ILM is virtually impossible, so IT departments should concentrate for now on consolidation and getting chargeback mechanisms in place, according to Mark Shirman, the CEO of storage services company Glasshouse.

"Full ILM is so complex it's almost impossible," he said. "What people are starting to do is what I call ILM-Lite - matching spending levels with service levels." He said that for IT, it's a matter of talking to user departments on the basis of "How many cents do you want to pay per megabyte?"

He added, "We see opportunities here to really do consolidation and build serious SANs, with some tiering of storage - probably not eight levels though, maybe three. Then the high-end stuff goes on Symmetrix, say, the mid-level data on NAS - we see a lot of corporate NAS - and then there's tape, VTL and so on for the rest."

Other than that, then barring the presence of a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy-style finite improbability generator, he said that getting to true ILM will be "incredibly hard. People are not going to get real far because you have to get all aspects of the business involved."

"The other problem is the metadata's not there yet. We are dependent on and waiting for that - ILM means you need to understand the value of data. I think it won't get far until that starts flowing out of the major software vendors."