Storage Basics: Information Lifecycle Management


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If you have read any news on the storage industry lately or have accessed any major storage vendor’s web site, you have no doubt come across Information Lifecycle Management (ILM). ILM is not a technology per se; rather, ILM represents a major shift in the approach towards creating and managing a storage infrastructure and the data it maintains. In this Storage Basics article, we’ll review the concepts of ILM, what it is, and what it means for storage in today’s organizations.

All data maintained on storage networks has a defined lifecycle. The lifecycle identifies the way information travels through an organization from its inception to its eventual archiving and removal. The exact steps in data lifecycles depend on who you ask and organizational policy; however, in general there are three stages through which data travels:

  • Creation/Acquisition of Data – There are two ways in which data can be generated in an organization: it can either be created by users or acquired through faxes, letters, emails, and the like. At this stage, both data availability and data value are high. For example, if an invoice was received by email or a business letter was created, they are likely necessary for the current business operations.

  • Publication – While there are those who create and acquire documents, there are also those who review those documents once published. Published information is often in print form but may be accessed through other means such as Intranets or public Web sites. The value and availability requirements of published data often depend on the content of that data.

  • Retention and Data Disposal – The length of time an organization archives and retains information depends on the nature of the data. However, today there are increasing federal regulations, standards, and compliance measures in place that govern how long certain types of data are to be kept.

Not All Data Is Created Equal

During the entire information lifecycle, ensuring that data is online and available whenever needed by end users has always been a pivotal concern for those managing information. But as any administrator will tell you, not all data is created equal, and the information important in today’s business operations may be irrelevant tomorrow.

The changing importance on data and the requirement for data availability can create a problem. This is primarily because it is costly to store all information on high-availability storage systems such as disk. At some point, data has to be shifted to less expensive storage media, but the critical questions are which data moves towards cheaper media solutions and when?

ILM provides a strategy for data management through the information lifecycle. It identifies the processes and technologies that determine how data flows through an environment, from the time it is created to the time it is archived and ultimately destroyed. There are a number of factors that drive the demand for ILM solutions, including:

  • Data will continue to grow at an extraordinary rate — an estimated 50-plus percent per year.

  • An estimated 90% of data stored is rarely accessed, making disk an inefficient and costly choice with low utilization.

  • Increasing data retention, compliance, and security requirements mandated by government regulations.

Page 2: Understanding the Value of Data

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