ILM tools appealing but remain distant

IT managers are intrigued by new technology designed to automatically manage data from creation to deletion. But many users at last week's Storage Networking World Fall 2003 conference in Orlando cautioned that so-called information life-cycle management approaches will require years of development.

To make the new concept work, conference attendees said, vendors will have to integrate storage devices, management tools and business applications and develop more robust policy-based engines that can dictate how, where and for how long data gets stored. Some users said vendors should first concentrate on making their existing storage products more interoperable.

James Medeiros, information systems and services manager at United Parcel Service Inc., said he has yet to be convinced that Atlanta-based UPS should spend money on unproven life-cycle management technologies in an effort to make its storage management operations more efficient.

"As much as I'm out to eliminate multivendor tool sets and drive more policy-based management, I only have 25 storage (technicians) managing that infrastructure, compared to 4,700 IT workers overall," Medeiros said. "I'll take a beating on cost before I take a beating on reliability."

What Medeiros really needs is wider interoperability between rival products to make a planned storage management consolidation project possible. Medeiros, who manages 300TB of storage capacity at a data center in New Jersey, said he wants to tie in an additional 400TB that's spread among 1,500 UPS offices worldwide.

Information life-cycle management was one of the most talked-about topics at last week's conference, which was co-sponsored by Computerworld and the San Francisco-based Storage Networking Industry Association and drew more than 2,600 attendees.

During one packed session, 11 percent of the audience indicated via electronic polling devices that they have already installed information life-cycle management components. Thirty-three percent said they plan to begin deployments in the next 12 months, and another 30 percent said they would do so within two years.

Top storage vendors such as EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Hitachi Data Systems Corp. and Veritas Software Corp. have announced information life-cycle management software or have said they're developing technology that's designed to support automated storage management approaches.

But Steve Duplessie, an analyst at The Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Mass., said information life-cycle management currently is little more than marketing jargon without real products to back up the promises of vendors.

Mark Lewis, EMC's chief technology officer, acknowledged that the technology is still in the early stages of development. "We don't think anyone is doing it well," he said during a press briefing. "We don't think we're doing it well, at least not yet."

First Data Corp. in Greenwood Village, Colo., is one convert. Jerome Wendt, a senior storage analyst at First Data, said he's already planning the payment-processing company's information life-cycle management strategy, which will include the use of storage virtualization software that can pool disk capacity on storage-area networks (SAN).

Wendt is also testing tools from EMC, Veritas and Fujitsu Software Technology Corp. that he hopes will give him better data about the usage of storage capacity on servers and disk arrays than his existing spreadsheet models.

Automated storage management systems would ease headaches for IT managers charged with destroying old data that no longer has to be kept to satisfy government regulators, Wendt said. As part of his plan, Wendt is classifying First Data's information to specify the storage media to be used for different data during its life cycle.

First Data also plans to deploy several tiers of storage, including arrays with low-cost disks that can provide secondary repositories for near-line storage. "By doing that, you free up space on (your primary) storage for mission-critical databases," Wendt said.

But for many other users, information life-cycle management implementations won't happen anytime soon.

Jerry McElhatton, senior executive vice president of global technology and operations at MasterCard International Inc. in Purchase, N.Y., had a blunt message for vendors. "Come back to us when you have something meaningful that will serve a business need and demonstrate a purpose," he said.

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