Tuesday, July 27, 2010

ILM Grows Up

Information lifecycle management (ILM) has long been the holy grail for organizations trying to better put their treasure troves of information and data where it makes the best sense. As well, putting the vast amounts of stuff we keep around and never look at anymore in as inexpensive of a place possible, while still keeping it online. The automated tools have usually been lacking.

Historically, this has been either a manual or intensive process. We’ve had tools to help us identify what’s what and where it is: storage resource management (SRM) tools help us identify aged, duplicate and no longer used junk that’s been packed away on our expensive spinning hard disks. We’ve had add-ons in the form of hierarchical storage management (HSM), that tiers data into gold, silver or bronze, or FC, SATA and tape. We’ve also had appliances, such as Rainfinity to help automate the movement. Most of these tools have focused on the unstructured file data, the network shares, moving that old stuff to cheaper pastures.

Compellent has long been a player in this field, singing the praises of automated tiering, where you put a mixture of disk behind it, and it moves that data up and down the tiers, based on usage patterns. Other vendors have been slow to adopt the same strategy and have lambasted them by saying you’re spending all you precious time moving data to and fro.

However, a new crop of automated ILM tools are hitting the major vendors, and new announcements seem to be coming all the time. EMC has announced Fast – a technology that will move sub-LUN data up and down the tiers. IBM has sub-LUN tiering in their new DS8700 product, with more storage getting the feature soon (SVC via IBM public domain blogs). I expect something from NetApp someday.

Strangely enough, SATA hasn’t been the driving factor behind this new crop of ILM. It isn’t necessarily the ideal of putting old data on SATA but optimizing the solid state disk (SSD) purchases people are making. It remains cost prohibitive for companies to purchase all solid state at the moment (although some certainly do). This automatic tiering is helping optimize the movement of extremely frequent data into the super-fast SSD tier, while providing the side benefit of also providing tiering between FibreChannel (FC)/Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS) and SATA disks.

SSD is causing some changing of the way we do things. I can see a point where disks are no longer the bottle neck, but controllers and network will be. We will finally be able to justify that 8 Gb FC/10 Gb FCoE/16 Gb FC and 40 Gb FCoE network. Once SSD becomes mainstream, likely in hybrid approaches with multiple tiers, and snapshotting becomes standard practice, look for new workloads to be added to controllers and networks. I can see a point where my traditional bottleneck, spindles, moves away – for a bit.

I’ve updated my evolutionary topics:

  1. Virtualization
  2. Deduplication
  3. Grid
  4. Encryption
  5. ILM

Storage is becoming so exciting.

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