Driven by technology, the business world is rapidly changing and disruption is everywhere. The new reality for businesses is that in order to compete they must rapidly develop and deliver services to their customers, as well as to their own organization. There is much riding on IT to develop the infrastructure and processes needed to deliver services while at the same time working with existing assets and processes. In in this four part series we will explore how the business environment is changing, the challenges to IT, what needs to be done and solutions.
New realities for businesses
The business environment has never been more competitive and disruptive than it is today. Businesses need to come to terms with three realities:
- They need a continuous competitive advantage
Just ask Kodak who has seen the camera business transform from a standalone device to a feature on every mobile phone with new players like Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Chatbooks creating new ways of engaging with markets. If you don’t have a way of continually developing new competitive advantages you will not be relevant for long.
- They are a software company
Bank of America is not just a bank, they are a transaction processing company. Exxon Mobil, is not only an oil and gas company, they are a GIS company. With each passing day Walgreens business is more reliant on electronic health records.
- Their competition is everywhere
Ten years ago if I asked you who the biggest competitive threats were to Fedex names like UPS, and DHL might come to mind. Increasingly Fedex, UPS, and DHL face threats from Uber, Walmart, Amazon, and others who may enter their market of logistics with new ways of reaching customers.
What do businesses need to do given these three realities?
To quote Mark Zuckerberg, they need to “Move fast and be stable”. Moving fast and being stable can be translated to more quickly developing new services that could be scaled to meet fast growing demand if needed but also with an extremely low cost of failure should they not work. In other words, cheap experiments need to be able to become global successes.
The scientists conducting these cheap experiments are software developers. Lines of business naturally turn towards their development teams to request new services at an increasingly faster rate. The problem is, developers can’t obtain those environments fast enough from operations because traditional processes and non-flexible infrastructure and applications stand in the way. It’s no surprise then, according to a 2012 McKinsey and Company study , that software delivery in the enterprises surveyed was 45% over budget, 7% over on time, and has 56% less value than expected when delivered.
This is no secret to businesses and they are looking to new methods and designs to help improve these metrics. In fact:
- Over 90 percent are running or experimenting with Infrastructure as a Service .
- Greater than 70 percent expect to use Platform as a Service in their organization .
- More than 90 percent expect new investments in DevOps enabling technologies in the next two years .
- Over 70 are using or anticipate using containers for cloud applications.
Businesses are turning to new development and operations processes, new cloud infrastructures, and application methodologies that are conducive to these new processes and infrastructures. Looking at one of the leaders in public cloud, Amazon Web Services, we see they use these same principles and designs to achieve upwards of 10,000 releases per hour (as much as a release every 12 seconds) with a very low outage rate caused by these releases.
At first glance it would appear that enterprises could simply yell “DevOps and Cloud to the Rescue!” and solve their problem of deploying faster on scalable infrastructure, but the reality is far from that. Enterprises have existing assets and investments, and many of these are not going away anytime soon. In fact, the existing systems and processes most likely power the very core of the business and cannot simply be replaced overnight nor would they fit the paradigm of moving quickly and experimenting. Gartner coined the term Bi-modal to describe this approach of two modes of delivery for IT – one focused on agility and speed and the other on stability and accuracy.
Gartner has also recognized an approach that enterprises can take that would allow them to maximize the use of their existing assets. In their research “DevOps in the Bimodal Bridge”  they suggest an approach where the patterns and practices of DevOps can be applied to existing assets (mode 1) to make it more agile and efficient.
I have observed this trend and I believe most organizations are trying to address four key problems across their emerging bi-modal world.
In mode-1 they are looking to increase relevance and reduce complexity. In order to increase relevance they need to deliver environments for developers in minutes instead of days or weeks. In order to reduce complexity they need to implement policy driven automation to reduce the need for manual tasks.
In mode-2 they are looking to improve agility and increase scalability. In order to improve agility they need to create more agile development and operations processes and embrace new application architectures that allow for greater rates of change through decreased dependencies. In order to increase scalability they need to implement infrastructure that utilizes an asynchronous design and is entirely API driven in order to change the admin to host ratio from a linear to an exponential model in order to increase scalability.
Coming next in Part 2: We will discuss Mode 1 in more detail with concrete examples and solutions.
Interested in discussing more with us? Be sure to visit us at the OpenStack Summit in Tokyo, October 27-30, booth P7 to meet James and the OpenStack team from Red Hat.
 DevOps, Open Source, and Business Agility. Lessons Learned from Early Adopters. An IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Red Hat | June 2015