Users Mull ILM Muddle

ILM hype continues to mystify

September 20, 2006

3 Min Read
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BOSTON -- StorageWorld -- IT managers at a conference here in Beantown are scratching their heads over Information Lifecycle Management, or ILM.

"My gut feel is that it's [still] in the buzzword phase, and that practical solutions are still a long way off for larger companies," says Bill Nutter, IT director of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.-based McDash Analytics, a data service for the mortgage banking industry.

Nutter, for one, is not convinced by the ILM offerings on the market. "[Users' data] problems are so heterogeneous that it's hard to imagine a hardware and software solution that you could just drop into corporate entities," he says. "I used to work in the broadcast industry, and EMC's ILM efforts didn't really connect to all of our business issues."

EMC has just launched Infoscape software and service to tackle concerns about data classification and migration related to ILM. (See EMC Intros Services.) But at this stage, it is still early days for Infoscape, and the solution's limited scope and high pricetag have been cited as potential barriers to near-term deployment. (See EMC Vows More for Infoscape.)

At least one other storage consumer isn't ready to go the ILM route, at least not on a large scale. "The things that put me off are costs, complexity, and vendor lock-in," says Brian Clouthier, LAN systems engineer of Chelsea, Mass.-based dairy products distributor Hood. "I want the ability to throw my vendor out the door in five minutes if I want to."But Clouthier remains open to the possibilities of ILM, although he thinks that offerings from EMC, HP, IBM, and other big suppliers would be overkill for a 10-Tbyte firm like Hood. Instead, software from vendors such as Compellent, which, unlike EMC's Infoscape, automatically assigns data to tiers based on block-level parameters, could be an option. (See Compellent Automates Classification, Compellent 'Blocks' ILM, and World Wildlife Fund.) "I think that's all we need initially," says the milkman. Another player with block-level ILM automation is Pillar Data Systems.

"We dont need to worry about data classification, it just happens in the background," says John White, MIS officer at Brockton, Mass.-based Harbor One Credit Union, which is using Compellent's system to shift blocks of data between primary Fibre Channel storage and a secondary SATA tier. "After 14 days, if a block is untouched, it moves from our Fibre to our SATA storage," he adds, explaining that file-level ILM would simply slow this process down.

Then again, the block-level approach may be too simplistic for some firms.

Bottom line? ILM is a catch-all term for a storage approach that is still in the formative stage. Consumers are cautious about vendor claims, since there's no clear definition of ILM -- or consistent direction for implementing it.

By the way, you can register your views on ILM by taking the latest Byte & Switch poll: (See ILM = Invest Lots More.)— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Compellent Technologies Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Pillar Data Systems Inc.

  • Veritas Software Corp.

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