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The four Cs of enterprise content management

Aside from the storage networking industry ?usual suspects? list of buzz topics, Jeff Nick is keen to discuss the importance of enterprise content management (ECM), directly related to ILM.

 

Date: 1 Sep 2005

Aside from structured data in databases, there is unstructured data and/or repositories in support of product or project. EMC defines ECM as: ?All content items, from your desktop to enterprise applications such as customer relationship management, supply chain management, and enterprise portals. Workflow and content lifecycle ? spans review, revision, and approval processes for any piece of content according to user-defined business rules. Multi-channel publishing ? allows simultaneous publishing of a single content item via a Web site, email, fax, print, and a handheld wireless device?.

Nick believes that there are four compelling reasons for companies to take ECM seriously, as
most enterprises' unstructured content is increasing between 65 to 200 percent a year depending on the industry sector. This growth is largely uncontrolled and undermines a company's ability to achieve:
1. Content ROI ? Employees can spend up to 40% of a workday looking for content and untangling issues with versioning, ownership, and reformatting. As a result, too much expensive content goes underused or must be recreated. ECM provides the infrastructure that gets your content under control;
2. Compliance ? Virtually all organizations are now legally compelled to securely store and access various content for a defined period. With ECM you can set policies for retaining, storing, and retrieving specific content ? and mitigate the enormous risk of on compliance.
3. Collaboration ? Content managed in departmental silos and restricted to certain geographies blocks the sharing of content by distributed teams. As a result, productivity drops and time to market slows. ECM enables people to create, capture, and distribute collaborative content on the tightest timeline.
4. Consolidation ? An ECM using a single infrastructure rather than siloed content systems dramatically drops overall total costs and increases security. One ECM repository that can scale to over a billion objects offers a subsecond response time for transactional processes.

So, ECM, closely linked to ILM, can help deal with compliance issues, as Nick explains: ?Compliance needs vary by vertical industry and by geo-political location. Even though certain aspects of compliance can be addressed in standalone projects, the best IT strategy is to take a holistic approach of Compliance and ILM together. Several of the core elements of an ILM strategy including Data Classification and Tiered Storage also serve Compliance requirements. Compliance may add additional requirements into ILM planning needs such as encrypted data in-flight or a demonstrated audit of certain types of retained data. As part of the holistic approach, security needs to be an integral planning element as well.?

Continuing the ?all-encompassing? theme, Nick says that security measures should be pervasive across the information infrastructure. ?Security should be approached holistically, including people, facilities, servers, networks, and storage. All possible data threats need to be understood and planned for. Today, most security plans are centred on the host and application, with access rights to the data. ILM and Business Continuity strategies should encompass security, to ensure that any situation where data is compromised, the data is restorable.?

Nick also believes that: ?ILM implementations will further drive tiered storage, where there will be high performance storage, high capacity online storage, online archival storage, and offline storage. EMC?s new high-end storage array, Symmetrix DMX-3 provides high performance storage and high capacity storage in the same system, further enabling ILM strategies to be simplified with single in-the-box capabilities. Within a single DMX-3, a Petabyte can be configured. Network virtualization further enables volume pooling across systems, to simplify ILM implementations and to scale for enterprise needs.

?With the increases in performance and capacity, with improving $/MB, small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) will have ILM and compliance solutions within their reach.?

Storage management also has its role to play in a successful ILM strategy. As Nick points out: ?With storage environments becoming increasingly larger and tiered storage being deployed in support of ILM strategies, storage management solutions will feature more intelligence for decision support, automation, and leverage standards such as the SNIA?s SMI-S. Not only will the tools address physical storage such as capacity, topology, and health, but will encompass data management, policies, and service level objectives such as EMC ControlCenter.

?Data management solutions will become more application-aware, and applications are driving towards being more storage-aware. ILM, compliance, and service level agreements are drivers for having this intelligence and awareness through the computing stack. These tools enable IT departments to serve their business departments and meet business objectives. ?

With Nick and EMC?s vision for ECM and ILM spelled out so clearly, it will come as no surprise that Nick has equally definite views on the thorny subject of virtualisation. ?EMC believes virtualization and intelligence should be distributed in the array, in the storage network, and on the host.

?For years, arrays manufacturers, such as EMC, have delivered array virtualization, where the physical drives were served as logical volumes to hosts, such as the EMC Symmetrix and CLARiiON arrays. Within the array, many intelligent features are present including mirroring, replication, RAID for availability, load-balancing, and automated optimization.

?Virtualization within the network further aggregates pools of storage across several storage arrays, enabling a number of features including reduction of planned downtime for data movement across arrays, volume allocation to meet service level agreements in a tiered storage environment, and data movement in support of an ILM strategy. EMC believes the virtualization in the network should be out-of-band to enable scalability of the environment without constraint of the IO path. EMC virtualization solution InVista implements these key features.

