Taking Care of Data: ILM Gets Down to Business

News Analysis: Information lifecycle management gives overloaded storage managers a helping hand. And a slew of ILM products are on tap from the likes of HP and Hitachi Data Systems.

Bill Graff, senior manager of infrastructure for CernerWorks, the remote hosting business unit of Cerner Corp., of Kansas City, Mo., is trying to outrun a data avalanche.

"Storage is a big budget-line item for us. Its significant because we do 1.5 petabytes of [spinning disk] storage today, and thats more than double what we had at this point last year," Graff said. "Thats the rapid growth of data were up against."

Graffs real challenge: Managing that data cost-effectively. To help maintain information ability, support SLAs (service-level agreements) and brace its storage architecture against the daily onslaught of data squeezing its capacity, CernerWorks is embracing a tiered storage methodology built on top of Hewlett-Packard technology.

Graff, who cant allow storage spending to increase beyond 16 to 17 percent of the companys shrinking technology budget, divvies up the companys data into five levels of storage tiers, much like a postal worker would sort mail into bins. Data is categorized based on whether the data is in production, serves a purpose such as meeting a compliance requirement and is expensive to keep.

This approach, known as ILM (information lifecycle management), will be a key topic during the Storage Networking World conference in San Diego April 3-6.

Hitachi Data Systems, a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd., will announce "tiered storage in a box," sources said. The product will reside in HDS portfolio of midrange systems. The company declined to comment.

In addition, Compellent Technologies and OnStor will introduce an integrated SAN (storage area network) and NAS (network-attached storage) offering featuring automated tiered storage capabilities. The partnership will allow storage expenditures to be reduced by migrating data among multiple storage tiers.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read a review of the OnStor 2260 NAS Gateway.

Meanwhile, as a key steppingstone to achieving data classification critical to ILM, StoredIQ will announce Version 3.6 of its ICM (Information Classification Management) 5000 information server, which offers new four-node and eight-node cluster options to push distributed file- and context-based classification.

And, in the next two months, HP will get into the ILM act via its recent acquisition of OuterBay—a database archiving provider—and the first fruits of its relationship with Mendocino Software to incorporate CDP (continuous data protection) technology.

HP will unveil a new CDP product that is based on a redesigned version of Mendocinos RecoveryOne CDP appliance, which HP currently resells as part of an OEM agreement signed last year. HP also is expected to make an announcement regarding its HP StorageWorks RIM (Reference Information Manager) for Database Archiving offering based on OuterBay technology. Sources say HP will tightly integrate the Mendocino and OuterBay technologies to simplify ILM implementations.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead more here about HPs plans for continuous data protection.

Why all the attention for ILM? When it comes to storage, technology managers such as Graff; Marty Colburn, chief technology officer and executive vice president for the National Association of Securities Dealers; and Joe Furmanski, lead technology architect for the Information Systems Division at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, have two choices—spend more on storage or become savvy about how data is managed.

Content, of both the structured and unstructured variety, continues to swell and become more sensitive. That data avalanche means its no longer economically viable to add more servers and storage devices to manage items such as e-mail and electronic documents.

Making matters worse, tight budgets and shrinking backup windows are putting the squeeze on resources often used in the past to handle mushrooming data growth.

As a result, organizations are being forced to become smarter about aligning storage and information needs. Thats opening doors for ILM to help separate data by multiple tiers based on its day-to-day importance.

"After you have [an ILM] solution in place, ideally it should allow a customer to purchase storage hardware more intelligently than they have in the past," said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT Research, in Hayward, Calif.

The problem with Kings view of storage utopia is that a large number of potential ILM components, such as marrying an archiving workflow with tiered storage architecture, do not yet exist.

/zimages/3/28571.gifTo read more about tiered storage, click here.

"Were struggling with archiving and implementing real lifecycle data management because our customers say, I cant wait for 15 to 30 minutes for archive [off tape] to come back to me. I need it now," said Graff. "Its going to be critical that storage providers provide additional tools in the ILM realm."

Products alone, however, arent going to do the job. Companies also have to better link ILM with the business processes that route and use data. For financial services organizations such as the Washington-based NASD, ILM must address compliance and sift through, quickly sort and tag data pouring in from brokers, trade clearinghouses and other financial services entities.

Next Page: Looking at the full lifecycle of data.