Get ready for real ILM


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Be prepared
The shortcomings of HSM also highlight the limitations of ILM: For the foreseeable future, most corporate data will continue to lack at least one of the three elements listed here. But all isn't lost: Preparation for ILM will yield many benefits, even if the whole system can't be brought together. Let's start with alignment. Tiered storage can be considered a limited (and manual) form of ILM. Tiering requires grouping corporate data into a few categories and migrating it to different types of storage. It's neither automated nor granular, but tiering storage can yield cost savings and service-level improvements.

Data classification is another hot topic related to ILM. Understanding data requirements is key to the ILM concept, and the process of identifying data, classifying it and developing appropriate protection policies will uncover the true value metrics needed by an automated ILM product.

In short, you have to have a tiered, service-focused infrastructure and a good understanding of data value to enable any ILM product in the future. But how do you get started?

Begin by taking a long hard look at your infrastructure. Are you ready to implement basic ILM-type functionality like "extender" archiving systems or HSM products? Do you have storage tiers that can accept different classes of data? Can you map storage from the arrays back to the application? Do you have an accounting of all of your data

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sources and a business impact assessment that defines the real value of the applications? All of these issues must be addressed before moving on with any real ILM initiative.

ILM is bigger than IT
There's one other massive limitation to ILM beyond the technical issues. Data management is a far bigger topic than any IT infrastructure group, let alone a storage infrastructure group, can handle. It's bigger, in fact, than IT itself. ILM is nothing less than a new paradigm for business-focused information services.

Think of this as an opportunity to bridge the chasm that divides IT from the business. Ask the business-side folks in your organization if they feel that IT is providing services that map to their needs, and if they're comfortable with the protection you're currently providing for their data. Use this as an opportunity to break the techie bonds that keep most IT professionals in the weeds of technical details.

ILM can be an opportunity to elevate all of IT and to bring it to the corporate table in a way it hasn't been since the 1960s. We're all businesspeople at heart, though our Dilbert mugs and Star Wars posters might suggest otherwise. So begin the conversation about ILM by focusing on what the business needs rather than on how to deliver it. Prepare your foundation with tiered storage, consolidation and a service-oriented approach, and you'll be ready when real ILM products hit the market.

This was first published in December 2005

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