There’s a stage in the life of a new technology in which half the world thinks it’s a whole new paradigm and the other half thinks it’s all hype. Half says it will never happen whereas the other half says, “We’re doing it now.” And even the most improbable vendor claims to have strategies and products to support it. So it is with ILM (information life cycle management).
The current darling of the storage industry, ILM is based on two simple concepts. First, not all information has the same value to the organization. Second, whatever value information has tends to change over time.
If these assumptions are true, then why apply the same level of expensive storage, management, and protection to all information in an enterprise? By moving less-valuable information to less-expensive storage and applying appropriate levels of protection to each storage tier, companies save money and reserve high-end resources for the information that demands them.
The result: Mission-critical systems are less bloated, more stable, and better performing. Backup windows shrink, storage runs out less often, upgrades are less frequent, and the overall cost of storage and storage management drops.
That’s the idea, anyway. Given such a tall order, it makes sense to be skeptical about what, if anything, ILM can do for you on an enterprise scale. But once we stopped worrying about the “grand vision” of ILM and focused on the reality, we found that a number of nascent, policy-based point solutions are already providing real benefit to organizations challenged by exploding storage and complex compliance requirements.
What it is and is not
Superficially, at least, the ILM concept resembles earlier storage technologies, including HSM (hierarchical storage management) and DLM (data life cycle management). Whereas DLM focused on data as the unit of storage and whereas HSM tended to associate data with applications and moved that data based on a single criterion, time, ILM sets policies based on the value of the information that data carries, regardless of the application or time.
“In terms of information, HSM is brain-dead,” says Jeremy Burton, executive vice president of Veritas’ Data Management Group. For example, he says, one e-mail might require a different storage policy from the next, depending on its subject, sender, or relationship to a particular lawsuit. Similarly, health records don’t always decrease in value; they may have to be quickly accessed if a patient has a recurrence. In these cases, it’s the information contained in each parcel of data that’s important, not the data itself.
The other difference is protection. “In some ways ILM is like HSM, but
Click for larger view.
Finally, in most cases ILM assumes that despite migration or archiving, data will continue to be accessible for a long time, either as an identical archive instance or as a searchable repository.