Do you get much time to think about IT trends in data protection?

I suppose that’s like asking an individual foot soldier how the war is going, or asking a single honeybee if this is really the best place for the hive, or asking a single lemming where they’re all going.

      Photo Credit: Ian Sane Licensed under CC BY 2.0

There really are IT trends at work and they really do affect you, but most of the IT managers and even directors I talk to tell me their teams are so busy and stressed out that they don’t get much time to think about them.

Just finding all the data they need to protect is a big task. Then they need to fit it onto the physical media and into the backup window available to them. And they have to negotiate with business managers about primary and secondary storage.

“Are you serious?” one customer asked me. “IT trends? Who has time to focus on trends when I spend all my time just keeping things running? You’re supposed to tell me about trends in data protection.”

All right. I will. Watch these next few blog posts as I describe what’s going on in IT as it relates to data protection.

The theory of Bimodal IT: Be the opposite of IT

The separate tracks of Bimodal IT may already be at work in your organization, even if you don’t think of them that way.

Gartner describes Bimodal IT as “the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery: one focused on stability and the other on agility.” Mode 1 is traditional IT, doing everything it takes to run IT safely and keep data flowing. Mode 2 includes the cool stuff: exploration, experimentation and agile development.

The objective of Mode 2 in Bimodal IT is to be the opposite of IT: working the way software developers work, getting your hands on pieces of new technology like Internet of Things or robotics, putting them into your environment and seeing under real-world conditions whether they meet your needs.

Best of all, you get to fail fast, which is a kind of Get Out of Jail Free card. You’re experimenting in a small way, so if the technology doesn't work, you give it back to the vendor, write off the cost and move on to the next thing. It’s the opposite of where you’ve been for your entire career in IT.

And it’s especially cool because the Mode 1 guys don’t get to fail at all.

The reality of Bimodal IT: The world gets in the way

Frankly, none of the customers I’ve talked to has put Bimodal IT completely in place yet. Maybe they have a smart utility player or a small group of people working on ad hoc projects, but Bimodal IT still has a long way to go to industry acceptance. Don’t feel alone if you’re still mulling it over.

Mode 2 is more appealing if you’re a sysadmin or IT manager, but you don’t get to try it until Mode 1 is under control.

Plus, you could spend a lot of time innovating, then find out you innovated in the wrong direction, like one of my university customers who started down the path of experimenting. “No matter what you say about the millennial crowd being digital natives,” he said, “as soon as they get on campus they start screwing up their own IT, then everybody else’s IT. They do things that no dorm room was ever designed to support. Then, at 9:00 at night, suddenly everybody is streaming movies, and three quarters of them are streaming wirelessly.” You’ve got to innovate far and fast to stay ahead of a user community like university students. And sometimes you just need fatter pipe more than you need innovation.

Prominent among the naysayers is analyst Jason Bloomberg, who considers Bimodal IT “Gartner’s recipe for disaster.” Traditional IT is worthy of innovation, he believes, and going Bimodal is like giving up on traditional IT just because innovation there seems hard to come by. Besides, it’s asking for a brain drain from the boring, eternal work of keeping data flowing smoothly to the whiz-bang frontiers of IT innovation.

Will Bimodal IT ever catch on? Maybe not. You can argue that it departs so far from traditional IT activity that nobody will take it seriously.

What’s your take?

But to get back to data protection, if you decide to pursue separate tracks in Bimodal IT, you’ll find that all that innovative work being done in Mode 2 represents a change in production and another source of data to back up. You’ll want to protect the code being written and the results being generated so you can study them and move on to the next experiment as well informed as possible.

We’ve put together a new white paper called “When You Make Changes in Production, Don’t Forget to Make Changes in Data Protection.” In it, you’ll find more discussion about Bimodal IT and innovation, and the need to think differently about data protection whenever IT trends cause your production to change.

Is Bimodal IT in your organization? Is it reality? Do you think it’s a lot of hooey? Let me know in the comments below.

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