SAP Information Lifecycle Management

What is the difference between Data Management and Information Lifecycle Management (ILM)?

The two are closely related, but are not the same thing.  The focus of data management is mainly cost related and deals with reducing data volumes, regardless of the contents of that data. It involves four basic approaches for keeping data volumes in check:

  • Prevention
  • Aggregation
  • Deletion
  • Archiving.

To be able to implement an ILM strategy you need a good data management strategy as a foundation. SAP ILM tries to achieve a good balance between TCO, risk, and legal compliance. So in addition to managing data volumes, SAP ILM also manages data retention requirements, including such things as the final destruction of information.

SAP ILM is the sum of all of these measures. With regard to the origin of the data ILM covers both live systems and legacy systems. For legacy systems ILM provides methods and tools to extract data from a system to be Decommissioned, and move it to the Retention Warehouse, where it can be accessed in case of reporting and auditing requirements.

Why is it so important to understand the difference between data and information?

Data is the physical representation of information in any form. It could be a piece of paper containing information or a data unit in a computer system. Data is a technical concept, while information is an abstract notion. The importance of distinguishing between the two in the context of SAP ILM becomes apparent when you consider the following two notions:

Information can be stored redundantly as different data

Disposing of data does not necessarily mean that you have lost or destroyed information. In an ILM strategy it is not sufficient to simply delete data. You have to think about the information you want to destroy and then delete all the necessary data carrying that information.

This is also key in trying to interpret legal requirements.  A law will often dictate that you destroy data after a certain number of years (e.g. employee data). What is really meant, though, is that you are to destroy the information about that person.

Isn’t ILM just a synonym for Hierarchical Storage Management System (HSM)?

Not at all, in the beginning, SAP ILM was strongly driven by the storage industry and often used as a synonym for HSM.

However this would be a very narrow definition of SAP ILM.

Although SAP ILM is partially made possible through technological innovation, it is a holistic approach to managing complex relationships and requirements on information. It is a mixture of processes, strategy, and technology, which are all used together to manage information across its entire lifecycle. Since data is commonly born in a business application, SAP ILM should start there, at the birthplace. Likewise, since the end of the information lifecycle often takes place in a storage system, SAP ILM should also span this media.

SAP ILM means from cradle to grave, from application to storage system.

How is ILM defined?

ILM is comprised of the policies, processes, practices, and tools used to align the business value of information with the most appropriate and cost effective IT infrastructure from the time information is conceived through its final disposition. Information is aligned with business processes through management of policies and service levels associated with applications, metadata, information, and data.

Much of ILM happens outside the system and has to do with communication between the different departments in your organization. Many of the processes involved in ILM are automated and are increasingly being supported through new technological developments.

As a matter of fact, ILM cannot work on its own, it needs support through suitable products and tools. The ILM solution from SAP comprises dedicated products that address all aspects of ILM: structured and unstructured data, data from live and legacy systems, and from SAP and non-SAP systems.

How is SAP ILM Licenced?

How is SAP ILM Licenced?

Retention and deletion capabilities from ILM are included in the SAP NetWeaver license at no additional cost ONLY for the purposes of managing personal data to meet GDPR and similar privacy requirements (any other data requires a paid license)


Managed systems are all production systems with a unique system ID that are controlled, managed, monitored, or retired by the software
System decommissioning: managed systems are systems that are retired using SAP ILM
Archiving, retention management and GDPR: managed systems are systems for which data retention management rules are defined


If you have 3 SAP systems with Archiving requirements (data retention) and 4 legacy systems that are to be decommissioned then 7 SAP ILM licences are required.



Does ILM replace data archiving?

Not at all, ILM is not a product that replaces data archiving. Rather, data archiving is an important part of any ILM strategy. If you have an established data archiving strategy in place, you already have a very good basis for ILM. You can start from there and gradually work your way towards a full-fledged ILM strategy, by beginning to set up retention rules using ILM policy management, for example.

Can you access old ADK files when ILM is implemented?

With regards to classic data archiving based on ADK nothing has changed through ILM. Data archiving as well as the retrieval of the archived data is still possible as before without ILM functionality. However, you have the option of integrating your old ADK files into the ILM concept if necessary.

What is the difference between ECM and ILM?

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) includes Document Management, management of incoming documents (scan), management of outgoing documents (print), Records Management, Web Content Management, E-Mail Management, Case Management, Collaboration Management, and Enterprise Search.