?At the host level, path management, file systems, and volume managers are configured with the virtualized storage pool.?

And mention of pools brings us neatly on to utility computing, and the not unrelated topic of grid computing. ?Utility computing, as it?s commonly defined today, is more appropriate for enterprise customers,? says Nick. ?Utility computing?s key premise is about optimally managing a pool of computing resources to process a dynamic workload. The optimization of the compute resources allows for more efficient IT spending. Storage is one of the most important key components within utility computing, because it stores and moves the data. Management of the storage for capacity, accessibility, and performance within the overall compute environment are essential to meet the service level objectives. With business applications becoming more aware of the physical storage and storage management applications having features to automatically provision and to manage by policy, utility computing will garner more momentum within enterprise IT operations.?

As for grid computing, Nick explains: ?Grid computing has several intersections with utility computing, sharing these attributes: dynamic resource discovery, automated resource allocation, workload scheduling, coordinated data migration. Grid computing has evolved out of High Performance Computing which has high dependencies on storage including capacity and performance. Many commercial data centers have supported HPC solutions for various departments in their company, depending on the industry, e.g. automotive and aerospace industries have a lot of mechanical CAD analysis, life sciences for DNA and compound analysis, financial services for portfolio and risk management and so on. Government HPC applications include weather, satellite feeds, and many areas of advanced research. To augment the compute-centric side of grid computing, some areas of HPC research are keeping terabytes (and years) of research data online and building portals and search engines front-ends to serve researchers. ILM strategies and tiered storage are playing a key role in support of these efforts by managing data by experiment, by age, by regulation (e.g. FDA 7-year trials), and by frequency of access.

So ILM (and ECM) and utility computing seem to be the key topics for Nick. Something that is re-emphasised as he talks on the work that SNIA is doing to drive forwards standards and open SANs.

?Heterogeneous storage networks have been with us all along. The core elements of a storage area network include host bus adaptors, switches, and storage arrays and tape libraries. There is no vendor that manufactures every element. The large storage vendors invest a lot of resources into testing combinations of configurations that they find in their storage environments. The complexity of the problem is managing the working set of version numbers that span applications, operating systems, and firmware. An upgrade or a forced change by one vendor, such as a security patch, can upset the harmony of a tested and supported configuration. Typically, all of this testing and support is for the data path.

?The manageability of the configuration is what the SNIA SMI-S (storage management initiative specification) is all about. SMI-S provides out of band management based on CIM, WBEM, XML, HTTP, and TCP/IP. Today, there are over 200 storage products including arrays, switches and storage management applications which support SMI-S. As more functionality is added to SMI-S, the storage administrator can consolidate more tools to perform his daily tasks. EMC has passed the SNIA SMI-S Conformance Test Program for EMC ControlCenter, EMC Symmetrix, and EMC CLARiiON. We are active in SNIA SMI-lab, which also wrings out higher degrees of assured interoperability and publicly displays these capabilities at large events such as SNW-USA, SNW-Europe, and SNW-Japan.

?EMC sees SNIA making major strides with other cornerstone specifications beyond SMI-S that will enable more interoperability including IMA, MMA, and DDF. SNIA is also reaching out to other industry associations such as GGF, DMTF, ARMA, and AIIM to jointly work on ILM and Utility Computing.?

Also contributing to the buoyant health of the industry are, according to Nick, the number of start-ups entering the market. Nick explains: ? The storage market is consolidating, driven in large part by EMC. If you look at the industry today, the lions? share of the growth is going to EMC, our partner Dell, and NetApp.

?Additionally, venture capitalists have enabled many start-ups to bring their innovative ideas to market. Over time, some start-up companies are acquired, some merge, some prosper, and some stagnate. This ecosystem and lifecycle of start-ups should be viewed as a form of advanced development and proof of concept for new technologies that augment large storage companies? investments in research and development. EMC finds the number of start-ups as a healthy sign for the industry segment and we directly benefit from these start-up offerings. At times, we resell, OEM, and/or acquire the company to ensure our customers? needs are met with a worldwide service and support offering for a complete solution. Keep in mind that large enterprises do not want to assume risk and want their large suppliers to build supportable, tested solutions that meet their needs, which at times includes some of the new innovative technologies that emerge from the start-ups.?

And some final thoughts from Nick? ?We see the rapid increase in the amount of information corporations and individuals need to store continuing for the next several years. Managing the growing volumes of information will usher in more intelligent management applications that will include search and information policies. Open standards and partnerships will both be fundamental to bring the whole industry forward. EMC will be one of the leaders in serving the new requirements and advancing the marketplace.?

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Tags: Cloud Storage, Compliance, Deduplication, Disk/RAID/Tape/SSDs, Tiered Storage, Data Centres

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