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What's holding up ILM?

12 Jul 2006 |

The pieces that will enable an enterprise-wide information lifecycle management solution are starting to appear, but until meta data standards become available, ILM is still a work in progress.

There's been a lot of buzz about information lifecycle management (ILM) and its promise of efficient data and storage management. And while some companies have taken steps toward implementing ILM, few--if any--are doing fully automated enterprise ILM the way it was conceived. Today, ILM implementations are narrowly focused and usually address a specific application like e-mail-related compliance.

"You can't do complete ILM today," says Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at Taneja Group, Hopkinton, MA. "At best, you might find a vertical stovepipe solution." ILM was initially defined as a layered stack of technologies. Some layers, such as the ability to set up storage tiers, have been addressed, while other layers, such as information classification and management (ICM), are only just beginning to be addressed. ICM describes an emerging set of automated tools that combine search, indexing and data movement to help companies categorize their stored data based on its meaning and value to the organization (see "New ICM tools").

Moving data to different types of storage or tiers may prove more difficult than some vendors let on. "If you're using data movement utilities that have microcode dependencies you can have problems, like if you're moving data between an old EMC Symmetrix and a new EMC DMX," says Angelo Castellano, a data replication engineer at Softek Storage Solutions Corp. However, when working at the host level, where ILM data movement tools tend to operate, microcode dependencies don't matter. "The host never experiences the microcode," he says.

This doesn't mean an enterprise can't start to pursue ILM. "ILM is a strategy, not a product," says Brian Babineau, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), Milford, MA. "There are a number of tactical measures a company can take today to start its ILM strategy." These range from creating data taxonomies to classifying data, to setting up the storage tiers needed for ILM. IT managers also need to line up the enabling technologies that will make automated enterprise ILM possible going forward. This will include technologies that automatically move data between storage tiers and policy engines that will drive the ILM process.

Some of these technologies have been part of the IT landscape for years. Others, like ICM, have only recently emerged. But assembling an ILM technology stack isn't enough; the problem of applying the policies--based on file characteristics--that drive the automated ILM process remains.

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