Understanding information life-cycle management, part 2

Posted on April 01, 2005

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The second article in our three-part series looks at the ILM strategies and products of EMC, Network Appliance, Veritas, and StorageTek.

By VS Joshi

In the first part of this series (see InfoStor, January 2005, p. 36) we defined the four segments of ILM: data classification, data policy, data management, and a tiered storage infrastructure (see figure).

As enterprises struggle with rapid data growth, the need for ILM enablers and processes marks the next phase of evolution for storage vendors. ILM-enabling products, processes, and policies should understand the business value of data and supply the intelligence to protect information from disaster and corruption, help fulfill regulatory requirements, and manage data cost-effectively by dynamically allocating the appropriate resources based on the data’s value to the enterprise. As the data’s value changes, so do the resources allocated to it.

With this vision of ILM, it is no surprise that many storage vendors have started positioning themselves as “ILM-enabling” companies. It also enables them to re-package their products under a new moniker, which is likely to move them from the core storage domain toward the application and information domain by adding intelligence about data.

ILM incorporates products, processes, and practices that are required to comply with the regulations that companies are subjected to. Because penalties for non-compliance are huge, getting attention from customers’ top management for ILM initiatives is easier than getting their attention for storage issues that are mainly technology ones. As ILM is about allocating the right storage resources to the data based upon its value, it prompts users to have a tiered infrastructure, which in turn, enables storage vendors to sell more storage hardware and software.

With all the above motivations, it is no surprise that storage vendors are taking the lead in ILM.

Some storage companies such as EMC (Documentum), IBM (Green Pasture, Tarian software, Aptrix), Hewlett-Packard (Persist), and Veritas (KVS) have acquired enterprise content management and e-mail archiving companies that will take them closer to the business segments of ILM and help them understand the value of the data to the business. Activities of the rest of the vendors are limited to the technology segments of ILM, with partnerships in the business segments of ILM.

This article covers the ILM strategies and product sets of EMC, Network Appliance, Veritas, and StorageTek-to illustrate both the similarities and differences among various vendors. Future articles will look at the ILM products/strategies of other vendors.

EMC

Although ILM is moving front and center of every major storage vendor’s strategy, EMC, the company that lit the ILM fire a few years ago, remains the leader in this nascent market. After announcing its ILM strategy and making it an industry mantra, EMC acquired Documentum and Legato.

At the tiered infrastructure ILM segment, EMC provides Symmetrix DMX disk arrays for high-end storage, Clariion arrays for the mid-tier, Clariion Disk Library for backup to disk, and Centera content-addressable storage (CAS) for active archiving, compliance, and retention. EMC’s Connectrix switches and Celerra NAS servers complete the hardware picture.

One of EMC’s historic weak spots was tape, which it addressed via a reseller deal with ADIC. However, regardless of its breadth throughout the tiered infrastructure segment of ILM, EMC’s competitors point out the absence of a single unified architecture across the various tiers.

Click here to enlarge image

In the data management ILM segment, EMC has a range of integrated data-protection and recovery software solutions that allow users to create data-protection levels based on criteria such as availability and recovery time. Many of the EMC software products in this segment (e.g., SRDF, TimeFinder, MirrorView, and SnapView) are platform-specific, and EMC has been late to market with its “Storage Router” virtualization product, which will enable data management capabilities across heterogeneous platforms. Scheduled to debut later this year, it remains to be seen how aggressively EMC will push this product as it may affect its existing high-end array and platform-specific software business.

Regardless of its strength in the data management and tiered infrastructure segments, what may keep EMC in the ILM driver’s seat is its foray into the application layer through the acquisitions of Documentum and Legato.

EMC provides application-aware ILM for semi-structured (e.g., e-mail) data via Legato’s EmailXtender family of software, as well as content management for e-mail. EmailXtender is a comprehensive policy-based system that automatically collects, organizes, retains, and retrieves e-mail messages and attachments. It allows users to define data workflows between storage tiers and executes movement of that data. EmailXtender automatically moves data off the e-mail message server and into the storage system, capturing and indexing all incoming and outgoing e-mails.

In the structured data space, the DatabaseXtender family of software products that EMC licenses from OuterBay enables identifying, analyzing, and relocating dormant data from production databases to lower-cost online storage platforms.

In the unstructured data space, Documentum’s software, in association with EMC’s storage systems and management software, helps differentiate EMC from other ILM players. The first integrated product to emerge from the combined companies-EMC Documentum Content Storage Services (CSS)-was introduced in mid-2004. CSS enables unstructured data (i.e., Word, Excel, pdf files) to be automatically migrated to optimal storage platforms based on the value of the data to the business.

CSS represents the direction of EMC’s evolving ILM strategy. One of the company’s challenges will be the integration effort required for a common framework for all kinds of data (structured, unstructured, and semi-structured).

Network Appliance

Network Appliance, with its Snap series of software products, has a comprehensive software portfolio at the data management ILM level. NetApp has also fine- tuned its hardware products in the tiered infrastructure layer by allowing the same systems to be used for backup, disaster recovery, WORM storage, and archival with help from software products such as SnapLock and LockVault.

