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While it's tempting to think that IBM
may be late in the game to information lifecycle management (ILM), the company insists that such cradle-to-grave management is just one important piece of a more broad strategy: e-business on-demand, the company's ambitious task of bringing computing to end users more efficiently than ever before.
ILM represents a shifting storage model, where greater emphasis is placed on retrieving even a single, tiny file from a sea of millions within a system to quickly and cost effectively keep businesses flowing.
“It would be arrogant of us ... not to adopt and embrace [ILM] and try to explain our view of what that is.”
Rich Lechner, IBM Storage
Accordingly, ILM is being touted as a crucial approach to complying with the raft of record retention rules and regulations formed by government bodies. The 451 Group, a New York technology research firm, recently called ILM a rapidly evolving and growing competitive environment, which has seen more than $4.5 billion worth of announced merger and acquisition activity in the past year alone.
To be sure, IBM quietly lingered for months while competitors such as EMC
, and VERITAS Software
made acquisitions to prop-up their ILM offerings.
IBM officials were frequently asked if and when the Armonk, N.Y.-based company would bow to the pressure and hype posed by ILM, which perhaps has been matched only by web services in its buzz. But the company wouldn't take the bait, and waited until a press event this week in Cambridge, Mass., (roughly 30 miles from EMC's backyard of Hopkinton, Mass.) to utter the now-famous acronym.
Like the company's
Linux on POWER, POWER5, and Lotus events before it, the storage event, in which the company also introduced new products, was a showcase for how IBM is meshing one of its core technology segments – storage – with its on-demand philosophy.
Rich Lechner, vice president of IBM Storage, moved over from the company's zSeries mainframe line some months ago to take the helm for a brand that has taken its lumps by analysts who believe IBM is "late" to the ILM game. Lechner is charged with communicating IBM's evolving storage strategy and defended IBM's late entrance to ILM.
"First of all, we talked about lifecycle management in different terms, such as hierarchical storage management (HSM), some time ago," Lechner told
internetnews.com. "Secondly, it would be arrogant of us — if the market place is talking lifecycle management, even if you ask five people and you get six definitions — not to adopt and embrace that terminology and try to explain our view of what that is."
"Thirdly," Lechner continued, "it is necessary, but not sufficient. It is one element of the story, and if that's all you focus on, you're doing a disservice to customers, because it's not enough to focus on that and help customers to move to this state of on-demand that we think is so important."
While EMC's ILM approach has clearly been a new strategy for the company, it was clear from IBM's event Wednesday that IBM considers ILM a piece of the evolving puzzle for managing and retrieving information.
Ultimately, IBM executives said ILM alone is not enough, and that infrastructure simplification and integration will come together under the company's mantle of Web-based business on-demand that is pervasive across its business lines.
"Getting to information on-demand is the end objective," said Lechner. "Managing information across its lifecycle and doing effective content management, which some of those other vendors don't really address in terms of lifecycle management, is important. Simplifying the infrastructure, where storage is just one layer, allows you to not only reduce TCO (total cost of ownership) and improve your resiliency, but it also allows you to reintegrate. You can't have independent business processes, islands of computing, and islands of information. They have to be integrated."
IDC on IBM and ILM
IDC analyst John McArthur, who discussed compliance issues at the Cambridge event, vouched for the fact that IBM has had some semblance of an ILM story for the last 18 months, even if the concern didn't embrace the terminology in public until recently.
"IBM is a more cautious company," McArthur explained. "They were willing to make a bet for Serial ATA (SATA) to become more broadly available." McArthur is referring to one of IBM's key new products, the FAStT100 storage server, which uses SATA
, a low-cost connection technology that is increasingly replacing its parallel ATA cousin.
internetnews.com that for IBM, expanding the popularity of its POWER chips is key to the company's strategy. For example, the analyst made statements such as, "we are in an era where the capabilities of the chips are outpacing single application requirements in most cases," with regard to the importance of micro partitioning.
McArthur said IBM enables virtual consolidation by running multiple applications on micro partitions on fewer servers.
"Imagine if one could run things like SAN File System, SAN Volume Controller, virtual tape Linux servers, and a whole bunch of other things in one shareable, highly available, centrally managed resource," McArthur said.
Looking at that infrastructure landscape, Lechner said that just addressing the server piece, or storage piece in infrastructure simplification, will not allow vendors to effectively meet customers' needs. Instead, IBM believes it has the total package, and "we think we're in a unique position in the market to talk about it because of our server, storage, and software offerings," Lechner said.
He pointed to IBM's BladeCenter as proof of how IBM is integrating servers and networking, as well as the recent announcement with Cisco to create storage controller blades that will house storage disks inside the BladeCenter. Lechner said true "storage blades" are not far off.
"Over time, you'll see storage blades with disks on them," he said. "As server technologies advance and through virtualization you can consolidate multiple server functions onto a single server. Why not be able to integrate your storage infrastructure onto that?"
Accordingly, even though The 451 Group lists EMC, Hewlett-Packard, and StorageTek as leaders that have built the most complete ILM portfolios to date, IBM isn't fretting. The company believes customer faith in on-demand, after all, will eventually be its ally. IBM intends to be the driving force on that front.
Story adapted from internetnews.com.
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