TIP survey: ILM becomes #1 management priority

By Kevin Komiega

—According to a recent end-user survey conducted by TheInfoPro research firm ("Wave 6" of TIP's semi-annual surveys), information lifecycle management (ILM) is now ranked as the top storage management priority for high-end enterprises. However, managing ILM architectures has simultaneously become one of the top pain points for storage professionals.

In TheInfoPro's "Technology Heat Index," which ranks various technologies by users' purchasing plans, ILM moved from the number-four position in TIP's April 2005 survey to the number-one spot in the most recent survey.

TheInfoPro's research is based on extensive interviews with storage professionals in Fortune 1000 companies. The Technology Heat Index ranks a variety of technologies, such as file and block virtualization, continuous data protection (CDP), storage security software, disk-to-disk backup, automated storage provisioning, and storage resource management (SRM).

Of the more than 150 storage managers interviewed, 32% are currently in pilot stages or have near-term ILM implementation plans (by the end of 2006). This is up from 17% in the study completed just six months ago.

The need for adequate management and data migration tools is also growing as end-user interest in ILM surges, yet vendors seem to be dragging their feet in delivering these tools. According to Ken Male, TheInfoPro's CEO and founder, when users were asked what ILM functionality was most important, the top responses were enabling tiers of storage, data migration between tiers, and policy engines. As such, policy-based archiving scored second in the Technology Heat Index with 26% of the respondents having it in their near-term plans.

"There is a severe lack of data mobility tools," says Male. "The biggest pain point is that users have made the move to tiered storage for ILM, but they can't effectively move data between the tiers. Users like the cost savings that tiered storage brings, but if you have to move data around manually it almost defeats the purpose."

TheInfoPro's research found that 53% of storage professionals have already made the move to tiered storage architectures, 25% are in the process, and 11% have it in their near-term plans.

As components of an ILM strategy, data classification and categorization are the keys to the kingdom. Moving business critical data to different, lower-cost tiers of storage over its lifecycle is the core of any ILM implementation, but the process is a difficult one and end users are often being forced to tackle data movement manually.

"One of the biggest surprises is how prevalent homegrown, manual processes are in these shops," says Male. "Data movement tools are not easy to implement and are not meeting users' expectations."

The result in many cases is that end users are maintaining or growing their tier-1 capacity due to the challenges involved with moving data to lower-cost tiers.

Storage management technologies that ranked relatively low in terms of end users' implementation plans included storage security software, file and block virtualization, data encryption software, continuous data protection (CDP), and management software based on the SMI-S standard.

However, the low rankings for technologies such as security software and CDP are not necessarily a reflection of the viability of these technologies, but rather a function of how storage professionals buy products. Male says CDP, for example, ranked low due to buying habits. "The industry and media are spending a huge amount of time talking about CDP, but our research shows that 58% of users want to buy through their SAN providers," Male explains. He expects that CDP and security software will gain momentum among end users once they become embedded features of OEM products.

This article was originally published on November 11, 2005