maturity the company is in. An established company, with complex systems, will have a completely different path to balance than a startup. Often, the established company needs to find ways to move faster, encourage innovation, and embrace the digital world, while the young company, which is naturally in agile mode, needs to solidify systems and processes to add stability. 

Whatever balance you strike between agility and stability, implementing bimodal IT requires changes in how you hire IT professionals, since stable and agile modes require different skill sets. Implementing bimodal IT also requires changes in how you allocate IT resources – and how you run your data center. 

The Role of the Data Center in Bimodal IT 

A data center that can support bimodal IT “will need to become far more agile and responsive than it has ever been” says Gartner. What does a more agile and responsive data center look like? It provides visibility into capacity constraints and opportunities, and the flexibility to do something about it. 

Visibility into Capacity Constraints and Opportunities 

One of the toughest challenges for agile IT is managing capacity. The test/dev team might need 10 kW for a month for developing and testing a new application. When the app is ready to put into production, capacity needs could be 2 kW, or 50 kW. The most common way of dealing with such capacity uncertainty is to turn to the cloud, where capacity can be provisioned or de-provisioned instantaneously. 

The cloud has its benefits to be sure, but that capacity would likely be less expensive and certainly more easily managed if it were running on the company’s own IT stack. Even better, what if the agile IT team could use extra capacity from the stable IT team and run the new app on the company’s own infrastructure? Then the marginal cost of the capacity is negligible. 

Of course, sharing resources between agile IT and stable IT teams (or within them, for that matter), requires deep visibility into IT capacity. After all, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. 

That deep visibility into IT capacity comes from an integrated DCIM platform, which enables your data center operator – and you – to closely monitor power, cooling, storage, network and compute utilization so that, together, you can better align power allocation with the needs of your business. By gathering and consolidating utilization data from the systems and synchronizing it with financial and supply chain data, an integrated technology platform delivers real-time predictive intelligence. Then, you know where you have capacity, and when you’ll likely need more. 

Flexibility to Optimize Capacity 

A lack of visibility into server-level utilization is one reason why so much capacity is being stranded in traditional data centers (average utilization is 50-60 percent).  Moreover, even if you can see where you have unused capacity, in traditional data centers power and space are statically provisioned, so it’s not possible to go back to a server and provision additional capacity that would require additional power and/or cooling. You can see your stranded capacity, but you can’t do anything about it. 

The ability to actually optimize utilization requires a data center that offers modular power and cooling infrastructure, a vertically integrated supply chain, and ultra-efficient conductive cooling technology: 

  • When cooling and power systems are modular – deployable in smaller, right-sized increments – then data center infrastructure and capacity utilization can actually align. Modularity also allows the data center to support newer and more powerful IT gear without having to retire older power and cooling infrastructure (in other words, agility and stability). 
  • A vertically integrated supply chain enables the deployment of new power and cooling infrastructure in as little as eight weeks. Then you don’t have to anticipate capacity needs a year into the future. Instead you can rely on predictive analytics and set thresholds to alert you to upcoming capacity needs, and the data center operator can provision new capacity just in time. 
  • Modular conductive cooling technology supports high and mixed density within the same row or even rack. When your power and cooling systems can flex to handle higher IT loads, and efficiently handle different densities, then you can optimize capacity utilization within your existing footprint to meet the needs of the stable and the agile modes of your organization. 

A Data Center for the Present, and the Future 

The only way for an IT organization to succeed in the digital age is to balance agility and stability – to be bimodal. But realizing long-term gains from bimodal IT requires partnering with the right data center. That is, one that allows the CIO to fully utilize existing capacity, and scale up or modernize quickly and easily when the time comes.

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