ILM Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

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New York — If sessions at this week’s Storage Decisions conference are any indication, information lifecycle management (ILM) technology is a long way from fulfilling its promise.

In response to an instant poll of attendees conducted by GlassHouse Technologies Senior Vice President for Consulting Richard Scannell, only 8 percent of those responding had complete confidence in their ability to do ILM, while two-thirds admitted to being lost.

That’s not promising for storage users, since data retention regulations have made it so that the cost of retaining data now exceeds the cost of initially storing it, Scannell said.

Storage users appear to be faring better with tiered storage, a kind of ILM Lite. In response to a question from Craig Taylor, associate director of open systems at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), most attendees said they are using two or more tiers of storage.

At a time when organizations are forced to store more and more data for longer periods of time, the ability to store that data on a storage platform in line with its corporate value is critical for keeping storage budgets under control.

Also important — and apparently almost never practiced — is deletion of data that is no longer of value.

When Scannell asked attendees if they had ever been involved in widespread destruction of data that was no longer of value, not a single hand in the audience went up.

Scannell urged attendees to address the issue. “We must reduce the quantity of information,” he said.

For smaller companies, tiered storage is fine, Scannell said, but large enterprises are facing a “new problem with no precedent.”

CME Takes Broad Approach to ILM

Attendees got a close look at how one large enterprise — the Chicago Mercantile Exchange — is approaching ILM.

Taylor said CME — which trades $3.7 trillion worth of futures contracts each day and is growing at triple-digit rates — uses five tiers of storage.

In 2 1/2 years, the exchange’s SAN has grown from 4 terabytes to nearly 250TB, and the number of servers has grown from 500 to 2,400, three-quarters of which are Linux machines. The exchange operates three data centers.

Taylor doesn’t think that ILM technology is at a point yet where file-level data classification is possible, so he urged attendees to “use broad strokes” in classifying data. CME classifies its data by application, such as e-mail, its trade database and regulatory data.

He said it is very important to get legal opinions on where data should be stored and at what service level, and how long it should be retained. In another audience poll, only 8% of attendees said they know what to do with their data.

CME’s Tier 1 of storage is for critical applications and databases requiring replication, Taylor said. For that, the exchange uses EMC’s Symmetrix DMX. Taylor said he was pleased with EMC’s pricing and support.

The second tier is for other production databases. CME is currently using the HDS 9960, which is nearing the end of its lifecycle. Taylor said CME is looking at products from EMC, HDS, 3PAR and Pillar Data Systems as possible replacements.

“It’s an ever-evolving cycle,” Taylor said.

Tier 3 is for long-term, regulated retention data such as regulatory reports, Sarbanes-Oxley records and e-mail. CME was using HP 2200MX for that tier, but is switching to EMC Centera.

Tier 4 is for backup and restores, using synthetic full backup and nearline storage. For that, CME is using Copan’s MAID (massive array of idle disks) technology, for which Taylor had high praise.

For Tier 5, off-site tape storage, CME is in the process of switching from a StorageTek PowderHorn to an IBM 3584 library, a decision based on Big Blue’s roadmap and timing.

Copan Gets Thumbs Up

Taylor said CME tends to shy away from startups and cutting-edge technology because of risk, but he said Copan’s virtual tape technology changed that view.

Copan can fit 224TB in a 10-foot-square space, he said, compared to only 14-56TB for competing SATAproducts. Taylor said Copan also uses SATA properly by spinning the disks down when they’re not in use. In a year of use, not a single drive has failed in the Copan appliance, he said, and even with just a 100 Mb/s connection, it’s still 228% faster than tape. It also uses less power, puts off less heat, and has fewer controllers and fabric connections than other products.

“We’ve had no issues with it, and we’ve had tons of issues with tape,” Taylor said. “It’s the right way to deal with long-term storage and backup.”

Disk-based backup seems to be catching on with storage users. In response to a question from Taylor, the bulk of attendees said they were using disk-based backup, but most of their data still goes to tape.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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