Archive Exchange Format Potential Is About To Become Reality

Long-term archive solutions and disaster recovery are two crucial factors in securing content properly. At the SVG Sports Asset Management Forum last week, experts took to the stage to discuss not only their companies’ solutions but the broader challenges facing everyone during the decision-making process.

Front Porch Digital CTO Brian Campanotti kicked off with an update on Archive Exchange Format (AXF), an IT-centric file container that is which is like a file system within a file and can store any type of data on any type of storage media.

“It’s something SMPTE has been working on for eight years, and it is a way for systems that control storage to have an open, standardized format,” he explained. “It also gives a higher probability of recovering data, as it is agnostic to the underlying type of storage.”

The encapsulated package actually contains its own file system, which abstracts the underlying operating system, storage technology, and original file system from the AXF object and its valuable payload. AXF inherently supports interoperability among existing, discrete storage systems irrespective of the operating and file systems used and also future–proofs digital storage by abstracting the underlying technology so that content remains available no matter how these technologies evolve.

Spectra Logic SVP Hossein ZiaShakeri noted two keys to choosing an archive technology: simplicity of access and longevity, ensuring that, years from now, the content and data will still be available.

“Disk technologies are focused on making content accessible to the user,” he said, adding, “We are seeing a shift where everything is going closer to the end user so that they can find anything with simple search tools.”

Cloud-based and managed services continue to be a trend in the industry, and Campanotti said that the Lynx cloud service, launched by Front Porch in 2012, offers the kind of private cloud disaster recovery and business-continuance functionality that is increasingly attractive to content owners. Lynx includes Lynxcloud, a hosted private cloud on Tier III-compliant data centers; Lynxlocal, a client-side gateway; Lynxconnect, a software application for staging and transferring files; and Lynxdr, which ensures business continuity with zero downtime.

“It alleviates the capital requirement to build up an infrastructure as edge appliances cache content into the cloud and the subscriber has a pay-as-you-go op-ex model instead of bringing in gear and staff to manage an archive long term,” Campanotti explained. “Five years ago, I would not have said that a cloud-based system would go as well as Lynx has.”

Vista Worldlink’s digital archive solutions involve a team that migrates and preserves libraries, something useful for smaller organizations, according to VP Josh Liemer. A secure Web interface allows the user to access and review archived content via proxy files.

“Clients didn’t want to make an investment in hardware or personnel, so we make the investment and offer it as a service platform,” he pointed out. “People who don’t have libraries the size of the NBA can make the content available in an online environment so they can monetize it. It also allows for syndication and rebroadcast to the Web.”

Vista works with a number of technology providers — including Front Porch Digital, Aspera, and Spectra Logic — to make the offering complete.

“We work with great vendors in cloud-based and other technologies to create an ecosystem that offers as much redundancy as possible,” Liemer added.

Of course, when it comes to long-term archive solutions, there are always new technologies on the far horizon. The latest is the announcement by IBM and Fujifilm and involves the claim of “eventually” being able to fit 154 TB of uncompressed data on a standard LTO6 cartridge. Sony also announced the possibility of storing 185 TB on a single disk.

ZiaShakeri explained that, because tape is 1/100th as dense as other technologies, there is an opportunity to make particles smaller and more structured and offer better magnetization so that density and signal-to-noise ratio can be improved.

“You want to understand where the roadmaps are heading because the cost issues can become significant,” he said. “So you have to understand that in order to make the right decision.”

Seth Cohen, director of sales, East U.S., Canada, and Latin America, Nexsan by Imation, said the Nexsan Assureon plays a key part, writing data to two separate RAID disk sets and then comparing the files in the backup system with the original to maintain data integrity. Each time a file is saved, it is fingerprinted so that its history and contents cannot be altered after the fact. This write-once, read-many-times (WORM) storage architecture is part of how Assureon meets even the strictest regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA, SOX and SEC17.

“It continually checks against the gold copy and sends an alert if something has changed,” he added. “It’s a differentiating product.”