The new buzzwords: Information lifecycle management

Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) is quickly becoming the buzzword of the storage industry. As new regulatory rules are created, and the number of disaster recovery implementations increase, ILM will play a pivotal role in helping IT professionals adhere to new standards while incurring minimum management headaches.

What's important to remember is that ILM is not a technology - it is a combination of processes and technologies that determines how data flows through an environment. By doing so, it helps end users manage data from the moment it is created to the time it is no longer needed. Many companies are implementing a combination of these technologies and processes to enable a successful ILM practice.

The process

ILM uses a number of technologies and business methodologies, including the following:

  • Assessment
  • Socialization
  • Classification
  • Automation
  • Review

In the assessment phase of ILM, storage administrators can take advantage of storage resource management (SRM) technologies. SRM solutions help IT administrators figure out what data resides on the storage assets in their environment.

Most SRM tools can generate reports for IT that outline data usage patterns. Once the IT department understands what data it has and where this data lives, it can begin the next steps of the ILM process: generating reports from the SRM tools, presenting them to the company's department heads and explaining the breakdown of storage asset utilization and the costs involved. This process is known as the socialization phase of ILM.

Once IT meets with the department heads, and the groups collaborate to understand data usage patterns, department heads must determine how this data is used and how critical it is to the business at any given point in time. The ability to prioritize data based on business requirements (that is, mission-critical, business-sensitive and departmental) will allow IT to determine where data should live through its lifecycle and assist in creating policies to migrate data to the proper storage "class" over time.

IT must work with department heads to set up a classification schema for the company. Data can be classified in the following ways:

  • Data type
  • Data "organization"
  • Data age
  • Data "value"

IT will use all data collected at this point to establish policies to automate the data's migration through the environment, with a minimum amount of hands-on data management. SRM solutions should be employed throughout the ILM process, not merely for an initial assessment. SRM technology can monitor the storage environment constantly, revealing where excess capacity, duplicate files, "unnecessary files" or aged files exist. This information is very important in the ILM process, for it is essential in understanding which data should be migrated, archived or purged.

The automation phase

Once data has been classified, and IT and the department heads have agreed on a plan for where their data should live at any point in its life cycle, policies must be established to determine where (on which storage resources) the data should be located. Automated Data Migration (ADM) tools can automate the migration of data from one storage class to another based on user-defined policies.

ADM solutions are essentially a combination of intelligent SRM and hierarchical storage management (HSM) . HSM was designed to automate data migration for archival purposes, and it is access-driven. In contrast, ADM solutions enable data migration across various storage resources based on a combination of user-defined criteria, and it is data-value-driven.

Quality ADM tools assist IT in assigning value to the storage assets within the environment. Administrators can set up criteria around the data based on type, ownership, last access or age. Data from a specific type of application may be placed on primary storage, but it may be migrated later to secondary storage or archive if it has not been accessed in a certain period of time.

Another policy option allows data from one application to be mirrored or copied to secondary storage as soon as it is written. Significant cost savings can be realized when data is assigned to storage resources according to the data's value. ADM solutions also have the ability to "recover" data to a higher-level storage resource if that data has been migrated to secondary storage and is accessed repeatedly. These solutions provide IT with the ability to optimize storage resources based on the value of the data.

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