Cloud Computing

Let’s talk about cloud computing.

At its simplest, things that are in the “cloud” are things that float around in a sort of digital airspace and don’t exist on your computer. They exist on remote servers which can be accessed from many computers.

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Photo by mansikka under a Creative Commons license

For this reason, the cloud is a good metaphor for the Internet. For most of us, keeping things in a cloud results in a convenient and logical way to make life simple.

You can access things in the cloud from anywhere that is connected to the Internet…depending on the service and its security (private cloud or public cloud). It’s kind of like your email or Facebook account. You have lots of stuff stored in these accounts that is specific to you, but you can log in from anywhere. And it will always look the same and have all your stuff in it. Your stuff is always just…there.

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Photo by AJC1 under a Creative Commons license

Getting a bit more technical, your stuff is actually physically stored somewhere as bits on servers that are run by whoever is providing the service. For example, some institutions have servers dedicated to an institutionally-based digital repository. These servers might live on the campus and will store everything that is added to the repository. But the whole repository will not exist on the specific machine that you might use to access documents stored there. Your computer will connect to the remote server to access the repository.

What makes this fun for digital preservationists is that cloud computing can really increase the scale and sharing of preservation duties. Maureen Pennock, the Web archive preservation Project Manager at the British Library, recognizes this in her blog: “This minimises costs for all concerned, addresses the skills shortage, and produces a more efficient, sustainable and reliable preservation infrastructure.”

In the future – and as we are seeing with DuraCloud – all the tech work behind producing ways to store and retrieve data may be provided as part of a single repository product. (This type of service, by the way, is referred to as IaaS – Infrastructure as Service.) This would be excellent news for a great deal of institutions that don’t have the means or skills to set up a repository themselves.

Cloud computing offers a huge potential for an off-site alternative to the out-of-the-box repository products that most institutions currently must use. Instead, external organizations will be able to do the tech work while the institutions will be able to focus on non-technical repository maintenance.

Images by Flickr users mansikka and AJC1

Original publication date: 7/15/09

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DuraSpace and DuraCloud

Here’s some news: the projects behind the digital repository platforms DSpace and Fedora have joined efforts and will now live under a bigger umbrella called DuraSpace. This new organization will still enable full and independent functioning of Fedora and DSpace, but there will be new joint projects aimed at advancing digital preservation technology and addressing a larger group of stakeholders.duraspace

The May 9, 2009 press release that announced the DuraSpace partnership emphasizes the first new project of its portfolio: DuraCloud.  DuraCloud is currently in a year-long pilot phase, and has the advantage of being backed as an NDIIPP project.  What makes it special is that it seems to be the first repository project to use cloud technology to store data.  Institutions will be relieved of a huge economic and technological burden if they no longer have to store the data themselves.  The Library of Congress announcement states that, “Duracloud will let an institution provide data storage and access without having to maintain its own dedicated technical infrastructure.”  Which means the servers (and knowledgeable techies) are provided with the DuraCloud product.

This means that the duties of the institutions with repositories that are supported by cloud storage technology will be refined to making the repository data standardized and accessible, which is probably a better way to spend time and funding for them.  DuraSpace and DuraCloud will maintain the open source and non-profit legacies of DSpace and Fedora, which makes this new organization and its first project even more appealing to institutions on tightened budgets.

Original publication date: 7/14/09