A few months ago, I hosted an information life-cycle management video Webcast. One of the questions that came up was, "Where do I start with ILM without much risk?" It's a good question.
ILM recognizes that the business value of data will change over its lifetime, and that data should be moved to the most appropriate storage medium based on that value. ILM is a discipline that encompasses a set of processes, policies, and technologies, including tiered storage and some form of information classification capability. Any time you automatically move data, there will be some risk.
Business drivers for ILM include cutting storage costs by moving low-value data to inexpensive disk or tape as quickly as possible, meeting regulatory and legal compliance issues such as legal discovery with a minimum of effort and expense, and improving storage management and resource utilization.
So where to begin on the technology side? Two good choices are e-mail archiving and file virtualization.
Most business gets conducted via e-mail today, and the volume of mail produced and processed by enterprises continues to grow. In general, e-mail has high business value, which means IT needs a strategic approach to mail storage.
ILM isn't just technology. An ILM solution also has to be driven by policies that set a strategic vision.
An archive also eases mailbox quotas. Older mail is off the production mail database but still available to the end user with one click. With a seemingly infinite mailbox, IT doesn't have to contend with user workarounds to quotas, such as PST files that get squirreled onto local drives, file shares, or even USB drives.
E-mail is a prime target for legal discovery requests. Creating an archive means that IT gets copies of all mail (and prevents unscrupulous executives from deleting incriminating messages). Archives can also provide full content indexing and search, and help enforce retention policies so that e-mail can be saved as long as required, and no longer.
File virtualization, meanwhile, lets storage administrators make better use of available storage capacity (see story, "LAN And SAN Unite"). For instance, if one NAS appliance has more available space than another, the file virtualization system can tap that available space automatically, without the need to reconfigure clients or applications.
What does file virtualization have to do with ILM? It enables policy-based storage, in which administrators can move data to the most appropriate storage medium based on the business value of the data. For example, in-band file virtualization technologies let administrators keep music files off Tier 1 storage because the file virtualization system can move information based on its metadata. File virtualization systems also make data migration easier, because data can be moved even when users have files open or in use. The ability to move data fluidly among storage systems is a key concept of ILM.
Keep in mind that ILM isn't just technology. While products serve as the plumbing, an ILM solution also has to be driven by policies that set a strategic vision. That said, if you're looking to dip your toes into ILM, e-mail archiving and file virtualization are two good places to start.
Pool Your Resources With File Virtualization