SNIA Pushes eXtensible Access Method Standard Forward

X-Access Method, or XAM for short, is on the fast track to becoming a ubiquitous standard for reference information and fixed content access in the coming years.

Aiming to create a new set of application interfaces to enable different vendor storage systems to more easily communicate with each other, as well as share and store sensitive data for growing compliance concerns, the Storage Networking Industry Association is currently reviewing a proposed specification interface called eXtensible Access Method.

X-Access Method, or XAM for short, is on the fast track to becoming a ubiquitous standard for reference information—data that changes infrequently once written—and fixed content access in the coming years.

In fact, XAM could make its way toward partial adoption as part of a SDK (software development kit) by late 2006 or in 2007, said Jeff Porter, chair of San Francisco-based SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association)s Data Management Forum.

The proposed interface fits between consumers of applications and providers of storage systems.

It will enable access to heterogeneous storage environments and allow data and corresponding metadata about an object to emulate whats there and make ILM (information lifecycle management)-based decisions to move data through storage tiers.

Porter said the proposed specification can eventually be used for moving data from one archived format to another as it ages, an area becoming increasingly important with the emphasis being put on organizations due to regulatory compliance pressures.

"[XAM] addresses a lot of the storage industrys problems. I think many vendors are trying to address it, but customers are forced to pick between the [different vendor] options depending on where theyre at and their own return levels, and make decisions based on what vendors they already have in-house or whos further along," said Porter.

"This specification will allow them to operate in an heterogeneous environment to work out these issues."

XAM began its march toward SNIA in October 2004 when IBM and EMC Corp. joined together in a collaborative project to create from the ground up an interface for reference information.

About nine months later, Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Hitachi Data Systems joined the consortium.

In September, the XAM Consortium formally presented the proposed standard to SNIA and it was officially accepted in October to advance the specification.

Laura Sanders, vice president of TotalStorage, Products and Solutions for Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, said IBM is already taking some of the early steps surrounding XAM in its Data Retention 550 (DR550) product.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about delays in the release of SNIAs product certifications.

The box, which features hardware with software residing on top of it, is basically a data retention software blade that accepts APIs by using TSM (Tivoli Storage Manager), and takes advantage of TSM to deal with Content Manager and other applications.

"In this area, youre holding onto content, and its very likely the content will outlast the media. You dont want to be in an area where its closed and it fills up and you cant migrate. That was our original approach and fact that industry views we need a standard around this we were happy about. Because now a customer can spend more time on his code," Sanders said. "Between this and were that were trying to do with Aperi, I think we have a real opportunity to move the storage industry forward."

Version 1.2 of the proposed standard is currently in the hands of SNIAs FCAS-TWG (Fixed Content Aware Storage – Technical Work Group).

Following its initial review, the FCAS-TWG unanimously voted to use the XAM contribution as a basis to develop a Fixed Content API to play a role with long-term archiving of data.

Porter said that XAM has been broken up into 10 specific focus areas to determine where it needs expansion or extension of some of the existing documents presented, or possible aligning to move it along as quickly as possible.

The eventual XAM SDK will allow storage vendors to plug in their interfaces, and the applications and management software will enable calls to be carried through and access multiple vendor products.

The FCAS-TWG is also working on a query model for more streamlined access to metadata via XAM, as well as a XAM security model.

SNIA will invite a number of ISVs (independent software vendors) to its SNIA symposium in San Jose, Calif., on Jan. 23 to drive up interest in XAM.

That outreach will go a long way to help ISVs understand their crucial role with the proposed specification and what impact it will have on their businesses, technology offerings and customers once it gains significant traction within the storage industry.

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