In the year or so since Gartner introduced the concept of bimodal IT, there has been a lot written about whether it’s a good or bad, new or old idea. But there has been much less written about how to actually implement bimodal IT. Doing so requires changes in how you hire IT professionals, how lines of business and IT communicate, how you allocate IT resource – and how you run your data center.

In my last blog post, Agile IT Becomes Stable IT – So Bimodal IT Must Be Collaborative, I shared how the only way for an IT organization to succeed in the digital age is to balance agility and stability. I’m going to assume that you’ve bought into the idea that your IT organization needs to be bimodal. Now what? In this blog post I want to focus on one element that can either undermine or support your implementation of bimodal IT: the data center.

Getting bimodal IT right is essential. Gartner has correlated a company’s ability to successfully implement Bimodal IT to how well it will perform as a digital business. In Gartner’s 2015 CIO Agenda Executive Summary (pdf) analysts explain that to grasp digital opportunities, incrementally improving IT performance isn’t enough. Gartner research also shows that CEOs expect CIOs to step up and lead the digital charge.

The role of the data center in supporting bimodal IT

What’s the role of the data center in bimodal IT? Gartner explains it well: “The data center – as the core engine delivering IT services – will need to become far more agile and responsive than it has ever been … Without adapting the mentality and approach of data centers away from continuous stability to managed change and innovation, data center managers will find it increasingly difficult to prove their value.” So 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

One of the toughest challenges for agile IT is managing capacity. The test/dev team might need 10 kW for a month while developing and then testing a new application. When the app is ready to put into production, adoption might be slow, or it might be fast – capacity needs could be 2 kW at first, or 50 kW. The most common way of dealing with that kind of 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 (you can’t manage what you can’t measure). With an accurate idea of what he’s spending now, the CIO has a better sense of where he wants to spend his next dollar. If he knows he has capacity to spare in hardware allocated for a stable IT project, he could be flexible when the agile IT and Business teams need capacity to try something out.

At Aligned Data Centers, our DCIM software enables us – and you – to closely monitor power, cooling, storage, network and compute utilization so that, together, we can better align power allocation with the needs of your business. By gathering and consolidating these utilization data from the systems and synchronizing it with financial and supply chain data, our integrated technology platform delivers real-time, predictive – actionable – intelligence. So you know where you have capacity, and when you’ll likely need more.

(It’s the same DCIM software that saved Lenovo 60-80% in power costs because of increased energy efficiency. As Lenovo technical project manager Erin Bolduc explained to Bloomberg, “The monitoring system knows if there is an idle server or rack, so we don’t cool more than we have to.” Since cooling is the single largest data center cost, the savings is huge.)

Flexibility to adjust capacity

One key reason so much capacity is stranded in traditional data centers (average utilization is 50-60%) is a lack of visibility into server-level utilization. But another reason is that even if a CIO can see where he has 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.

So knowing what you are using and what capacity is available is just the beginning; once you have visibility into the data center, you need to be able to do something about it. And that’s the benefit of a data center with modular power and cooling systems that can quickly and easily be deployed where they’re needed, when they’re needed.

Having the flexibility to adjust capacity is also about being able to increase density within your existing footprint. Doing that requires power and cooling systems that can flex to handle higher IT loads. Infrastructure modularity has a benefit here as well: it allows the data center to support newer and more powerful IT gear, with new levels of power and cooling requirements, without having to retire older power and cooling infrastructure. It allows for incremental modernization, without affecting regular stable operations – that is, it supports agility and stability.

At Aligned Data Centers, flexibility to adjust capacity comes from:

  • Modular infrastructure – Modular cooling, power generation, and power distribution systems are deployable in 300 kW increments, enabling right-sized capacity on-demand
  • Rapidly scalable model – With a global supply chain comprised of industry-leading electrical and mechanical system partners, we can deploy new infrastructure in as little as 12 weeks
  • Conductive cooling technology – Using the latest cooling technology, we can support high and mixed density environments within the same row or even rack

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. Partnering with the right data center – one that allows the CIO to fully utilize existing capacity, and scale up or modernize quickly and easily when the time comes – is essential for the organization to find long-term gains from bimodal IT.

Aligned Data Centers is uniquely equipped to deliver visibility into capacity constraints and opportunities and the flexibility to do something about it. As CIO, Rajendran Avadaiappan is responsible for overseeing the information technology and computer systems to strategically support the company’s growth and goals.