Bimodal IT is a controversial topic in enterprise IT circles today. The fact that IT runs at two (or more) speeds isn’t the question. Rather, the confusion lies in what to do about it.
On one side of the IT shop we have brownfield IT – a rather unfortunate term for the existing legacy environment. Brownfield IT is slow to change, but focuses on reliability and stability. Existing sunk costs into technology investments constrain further spending, and any modernization effort or other change requires careful re-engineering.
On the other side, or perhaps outside the IT organization altogether, lies greenfield IT. Digital application efforts in new, legacy-free environments. Agile approaches that support rapid change, with new tools and processes that support DevOps and allow for new system and application architectures.
Into this bimodal mix comes the role of cloud computing. The cloud doesn’t fall into either the brownfield or greenfield modes, but rather represents different value propositions and challenges for each.
For brownfield IT, the cloud represents both an important tool for facilitating the modernization of legacy applications, as well as a way to shift capital to operational expense while at the same time, reducing costs overall.
The greenfield IT team, in contrast, takes the cloud for granted. All new development necessarily goes into one cloud or another, and the organization naturally obtains any desired third-party software services via the cloud.
Greenfield IT efforts are cloud first by nature. For brownfield IT, however, cloud first typically represents a change in perspective – but one that over time, better aligns brownfield with greenfield ways of thinking.
Astute IT executives realize that treating brownfield and greenfield IT as separate efforts will adversely impact today’s strategic, end-to-end digital initiatives. As a result, the cloud becomes an important unifying force. Cloud first strategies are coming to predominate IT strategic roadmaps.
The mandate of cloud first strategies is straightforward: for any new investment in IT, consider first whether the cloud will be a suitable platform for supporting the goals of the investment. Any cost benefit analysis that concludes that the cloud isn’t the best approach must make a solid case for that decision. In other words, cloud becomes the default choice.
Rarely, however, is it realistic to assume that many brownfield IT initiatives will run 100% in the cloud, even over time. After all, cloud first means new investment defaults to the cloud, but existing assets may continue to run on-premise.
As a result, enterprise environments are becoming more hybrid, as brownfield IT gradually transitions to some combination of cloud and on-premise, while hybrid scenarios also bring the brownfield and greenfield efforts into alignment with each other.
Operational Analytics Challenges in Hybrid Brownfield/Greenfield Environments
Once it becomes clear that ‘hybrid brownfield/greenfield environments’ don’t simply mean connecting brownfield to greenfield, but rather encapsulates the complexities of brownfield gradually transitioning to cloud combined with cloud-based greenfield, then operations management challenges become paramount.
In this complex hybrid cloud scenario, application workloads may move around, and the corresponding policy controls must move with them. Furthermore, the policy metadata as well as other configuration metadata may be scattered in different locations, complicating the challenge of providing a ‘single pane of glass’ for operations professionals to gain real-time insights into the performance of their IT environment.
In many enterprises, configuration management databases (CMDBs) are central to this configuration metadata management story – or at least, CMDBs have historically been instrumental in managing the operational environment for brownfield IT.
Today, however, brownfield/greenfield hybrid IT shops have made CMDBs less useful, as layers of virtualization exacerbate their limitations, especially in cloud-first environments. They do still have value in that they continue to be a useful source of information, but that information is increasingly incomplete (and potentially inaccurate) as the cloud-first strategy takes hold.
Instead, today’s enterprises increasingly need operations management tooling that can analyze diverse sources of operational data in real-time. The Moogsoft value proposition in particular is to coordinate operational analytics across multiple modes. Furthermore, Moogsoft takes an event-driven approach to operational analytics, giving operations personnel real-time insight into operational data.
Real-time visibility across disparate sources of information is now the price of admission for operations management tools, as today’s digital applications must perform at top speed all the time. A delay of even a few seconds, let alone a failed interaction, can mean lost business and lost customers.
Expecting only the greenfield IT applications to meet the performance requirements of customers without also focusing on brownfield IT is a recipe for failure. In reality, digital performance depends upon the proper interaction of greenfield and brownfield, as well as real-time, comprehensive visibility into such complex hybrid scenarios. Customers are counting on it.
Join Andy Brown, former C-level exec at UBS, B of A, Credit-Suisse, Merrill Lynch; Richard Plane, CTO – Cloud & IT Transformation, Advanced Services at Cisco; Kalyan Kumar, Global CTO & SVP – ITO & Digital at HCL Technologies; and Phil Tee, Co-founder & CEO at Moogsoft for an Executive Webcast on Brown to Green Field Ops: Frameworks for Integrated Management and Monitoring, October 13, 2015 at 9:00 PDT / 12:00 EDT / 17:00 BST. Click here to register.
Intellyx advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. Moogsoft is an Intellyx client. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this article. Image credit: Ananth BS.