I-L-M, buy-from-me, M-O-N-E-Y

We—and most likely you, too—have recently been barraged by vendors touting their information life-cycle management (ILM) strategies, products, visions, and snake oil. In fact, I think I recall seeing a press release that described a disk controller as part of an overall ILM "solution." So I was amused to read senior technical editor Heidi Biggar's "The ABCs of ILM" article (see cover), where various industry consultants refer to ILM as "meaningless 'marketecture' " and "a lot of hot air."

Perhaps the META Group's Phil Goodwin hit the nail on the head when he said that "ILM is really about process, not product."

Unlike virtualization—the reigning buzzword in the storage industry for the last two years—we can blame the ILM hype on EMC. Although ILM isn't new (it's been in the mainframe world for decades and vendors like StorageTek have also used the term for a long time), EMC made it seem new.

EMC didn't invent ILM; they just put it on the front burner. But ILM is really on the back burner and will simmer for some time because full ILM soup-to-nuts, cradle-to-grave "solutions" may be years away, according to some analysts (although I disagree). To give EMC credit, they may have the best chance of actually pulling off a full ILM "solution," so why not pre-hype? I'll tell you why: Because it only took a few weeks for EMC's main archenemies to hop on the ILM bandwagon (although some vendors call it "data life-cycle management"). And it only took a couple months for dozens of vendors of software "point products" to follow suit, not to mention the hardware-only vendors that are trying to capitalize on the buzzword.

It reminds me of virtualization. It's impossible to pinpoint when that buzzword started, but it wasn't long before vendors of hierarchical storage management (HSM) software and other non-related software products started referring to their code as virtualization software. Result: End-user confusion and stagnant sales.

Back to ILM: Eventually, it will be a good thing for IT organizations and storage administrators (again, see our cover story), but if you look at it from a vendor's standpoint what it really means is "Buy everything from me," because piecing together a patchwork quilt of point products from different vendors to create an ILM strategy would be a nightmare. In other words, ILM translates into vendor lock-in.

And that's not necessarily bad. If ILM does come to fruition, you probably will want to buy it (even though it's just a process, not a product, mind you) from one vendor. Sure you'll get ripped off, but it'll still be less expensive and time-consuming than the patchwork-quilt approach.

We've heard from the vendors. We've talked to the analysts. But your opinion is what counts. Is ILM meaningless "marketecture," or are you seriously considering it to solve your storage problems?

Dave Simpson,

This article was originally published on January 01, 2004