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INFORMATION LIFECYCLE MANAGEMENT

Strategic CHOICE Andy Dean, pre-sales manager at OCF says that Information Lifecycle Management will save you money, but do you have the strategy to take advantage?

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et it right and Information Lifecycle Management [ILM] will ensure the intelligent movement of data between grades of storage based on a number of factors including age, type and size of data; and access requirement. In doing so, ILM reduces storage infrastructure costs, ensures fast access to data and increases staff productivity. Think of it like buying a vehicle for specific journeys. These days with fuel costs so high wouldn’t it be great to have access to different types of car depending on the journey being made - a fuel efficient car for the motorway, an electric car for the city, maybe even a motorbike for traffic-heavy journeys? But when would you buy the vehicles, up front or piecemeal? How would you decide which vehicles to use, and when? Would you opt for the fastest car for every journey even if you knew better? In the HPC and big data world, we are in a situation where tape is very cheap for electricity and capacity demand, but it is completely inadequate for day-to-day data retrieval (for most workloads). At the other end of the spectrum, Solid State Drives [SSDs] are excellent at both small files and sequential throughput, but very expensive per terabyte. Somewhere in between these two extremes, there is Serial Attached SCSI [SAS] and then Nearline SAS [NL-SAS].

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The vehicles to store our data are plentiful, but an ILM strategy is needed to ensure best, most appropriate use. Get it wrong and ILM could make an unstructured storage setup worse. Creating a strategy Generally speaking, it is usually the storage experts within the IT team who set the ILM strategy, but they aren’t always best suited to understanding exactly what everyone in the organisation is using their data for. Ideally, creation of a strategy would be collaboration between the users and the IT team to ensure that the ILM policies are created to everyone’s benefit. Once strategy ownership and contributors are agreed, it’s time to understand the current and desired lifecycle. Practically speaking, to pull the strategy together, a simple whiteboard session can help. For a larger project, I would recommend creating focus group to understand everyone’s requirements comprising of a cross-sections of participants such as data users, management and IT. Whichever method is used, the ‘ILM team’ needs to understand what data they have stored, where they have stored it, and who in the organisation has stored it. Look at all available sources - project information, databases with records related to projects, data extracts, etc. Metadata should be added to all

it is usually the storage experts within the IT team who set the ILM strategy, but they aren’t always best suited to understanding exactly what everyone in the organisation is using their data for.

this information to help it be retrieved in the future. They also need to think about the future: if we store a file today and, even if we have it on a tape in 15 years’ time, how will anyone access it? Will we still have that version of the application to open what was saved? This thinking requires data retention type policies and standardising the way organisations have stored the data [ideally looking at open standards to ensure the data will be accessible in the future]. Again, adding metadata can certainly help to get something useful out of the data in the future. As an aside, creating an ILM strategy is a good opportunity to set privacy policies on data access at a high strategic level. Once you have decided on your requirements, there are solutions out there that can help to enforce these. Infrastructure Once the ILM strategy has been written and agreed, it’s often the case that additional hardware or software will be needed to help implement it. If an organisation needs a simple ILM solution, then there are options for both software and hardware plug and play appliances. Hardware appliances that offer performance tiering at a hardware (block) level could also be placed behind a software solution, which may offer some benefits depending on the workload [especially if the workload isn’t fully understood]. If organisations are looking at longer-term storage then the strategy is likely to demand multiple types of hardware and software to build a workable solution that could support all user requirements. The really exciting aspect about ILM projects is the opportunity to get the most out of an organisation’s data – now and in the future. Once the business understands what its highlevel requirements are then it is a good time to speak to specialised providers who can work with them to decide the best way forward.


Data Centre Management - Winter 2014