“ILM for the SMB”

ILM or Information Lifecycle Management has been in full swing now for about 3 years and I am going to go out on a limb and state that most organizations have not yet implemented an “ILM” strategy. I believe the reason this is the case is because “ILM” is in fact a vision that has been interpreted and evangelized by many vendors as a strategy.

I presented a session at Storage Networking World in Orlando last week entitled “ILM for the SMB”. This is a scary proposition, most enterprise class organizations have leveraged “ILM” to implement tiered storage strategies and transparent data movement through the use of software to migrate data based on simple taxonomy like last access date, file type, owner, etch… Is there any value in an “ILM” strategy for the the average SMB (Small and Medium Business) who can store their entire data requirements, including overhead for protection on on 3 to 5 disk drives? I think the answer is pretty clear as I stated during the presentation “put all of your data on tier 1 storage and call it a day. you can always add a drive when you run out of space”. Because I was honestly at a loss on how to confidently articulate the value of “ILM” for the SMB I offered up a new definition for the SMB where the “I” in “ILM” changes from “Information” to “Infrastructure”. Many SMBs suffer from what I call the eBusiness syndrome, an epidemic feed by the likes of CDW and Dell . These users buy technology from distributors who offer little or no coaching on the applicability of the technologies or how to extract value from the technology, thus many SMBs find themselves replacing technology or purchasing point solutions and building infrastructures held together for scotch tape and chewing gum. A “Total Solutions” approach where the entire infrastructure is addressed is where SMBs will find the most value when amortized over a reasonable period of time. The ability to cost effectively address enterprise class problems on an SMB budget requires coaching and often a partner who can function less as technology salesman and more as an analyst, helping SMB customer avoid disposable technology, extending the lifespan of the infrastructure and add enterprise class functionality where appropriate.

Below I have paraphrased an example that I gave during my SNW session:

How many SMBs are still running Microsoft Exchange 5.5 even though support is EOL? Why? Cost prohibitive to migrate? Customers running Exchange 2000 or 2003 are probably running on 32bit x86 architecture. Microsoft will release Exchange 2007 on 64bit x86 architecture only, what does this mean? It means that the SMB going from 5.5, 2000 and 2003 will be spending significant dollars to facilitate a painful upgrade process to 2007, potentially investing in new hardware, new OS licensing, new storage capacity, directory services work and finally the Exchange migration work. This is not so bad for the customer who has been running Exchange 5.5 on a Pentium II and NT 4.0 for 8 years (they have gotten their monies worth) but how about the guy who bought a new 32bit server from CDW 2 months ago because Exchange 2000 was running slow, well bad news, support for Exchange 2000 will be EOL and Exchange 2007 requires 64bit architecture. That is the definition of disposable technology.

Reality is that the SMB needs help with “Infrastructure Lifecycle Management”. The ability to predict and extend a solutions life cycle while balancing budget with quality and functionality adds tangible value today, this is not a vision but a strategy which can be applied in a tactical manner.

While today there are few compelling reasons for the SMB to determine how to apply the “ILM” vision to their corporate information infrastructure that may be changing. See my follow-up post entitled “ILM and eRisk”.

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