The redoubtable John Webster, storage analyst extraordinaire at Illuminata, penned a short defense of Information Lifecycle Management last week. It was so humble that I just wanted to take this frail orphan named ILM home and feed it sparrow’s milk with an eyedropper.

Call me a sentimental fool. When a defense of ILM begins

Is ILM dead? I don’t think so. Will ILM die before it even gets a chance to stand up and walk? No. However, with the way some storage company marketers are behaving lately, one could get the impression that ILM doesn’t exist anymore.

I start tearing up.

God bless you tiny ILM
John concedes there is no definition of ILM and that vendors appear to be abandoning the concept, at least as a major theme. I can only hope StorageMojo’s unrelenting criticism (see ILM is Bunk and Gee, “Users Cite ILM Shortfalls” – Maybe ILM IS Bunk and ILM: rest in peace) of this fatally flawed excuse to sell overpriced storage gack had something to do with it.

ILM isn’t dead, it is only HSM on a respirator
I was talking to Dave Patterson, one of the inventors of RAID, last week for another project I’m working on, and we got on the topic of 2.5″ drives. He commented that laptop drives are perfect for archive purposes because they are designed to power on and off many times. Load your data, turn off the drive, and only spin it up when you need to read something. Disk archiving that is faster and smaller than tape. An ILM/HSM store that makes sense for our new FRCP rules.

Storage Marketing tip: try adding value
John closes with some sincere advice for “big-bucks marketing pros”:

What to do with ILM now that it’s lost its hype potential?
If you’re a storage marketing pro, you only have two options:

  • Find a new buzzword. Repackage ILM in a new wrapper. As you do, bring the new buzzword closer to reality. Make it something one can do now, something real, something concrete. Away with the ILM that’s a mere vision of the future. This is risky, however. Storage administrators are doing something they call ILM. And the buck doesn’t stop there. CIOs and other corporate players (legal, security, and records and information management professionals) are becoming engaged in ILM projects along with corporate IT. As a marketer, you might have privately thought that ILM was just hype, but you would certainly never have wanted to send that message publicly. Change horses midstream and you risk sending exactly that message.
  • Hang in there with ILM. Yes, it defies definition. Yes, it looks different with every customer implementation. And yes, it feels shop-worn. But it’s way better that than smoking up the atmosphere with mo’ better hype.

And if you’re a storage administrator, just keep on doing that ILM thing — whatever it is.

If that sounds suspiciously like another American marketing campaign (tag line: “Stay the course”), you have a point. ILM makes as much sense as HSM ever did, and if it hadn’t been freighted with cosmic strategic significance by EMC and others (didn’t Sun briefly have a VP of ILM?), you wouldn’t have these corporate players sitting down to watch this much-hyped IT project go thud.

Half of all storage marketing is below average
And some of it is in the bottom 2%. I agree with John: we don’t need more hype. How about using the massive resources of the major players to actually help customers understand and deal with the important metrics of their data stores? Starting with a recognition that data is getting cooler and big iron arrays are economic for an ever smaller fraction of all stored data. Oh, wait a minute, do something original? Too many variables!

Hype is easier.

Comments welcome, as always. I moderate comments to keep comment spam under control – the run rate is about 50 per day – and vigorous discussion is welcome.