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Storage Vendors Propose New Standard

The proposed specification is meant to help move reference information around independent of the specific storage system being used. Reference information is data that, once saved, is not changed, and is an important part of compliance products.

Information lifecycle management (ILM) is taking a step forward as leading storage vendors develop a standard for allowing reference data to be moved between multi-vendor storage devices.

The proposed new eXtensible Access Method (XAM) specification is intended to provide an interface for moving reference information independent of the storage system technology, vendor solution, or location, said officials of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).

Reference information is data that, once saved, is not changed, and is an important part of compliance solutions.

The move to propose XAM as a standard started in late 2004 as a collaboration between IBM and EMC, and was later joined by Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, and Sun Microsystems, said Jeff Porter, chairman of SNIA's data management forum and a senior consulting software engineer in EMC's Advanced Technology group.

XAM is in the early stages of definition, with the official specification not expected until 2007, Porter said. "The information brought to SNIA from the vendors is foundation-level work," he said. "It's useful for building a standard."

Once adopted, the first fruits of XAM will be APIs and a software developer kit to give storage vendors and ISVs the ability to allow ILM applications to operate independently of the storage system, said Porter.

"It will allow vendors to develop apps that can handle large volumes of reference data and move it between storage systems," he said. "It will provide a level of interoperability not seen in storage systems before. It will let customers decrease their storage costs while increasing their access to their information.

When asked how such a specification might affect the value of EMC's Centera, a leading appliance for handling reference data, Porter would only say that end users will benefit from being able to access data on many vendors products.

"The amount of data is growing, and it's a big market for everyone," he said. "Did I dodge the question well enough?"

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