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Archive for the 'Cloud Computing' Category

Libraries and the cloud: evolution not revolution

Karen ReecePost from Karen Reece, head of sales at Capita, from the recent issue of Panlibus Magazine (Issue 23).

From reading both the computing and the library press it seems that “cloud computing”, “software as a service” and “hosted services” have become the magic pixie dust that will solve all the library service’s IT problems, and make all of our lives easier. Needless to say, the realists amongst us know to take this with a pinch of salt however. Using the “cloud” does have some real advantages for libraries and like all ‘new’ inventions it’s not as ‘new’ as it portrays itself to be.

One thing is for certain, library users are already taking advantage of the storage that ‘cloud applications’ provide. If you cast your mind back 20 years, storage on floppy discs was the way to safely transport data from one system to another. These were quickly replaced with CDs, then DVDs and finally flash drives as the need for greater amounts of storage and speed of access grew. Now, a number of applications are born in the cloud, services like Flickr, Dropbox and Google Docs, all hosted in the cloud, holding large amounts of data and being accessed by millions of people over the web, all with huge storage capacity compared to those floppy discs 20 years ago.

These new technologies mean that large amounts of data can be used in a library context and some of the social software like Library Thing (the social cataloguing web application) is an example of how apps can be used in a library context. However, I’d argue that Capita’s library business has been using cloud or cloud-like solutions for a number of years. Perhaps the oldest example is Base, the bibliographic database that holds some 30 million bibliographic records. Not only do these hold commercial datasets, but also a large number of records that have been catalogued by staff in libraries and contributed back for the benefit of the library community. It’s also always been a hosted service.

The second example is our resource discovery system – Prism – which is used by over 90 libraries in the UK and Ireland and was launched four years ago. It’s a cloud based system that benefits from regular releases of new features (currently about every six weeks) and libraries can take advantage of these releases immediately. It’s an application that allows library services to benefit from the rich data contained within the modern amazon-like interface as well as mobile phone enabled interfaces. All without the need for any additional hardware or overheads for libraries to manage, allowing the technology to provide your users with an intuitive interface to access resources.

The final piece in the jigsaw has been the release of Chorus, the Capita Library Management System (LMS) as a Service. This has all the benefits that you’d expect from a hosted service, including security, reliability, scaling to meet the requirements of the library service as it grows, and also reducing the overall total cost of ownership in providing the LMS that libraries need. It has removed the need for locally deployed hardware on premise and meets the needs of both individual and consortium based library services. At Capita we see this as the natural evolution of technology which we have been helping our customers with for in excess of 40 years. This isn’t about throwing out the experience and rich data that has built up over time within the LMS, but taking advantage of the way in which cloud services can be applied to the LMS for the benefit of those customers who choose to move to this environment. Cloud computing isn’t a paradigm shift, it’s about evolution and not revolution.

The latest issue of Panlibus Magazine is now online

The latest issue of Panlibus Magazine is available to read online today.image

Technology and libraries have always gone hand in hand and with the two becoming increasingly entwined, this issue offers an array of views and opinions from many prominent voices in the library technology community.

Brian Kelly from UKOLN (p6) notes that rapid technological developments, combined with the financial crisis, will transform the nature of the services provided. Brian gives his technological predictions for 2012 and describes approaches for planning for the future. Peter Kilbourn of Book Industry Communication (p4) believes that technology can be used to protect the best of the library tradition and exploit the existing network of buildings, but in a way that doesn’t put pressure on rapidly dwindling funds.

The emergence of mainstream cloud computing over the last couple of years has prompted libraries to ask how this will affect them and what benefits it will bring. Erik Mitchell, a prominent figure in the world of cloud computing in libraries, discusses its impact and offers some guidance on balancing the issues and implications when evaluating cloud for libraries (p14). We also take a look at some of the practical applications of cloud in use in libraries currently (p8).

Capita’s Additions Partners provide a wide range of technology designed to improve your library service. In this issue we have articles from 3M, introducing SIP 3.0; Edinburgh libraries and Solus, outlining how they together achieved significant growth for the virtual library; and PSP Security Protection, introducing themselves to the Panlibus readers.

Subscribe to receive your own hard-copy or online version.

Survey

Thank you to all who filled out our recent survey. The answers have all now been collated and are being analysed. One of the things that has come out so far is introducing a ‘letters to the editor’ page which I am very keen to introduce. If you would like to send a letter for publication please email me at mark.travis@capita.co.uk.

Finally, the winner of the survey prize draw is Helen Standish from Manchester Metropolitan University, who takes home a Kindle. Congratulation to Helen.

Mark Travis, Editor, Panlibus Magazine

LibLime Cause Upset in the Open Source Community

LibLime_logo Roy Tennant, in a blog post with a title you have to read twice, draws our attention to moves from Open Source Library Systems company LibLime which is causing much angst from supporters of Open Source.

