By Kevin Komiega
A recent end-user survey conducted by TheInfoPro research firm (“Wave 6” of TIP’s semi-annual surveys) indicates that information lifecycle management (ILM) is now ranked as the top storage management priority for high-end enterprises (see figure). But, 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 (see figure).
The need for adequate management and data migration tools is also growing as end-user interest in ILM surges, yet the industry seems to be dragging its 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 of doing so, 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.
Several other hardware and software technologies have also moved up the list of storage priorities for Fortune 1000 storage professionals.
For example, the popularity of low-cost Serial ATA (SATA) disk arrays continues unabated. In TheInfoPro survey, 61% of the companies are using SATA arrays (primarily as disk-based backup solutions), and another 23% plan to implement SATA arrays in 2006.
Not surprisingly, and despite rapid adoption of lower-cost tiers of storage, Fibre Channel continues its dominance of the SAN market. In TIP’s survey, 68% of the companies said their server farms will be attached to a Fibre Channel SAN by the end of 2006, while just 6% will connect to IP SANs.
Also high on TIP’s Technology Heat Index were virtual tape libraries (VTLs), followed by asynchronous remote data mirroring and 4Gbps Fibre Channel. And wide area file services (WAFS) jumped from 17th place six months ago to eighth place in the latest TIP survey.
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 (see figure, below).
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.
TheInfoPro predicts that storage spending will be upbeat heading into 2006, driven by greater-than-anticipated capacity growth due in part to compliance and growth in data warehousing as well as investments in the infrastructure needed to support applications such as remote data mirroring.