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Achieving true information lifecycle management

Storage Expo : 01 September, 2008  (Technical Article)
Alec Bruce of Hitachi Data Systems provides insight into the what Information Lifecycle Management really means to industry and how it can be achieved
Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) has been hyped in the last few years and is often seen as a panacea for all business and IT challenges that can be implemented immediately.

The reality is different, as true ILM is still many years away. A SNIA survey found that one of the most common ways of losing information is not being able to interpret it properly - a problem ILM is intended to overcome. The key lies in the difference between information and data. Data is defined as the raw codes that make up any document or application. This data becomes information when it is put into context - its value and meaning can change depending on that context.

An IT system works with data. Information is a much more subjective concept - something that is simple for humans to understand but not easy for machines. Establishing rules and processes that govern business and IT operations based on the value of information is correspondingly complex.

DLM is the combination of solutions that helps CIOs and IT managers deliver data management services to any given application environment. This includes protecting data, moving it around, and presenting it to that environment - activities that are tightly connected with managing the different storage resource profiles.
Information cannot exist without the data that underpins it, so ILM relies on DLM processes to effectively fit in with the IT infrastructure while also addressing changing business priorities.

General management practices put in place around storage mean that many IT departments have deployed DLM at least partially. It has become wide-spread because it enables better alignment of data storage and management practices with key enterprise applications, helping to drive IT towards business process management objectives - an important aim for all CIOs and part of the eventual ILM vision.

ILM has generated hype because it enables IT to drive better efficiency and business performance but it may be five to ten years before we are able to realise true ILM. What most of the industry sees as ILM at the moment is in fact DLM - controlling the movement of data across the storage hierarchy depending on its value to the business.

Traditionally content is moved down the storage hierarchy as it ages, but in fact the most important piece of information in any organisation is the one needed for the next business evolution. DLM ensures that wherever the answer is, it is easily accessible when required.

By introducing rules to relate the movement of data to application demands, companies are incorporating a link with business process management as well, but not equivalent to ILM practices. While DLM can be related to business on an application requirement level, ILM will do so on a business information level.
In summary, managing information is much more complex than managing data. While the industry should be looking towards ILM as a future goal, the technology available today means that DLM is currently more achievable and should be approached as the first step in the process.

Catch Alec Bruce at Storage Expo, 'The problem with archived data and how to solve it', Wednesday 15th October, Seminar Theatre 2 at 12.45pm. Hitachi Data Systems UK is exhibiting at Storage Expo 2008 the UK's definitive event for data storage, information and content management. Now in its 8th year, the show features a comprehensive FREE education programme and over 100 exhibitors at the National Hall, Olympia, London from 15 - 16 October 2008
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