One of the big differentiators for Network Appliance is its single unified architecture (Data ONTAP), which is based on protocols that run on all platforms throughout the storage tiers. This enables users to select a solution without adding another “silo” to manage. All of NetApp’s platforms support blocks and files (Fibre Channel, iSCSI, and NAS), and all of the data management and movement technologies are the same, regardless of protocol.

In the business segments of ILM (data policy and data classification) Network Appliance partners with enterprise content management (ECM) vendors such as Mobius and FileNet to deliver workflow capabilities. On the security and compliance fronts, NetApp partners with systems integrators and other compliance firms to deliver security and compliance assessment services.

Network Appliance’s acquisition of Spinnaker put teeth into its ILM strategy by giving the company a grid architecture and a clustered file system that will provide a unified view of distributed systems. A unified namespace in front of the storage grid will essentially create a virtualization layer, providing a foundation for applying ILM policies related to data movement between various tiers enterprise-wide, to both local and remote storage systems.

Veritas

Veritas has been aggressive with its “utility computing” marketing message. Although ILM and utility computing serve different purposes, significant overlap exists between them at the ILM-enabling software level. Veritas has most of the necessary components to be a significant player in the ILM space. But the company has not jumped on the ILM bandwagon, although its ILM story is taking shape with the acquisition of KVS.

Veritas, the largest independent storage software vendor, does not sell hardware for the tiered infrastructure ILM segment. However, that can be perceived as an advantage because the company can take a hardware-agnostic approach. This allows Veritas to provide data replication and migration capabilities at the software level without favoring any underlying storage hardware. With its new focus on virtualization at the network level (with the Storage Foundation for Networks product), Veritas can potentially provide all required storage services (replication, migration, etc.) between heterogeneous storage arrays.

Veritas’ Storage Foundation Cluster File System software provides a virtualization layer at the file-system level. With SFCFS, Veritas enables administrators to migrate data over time to appropriate classes of storage resources based on pre-defined attributes and values-without changing the way data is accessed by users or applications.

However, what has enabled Veritas to cross the line between the ILM business and technology segments is its Enterprise Vault suite of products, acquired from KVS last year.

Enterprise Vault works seamlessly with Microsoft Exchange and other platforms, archives, and indexes messages and stores them in their original form (e-mail and attachments) centrally in a journal archive on the Enterprise Vault server-with no impact on or intervention by users.

The Enterprise Vault repository stores archived e-mail content on the most appropriate platform; compresses data; indexes content for rapid and targeted retrieval; and defines and implements retention and deletion policies. Movement of content from the application to the repository is carried out transparently via policy control. The repository provides for retention of the archive on the initial storage platform. The software provides an Open Storage Layer that enables data to be placed on various storage platforms (SAN, NAS, CAS, SATA, etc.) from various vendors for maximum efficiency. To facilitate true life-cycle management, the Open Storage Layer provides policy-based migration of archived data across storage media, allowing users to take advantage of the media best suited to the content’s age, usage profile, regulatory requirements, etc.

Veritas offers specialized “Compliance Accelerator” modules that take various regulations that financial services companies are subjected to and provides the necessary framework to select and sample target e-mail, manage its review, and record the process for audit purposes.

Enterprise Vault can be expanded to address not only archiving, but also the grouping and review of content to meet regulatory requirements. Today, Veritas has compliance accelerators only for the financial services industry, although Enterprise Vault provides open APIs by which Veritas or its partners can offer specialized modules for other industries. The combined approach (e-mail/content archiving and compliance accelerators) provides a consistent, compliant archiving environment for both e-mail and instant messaging.

StorageTek

StorageTek, a leading player in the tape market, has taken significant steps to establish itself in ILM by moving into adjacent areas. STK offers a broad range of storage products in the tiered infrastructure segment, covering everything from tape to its Virtual Tape Library for mainframes and open systems, and WORM tape and disk (on the FlexLine product line, which includes modular arrays OEM’d from Engenio to ATA and Serial ATA disk arrays).

In the data management ILM segment, StorageTek, with help from partners such as FalconStor (for its MirrorStore replication software) and Sun (STK uses Sun’s QFS in its Application Storage Manager software), provides data movement services between storage tiers from different vendors. STK’s recent acquisition of Storability added the GSM software, which enables discovery, visualization, and optimization of multi-vendor storage environments.

To complete its ILM strategy, StorageTek traverses the top two segments of ILM-data classification and data policy-with E-Mail Xcelerator software, which addresses SEC and NASD requirements for e-mail collection, review, classification, and retention. STK’s industry-specific solutions (e.g., healthcare, broadcast, security, and surveillance) take the specific retention and archival needs of those industries into consideration and set policies for the retention and movement of data to appropriate tiers. For example, STK’s healthcare solutions with partners such as Siemens Medical Solutions, Kodak Health Imaging, and others help customers meet compliance requirements related to records retention and HIPAA requirements.

VS Joshi is an independent storage analyst. He can be contacted at vsjoshi@rcn.com.

In the next installment in our series we will examine ILM strategies and products from IBM, Hewlett-Packard, ADIC, and FalconStor and draw our conclusions.


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