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Issue of April 2004 

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ILM: What's your information worth?

Keeping a lid on overflowing storage costs is a key agenda for today's CIO. Organizations are using ILM to balance the cost of managing and storing information with the changing value of information over time. by Abhinav Singh

There's so much being written about Information Lifecycle Management these days, that many of us have a fairly decent understanding of what it's supposed to do. But almost everybody we spoke to had a definition of his own for ILM. Some feel it is just old wine in a new bottle. Others believe that it is a new concept, one that is starting to gain momentum in India. The need to classify data on the basis of criticality and then move it from expensive to inexpensive storage has assumed immense significance for Indian enterprises.

Ashish Gupta, sales manager - Indian subcontinent, BakBone Software says, " ILM is a concept that needs to be practiced in the enterprise to ensure effective management, protection and recovery of data."

For BFSI, ILM is nothing new. It has been part of banking policy for a long time. "ILM is storage of information in a format that can be used at a later stage for regulatory or statutory requirements," says S.R. Balasubramanian, vice-president - IT of HDFC Bank.

A cornerstone of the ILM concept is understanding the value of data. Arun Rao, National Manager, Storage Business, CA India says, "In any business, the importance and relevance of data fluctuates rapidly. As a guideline, it is estimated that 90 percent of data stored on a disk is never or seldom accessed after 90 days. An ILM strategy recognizes that not all data is created equal, and as it moves through its life cycle, it must be managed and stored on different levels and on increasingly cost-efficient technologies."

That said, the value of data doesn't always decrement over time. Sometimes the opposite happens. Shailesh Agarwal country manager-Storage, IBM India says, "Over the lifetime of data the value of data may go up or down. For instance, an oil company explores a patch and obtains seismic data. Twenty years later that patch may become economically viable."

"The fundamental of ILM is tiered storage. The goal is to provide the lowest TCO for information as it moves through its lifecycle, from creation to archival," says Manoj Chugh, president EMC India & SAARC.

Regulatory issues

Regulatory issues have compelled organizations to go in for data archiving. This is a key driver of ILM adoption in India. Although there are no regulations as such for Indian companies, there are guidelines. Indian banks have to adhere to RBI guidelines. Also international regulations have had their influence on Indian companies and on MNCs having operations in India.

Wipro Technologies adheres to the Sarabanes-Oxley Act and HIPAA regulations while dealing with its overseas customers. Ramapriya H, consultant for Computing Infrastructure, Wipro Technologies says, "As part of our data retention policy three months of data is stored on disk after which it is shifted to tape. For e-mail messages containing large attachments, we store the attachment separately as it helps in speedy retrieval when only the text of the e-mail is required for reference."

Anil Valluri, Director - Systems Engineering, Sun Microsystems says, "We will actively work to educate Indian customers on the Sarabanes-Oxley Act which mandates that all companies dealing with US customers have to to preserve their data for at least five years."

Implementing ILM

Deploying ILM requires the identification and segregation of mission critical data. This process broadly depends upon the complexity of systems running in an organization and the complexity of data generated on a daily basis. A lot of planning precedes any ILM implementation and you need experts as various products and technologies are involved.

For formulating an ILM policy, the first step is to understand the storage processes running within an organization. This requires a storage audit by an external team. "For defining ILM policy external consultants have to conduct a storage audit after due consultation with different departments," says Subash Baliga, Business Manager, Apara Enterprise Solutions.

SATA, magneto-optical disk and tape are the storage mediums of choice for ILM. "It is better to have this done by vendors or specialists as these are new technologies. In-house skills may not always be available in the BFSI industry as its core business is not IT," says Balasubramanian, HDFC Bank.

Benefits of ILM

Daya Prakash, Project Manager (LG Electronics India - ERP & e-business), LG Soft India Pvt Ltd says, "ILM ensures that all critical information is available and the sensitive information is intact. It helps consolidate hardware and helps in maintaining the overall cost of expenditure on storage." ILM ensures that the reference information is available and can be rapidly retrieved. Active archival can transform unstructured data into a searchable database.

"Meeting statutory or regulatory requirements for historical access of reports or transactions in a less expensive manner is the key benefit of ILM. ILM provides a structured way of handling huge masses of data and makes it available conveniently. This should be process driven and independent of people," says Balasubramanian, HDFC Bank.

