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HP unveils data management effort

Tapping into corporations' need to handle growing mounds of data, Hewlett-Packard is announcing an "information lifecycle management" initiative involving storage and business processes.

Tapping into corporations' need to handle growing mounds of data and abide by archiving regulations, Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday will announce an "information lifecycle management" initiative.

Information lifecycle management refers to methods for storing and tracking data from the time it is created to the time it is deleted. HP aims to stand out from other storage-focused competitors by concentrating on a customer's business processes first, said Rusty Smith, HP's director of information lifecycle management. In other words, HP consultants will help a customer define its policies for keeping and shifting data. "The place to start here is from a business perspective, not from a storage perspective," he said.

Brian Babineau, an analyst with research company Enterprise Storage Group, said HP's offering should be attractive. "They definitely have an advantage because they have their own consulting or professional-services organization," he said. But Babineau cautioned that IBM also has a strong services unit in addition to storage offerings, and he expects Big Blue to announce a similar initiative at some point.

Information lifecycle management can include data replication and back-up procedures to prepare for disasters, as well as what's known as hierarchical storage management. That refers to keeping only the most critical data on the highest-performing storage systems. Older or less vital information might be moved to lower-cost disk devices and eventually to tape systems for long-term archiving.

Precise figures for the size of the information lifecycle management market are hard to come by. But Babineau said several factors are generating interest in the arena, including the need to comply with regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Foreign regulatory requirements and the desire to be prepared for a disaster also are prodding organizations to think about long-term data management, he said.

HP's data management initiative involves teaming with an array of partners, including software companies Ixos, CommVault Systems and Legato Systems. HP intends to keep adding features to its information lifecycle management offering over time, Smith said. Eventually, the company expects to create data-handling systems that require very little human intervention. "A totally automated approach is probably going to take us three to five years," he said.

HP said it will initially target customers in the financial services and health care industries. Also in HP's sights is the life sciences industry, where data is growing rapidly. Future HP information lifecycle management products will be geared toward public sector customers, the company said.

A major reason to unveil the data management effort, Smith said, is to assure customers that HP can be counted on as a long-term partner. Given that some data will have to be archived for years, customers are more likely to trust a solid computing giant like HP rather than a small outfit that may be more likely to go out of business, he said. "Companies are a little nervous about signing up with a smaller company," he said.

Still, there are other major companies going after data lifecycle management dollars. They include Veritas Software and storage equipment maker EMC. EMC is in the process of acquiring Legato Systems, which makes data management software.

Smith said HP's partnership with Legato would be smooth as long as Legato's sales force and software remain largely separate from EMC.

Smith also said HP's plethora of partners would not be confusing to customers. "We're the integration point," he said. "We're the single point of accountability."