Universal data retention specification demonstrated

XAM specification divorces data from the applications that created it

Vendors such as EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Vignette will demonstrate this week their software interfaces for a new specification that offers a universal way for users to store and access unchanging or fixed data regardless of the application that created it.

The specification, eXtensible Access Method (XAM), was demonstrated at Storage Networking World here for the first time. The specification was announced last northern spring and is expected to be presented to the American National Standards Institute for review as a standard early next year

XAM essentially acts as a layer of abstraction between operating systems, various fixed content applications -- such as e-mail, file or database archiving products -- and the management software that accesses the fixed-content data so that users can retrieve that data no matter what application created it.

"Now end users will be in the position to have specific data management strategies ... with no constraints posed by an application," said Vincent Franceschini, chairman of the Storage Networking Industry Association.

XAM will also simplify the way data is migrated from one disk subsystem to another, so that middleware is no longer required to download data from one application or technology into another, according to Franceschini.

"So when you made that conversion from 5.25-in. disk drives to 3.5-in. disk drives, you probably had a file system that looked at that and then you dragged and dropped it," Franceschini said. "What we're looking at here is the removal of something as simple as a low-level operating system and file system dependency."

Leading vendors at SNW plan to demonstrate tomorrow their ability to write to XAM: EMC is using its DiskXtender file archiving software; Hewlett-Packard is demonstrating its Database Archiving software; Sun plans to display XAM capability with its Photo Editor imaging application; and Vignette will demonstrate XAM with its Records Manager application.

Michael Killian, chief technology officer at EMC's Centera fixed content array division, said his company will also be supplying an interface module for the XAM specification to allow its customers to access data already stored on their content-addressed storage disk arrays.

Carlson added that users will eventually be able to apply compression algorithms or de-duplication (data single instancing) technology to XAM data prior to storing it to save disk space.

The SNIA claims that 45 companies, including independent software vendors, application developers and storage vendors, are participating in the XAM initiative.

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