Agendra Kumar, country manager, Veritas Software, says, "It is estimated that 90 percent of data stored on disk is seldom or never accessed after 90 days. An ILM strategy recognizes that not all data is created equal, and that as it moves through its lifecycle, it must be managed and stored at different levels on increasingly cost-efficient technologies."

ROI considerations are leading companies to tiered storage externally and internally. An enterprise may have several applications such as data warehousing, billing and testing & development. Today it has to put testing & development onto the same infrastructure as billing. However, unlike billing, testing & development isn't mission critical. Enterprises should be able to move this sort of non-critical application to secondary systems. Once testing and development is done, they should be able to move the tested application to tier I storage. Data should move seamlessly between tier II and tier I storage. All this is facilitated by ILM.

Mike Sparkes, Product Marketing Manager, APAC, Quantum says, "New reporting and storage requirements driven by legislation place extra pressure on storage systems and on IT managers. Often the cost of storing extra data can be swamped by the cost of managing and retrieving it in a reasonable time. Proper ILM implementations should be able to keep track of different categories of data and ease the effort of reporting."

Verticals adopting ILM

ILM will be driven by those set-ups that have already generated enormous data sets that need to be stored and categorized according to their criticality. BFSI, telecom, healthcare and BPO are all industry segments that fall into this category. "Different verticals have

different requirements," says Balasubramanian of HDFC Bank adding, "Presently we are using a COLD (Computer Output to Laser Disk) solution." The bank is also evaluating ILM solutions. Indian BFSI and healthcare organizations are going in for e-mail archiving in a big way. The Sarabanes-Oxley Act mandates that e-mail and instant messages must be archived for five years. This will be a major driver for ILM adoption in India.

In the case of manufacturing, it'll be a different story. "Manufacturing companies use CAD/CAM tools for designing products. "That data is managed using PLM which is essentially ILM for manufacturing," says Agarwal of IBM.

Is it for real?

There will be substantial ILM implementations in the next two years. To start with, it will be large enterprises that take the plunge. Naveen Mishra, Senior Analyst for Computing Products Research Group at IDC India says, "The adoption of ILM is happening in bits and pieces in India. We expect to see increasing awareness about ILM amongst Indian enterprises in 2004."

V Vivekanand, Business Development Manager Hitachi Data Systems says, "Indian enterprises which have to comply to US regulations and which are listed in the US will go in for ILM in a big way. An enterprise in telecom or banking needs to preserve its data for eight to ten years. Companies have started archiving data, especially e-mail." HDS is in the process of implementing its data life cycle solutions in four enterprises from the BFSI and software services verticals.

"ILM is a reality with more and more stringent regulatory and statutory requirements are outlined. It is also important in view of the large data volumes generated by various industries," concludes Balasubramanian of HDFC Bank.

"Even mid-sized companies have started implementing ILM in innovative ways. You can do it with sub-$100,000 budgets. ILM is a strategy, not a product," adds Chugh.

All a company has to do to reap the benefits of ILM is implement three tiers of storage and install software to move data from tier to tier and manage the said tiers.

Identification of critical data and segregating it on a priority basis is complex work that may require huge investments involving a thorough audit of storage assets and re-engineering of storage systems to streamline ILM adoption across the enterprise.

Abhinav Singh can be reached at

ILM products

Vendors Product Features

EMC ANS (Automated A solution for companies that use Microsoft Exchange.

Network Storage) EMC has worked closely with the Microsoft Exchange team to develop automated back-up capabilities that integrate with Exchange 2000 Server APIs to make it more storage-aware.

Sun Microsystems Infinite mail box It is offered to Lotus customers aiming to providestorage solution. unlimited e-mail storage to Notes users.

HDS Message Archive. It lets companies retain an unalterable archive of e-mail and instant messages.

CIO's Take on ILM

  • "ILM ensures that critical information is available and that sensitive information stays intact," says, Prakash, LG Soft (manages LGEIL's IT set-up).
  • "ILM is a reality with more stringent regulatory and statutory requirements being outlined," says SR Balasubramanian of HDFC Bank.
  • "ILM has been part of our banking environment ever since the inception of our bank,' says Sanjay Sharma, Head IT, IDBI Bank.
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