Why information lifecycle management matters
With disk prices falling, many wonder if Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) has had its day. After all, there's little point in being able to automate the migration of data between storage tiers - often trumpeted as one of the major benefits of ILM - when it's just as cost effective keeping everything on-line on the primary store. But all is not as it seems, and if you dig beneath the surface, you soon realise there's still a lot of life left in the ILM model, both for users and the industry.
Let's start by looking at what disk prices are really doing. While it's true that raw disk prices are falling, actual disk array product prices are not. User demand for increased high-availability of data means you need to package your disk storage with expensive features such as redundant components (in-built RAID) and redundant data copies (in-built replication) as well as other fail safe components. Storage vendors naturally continually add new features to storage sub-systems in an attempt to maintain margins. Many of these features often do not get used, but customers still have to pay for them, and some analysts estimate that the cost of primary storage devices is rising by 25% annually (John Toigo, The Data Management Institute).
The ILM detractors are failing to account for the high cost of managing primary storage. If you put data on disk, you need to guarantee you can bring it up somewhere else in case of failure. You're forced to do things like backup, point-in-time replication and mirroring, tying up expensive storage administrators and driving up costs. Recent research suggests that the operational cost of primary storage is 13 times the cost of the hardware and management software (Business Solutions Magazine, April 2007).
Cost is only part of the picture. As data volumes rapidly escalate, it cannot be long before organisations hit time and space limitations that prevent them keeping everything on disk. As more data piles up, the time required to back it up starts to approach a physical hard stop, and many sites run out of rack space or find that adding more disk will exceed their electricity and cooling capacity.
Even if you ignored the physical and cost constraints, there's still a valid reason to adopt ILM: to manage data appropriately throughout its lifetime. Whether active or dormant, data must be protected and held in accordance with rules or organisational standards. And, even if it is unused for long periods, organisations must be able to search for it, find it, and retrieve it.
Emerging ILM archiving products can classify data and automatically apply the appropriate handling for each data class during different phases of the lifecycle. This includes handling the special needs of regulated data such a guaranteeing authenticity and keeping data secure in a non-editable, non-deletable environment, such as WORM. Information is not only an asset; after its useful life it becomes a potential liability. Hence the Data Protection act warns against keeping confidential personal data any longer than required. So, far from keeping all your data forever, you must ensure its deletion at the appropriate time. Rather than doing this manually, ILM archive systems can be configured to automatically select retention policies, ensuring data is accessible during its lifecycle but then destroyed upon expiration. With organisations demanding greater control over their data for governance and operational reasons, ILM archive technology is now also providing indexing and searching by both attribute and content, so the underlying information assets within an archive can be rapidly found. This becomes particularly valuable in e-discovery situations, when finding information relevant to a legal proceeding can protect company reputations as well as help avoid financial sanctions.
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