The forces of flaky marketing have been pushing mightily on the concept of Information Lifecycle Management. With much heavy lifting the marketing mavens have gotten ILM fairly high on the Hype Cycle. I keep wondering when someone will wake up to the simple fact that ILM is stupid.

There are several ways to skin this particular cat. At one level, which many observers have pointed out, ILM is simply HSM with a shiny new coat of paint. HSM has never really taken off, despite decades of devoted work, for one simple reason: when faced with the choice between implementing a $100,000 (or more) HSM system that will pay off sometime next year unless disk prices plunge or just buying $100,000 (or less) of new disks and solving today’s problem today, the huge majority buy the disks. They feel a little guilty about it because it isn’t architecturally elegant and merely delays solving the problem, but sometimes band-aids are all you need. After all, you’ll replace your entire storage infrastructure with marginally faster, much cheaper, much higher density and higher reliability in three years anyway, so why rush?

ILM is bunk for another reason, which goes to the heart of the utility computing paradigm as well. ILM assumes something that isn’t true: that IT owns the data. When you get into the details of ILM implementation there is some reference to working with the actual owners of the data to get them to agree to and abide by ILM metrics. But the simple fact is that few end-users give a damn about IT’s storage problems. There are some offerings out there that look at file systems and migrate the least-recently-used files off to cheaper storage, so end-users don’t need to be involved, but smart (i.e. risk-averse) IT guys have to balance the money they might save against the grief they are sure to get if that cheaper storage burps just when some high-ranking end-user wants to see that data. Just how this ties into utility computing I’ll leave for a later note, but I will say that there needs to be a simple, understandable business process that ties end-user behavior to IT infrastructure costs.

Yet another perspective is one inspired by an interview that Dave Patterson, an inventor of RAID among other smart things, had with Jim Gray, another all-around really smart guy last year. In it, among many other interesting things, Jim said “The two things that are going to be real shifts in storage are tertiary storage going online so there is no distinction; and intelligent storage, so that we raise the level above SCSI.” Essentially what Jim is saying is that because disks are now as cheap as tape, the role of tape libraries will be absorbed by disks. So the storage taxonomy will look like this: fast disks for databases; slow cheap disks for everything else. What does ILM mean in a two tier, application driven infrastructure?

What it means is: time to get a new marketing bandwagon rolling, ’cause the wheels on this one are about to fall off!