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Issue of November 2003 

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ILM: A straightforward approach to strategic storage

Managing the storage of growing data and the associated costs has been a challenging issue for CIOs. One workaround is to classify data and then determine where it is to be stored: Business critical data could be stored on expensive, high-end storage devices, but as this data gets old and less relevant, it could be moved to inexpensive storage media. And that's just what Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) offers. Leading storage solutions vendors like StorageTek, Hitachi Data Systems, EMC, Veritas, IBM and HP have ILM initiatives in place.

ILM is an approach to assessing and managing information. It’s based on how data is used and how readily available it must be to those who use it. In other words, it's the business value of data that determines the storage technologies you use and how much you spend on them.

"There are two aspects of accessing data and information. One is the frequency with which you access the same information. Second is the amount of latency that your business can tolerate," said Vijay Pradhan, Country Manager, StorageTek (India), "ILM enables you to select the right storage technology depending on how old or how relevant the data is, and what are the requirements—in terms of how frequently I need to access this data and what is the latency I can tolerate," said Pradhan.

ILM involves controlling and tracking data, from the time it is captured in a business transaction, through its lifecycle, until the time it is no longer needed. When information is captured during a business transaction, it has the highest value for business. Since it will be frequently accessed at this point of time, it should reside on (high-end) Online storage. But as time goes by, the value of this information diminishes and hence an organization might want to move it to Inline, Nearline or Archival media (depending on its age, frequency of access, and the latency of access time).

Andy Srinivasan, Managing Director, StorageTek South Asia said, "ILM is a description of what's happening in the real world of storage. Storage is expanding very rapidly, but not been treated differently at various stages of its lifecyle. Left to itself, if the storage of data is unmanaged, the relevance of it changes. So ILM is about how you manage the storage of data through its lifecycle."

While all this might sound good in practice, can the process of classifying information and then moving it to the appropriate storage medium, be entirely automated?

"This is not yet completely automated," said Srinivasan. "If there was software that intelligently moved data to any of these storage types (based on how old the data is), then you would have a complete solution."

Pradhan said StorageTek is positioning its ILM strategy at the Telecom and banking verticals, and certain government departments (as e-governance increases). StorageTek has incorporated ILM into its ASM (Application Storage Management) software.

— Brian Pereira

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