CommVault's Simpana 9: Making Information Governance Actionable

IT organizations are becoming more and more aware of the need for information governance but if their concerns only result in collaborative planning efforts there is no mechanism to actually put the plans into execution. However, there are solutions designed to help overcome this hurdle. The information management side of CommVault's Simpana 9 turns the planning exercise into actions that can achieve measurable results in such areas as eDiscovery and compliance.

David Hill

November 11, 2010

6 Min Read
Network Computing logo

IT organizations are becoming more and more aware of the need for information governance but if their concerns only result in collaborative planning efforts there is no mechanism to actually put the plans into execution. However, there are solutions designed to help overcome this hurdle. The information management side of CommVault's Simpana 9 turns the planning exercise into actions that can achieve measurable results in such areas as eDiscovery and compliance.

We'll get to what that really means, but first we'll consider CommVault. With roughly $271 million in revenues in fiscal year 2010 ending March 31 and consistent growth even during the financial trauma of recent years, the company can be safely characterized as a very successful software vendor.

CommVault's signature product is Simpana software and the newly introduced version of the product, Simpana 9, is characterized as a data and information management solution. That division of features is a critical point, as the two faces of Simpana are very important.

Data management and information management are two distinct and differing capabilities. Data management covers the non-data-path control and use of data from creation to deletion, including replication and backup/restore processes. Information management handles business content and the decision-making relationships of information as it moves through the lifecycle of business processes. Although Simpana 9 obviously has a strong data management side as this was the original face of CommVault's software and therefore has always served as a strong foundation, our focus today will be on the information management side and its relevance to governance. The bailiwick of information governance includes the people, processes, and technologies necessary to ensure the preservation, availability, confidentiality, and usability of an enterprise's information resources.

To greatly simplify a complex situation, governance requires enterprises to understand what data they have at a low level of granularity. But it is not only simply being able to find and review that information but also to effectively manage it. Management covers a wide variety of issues, but managing retention policies, ensuring that the information is authentic, and preserving the privacy of sensitive information are among them. As might be expected, Simpana 9 has a robust framework that covers all the necessary and typical governance capabilities (in a general sense) that a company might require.As Simpana 9 is too broad a subject for an in-depth discussion here, we will illustrate three key aspects of the CommVault solution: enterprise search, workflow and retention lifecycle management.

Since you cannot manage what you don't know that you have, enterprise search is a key capability that must also provide the precision to find what you want and the user interface to manage the search process, along with the ability to scale to a company's specific requirements. First, size matters, since objects such as files including documents and emails numbering in the millions are likely to be the starting point in many enterprises. Simpana 9 can handle 50 million plus objects per node and individual index "cloud" systems can handle up to 8 nodes. That should be enough for most situations, however even then Simpana is able support any number of indexing "clouds" and can federate across all of them.

Another critical point related to search is the degree of precision required to find exactly what you need. For example, the goal in eDiscovery is to find all the information relevant to a legal case or proceeding. But the challenge is to accomplish that goal without bringing too much extraneous information back along with the relevant material since visually reviewing non-relevant information translates into an unnecessary expense. Simpana 9 offers advanced query capabilities, including nested criteria chains as part of other fundamental features including standard Boolean search, file type selections, and date/time ranges. Simpana 9's interface offers users a straightforward method for query encoding to enable the combination's that add precision to the search process, as well as intuitive mining capabilities purpose-built for early case assessment in an eDiscovery process.

Simpana 9 also has built-in workflow process management capabilities. For example, that is very important for eDiscovery, which is really all about effectively managing steps in the workflow process, including such things as litigation hold, early case assessment (ECA) and attorney review. Keeping track of who does what and everything that happens on a case becomes critically important if the process is challenged in court. Compliance is another area where the workflow capabilities of Simpana 9 play an essential role, such as the platform's features for automated sampling and role supervision.

Retention Lifecycle Management (RLM) is a third key element in Simpana 9's capabilities. Knowing when and how to legally destroy data is critical since improper data disposal can create a legal nightmare or the loss of still useful data. On the other hand, failure to dispose of data in a timely manner can lead to exposure to needless litigation risks as well as the administrative and infrastructure costs associated with unnecessary data bloat. But disposal is only one step in RLM. How do you manage all the other data that needs to be preserved as efficiently and economically as possible? That process includes all the copies of the data, not just the production copy.Although CommVault may or may not be alone in discovering and managing all copies of extant data, this is an important element of the Simpana 9 framework as it considers the backup, archive, replica, ingest and cloud copies in an enterprise's data infrastructure. All use storage and all require administrative attention. Simpana 9 supports efficiencies, such as global deduplication, tiered storage, and cloud-based provisioning. All this is built around a classification process that enables alignment with retention policy management, such as being able to identify and manage information by its sensitivity (as early warning detection of potential privacy breaches is another important lifecycle management capability).

Information governance is attracting a lot of attention these days. Although the process is an enterprise-wide responsibility that covers all the information in an organization, getting the attention and resources necessary to implement it typically requires at least one painful stone-in-the-shoe problem that needs to be addressed, and eDiscovery and compliance are two such pain points.

Although Simpana 9 certainly provides the information governance capabilities required to deal with these two issues, it really is a general information governance framework. For example, while workflow management is essential to eDiscovery and compliance specifically, RLM provides general benefits to the business such as managing IT costs through better use of storage assets, in addition to project activities like compliance.

Trying to cover the breadth and depth of a product such as Simpana 9 in a short article like this is impossible as any one capability, such as workflow, can be broken down into very detailed functions. Simpana 9 also has numerous other capabilities than the enterprise search, workflow, and retention lifecycle management features discussed here. IT organizations interested in Simpana 9 will have to explore deeply under the covers, but that is a good thing as it will enable them to come to a better understanding of what they need to fully exploit Simpana 9's management capabilities and its information governance framework vision.

At the time of publication, CommVault was not a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.

About the Author(s)

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like


More Insights