I thought of this today as I read Jefferson Graham's article "How many trees did your iPhone bill kill?" in the USA Today newspaper. Apparently, new Apple iPhone users were sent AT&T billing statements that detailed their every phone call, text message or internet access. Here's a video on YouTube from Justine Ezarik that shows the absurdity of a 300-page monthly phone bill:
To be fair, the USA Today article explains that AT&T also offers "summary billing" as well as "on-line billing", but apparently neither of these are the default choice. I can understand that phone companies send out bills on paper because not everyone who has a phone has internet access, but in the case of its iPhone customers, internet access is in the palm of your hands! Since all iPhone customers have internet access, and AT&T knows which customers are using an iPhone, it would make sense for either on-line billing or summary billing to be the default choice, and let only those that hate trees explicitly request the full billing option.
Sending a box of 300 pages of printed paper is expensive, both for the sender and the recipient. This informationcould have been shipped less expensively on computer media, a single floppy diskette or CDrom for example. Forthose who prefer getting this level of detail, a searchable digitized version might be more useful to the consumer.
Which brings me to the concept of Information Lifecycle Management (ILM). You can read my recent posts on ILM byclicking the Lifecycle tab on the right panel, or my now infamous post from last year about ILM for my iPod.
His recollection of the history and evolution of ILM fairly matches mine:
- The phrase "Information Lifecycle Management" was originally coined by StorageTek in early 1990s as a way to sell its tape systems into mainframe environments. Automated tape libraries eliminated most if not all of the concerns that disk-only vendors tout as the problem with manual tape. I began my IBM career in a product now called DFSMShsm which specifically moved data from disk to tape when it no longer needed the service level of disk. IBM had been delivering ILM offerings since the 1970s, so while StorageTek can't claim inventing the concept, we give them credit for giving it a catchy phrase.
- EMC then started using the phrase four years ago in its marketing to sell its disk systems, including slower less-expensive SATA disk. The ILM concept helped EMC provide context for the many acquisitions of smaller companies that filled gaps in the EMC portfolio. Question: Why did EMC acquire company X? Answer: To be more like IBM and broaden its ILM solution portfolio.
- Today, ILM definition is standardized by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA):
Information Lifecycle Management is comprised of the policies, processes,practices, and tools used to align the business value of information with the mostappropriate and cost effective IT infrastructure from the time information isconceived through its final disposition. Information is aligned with businessrequirements through management policies and service levels associated withapplications, metadata, and data.Whitepapers and other materials you might read from IBM, EMC, Sun/StorageTek, HP and others will all pretty much tell you what ILM is, consistent with this SNIA definition, why it is good for most companies, and how it is not just about buying disk and tape hardware. Software, services, and some discipline are needed to complete the implementation.
While the SNIA definition provides a vendor-independent platform to start the conversation, it can be intimidatingto some, and is difficult to memorize word for word.When I am briefing clients, especially high-level executives, they often ask for ILM to be explained in simpler terms. My simplified version is:
- Information starts its life captured or entered as an "asset" ...
This asset can sometimes provide competitive advantage, or is just something needed for daily operations. Digital assets vary in business value in much the same way that other physical assets for a company might. Some assets might be declared a "necessary evil" like laptops, but are tracked to the n'th degree to ensure they are not lost, stolen or taken out of the building. Other assetsare declared "strategically important" but are readily discarded, or at least allowed to walk out the door each evening.
- ... then transitions into becoming just an "expense" ...
After 30-60 days, many of the pieces of information are kept around for a variety of reasons. However, if it isn'tneeded for daily operations, you might save some money moving it to less expensive storage media, throughless expensive SAN or LAN network gear, via less expensive host application servers. If you don't need instantaccess, then perhaps the 30 seconds or so to fetch it from much-less-expensive tape in an automated tape librarycould be a reasonable business trade-off.
- ... and ends up as a "liability".
Keeping data around too long can be a problem. In some cases, incriminating, and in other cases, just having toomuch data clogs up your datacenter arteries. If not handled properly within privacy guidelines, data potentially exposes sensitive personal or financial information of your employees and clients. Most regulations require certain data to be kept, in a manner protected against unexpected loss, unethical tampering, and unauthorized access, for a specific amount of time, after which it can be destroyed, deleted or shredded.
So ILM is not just a good idea to save a company money, it can keep them out of the court room, as well as help save the environment and not kill so many trees. Now that 100 percent of iPhone customers have internet access, and a goodnumber of non-iPhone customers have internet access at home, work, school or public library, it makes sense for companies to ask people to "opt-in" to getting their statements on paper, rather than forcing them to "opt-out".
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