There is a buzz around storage. No, honestly … it’s true. This comparatively sleepy backwater of technology is starting to push its way into the spotlight by spruiking the benefits of so-called Information Lifecycle Management (ILM).
Talk to any managing director of a mainstream storage firm, and sooner or later techno-talk of ILM surfaces in much the same way as IBMers eulogising about “on-demand” even if the conversation began on the topic of the Sydney Swans.
The economics of the IT industry demand that storage vendors lift their profile and change their business models, or face a long and painful death of selling hardware — mostly brown, spinning discs — at increasingly lower margins.
They are trying to capture the imagination by pitching their visions of ILM as holding the same importance as another trio of three-letter acronyms — customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM). All but SCM have had a rugged journey so far, suffering from stories of massively expensive implementations, failed projects and very unhappy customers.
That is not stopping companies such as market leader HP, IBM and the aggressive EMC from pushing ILM as the next big thing — at least in storage circles.
Research carried out over the past month by ITR has found that CIOs and IT managers are stubbornly resistant to this type of vendor-speak because they feel the industry is littered with catchphrases such as adaptive, real-time”, on-demand, organic and so on.
While storage vendors have spent considerable sums pushing the ILM message, an ITR survey of 150 IT executives earlier this month found very few are listening.
Some 55 per cent of Australian decision-makers responsible for storage purchases said they had not even heard of ILM. The ITR survey also found, perhaps worryingly, that 80 per cent of the data kept by Australian companies is rarely (or never) used.
This statistic cuts to the heart of why storage vendors are banging the ILM drum. They say, and rightly, that too much data is held on expensive media like Fibre Channel and iSCSI. Clients should audit their storage requirements and become more frugal with high-availability services.
This, in turn, provides the channel with the opportunity to earn services and software revenues, which provide a much better return than the diminishing margins of hardware.
But it’s one of those neat win-wins. The client is also ahead because the storage system is cleaned up, replicated data is deleted and all the dull stuff that no one wants to look at — that 80 per cent of documents — is stored on the cheapest media, saving considerable sums.
The only important difference in this win-win scenario is that vendors and channel partners get paid straight away, while the client usually gains incremental savings over several years before getting their return on investment.
Once an audit has been finalised, an enterprise can embark on an ILM journey, which involves truly understanding how business should treat and delete data — a process that for too long has been put in the too hard basket of the IT department.
More thought must be given to the value of information, rather than simply dismissing everything as data. The ability to tap information efficiently and quickly is key to running a competitive business these days — and the foundation of the ILM vision.
Only one in five Australian companies are moving in this direction, according to the ITR survey, which suggests there is a big, fat market out there.
Mark Hollands is Principal of the new Australian research and consultancy company, ITR. firstname.lastname@example.org