The current state of the mainframe, with the push for Bimodal IT, reminds me of an important time in history before the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln stated:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

I see this concept applying to the current IT debate between DevOps and Bimodal IT.

Can IT Be a House Divided?

DevOps calls for the breaking down of silos, for the unification between development and operations across platforms. In DevOps, everything functions in unison at the same speed in order to improve the quantity and quality of functionality delivered.

Bimodal IT, on the other hand, is the idea that you can be successful by having two different paths, each going their own way at their own speed—the distributed system of engagement responding quickly and the mainframe system of record just maintaining and responding slowly.

Let this serve as a challenge, because a “house divided” cannot stand—Bimodal IT isn’t working.

It is too difficult to coordinate the two speeds Bimodal IT promotes. The slow side becomes the weakest link, leading to wasted effort and duplication.  Instead, we need to become one thing, and I’m betting becoming the “fast” side of the house will beat the “slow” side every time.

Innovating for Mainframe DevOps

The bulk of data and processing remains on the mainframe. It is the most efficient platform and the applications are right there with decades of business knowledge built in. What it lacks—not due to the platform, but with practices—is interconnections and visibility.

Rather than opting to stay slow, as Bimodal IT suggests, mainframe applications and tools must fit seamlessly into DevOps. They must adapt and become more open and flexible through REST APIs. Dashboards and management tools must see all of development, not just one side of it, and development must move from Waterfall to Agile, working with one IDE.

The mainframe “will become one thing or all the other.” The mainframe, and mainframe developers, must adapt. Be on the side of change, build one strong house instead of fighting to maintain two.