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Along the road toward ILM

I’m not going to bore you with another introduction to Information Lifecycle Management. Odds are you’ve already read one of the dozens of articles that have appeared in major storage industry publications.

While the term Information Lifecycle Management is relatively new, many of the underlying concepts have been with us for quite some time. Most notable is the idea of managing information from inception to deletion, an idea central to the ILM philosophy, which has existed as part of the document/content/digital asset management1 mantra for well over ten years.

Storage is from Mars, Information is from Venus

Prior to 2000, storage vendors and content management vendors lived on two different planets (the one noteworthy exception is IBM and its Content Manager product introduced in 1994).2

I’ll spare you the history lesson—let’s just zoom ahead to the past three years. What has evolved are storage management products with mediocre information management functionality, and content management products with mediocre storage management functionality—the result of two separate industries (each lacking the others’ expertise) approaching similar data/information management issues from two completely different perspectives.

Top down versus bottom up

The storage industry has a decidedly bottom-up technical perspective of information management, rooted in the abstract world of bits, bytes, files, and blocks, with relatively crude data classification schemes, and discovery processes. In some environments, using today’s storage management applications is like playing chess with your eyes closed.3

In contrast, the content management industry has always had a top-down business perspective of information management. Quite a few of the products include highly customizable information ingestion, profiling, classification, and search features designed specifically for handling complex information assets. Content management vendors understand information management, but they simply do not understand storage management. One look at their [comparatively crude] built-in storage utilities and you’ll understand precisely what I mean. Using their applications to manage a storage environment is like maintaining a Ferrari with a hammer and screwdriver.

Like chocolate and peanut butter

Storage management and content management are truly a match made in heaven. As the two continue to evolve they must also begin to blend together seamlessly if users can ever expect to achieve the lofty goals of ILM.

In an Analyst View article that will appear in the May 2004 issue of InfoStor, I discuss a handful of the disconnects between the worlds of storage and content management. To avoid the pitfalls discussed in the article three things must happen:

  1. Storage vendors must work with their content management counterparts to blend their environments. Over the next several years they’ll need to agree upon and adopt standard ways to describe, store, and manage information. And a single shared policy engine is an absolute must-have. Fortunately a few vendors have already begun that process.
  2. Users must pressure the vendors to collaborate and standardize. Vertical integrations offer a short term solution, but the potential for lock-in is both costly and unacceptable. Horizontal interoperability is much more complicated and difficult to achieve, but well worth the investment. With vendor cooperation and pressure from the user community, it can be accomplished. Ultimately users should be able to bring together whichever front- and back-end they prefer. (If you think it is difficult to migrate from one storage infrastucture to another, try migrating tens of thousands, or millions of information assets from one content management system to another.)
  3. Users must understand that no amount of technology will fix poor information management practices. They should seek ways to simplify and streamline information asset management, perhaps with help from their vendors. Interdependent information scattered across an enterprise is a man-made disaster waiting to happen. The academic appeal wears off right around the time the CIO tallies the very real cost of managing and protecting those assets.

1 For the sake of discussion I’ll just use the term content management.

2 Since as early as 1996, IBM has improved the integration between its content management and storage management environments, namely Content Manager and TSM. I’ll never understand why IBM took so long to point this out to its customers.

3 This is a sweeping generalization. For one, I’m using “storage management product” in the broadest sense of the term. And, obviously some storage management products provide a great deal of functionality and intelligence. But most still lack the *right* intelligence.

This post was originally published in Data Mobility Group’s first blog, “Perspectives on Storage”, on March 22nd, 2004.

One Response to “Along the road toward ILM”

  1. Storage is from Mars, Information is from Venus | Digital Asset Management Says:

    […] Along the road toward ILM […]

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