Revisiting Information Lifecycle Management

Person_Basketball_Fruit_RGB.pngI’ve been developing storage solutions for media and entertainment companies for about twelve years and there is one problem that most storage companies claim to have an answer for and don’t; Information Lifecycle Management, or ILM for short.  Many claim to because they have different types of storage, from expensive to not-so-expensive, that they have the solution you need for ILM.  I’m here to tell you that it isn’t true.  ILM is not a hardware problem; it’s an automated workflow problem.


Let’s back up a bit.  ILM was a big concept being promoted by storage companies starting about ten years ago (probably longer, but not really at the enterprise level).  Each one (not surprisingly) focused on moving data from their highest performance storage down to their lowest cost storage.  During that time, many people were asking, “Where’s the tape integration?” to which the reply typically was, “Tape is dead.”  Which it wasn’t, but these disk storage companies didn’t sell tape systems.


So you can see that ILM systems were usually focused on one company’s product line and not much else.  Some companies tried to build software solutions for heterogeneous storage platforms, but most discovered that trying to keep up with everyone’s different storage operating systems and all of the storage protocols made that task both complex and unprofitable. As for tape, the formats could differ widely and new generations of LTO, some backward compatible and some not, just kept coming.


Today, the choice for storage platforms is even bigger than all of those years ago.  You now have SAN, NAS, Object, Private Cloud, Public Cloud, Hybrid Cloud and good old tape.  Plus we’ve all made major investments in infrastructure and solutions over the years to stay in business.  Those investments cannot be ignored nor easily replaced en masse. So ILM is dead, right, unless you handle it manually?


Many Media Asset Management (MAM) solutions vendors will say, “Not so!  We can handle the ILM for you!”  Many give it a great effort, but let’s face it, they have the same problems as those who tried to build ILM solutions all of those years ago, only more so as storage platform choices have increased greatly and will continue to increase.  And these MAM vendors are not storage technology specialists.  What is the reason you buy a MAM solution; to handle your automated ILM needs?  Probably not. Great MAM solutions focus on content access authorizations, creating collections for different projects and searching metadata to find hidden gems in the vast catalog of assets (and don’t forget low-res video and thumbnail images to actually review the content without pulling down the full high-res file).


The other problem with using MAM solutions for ILM is that they proliferate in big media companies.  Most production groups have their own MAM systems that support their needs.  One media executive I spoke to a few weeks ago told me that he knew of about thirty different MAM systems running in the corporation in different operational silos.  Of course, not one of them talks to the other.  How then can he have true ILM for all of their media assets when no one knows where all of the assets live? And how do you define value for an asset when it has different values in different silos?


In the next few blogs, we’ll look at some new concepts in how storage solutions are evolving to allow content to be managed in large repositories by moving content to where it needs to be with the right storage performance, the right speed of access and the right cost.  We’ll also look at how to future proof your assets by storing metadata along with the content, so you can change the method of access without affecting the data.  We’ll show you how making changes in your data management methodology doesn’t mean negating the investments you have been making over the years in storage infrastructures and having to buy new equipment.  And we’ll help you find a starting point to build new competitive advantages for your media business.  By the way, NetApp supports this new world today, so we won’t be talking futures. 


This is real today.  Stay tuned!