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ILM isn't just tiered storage

To realize the true benefits of tiered storage--and to take a big step toward ILM--you have to align data with its business value.

IT'S NOW THREE-PLUS years into the information lifecycle management (ILM) "movement" and time to take stock of its evolution. Back in its early days, every major storage vendor's Web site boldly trumpeted ILM, complete with photos of smiling people ostensibly enjoying its benefits. ILM can still be found on those Web sites today, but it's promoted far less prominently.

A fair observation is that the initial enthusiasm over ILM has been scaled back to more pragmatic levels. As a result, the focus of discussion has shifted to the realm of tiered storage, a far more modest and realistic goal. Tiered storage could be thought of as ILM lite or, for the perpetually optimistic, the first step toward "real" ILM. You may recall that ILM demands storage alignment with data value and regular re-alignment based on the changing value of data as it ages--a challenging proposition. The tiered storage approach, on the other hand, requires only an initial alignment, possibly supplemented with data archiving.

It's not an unreasonable approach. We've encountered situations where data has been allocated to top-tier storage based on a one-size-fits-all policy without considering its actual value. But data growth led to serious inefficiencies.

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With 90% of data on the most expensive platforms, the tiered-storage concept is an easy sell. The pressure to cut or contain spending is considerable, and buying storage at half the price of what you're currently paying is a no-brainer.

Many of you agree apparently, and storage vendors have been selling ever-increasing quantities of second- and third-tier storage. But in many cases, the expected cost savings haven't materialized. Why? And what can be done to ensure that the value of these investments is realized?

At the risk of stating the obvious, the key to realizing the benefits of tiered storage is being able to move and maintain data within the tiers. This means aligning data and storage according to business value. It requires doing some things outside the comfort zone for many storage managers, such as:

  • Building a business case that demonstrates true cost savings without introducing risk to the organization.
  • Developing an easy to implement and, more importantly, easy to maintain methodology for classifying data and applications.

This was first published in May 2006

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