Information lifecycle management will play a significant role in Computer Associates' storage plans for the next several years. So, how is CA building its ILM strategy?
First, understand that these plans are very much a work-in-progress, and that they are in the process of being tuned by the BrightStor group's new management. That being said, let's look at how CA is approaching the topic.
The approach is given structure according to what CA calls its "ILM Maturity Model", which sounds a bit like the Software Engineering Institute's Capability Maturity Model but, mercifully, really isn't (it is more akin to Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human needs).
CA's model has four phases, or levels, representing successive stages of ILM sophistication. Implicit in any progress through the model is growth in a company's management automation.
- Level 1, the "reactive" phase, is labor-intensive and automation-deficient.
- Level 2, the "efficient" phase, features intelligent storage management.
- Level 3, the "responsive" phase, manages business content.
- Level 4, the "business-driven" phase, provides a unified view of both business and IT by taking advantage of a single database to look across the assets and business needs of the whole enterprise.
CA figures most of its offerings are somewhere within Level 2 in terms of providing storage solutions, which is to say CA is able to provide some level of storage resource management, storage-area network management and backup and recovery through automated management tools. Mostly because of the company's new BrightStor Document Manager, CA execs feel they are in the early stages of Level 3 when it comes to managing some business content. Obviously all this will have to be well integrated, well automated and interoperable before it can be considered a real ILM solution.
Key to all this will be the ability to classify data, IT processes and business processes in terms of both their values relative to one another and their usefulness to the business.
Although the model is far from being complete, it is a pretty good shot at representing a value hierarchy for ILM and it adds a bit of clarity to the topic. Clarity, of course, is something the industry is lacking right now when it comes to defining ILM.
Of course, a model is not a strategy, but assuming CA continues to develop the model and uses it to provide strategic guidance, we have some sense of where the company expects to go. It is also a certainty that as the model develops, CA will define things so as to leverage its present strengths in security, enterprise management and product lifecycle management.
Because of its strengths in storage and in other areas of IT, and especially because the company has by many accounts become a good partner to its technology and service allies, it is likely that CA will have a solid play in ILM, if it can first refine its strategy and then execute against it. Where this will lead the company is still to be determined, but a big piece of that execution will have to do with how successful the company is at integrating its existing product set and adding functionality either via acquisition or through technology alliances. All this will be critical if it is to provide a full suite of ILM products.
CA's ILM Maturity Model also raises another interesting point: this industry has been groping for an ILM taxonomy for a while now. The Storage Networking Industry Association is working on this, as of course is each individual vendor. Even if we disagree with individual aspects of CA's model, the concept behind it - a simple but comprehensive representation of what IT ought to have as it progresses towards increased organizational maturity - is clearly a good thing. At least it would provide some common ground from which buyers could analyse their needs and the alternatives they have to address them.
Mike Karp is senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates, focusing on storage, storage management and the methodology that brings these issues into the marketplace. He has spent more than 20 years in storage, systems management and telecommunications.