SNW: XAM working group to standardize metadata

Metadata fields could be customized to industries for long-term retention and retrieval

A new working group announced at Storage Networking World yesterday will help vendors and users write standardized interfaces between applications that generate fixed content and the storage platforms that store it.

The working group will focus its efforts around the Extensible Access Method (XAM) standards proposal from the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), which is leading the effort to create a protocol for the way organizations store metadata that describes fixed content, such as e-mails, medical records and financial data.

The XAM working group will create a software development kit to help vendors and corporations write their applications to the proposed XAM specification.

The XAM standards proposal, which is expected to be completed by early 2008 for review by the American National Standards Institute, will be aimed at e-mail archival first, according to Wayne Adams, SNIA's chairman emeritus.

But e-mail is the tip of the iceberg, as the latest compliance efforts by the federal government have been focused on fixed content in general, Adams said. In fact, the Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass., estimates that fixed content data will grow by 58% annually because of growing regulatory efforts, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

"We're finally trying to bring metadata into storage," said Jered Floyd, co-chair of SNIA's Fixed Content Aware Storage (FCAS) initiative. "XAM empowers applications to store true structured records with standard metadata fields, and not just data streams."

Floyd also pointed out that if any given application that created fixed content no longer exists, the data itself can still be retrieved through its standardized metadata.

Metadata fields contained in the XAM proposal could be customized to specific industry needs, such as data retention fields for financial information or fields describing medical information, such as X-rays, according to Adams.

"End users are doing this today. They're doing it on paper in terms of tracking it to say I put this data in this warehouse that has my Sarbanes-Oxley compliance data. So XAM is a set of tools that is meant to take the burden from the manual process," Adams said.

SNIA also announced yesterday that it has formed an alliance with open-source group Eclipse Foundation so that the Storage Management Initiative Specification can be more tightly integrated with the Aperi open-source storage project.

So this is to formalize an alliance that will enable further collaboration around SMI-S. Aperi is about developing open-source code around storage resource management, while SMI-S is a set of common models and protocols that will allow storage management tools to communicate between different vendor storage devices.

The International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission ratified SMI-S Version 1.03 last year.

While some vendors supporting SMI-S have also been a part of the Aperi effort, other vendors have shunned Aperi, even after it was placed under the auspices of Eclipse last year. (See " Sun drops out of IBM-led open standards group").

Asked if SNIA's latest move to build an alliance with Aperi was a not-so veiled attempt to quell bad blood, Wayne replied, "The message from the beginning has been consistent and one of us wanting to work together. Most of the members who founded Aperi are also members of the SNIA."

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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