ECM contains the storage of unstructured data, here the term “archiving” is often used in this area, but please do not confuse it with SAP data archiving (archiving of structured data).

ILM includes capabilities for managing the retention of structured data as well as unstructured data. With unstructured data we mean ArchiveLink documents attached to the structured data, e.g. scanned invoices or financial documents, and print lists. Apart from such attachments and print lists ILM is not intended for managing the retention of other types of unstructured data.

How does Information Management compare to ILM, and what’s the difference?

Information Management (IM, formerly called Enterprise Information Management, EIM) must be seen in a much broader context than ILM.

IM is a framework designed to turn enterprise information (in many cases scattered throughout the organization) into a strategic asset.

IM solutions create, cleanse, integrate, manage, govern, and archive structured and unstructured data.

They enable enterprise data warehouse management, master data management, data integration and quality management, information lifecycle management, and enterprise content management.

ILM is part of the IM framework, with a primary focus on the efficient and legally compliant management of mass data through its life cycle. This includes structured and unstructured data, data from live and legacy systems, and data from SAP and non-SAP systems.

What kind of storage system do I need for ILM?

To use ILM functions you need to store your structured data, e.g. transactional data, on a WebDAV storage system that is certified according to the WebDAV storage interface certification for SAP ILM.

Unstructured data, such as ArchiveLink documents and print lists, can remain on the original ArchiveLink storage system.

Is it possible to remove data from the storage system directly in order to destroy it?

No. With ILM data is only archived if there is a reason for doing so. This reason is represented by the retention rule(s), upon which the system calculates the expiration date.

If no active retention rules exist, it is not possible to move the data to the WebDAV store. Once moved to the store data can only be destroyed in accordance with the associated rule(s), that is if the expiration date has been reached.

Most ILM-aware storage solutions guarantee the integrity and authenticity of the data contained, therefore circumventing the retention rules and simply deleting the data is not possible.

What about the archiving of BW content? Is it covered by ILM?

No. ILM does not offer a new functionality in this area. For data reduction within BW nearline storage systems are used.

However, using the solution ILM Retention Management Storage Option for SAP IQ, you can store your archiving indices and archive files on SAP IQ.

In combination with the storage of analytical data from the SAP NetWeaver® Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW) application via SAP NetWeaver BW’s nearline storage interface, you can consolidate your storage infrastructure on a single platform and thus reduce the complexity of your system landscape and the associated costs.

What is the purpose of the CDE?

The Context Data Extractor (CDE) is a tool used during system decommissioning which enables the extraction of context information (master data, customizing data, meta data) from the legacy system in order to complement the information contained in standard archiving objects. The data extracted with the CDE is stored in snapshots files.

Why do I need snapshots?

A snapshot is a copy of data from the database created by running an ILM enhanced archiving object (for transactional data) or by running the CDE (for context data). If an archiving object is run in snapshot mode, no archivability checks take place. Also the data is not deleted from the database as in regular data archiving. Snapshots are typically used during system decommissioning to extract data from still open business processes from the system to be decommissioned.

Is it possible to decommission non-SAP systems?

Yes. Using specialised tools, such as SAP Data Services and SAP Landscape Transformation and the CDE features of SAP ILM, it is possible to extract data from non-SAP systems, map it to SAP or custom structures, and convert it into ADK files.

These files have the same structure as archive files created from native SAP data.

Once the data from the non-SAP system is processed, it can be used in the ILM Retention Warehouse in a similar way as native SAP data.

As non-SAP systems usually differ very much from SAP systems, expert consulting services accompany the decommissioning process to ensure a successful project.

Why can’t I simply use snapshots to extract all data from a legacy system?

Snapshots are a simple way of extracting data from a system, since no archivability checks are performed. So why not use this function to extract the entire data set of a system, particularly if the system will be shut down anyway?

The answer has to do with the nature of snapshots. In contrast to standard archiving objects designed for archiving business-complete data, snapshots are intended for archiving data from business processes that are still open for any reason. However, due to the special character of snapshots (remember: snapshots archive business-incomplete data that does not have a final status, such as “complete”) it is not possible to calculate the expiration date as for business-complete data.

Therefore, in the ILM store snapshots are stored with an “unknown” expiration date set. If you need to destroy a snapshot, for example, because a newer snapshot exists, you can do so by setting the expiration date manually to a specific date in the future. However, this will always be a manual process reserved for the exceptional case of snapshots or other data without time relevance. Therefore, archiving business-complete data as snapshots does not make sense, although it is technically possible.

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