ILM diary: Time to select the file archiving supplier

Lundbeck's ILM project reaches vendor selection stage, which means bringing in outside expertise and discovering that formulating questions for prospective suppliers is not always as easy as one might think.

Danish pharmaceutical firm Lundbeck A/S has set out to tame ever-growing quantities of unstructured data and implement an information lifecycle management (ILM) project. SearchStorageUK is following its progress through key stages of the project with a diary written by IT infrastructure designer Per Ronnow Staffe, which will chronicle his team's progress.

This month, the first milestone was achieved with product selection, but not until Staffe had been through the lengthy process of drawing up a shortlist, sending out questionnaires and visiting vendors.

ILM Diary – July 2008

As you may remember, we started our ILM project in April this year and decided to split it into two tracks: one to define a data classification scheme with the business and one to implement the necessary IT component.

We have reached our first major milestone, and have selected the product and vendor we will use for file archiving. To get to this position we followed a defined process, which I will describe in this diary entry, as well as some of the lessons learned.

Discussions with each vendor will cost at least two days work so we wanted to narrow down the number to a minimum.
Per Ronnow Staffe
IT infrastructure designerLundbeck
We started with two major goals for the project. The first is that on 31 December this year the amount of data on our fileservers should not exceed the level it was at on 1 January. The second goal is to reduce backup time to 12 hours. That means the amount of file data should not exceed 15 TB and backup time should be reduced from 62 hours to 12, a decrease of 50 hours.

You may understand that I'm sweating, and it is not because of a hot Danish summer. Nevertheless, I think it is a good practice to set ambitious, yet realistic goals, as this forces you to find the best solution to a problem.

We could now proceed to the next step in our process: trying to figure out how our overall goals could be accomplished. A file archiving solution seemed the obvious solution to our problem, but I discovered that file archiving can be done in a number of ways. I thought it best that we bring in some expertise to help us.

I started in IT as a programmer in 1984 and have seen a lot of so-called expert consultants, but the individual we brought in lived up to the name. We were provided with an overview of vendors, solutions and architectures, and our consultant helped us generate 58 questions to send to vendors.

Which vendors should we shortlist? We were working in time slots and our deadline was getting closer. It is my experience that talking to each vendor would cost at least two days work so we wanted to minimise the number we spoke to. After a Gartner phone meeting, we ended up with six possible candidates. Two were rejected -- one because they had no representation in Europe, and the other because they would provide a solution from one of the other vendors.

We posted our 58 questions to the four remaining vendors and received four offers back just over a week later. Two vendors joined together to offer a common solution, and another vendor returned with two offers. It wasn't what I had expected, but I soon re-learned the lesson that salespeople respond not only to immediate needs, but to expected future needs as well.

As expected, there were two kinds of solutions on offer: traditional archiving solutions and file area network (FAN) solutions.

Now we had to review vendors' replies to our questionnaire and I discovered I was not as good at formulating questions as I thought. Many were misinterpreted, so I had to rephrase about 15 questions to each vendor and add in new questions that had arisen from their previous answers. These questions were sent out before a visit to each vendor, where we saw presentations and had some constructive, honest discussions.

Then it was time to decide. We opted to go with a File Management Engine from Brocade.. This was a simple FAN solution in an appliance which we expect can meet our goals within the given timeframe, which is from now until mid-November.

Next: The Lundbeck team gets down to proof-of-concept work.

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