Implementing an ILM strategy is neither simple nor straightforward for any organization. For one thing, although the point solutions offered by storage vendors today address parts of the problem, true ILM must encompass the whole datacenter.
What’s worse, although nearly every vendor seems eager to talk about ILM, it’s often difficult to get a clear picture of what they really mean when they say it, leaving too many questions unanswered. How effectively can ILM be applied to an existing data infrastructure? What are the best practices? What long-term goals are vendors working toward? What are the stages of adoption? In the absence of generally accepted, industrywide standards, charting a course of action within an enterprise IT department can seem like an exercise in blind faith.
To address this problem, the vendors, IT professionals, and systems integrators comprising the Data Management Forum of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) have joined together to form the ILM Initiative, the goal of which is to unify current efforts around ILM in a unified, cohesive approach — a vision, if you will. Like any good vision, the ILM Initiative’s begins with a definition of terms. According to the group’s members, ILM is “a new set of management practices based on aligning the business value of information to the most appropriate and cost-effective infrastructure.”
What’s significant about this definition is that it recognizes that implementing ILM is not as simple as plugging a software solution in to an existing infrastructure. Rather, ILM relies heavily on processes and the people who execute them. The SNIA ILM Initiative will continue to develop further definitions, reference models, and educational materials that will help customers and vendors implement ILM without being tied to any specific solutions or technologies.
Working alongside the ILM Initiative is another group within the SNIA, the ILM Technical Working Group, whose goal is to develop best-practice guidance for specific parts of the overall ILM vision. For example, if classifying enterprise data is essential to an ILM strategy, how should an organization go about defining and applying classifications to its data? Or, how should an organization go about moving data between different tiers of storage?
The SNIA’s work on ILM is now well underway and more activities are scheduled for this year, including a major conference in December. Still, SNIA members are quick to point out that standardizing ILM will probably take several years. As yet, the industry is still in the early stages of defining this important new direction for enterprise storage.