Information Lifecycle Management Lives, Finally
- By Steve Ulfelder
ILM’S BIG IDEA
- Information lifecycle management seems to be catching on finally, because
enterprises must adhere to compliance regulations.
- The big idea is to take data that must be readily available and store costly
systems, and to move data that must be stored to meet regulatory requirements
on slow but inexpensive systems.
- Enterprise ILM initiatives today are in varying states of disarray, now
doing tiered storage, and that's where SRM comes in.
We have about 100 terabytes on our NAS, about 500 terabytes on our SAN and
1.5 petabytes of tape backup,” says Chris Wintheiser, a systems engineer
at TLRTS Enterprise Storage. TLRTS is the IT unit of Thomson’s Legal &
Regulatory business unit.
Information lifecycle management seems to be catching on finally, mainly because
enterprises must adhere to compliance regulations. “ILM has been mostly
vendor hype” until recently, says Brian Garrett, an analyst at Enterprise
“Whenever we do anything, we do it in terabyte sizes,” Wintheiser
says. “And more and more, we need to be working
within a compliance framework.” Perhaps most impressive of all is the
size of the team handling this massive storage load: eight full-time employees.
As you might imagine from an enterprise specifically focused on legal and regulatory
issues, compliance is the biggest factor in TLRTS’ storage picture. “The
biggest issue is backups, restoring and archiving solutions,” Wintheiser
says. To meet regulatory dictums, the company’s users “want to keep
seven years’ data and archive [it] offsite, and there are problems with
He points out that because of the pace of change in today’s technology
world, “even if you could archive it, seven years later, when you want
to recover [the data], you’re not even using that technology anymore,”
Wintheiser says. “And most database solutions don’t backlog seven
years back, so how reliable is that data anyway?”
ILM’s big idea is to take data that must be readily available and store
it on fast but costly systems, and to move data that must be stored to meet
regulatory requirements on slow but inexpensive systems. ILM provides management
of information, starting with the data’s creation and extending through
securing the information—updating, maintaining, archiving and, ultimately,
To deploy ILM, enterprises must first understand and classify their data, then
store it according to factors such as value, risk and the likelihood the information
will be needed in a hurry.
The job of deciding what to move when and where is invariably automated, using
storage resource management and similar tools. SRM manages the storage infrastructure—hardware,
switches, files and file systems—and optimizes the efficiency with which
available storage space is used. The goal is to automate tasks—data collection,
backup and recovery, SAN performance analysis, virtualization, provisioning,
forecasting and so on—which storage administrators had to be perform manually
SRM is essentially a prerequisite to ILM. That’s how enterprises are
using SRM: to get a full picture of their storage infrastructure. And it’s
usually a chaotic picture, cluttered by myriad undocumented device types, data
types and practices.
“Enterprise ILM initiatives today are in varying states of disarray,”
Garrett says, “but people are now doing tiered storage. That’s where
SRM comes in.”
“Any enterprise that’s experienced growth will have data splattered across
different storage devices and platforms,” says Kris Domich, principal consultant
at Dimension Data, an IT consultancy. “SRM by itself is not a magic pill. Companies
are using it to take in a holistic view of all data across the enterprise—how
it needs to be classified, its retention period, its termination point.” (See
related story, “Information
has a shelf life.”)
Keeping the business running
Although compliance is a major force behind the growth of ILM and SRM, it’s
hardly the only factor. “We also see a lot of [storage] demand driven
by business-continuity models,” says Pam Taylor. As VP of SHARE, the venerable
(and largest, with more than 20,000 members) IBM user group, Taylor gets an
earful on the topics most affecting member companies.
Post-9/11, Taylor says, enterprises determined that simple disaster recovery
isn’t enough. “We see an emphasis on geographically dispersed mirror
sites,” she says, “and naturally that has a big impact on storage.”
Additionally, analysts point to increasing reliance on imaging as a driver.
Whatever the drivers, many ITorganizations are taking their first hard look
at SRM software. They have a multitude of options: many large enterprise application
vendors, such as Computer Associates International, offer SRM tools, as do EMC,
IBM and Hewlett-Packard. In addition, there are SRM applications from specialists
including Storability, AppIQ, FalconStor and CreekPath Systems.
Businesses that use SRM software to get an ILM initiative started often do so
because of compliance issues, but they tend to find plenty of other benefits.
“With SRM, you…ID the data you need to manage in a compliant form,
and then you need to manage it,” Domich says. “By IDing, reclassifying
and moving data to the appropriate device, you tend to make space where you
thought you were running out of space.”
For example, Domich says that when Dimension Data clients closely examine their
storage picture as part of the baseline-creation process, they’re often
stunned at how much non-essential data resides on their high-speed SAN—the
most expensive flavor of storage. Shifting such data to a more appropriate medium,
be it a mid-level SAN, a NAS, disk or tape, not only creates a more logical
structure—it saves money. “We find our clients can often delay storage
purchases 1 to 3 years,” Domich says.
Star had its own motive for implementing SRM. The $80-million managed services
company, which is based in
the U.K. and has about 4,200 customers, “saw an opportunity to package
IBM’s on-demand capability,” including storage, and resell it, says
Richard Ellis, Star’s VP of IT. The company opted for IBMTivoli SRM tools
because they scaled effectively and allowed Star’s IT group to effectively
manage such small parcels of storage, according to Ellis.
Last year, TLRTS Enterprise Storage opted for Storability’s Global Storage
Manager, switching from IBM SRM
software—which in TLRTS’ environment could hang during server reboots,
Wintheiser says, due to the IBM host/agent model. So far, Wintheiser says, scalability
and customizability are the big benefits of the Storability tools.
Because Storability’s data repository is a simple Microsoft SQL database,
“You can go in and generate your own
report,” Wintheiser says. That was TLRTS’ most important requirement,
he adds, because “custom reporting is
a huge need for us. When you’re generating reports, you can’t anticipate
every [type of] report or field you would need. Every [business] unit has unique
needs and forms. They also have application data that’s unique. We need
to be able to correlate trends and peaks, put it all on a timeline and see what’s
happening on a CPU at that time. So if the repository is closed to any other
tool, it’s not useable.”
At TLRTS, a new Storability configuration-management tool has quickly become
a favorite of Wintheiser’s group.
“It lets you correlate the DB, file system and server metrics on a single
page,” he says. “Because we’re a small group, we
can’t be creating reports for all development groups, so we need the ability
to pull metrics off everything. Then, [development groups] can look at any metrics
anytime they want.”
As ILM becomes a standard part of the IT landscape, more businesses will turn
to SRM software. “The big value of SRM right now is to help you understand your
storage needs and do an assessment,” says Enterprise Strategy Group’s Garrett.
“The majority of both the market and the software’s potential is still to be
tapped, but we’re starting to see awareness reach down.”
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