Get ready for real ILM


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Analysts tell us that the root problem in IT today is a disconnect between actual business requirements and the services provided by the IT infrastructure. Everyone in IT knows that they don't know much about the content of their systems or how to treat it. Called "governance" in business texts, this alignment between high-level business goals and tactical operations is critical and tremendously lacking in many firms. A conversation on information lifecycle management (ILM) is a way to address this chasm of understanding.

ILM is a conceptual state in which data is stored in accordance to its changing business value. Even though there are serious technical and process gaps for this advanced, aligned storage to be realized, you can begin preparations for its use today.

Defining ILM
Conceptually, ILM requires three elements: value, alignment and change. Each element is critical to the overall vision of ILM, and each will prove vexing to address, especially in computer technology.

First, ILM needs objective metrics of data value. This is harder than it sounds—value goes beyond the simple age and access metrics used by hierarchical storage management (HSM) applications. Value metrics have to take into account relevance to the organization's core business, risk of unavailability and other factors that aren't easy to quantify. Many storage resource management products are beginning to include ad hoc, user-entered

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value metrics, Boolean matching and similar rudimentary systems to calculate value, but this technology is still in its infancy.

ILM also requires the protection of information aligned with its value. Data is normally stored in large chunks (think LUNs) rather than in the fine records to which the metrics are relevant, and it's difficult to move a piece of data even if greater granularity is there. Again, many companies are working on the alignment issue, with virtualization technology providing the ability to move tiny blocks of data from one storage medium to another. In addition, application-integrated software allows stubs to take the place of records in databases and e-mail systems.

The third element of ILM is the idea that the value, and thus the alignment, of a piece of information can change over time. This requires an application-linked system of metrics and movement, which has proved elusive up to this point.

This was first published in December 2005

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