ILM: Shape of Future Storage?

StorageTek prioritizes data, diversifies systems.

There was a feeling of optimism in the air at the StorageTek Forum, held last month in San Diego, fueled by the direction the storage market appears to be taking. Companies are now buying different types of storage, which is good news for Storage Technology Corp., the shows sponsor.

If eWEEK Labs had to summarize the StorageTek Forum in one acronym, it would be ILM (information lifecycle management). ILM, a major strategy that StorageTek is pitching to its customers and the industry, is built on the premise that the value of information is a dynamic factor. In simple terms, ILM seeks to find balance and efficiency among online, nearline and offline storage technologies.

Whereas StorageTek has championed multiple types of storage systems (disk, tape and so on), until quite recently, heavyweights including EMC Corp. made customers purchase expensive arrays. Now, with budget-strapped organizations demanding alternatives, EMC and others have finally started selling less-expensive systems.

Why ILM?

With ILM, the goal is to keep important and constantly accessed information on high-performance primary storage systems while moving infrequently accessed information to less-expensive storage, such as tape, optical and ATA-based systems.

Given that tape technologies are becoming more efficient (for the first time in two years, the storage density of tapes is growing slightly faster than that of hard drives) and that ATA RAID arrays can deliver high storage capacity at lower costs, IT managers can implement several tiers of storage to hold their data.

Prioritizing data and storage

StorageTeks ILM strategy calls for IT managers to use different storage technologies to suit the access and protection needs of their data. Following are examples of technologies that fit into ILM planning.

  • Backup Produces copies of data for restoration
  • Continuous backup Keeps track of data on a transaction level and allows IT managers to roll back data corruptions and errors
  • HSM Automatically moves infre-quently used data to less-expensive (but also less-accessible) media
  • WORM Ensures that data is pre-served in an uneditable, undeletable format
  • Mirroring and data replication over WAN Allows IT managers to create copies of critical data at secondary sites in case of disaster

Source: StorageTek

Backup is one example of an ILM storage tier that just about every company already has. In addition to traditional backup, ILM encourages the use of new technologies such as continuous backup, mirroring and snapshots to make data protection more extensive while also making data restoration much faster and less painful.

HSM (hierarchical storage management), which automatically migrates infrequently used data to less-expensive storage, is an example of a storage technology that hasnt been widely adopted in the open-systems space but may see much stronger growth in the near future. In the days of bigger budgets, IT managers could afford to just keep buying bigger and bigger storage systems. Now, with data growth going out of control and budgets static or decreasing, HSM will become more attractive.

If ILM and its adoption were the leading concept of StorageTek Forum, the most important product announcement was the introduction of the companys StreamLine SL8500 Modular Library System, which scales from 1,500 cartridge slots to 200,000 slots.

Slated to ship in the first half of next year, the StreamLine SL8500 (which is the successor to the popular Powder Horn library line) will be a large part of StorageTeks ILM strategy for the top tier of data centers, providing nearline storage for tape. Prices have not been announced.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at