THERE CONTINUES TO be a buzz around information lifecycle management, with vendors pushing out a gamut of ILM-tagged solutions they claim can help businesses manage documents and data in more cost-effective ways. However, analysts claim ILM continues to promise much, deliver little and threatens to overwhelm those brave enough to try it with its complexity. 'ILM can appear to be a daunting amount of work or an impossible dream. It adds to complexity by adding more products, management responsibilities and requirements,' said Gartner Research vice-president and research director Raymond Paquet. Furthermore, vendors cannot agree on what ILM actually is. How an enterprise devised an ILM strategy depended on whose definition it chose to use as a base line, according to Tom Zack, vice-president, marketing and operations, Asia-Pacific at HDS. While some vendors see ILM as tiered storage that involves the automation of data migration, others believe it extends to enterprise content management. No matter which definition a business embraced, Mr Zack said many of the customers highlighted as ILM success stories were, in fact, not using ILM in the strictest definition of the term. 'For decades, customers have placed low-value or infrequently used data on tape, but they are not ready to deploy ILM because their applications do not provide the intelligence to know the value of data as they are being created and how they change over time,' he said. Also, most enterprises had yet to do the data classification necessary to enable ILM implementations, Mr Paquet said. But there is hope yet for ILM marketers. According to Mr Paquet, the complexity of file and e-mail archiving requirements would push many companies in the ILM direction this year. Betty Lin, StorageTek North Asia's Hong Kong country manager, said enterprises in heavily regulated industries such as banking and finance must adhere to specific rules and regulations regarding the preservation of documents such as e-mails, customer information and transaction records for several years. Asian companies doing business with US firms, and needing to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, are also driving the adoption of ILM in the region. Organisations looking for cost-efficient solutions to store a high volume of data for years are also embracing ILM strategies. Government departments had massive volumes of images and documents, such as fingerprint information, criminal records and payment records to store; while hospitals had many large image files, including X-rays, CAT and MRI scans to keep, Ms Lin said. Other organisations in sectors such as law, accounting, aviation and shipping also hold many documents that need to be stored for years to come. Ms Lin believed these organisations would also become fans of ILM. However, because most SMEs had limited exposure to overseas markets, and therefore data regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, there was far less motivation for them to adopt ILM solutions. Ms Lin said vendors needed to do a better job of making ILM technologies easier to deploy and use for small businesses. But even when ILM offerings are simpler to deploy, vendors should not assume that there will be immediate market uptake because full ILM implementations are multi-year projects. Anthony Chan, vice-president and general manager of StorageWorks division, enterprise storage and servers group for Hewlett-Packard Asia-Pacific, said: 'ILM is a journey, not a one-time major investment of capital and resources.'