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ILM standard in the works?

All signs at the Storage Networking World conference are pointing toward an Information Lifecycle Management standard in the works. But if true, what form would it take?

PHOENIX--One of the hottest buzzwords - or buzz-acronyms - at the Storage Networking World conference this week has been ILM, also known as Information Lifecycle Management. Not a new concept to be sure, but important enough among storage industry experts and vendors that the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) is looking at developing a standard for it.

In a panel discussion Wednesday, Hitachi Data Systems' CTO Hu Yoshida said "there is a group within SNIA that is looking at standards for managing ILM." He added that "an ILM standard would give multiple vendors the ability to participate and offer users the best ILM solutions."

Michael Del Rosso, CTO for tape maker Quantum Corp. echoed Yoshida's call for an ILM standard. "There needs to be a fresh architecture put out. Companies with the research and development [resources] should be driving this," he said.

SNIA representatives could not be reached for comment, but a bit of digging around the SNIA website reveals that one of the organizations working groups is quietly outlining a definition of ILM. The SNIA Data Management Forum has launched an ILM initiative (ILMI) and has laid the groundwork for developing a set of best practices.

According to a recent SNIA presentation, ILM is currently defined as [take a deep breath] the "policies, processes, practices and tools used to align the business value of information with the most appropriate and cost effective IT infrastructure from the time information is conceived through its final disposition. Information is aligned with business processes through management of policies and service levels associated with applications, metadata, information and data."

Enterprise Storage Group analyst Nancy Marrone-Hurley believes that SNIA is "attempting to show where ILM fits in the broad scheme of management issues, and define a model that represents the layered management approach users need to take to get to an ILM enabled environment."

"The key to their being able to define ILM as a standard business process is to come up with a common data model which would feed into a series of defined processes," Marrone-Hurley said.

Given the complex nature of ILM, any standard would more than likely consist of a set of best practices rather than a technology standard like SMI-S or iSCSI.

In which case, if it's about best practices, how do storage managers buy an ILM product? The truth is ILM products don't exist.

"ILM is a strategy for managing information assets. It's really not about technology," said Tom Petrocelli, president of Technology Alignment Partners, San Francisco, Calif. "It's not storage management, it's not infrastructure, it's not even content-addressed storage. [However] they may all be components of the overall system that helps fulfill action items of your policies."

So why bother with ILM? Petrocelli said the benefits of implementing an ILM strategy are far-reaching. Setting up policies to manage "data assets" can help satisfy regulatory compliance issues and improve storage utilization and security.

The SNIA is planning a mini-conference focused on ILM dubbed "the authoritative conference on ILM best practices and implementation methods," scheduled for October 2004. It will be co-located within the ARMA Information Management Conference at the Long Beach Convention Center.


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