Brian-Hill  by Brian W. Hill

IBM’s announcement this week outlining the vendor’s archiving vision and strategy is ambitious and far reaching in scope. It’s encouraging to see IBM working across its different internal divisions to deliver solutions that address specific enterprise needs (e.g., message archiving, file system archiving, and SharePoint archiving) while providing a framework and a set of capabilities for broader enterprise archiving.

My initial feedback on IBM’s strategic announcements is positive. Here’s why:


  • Information and technology chaos reign today. Enterprises struggle with IT environments comprised of multiple, fragmented archiving, records management, and eDiscovery applications. Historically, organizations have deployed these applications to address specific needs such as message archiving to improve operational performance or records management to meet regulatory requirements for physical records. But because these deployments have typically evolved organically and in isolation from one another, enterprises grapple with fragmentation, with disparate systems that lack consistent policies and entail significant ongoing TCO and legal risk. In our Q3 2009 survey, 60 percent of records management stakeholders rated synchronizing eDiscovery, records management, and archiving during the eDiscovery process as “challenging” or “very challenging.” IBM clearly understands this scenario and is aligning its offerings and messaging to meet these enterprise needs.
  • Portfolio providers bring advantages in comparison with point solution providers. Across its software, hardware, and services offerings, IBM brings a lot to the table for enterprises with archiving needs. In selling archiving solutions, IBM competes with a range of providers, including many who specialize in archiving for a specific content type or application (e.g., messaging or SAP). What’s especially compelling about IBM’s strategic announcement is the broad range of functionality that IBM plans to support across structured and unstructured content. IBM’s capabilities to rationalize IT infrastructure and harmonize policies (e.g., retention, storage management, etc.) for a range of applications and content types provides the vendor with potential competitive advantages in comparison with point solution specialists.
  • Flexible deployment options are key. IBM isn’t positioning its smart archive strategy as a single massive deployment approach. That’s good, because contemplating – let alone deploying – a single enterprise-wide approach to archiving is a daunting task. Instead, with this announcement, IBM describes set of specific solutions for archiving, records management, and eDiscovery in conjunction with a broader unified, information aware strategy. Rolling out applications sequentially, on an as-needed basis, and in the context of a coherent strategic archiving approach resonates with Forrester clients. Enterprises report that cross-repository capabilities like federated records management are becoming more important. This functionality, along with consistent ingestion and classification technologies, are important to IBM’s strategic approach.
    In addition to traditional on-premise software, IBM’s approach also focuses on other deployment models including pre-configured appliance, software-as-a-service, cloud ready and hybrid options. These flexible options should provide customers the ability to cut deployment times and may drive down overall total cost of ownership.


IBM also announced InfoSphere Content Assessment, a content analytics offering which will enable organizations to assess unmanaged content. With this new product, IBM will help organizations better understand unmanaged content and identify high value content subject to retention management or legal risk mitigation objectives. The offering will also help organizations identify unnecessary content eligible for deletion, supporting the ability to ease storage burdens and improve application performance.

In considering IBM’s strategic approach, however, enterprises should be clear that technology alone won’t translate to success with archiving objectives. Regardless of the deployment model, effective archiving requires early engagement with internal process experts and enterprise end users, in addition to IT and legal stakeholders. Careful change management efforts in conjunction with well-considered plans for retention policies, information architecture, and training, along with workflow and technology integration with records management and eDiscovery applications all play a critical role.

From my standpoint, the vision that IBM outlines in this announcement is strategically compelling. Across its services, software, and hardware assets, IBM has an extensive archiving portfolio. IBM’s archiving customers are today capturing significant storage savings, operational efficiencies, and legal risk mitigation benefits. It’s encouraging to see these assets and IBM’s messaging coming together in the same direction.

In telling this story though, IBM will need to make sure that it doesn’t go overboard in pitching this extensive vision. With varying needs to understand how it fits into the “big picture,” enterprise customers buy archiving technology and services to meet concrete objectives. Overall, it’s clear that aligning IBM archiving and supporting portfolio capabilities holds significant promise for enterprise value. A good set of IBM reference customers (who are holistically using a variety of the offerings described in IBM’s announcement) will go a long way in translating vendor vision to market reality and will play an important role in enterprise buying cycles.