by Peter Bendor-Samuel

Bimodal is a cop-out

Nov 12, 2015
Agile DevelopmentCloud ComputingData Center

Instead, apply cloud methodologies to legacy IT

Gartner put forward a construction called bimodal IT, basically a recommendation on how to organize IT approaches to business demands. Simply stated, the idea is that IT departments must operate in two modes; Mode 1 is a legacy environment and Mode 2 is cloud. In the cloud mode, IT can deploy a set of philosophies, methodologies, technologies and organization that fits the new business demands for speed and agility. In the legacy world, IT must maintain stability and the old ITIL-driven structures. Gartner’s bimodal concept says an IT group needs to move both quickly and slowly for an effective digital workplace. 

This is a cop-out. Why would an organization do this? I’m blowing the whistle on this false construct. 

First, let’s examine what’s true about the bimodal construct. It is true that in the cloud world it’s much easier to deploy the latest thinking and agile methodologies and operations such as DevOps. Cloud provides a standard, scalable, elastic environment that can be easily assembled and naturally lends itself to a software-defined world. So it’s much easier to run quickly in this environment. But that is no excuse not to apply these same philosophies to the legacy world. 

An objective in bimodal thinking is to move as much as you can as quickly as you can into the new world. But this may not be a good idea. On its surface, migrating to the cloud has interesting promise – if you cast aside the business risks and costs to migrate. I also want to point out that this strategy will never deal with the fundamental overbalance in costs in which organizations spend disproportionately on legacy IT per business function than they spend in the cloud world. Even if an organization deploys the average of 20 percent of its costs into private or public cloud environments, 80 percent of its IT cost remains in the legacy environment. 

I recommend that CIOs embrace DevOps – the jewel in the crown in the cloud world – and apply its principles of agile, elastic thinking to their legacy world. Although this is difficult, organizations are certainly capable of succeeding in this effort. A case in point is JPMorgan. Taking a DevOps on PaaS strategy, they achieved remarkable outcomes including:

  • 700 percent improvement in developer productivity
  • 59-day reduction in time to market
  • 40 percent infrastructure utilization improved to 70%
  • 45 percent savings in infrastructure costs
  • Moving from a release schedule of twice a year to continuous releases


These are huge step-change improvements in performance in terms of time, cost, quality and maintainability. It turns out you can, in fact, take DevOps principles (albeit with more effort and more investment) and apply them in your legacy world. 

As we at Everest Group work with businesses applying DevOps principles to their legacy environment, we consistently see a 50 percent improvement in productivity. I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t move work out of your legacy world into cloud. However, not everything will move out of legacy quickly. Clearly, businesses can apply the same set of philosophies, principles and automation techniques of the cloud world (albeit with more investment and more effort) to the larger, legacy world. I believe a business would be equally foolish to not implement these principles in its legacy world as the business would be if it didn’t take advantage of them in the cloud world. 

Hence, I say Gartner has it wrong. It is not a bimodal world. It’s first a cloud-leap world and then apply the methodologies and automation strategy to the legacy world. It’s not a question of either/or, nor is it necessary to be slow while also being fast. It’s a question of applying the same concepts in both cloud and legacy environments. 

Can you achieve the improvements to the same extent in legacy? No. Will you achieve the same kind of elasticity and speed in legacy? No. But you can dramatically improve your IT performance. Certainly you will achieve more speed and lower cost in cloud, but you will get substantial improvements in speed and cost even in legacy. 

There’s another benefit of taking this approach instead of the cop-out bimodal thinking: you will be able to restructure your IT organization around the business users’ demand for speed.