SMPTE AXF Standard to Ensure Future Viability of File-based Archives

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The Archive eXchange Format (AXF), which encapsulates any file type in a manner supporting interoperability among disparate content storage systems, has now been ratified by ISO/IEC as a measure to ensure the long-term availability of content, regardless of future storage and file-system developments.

SMPTE originally published the Archive eXchange Format in 2014 and it will be published officially as International Standard ISO/IEC 12034-1 in the coming weeks. AXF is an IT-centric file container that can encapsulate any number and any type of file in a self-contained, self-describing package, and supports interoperability among disparate content storage systems. was a major contributor to the creation of AXF and lead the ratification effort with ISO/IEC. "This standard's ratification is significant for anyone looking to store, protect and preserve valuable digital assets," said President Brian Campanotti at "Formal adoption of AXF as an ISO/IEC international standard comes after a decade of work, and we believe it will play a significant role in broadening the reach of this critical standard, which already protects and preserves petabytes of some of the world's most important file-based assets."


AXF was formulated as a wrapper, or container, capable of holding virtually unlimited collections of files and metadata, related to each other in any combination. Known as 'AXF Objects', such containers can package, in different ways, all the specific information needed by diverse systems to access and restore the data. Because the format uses the Extensible Markup Language XML to define the information in a way that can be read and recovered by all types of modern computer system, AXF Objects are virtually immune to changes in systems and formats. As far as can be anticipated, they also apply to all legacy and future storage architectures, making them highly resilient.

AXF Objects hold files of any type and any size and are not bound by the constraints of the individual media on which they are stored. By automatically segmenting, storing files on multiple media as 'spanned sets' and reassembling AXF Objects when necessary, such sets permit content to be stored on more than one medium - and on any type or generation of media. Archive operators can then use 'collected sets' to version AXF Objects or files within them, while preserving all earlier versions including a historical trail, even when write-once storage or more expensive wide area network (WAN) connectivity is used.

"Many organizations are now looking to the cloud to help meet their long-term storage management and preservation objectives," said S Merrill Weiss, president of Merrill Weiss Group LLC and chair of the SMPTE Working Group on AXF. "With the cloud, AXF will play a more important role regarding both interoperability among today's discrete storage systems and maintaining future-proof access to file-based assets, independently of the cloud or application vendor that initially created the AXF Objects."

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The nature of AXF makes it possible for equipment manufacturers and content owners to move content from their current archive systems into the AXF domain strategically. That is, archived content can still be recovered in the absence of the systems that created the archives, resulting in a vendor-agnostic means of protecting investments into the future.

By maintaining preservation information such as context, fixity and provenance, as specified by the OAIS (Open Archival Information System) model, AXF supports effective, long-term protection of file-based content. Fixity refers to a digital files' resistance to alteration or corruption. Context is the network of connections – such as metadata, or identification and correlation data – allowing practical information to be extracted from data. Redundant AXF structures and cryptographic hash algorithms ensure the resilience and recoverability of stored data.

More information can be found at, the central portal for the AXF Community.