What's holding up ILM?


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Strong interest in ILM
In the latest TheInfoPro storage study, ILM moved from fourth to first on the firm's Heat Index, which reflects the immediacy of respondents' interest in implementing ILM. Thirty-two percent of respondents implemented ILM pilots or plan to implement pilots this year, nearly double the number from a year ago. Policy-based archiving, closely related to ILM, ranked second on the Heat Index.

The ILM elements most sought after by respondents to the TheInfoPro survey were tiered storage, data migration and policy engines. These responses reinforce the view that it's still very early in the ILM game. Data classification, a key component of automated, enterprise ILM, ranked fifth in the functionality importance ranking and sixth in the Heat Index, leaving this critical ILM requirement at the bottom of the list.

A recent IDC survey suggests more ambivalence toward ILM. "ILM had more awareness and was more of a priority with larger firms," says Laura DuBois, research director, storage software at the Framingham, MA-based research firm. But even large firms weren't flocking to ILM: Slightly less than 40% expressed interest in implementing ILM vs. a little more than 15% of smaller firms. "There is still a lot of skepticism about ILM [and] the ability of the industry to deliver on the vision," she says.

At least some pieces of the ILM vision are falling into place, beginning with tiered storage. According

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to TheInfoPro survey, 37% of respondents had already deployed tiered storage, while 26% reported pilot projects underway or plans to deploy tiered storage in the near future. Still, researchers found complaints about compatibility and interoperability among different tiers of storage--even from the same vendor.

CAS is also gaining traction and can be a stepping stone to full ILM. It allows organizations to sever the link between the data and its storage address, which is a key obstacle to ILM. "CAS addresses data by a unique name, not the address, so you can move the data around," says GlassHouse's Foskett. The problem with CAS today, however, is that the applications don't address the data as CAS records, but as files or blocks. Still, adds Foskett, "CAS can be an ILM enabler by breaking the link between what's being asked for and where it resides."

Storage virtualization products from numerous vendors will mask the physical location of the data. By separating the data from its stored address, applications can access the data logically even as its physical location changes based on ILM policies. Organizations can also use their existing data replication tools, like products from Softek and Symantec Corp., to move data between heterogeneous storage systems in a tiered storage environment. Data movement tools, however, may not move data to different storage subsystems as seamlessly as advertised.

This was first published in July 2006

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