ILM: Get it right the first time

Analyst Arun Taneja spills the beans on what you won't hear from vendors about ILM.

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There's a lot of talk about information lifecycle management (ILM), but few deployments. Why?

Arun Taneja: Users are choosing not to deploy ILM because they still have significant levels of confusion regarding the concepts. We encourage IT executives to begin and end with business process validation. After that, you can begin to drill into technical evaluation. If you fail to adequately pin down the precise business level goals, you can quickly get lost in endless vendor comparisons.

Can you provide an example of a business driver tied to a technology, as it relates to ILM?

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Taneja: A very powerful example would be compliance management and classification technologies. We have a whole category of new players like Kazeon, StoredIQ and Scentric that bring intelligence into the data management layer, automating how content is controlled and moved. When you apply that core technology to compliance issues, you get some very powerful automation capabilities. That automation is probably the most complete envisioning of ILM that I've seen to date.

What are some of the technology considerations users should think about when venturing into ILM?

Taneja: After the business process, users need to think about the application, first and foremost. The application and not the storage environment is going to be the driver of an ILM deployment. You won't hear that from storage vendors because their perspective is skewed for obvious reasons. But once you know which applications matter, and for what reasons, the ecology of potential solutions narrows itself to a manageable level. The application and its requirements should drive you to your storage level decisions, as well. It goes from being a large headache to a normal evaluation and selection process like any other technology deployment.

A lot of users are moving toward consolidating the number of vendors they use. What are the advantages of creating a heterogeneous environment, and how can users avoid the complexity that this entails?

Taneja: Heterogeneous deployments do not have to be complex. The main way to avoid the headache is to ensure that third-party players have established relationships with your strategic vendors. Quite simply, you have no way to avoid a heterogeneous approach if you want to truly achieve ILM goals today. No single vendor has the entire solution stack. You manage the complexity by identifying your key business goals, linking it to technology investments, then ensuring that when those investments take you outside your strategic vendor list that they are indeed a supported player.

Isn't ILM just another way for hardware vendors to sell us more disk?

Taneja: No, not entirely. I think that we're now beginning to move beyond that knee jerk reaction. Most strategic vendors see ILM for what it is: the evolution of their market beyond storage and up into the realm of advanced data management. With that evolution comes powerful software. You cannot do ILM without some deep expertise at the host level -- period. Every strategic vendor knows this now, and when you speak with their resident visionaries, they see it.

Does that mean they have given up on disk revenues?

Taneja: No way. But the future is in the software value, and I think you'll see positioning from vendors begin to reflect that more and more in the coming year. You'll definitely see it in the kinds of partnerships, OEM deals, acquisitions they do with software vendors that fill out their ILM stories.

What will users learn about ILM during your session at Storage Decisions this month?

Taneja: In my Storage Decisions session, users will walk away with some detailed information showing them how to navigate the ILM evaluation waters. I'll discuss how they should think about deciding if they need to do ILM, how to zero in on what areas to prioritize first. Then we'll take a deeper look at some of the emerging technologies that are not yet in the hands of major vendors and see which ones have the right secret sauce and relationships to make your final cut. I want folks to walk away knowing that they have options and that by rolling their own ILM solution, they can save money and heartache. They don't need to be captive to the whims of just a few big vendors and their proprietary ILM stories.

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