He reproduces comments from Joan Ransom on Library Matters:

Horowhenua Library Trust developed Koha, the world’s first open source library management system back in 2000. We gave it to the world in the spirit of community. We are very happy, delighted in fact, for any organisation or individual to take it, improve it and then give their improvements back.

Recipricocity is the keystone which gives strength to the Koha Community.

We do not begrudge vendors taking our gift and building a commercial enterprise out of it, as Liblime, Biblibre and any number of others have done, but the deal is that you give back. This has worked well for a decade and Liblime has been a strong, valued and much appreciated member of the Koha international community over that time.

So it is incredibly sad and disappointing that Liblime has decided to breach the spirit of the Koha project and offer a ‘Liblime clients only’ version of Koha. Let’s call it what it is: vendor lockin and a fork.

Others including Marshall Breeding have also commented.

From the trails of comments around these posts, I get the impression that most of the upset folks are taking offence about the perceived intentions of a previously lauded open source champion who is now grappling with the commercial and operational realities of running a business that provides key services to key customers.

Even if LibLime were to turn their back on the community aspect of Koha today [their press release indicates that they are not doing that], they should still be praised for moving forward that community far further than it would ever have reached without the involvement of such a commercial organisation. 

I would suggest though that, having been immersed in the Open Source world for so long, they should have expected such a backlash of an almost religious nature and handled this much better. 

The world [not just in libraries] is rapidly moving towards Cloud Computing, Software-as-a-service, hosted solutions  There is bound to be a tension between a community mostly made up of people who develop, and often look after there own local copy of, a software instance, and an organisation that aspires to run a service of the same/similar functionality for many customers on a hosted commercial basis.

Local experience here at Talis tells me that the velocity and pattern of development is very different for SaaS applications and services.  One that does not fit in very well with the traditional process of delivering software both open and closed source. 

Open Source is a valuable contribution that must be fostered, encouraged and promoted because the innovation that it generates is a valuable asset for all of us.  Experience with projects such as Juice and Jangle reinforce this. Nevertheless there are commercial and contractual realities that companies such as LinbLime have to take in to account, which may lead to others questioning their motives as we have seen over the last few days.

 

The Library 2.0 Gang – the vendors view on OCLC Web-scale

On the Library 2.0 Gang back in May we discussed Cloud Computing, an architecture in which you use your web browser to access your services on computers hosted by your system provider. 

Unlike traditional hosting, where you would expect to identify which system is running your application, cloud services appear as one big application servicing everyone’s needs spread across many computers and often data centres spread around the Internet.  The conversation last month was prompted by OCLC’s announcement they are developing such a service for delivering library services such as circulation, acquisitions, and license management.  The introduction of library services from the cloud, in a market where the vast majority of libraries host their own systems, could be potentially game changing and we speculated on what the reaction of the current suppliers would be.

In an attempt to answer some of that speculation I brought together a gang for the June show consisting of representatives of some of those suppliers – Carl Grant from Ex Libris, Nicole Engard from LibLime who support the Open Source system Koha, and Rob Styles from Talis.  We were joined by a new guest to the show Boris Zetterlund from Scandinavian and now UK supplier Axiell.

Technical issues, potential costs, applicability for smaller libraries, and openness of data & APIs all got an airing in this interesting conversation – have a listen.

What ‘is’ Web-Scale?

Cloud%003F It will have been difficult to miss OCLC’s recent Cloud Computing announcement.  If you have, the headline is that they say they are building an architecture capable of handling all the transactions of all libraries, meaning that they can add circulation, acquisitions, license management and several other aspects of library management to their WorldCat shared discovery capability.

As you can imagine, all this built upon racks of computers hosted at OCLC’s data centre combining their power to deliver a service to many users at the same time.  A well proven technology as used by Google, Sun, Amazon, Salesforce.com, and even here at Talis where the Talis Platform underpins our Engage, Aspire, and Prism products. The rest of the computing world describes this as Software as a Service (SaaS) or Cloud Computing.

For some reason OCLC are determined to come up with their own term – Web-Scale.  OCLC’s Andrew Pace in his recently published Talking with Talis podcast [highly recommended if you want an insight in to this initiative] tries to explain why the library world needs such a term.  The inaugural post on the OCLC Engineering blog, by Mike Teets also goes in to much depth as to what Web-Scale is.

Having read and listen to all this I must admit I’m still unconvinced.  It still sounds like engineering has be brought in, to support the marketing folks’ desire to be different, with technical description.  There are enough confusing terms hijacked by marketeers in the computing and Internet worlds. So I’m sure OCLC will forgive me if I continue to describe their approach as a cloud based software as a service – Cloud Computing.