Back in December last year, in a feature entitled Grand unification theory I wrote: "Can ILM and data protection technologies be combined in one unified product?" Bridgehead Software's managing director, Tony Cotterill, reckons they can. Here is what he wrote about the topic:

The view from Bridgehead
There are two things required to take the concept of unification through to action.

One is a change in emphasis around the role of backup. It was always a means of providing a point in time copy of data for disaster recovery purposes. But when there was less complexity and less data it could also be used to find a file or some other end user data. These days it is not the right tool to provide file access. It needs to be seen as a protection blanket for your ILM strategy.

Archiving should allow the "I've lost a file", "This data is corrupted" or "we need to access everything to do with X" functions for regulatory or legal disclosure reasons. And the backup strategy sits below to solve the "If disaster strikes, how do we get it all back quickly?" problem.

It is only natural that the IT departments have tried to evolve their storage strategy to cover all with what they had. Let's face it this industry is driven by vendor offerings (the largest of whom are hardware-focused) so why would they be keen to offer something that used less tin?

In reality, the right tool for the right job is what is needed here. But as you rightly pointed out, there is very little that can let you do what is really required here. One exception is the BridgeHead integrated storage management approach and the one element is key to making ILM and its data protection work.

You mentioned that the missing link of ILM and data protection as the matter tackling the storage layers. The BridgeHead approach is software providing a common interface to that secondary media - a single system. Access times may vary between tape, disk and optical but it will be transparent to the user, either using stubs or a metadata database with a "My archive places" folder. It is so simple - all the storage media just looks like disk.

As there are multiple copies at multiple locations within this ILM or data lifecycle approach, it has an inherent resilience. And it allows the backup task to be focused on what it should be - block level backup; the very thing that tape excels at.

This approach to data lifecycle management is far from impossible - it is being done now.

Tony Cotterill is managing director of Bridgehead Software