EMC and HP join information lifecycle management wave

* Why ILM is fast becoming a major IT initiative

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Information lifecycle management (ILM) has leapt onto center stage during the last seven days.  Two major storage players, EMC and HP, recently made major announcements, the purpose of which is to position the two companies to be important players in what is fast becoming a major IT initiative.

This column has made increasing reference to ILM over the course of the last several months, but for the benefit of those who may have taken a summer break from the IT wars - or who were perhaps just caught up in the day-to-day challenge of maintaining the service levels you were silly enough to promise your users - ILM is based on four fundamental assumptions:

* All information is not of equal value to its owners (for example, the file containing the information for the office's weekly football pool is presumably less valuable to a company than is the file containing the Accounts Payable).

* Information changes in value to its owners over time (this month's sales figures become less valuable to your organization with each passing month).

* IT resources should be allocated to data and applications according to the value of that data to the company (important data gets the most reliable hardware and the best backup and recovery services).

* The data must be managed throughout its entire lifespan (it must have appropriate levels of both protection and accessibility throughout the online, near-line, offline and archived stages of its life).

EMC's positioning in the upcoming ILM wars was certainly dramatic.  Its corporate vision as announced on Sept. 22 tells us that it wants to "create the ultimate information lifecycle management company..." It defines its approach as managing the creation, protection, migration, archiving and ultimate disposal of data, managing data migration as it passes from state to state throughout its lifecycle. 

HP's data management announcement last week (see link below) focused on its ability to deliver cradle-to-grave solutions applying to data retention, data management, and the management of reference information. More than that however, HP addressed the importance to ILM of managing more than storage alone, and pointed to its historical competence of managing across the enterprise. 

What does this mean for you? Both companies have in fact been providing various aspects of ILM for several years now, so at this point the significance of the announcements has less to do with technology and much more to do with defining a marketing direction.  EMC will get some useful mileage out of its Legato acquisition, and HP is sure to benefit from the intellectual property it produces as it continues to roll our its Adaptive Infrastructure initiative.  How all of this is implemented will of course be the key.

While neither company has all the technology it needs to deliver full-blown ILM solutions at this time, these announcements are good indicators of where a large chunk of their R&D investment will be going. It is abundantly clear that the degree to which these and other vendors can automate and integrate their various solutions will play a major part in defining their success.

Of course EMC and HP aren't the only vendors working on and delivering pieces of an ILM solution. Several of their competitors (StorageTek and Outer Bay come to mind, but there are many others as well) also provide ILM technology. IBM, with its history in hierarchical storage management  and its investment in autonomic computing is sure to join in the mix in the very near future.  Sun and Veritas are likely to weigh in on this as well.

Learn more about this topic

HP unwraps expanded data management plan

IDG News Service, 09/17/03

Valuing data: When is data less useful?

Network World Storage in the Enterprise Newsletter, 06/26/03

Why virtualized tape?

Network World Storage in the Enterprise Newsletter, 09/09/03

Network Appliance boosts network storage offering

Network World, 09/22/03

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