New Storage Sector Rises from Regs

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Driven by new federal regulations, a new business category called information lifecyle management (ILM) has taken center stage in the storage industry.

ILM is geared for the cradle-to-grave management of "unstructured data" such as e-mails, attachments, and audio and video clips. Previously, CEOs didn't want to keep this information; now they have no choice.

Lawmakers responded to the rash of corporate scandals with regulations including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, SEC 17A-4, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Some of the measures require that companies save data for decades or risk stiff fines.

Osterman Research found about 60 percent of business information is stored within employees' e-mail systems. Because of this, the researcher reports e-mail storage is ballooning at a rate of about 40 percent each year.

Managing the glut is problematic. Not only must companies deploy tape backup and disks to handle the glut of data they store, but they also covet specific tools to retrieve only the files they need. Basic software can back up and recover whole systems, but locating a hundred or so specific files in a sea of millions can be quite daunting. That's why enterprise content management (ECM) and storage systems are coalescing.

Still, many companies seem to want it both ways when buying systems for compliance and retrieval, according to Enterprise Storage Group analyst Peter Gerr.

"Customers want to see the vision pitch, want to see the revolutionary idea, even while they are demanding the ability to make tactical purchases and evolutionary steps towards that goal," Gerr told internetnews.com. "It's a very challenging environment for both the vendors and the end-users."

Dealmaking to Meet Customer Requests

Brenda Zawatski, a VERITAS vice president, calls the compliance issue something of a "regulated disaster," because so much is now required of companies. As a result, vendors are teaming with content management and archiving specialists to provide reliable systems to save and locate files.

EMC recently signaled the importance of ILM in the storage sector when it announced plans to acquire Legato Systems, a maker of e-mail archiving and content management software. The deal unveiled an ILM strategy for EMC, which it continued to build on with the purchase of ECM software maker Documentum.

HP soon followed with its own ILM strategy, which included the company's bid to acquire e-mail archiving specialist and Legato competitor Persist Technologies last week.

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and AppIQ have also partnered with their own brand of ILM products.

IBM may not use the specific term ILM, but Big Blue possesses most of the necessary ECM and storage management pieces to assemble an ILM strategy. What IBM has done in the ILM space is repackage existing infrastructure to formulate offerings for specific compliance rules.

Bob Schultz, an HP senior vice president, reports his company's ILM strategy is all about getting information out.

"Indexing, searching, and retrieving are key aspects," Schultz told internetnews.com. "Our goal is to design an architecture that supports what (customers) need to get done."

Page 2: What's Next?

HP's modus operandi has been to provide archiving solutions to customers with the help of such firms as Persist and even Legato. By moving to acquire Persist, the company is ostensibly defending a valuable piece of its ILM strategy now that EMC has assimilated Legato.

Retrieving data can be costly, according to Persist CEO Paul O'Brien. "Suppose you have a top executive who sent a contract that a governing body asks to see," says O'Brien. "You'd have to go back and restore the server and do searches for the single file. It could cost them $1,000 per request, and if you get five per day, it could be a big problem."

Persist uses grid-like modular technology called SmartCells to find files by parsing metadata , or "data about data." For example, an e-mail includes – among other pieces of metadata information – the sender, the recipient, the time it was created, and the IP address it was sent from.

The Persist software portfolio also includes an index and tools to search and retrieve structured and unstructured content, which is a big part of what interested HP in the company.

Persist rival Legato is now an EMC unit. Denise Reier, a Legato vice president, oversees the e-mail archiving segment of Legato's business, including an application called E-mail Extender.

"Customers are driven by two different pain points," Reier told internetnews.com. "One is risk reduction — they don't want their name in the headlines in litigation or to be caught with any 'smoking gun' e-mail. But they must balance that with the cost of procuring additional solutions to archive data. Storage management is not enough."

Like Persist's product, E-mail Extender provides indexing and analyzes metadata. However, while most vendors offer the ability to find an e-mail addressed to a distribution list with hundreds of recipients, E-mail Extender can extract the exact name to whom the file was sent to even though the sender is listed as a distribution list alias.

As for specific compliance rules, ESG's Gerr says that despite the very broad Sarbanes-Oxley Act popping up as one of the top compliance rules listed by vendors and customers, HIPAA is a larger opportunity for storage vendors.

"Sarbanes-Oxley is not that big a deal as it relates to storage industry," he explains. "Sarbanes-Oxley is horizontal. It's about process and about setting an acceptable level of internal controls ... It's not like HIPAA, where you're required to keep a digital MRI for a patient for 90 years or so."

What's Next?

Despite the furor to forge ILM strategies, not all corporations are hopping on board, according to new research from Tower Group. The research group predicts this will change as more companies stumble on data backup and end up slapped with fines.

"Tower Group believes that institutions may be looking at substantial technology investments in order to meet the requirements of financial transparency bubbling up from the transaction level," says Virginia Garcia, a senior analyst at Tower Group.

ESG's Gerr agrees that technology will shape the evolution of ILM as it proceeds to deal with compliance issues.

"I believe there will be a new cry heard coming from the vendors that are today all jumping on the ILM bandwagon, and that is that 'metadata is king; control the metadata and you control the information,'" says Gerr. "To me, this is why EMC's purchase of Documentum is a potentially (depending on execution, integration, marketing, and ultimately, talented sales) brilliant move."

As for specific technologies, Gerr sees optical backup solutions as a possible solution to the overwhelming number of disk and tapes in corporate storage vaults. As an example, Gerr cites Plasmon, which has developed a new, ultra-dense optical storage technology that provides three times the density of disk storage at a fraction of the cost.

It appears compliance is here to stay, and so long as it does, ILM is too.

Feature courtesy of internetnews.com.

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