Monday, June 01, 2009

OR09: On the new DuraSpace Foundation, and Fedora in particular

Open Repositories 2009, day 3, morning: three sessions on Fedora.

The morning started with a joint presentation by Sandy Payette (Fedora Commons) and Michele Kimpton (DSpace Foundation), focussing on strategy and organisation; after caffeine break, Fedora+DSpace tech overview by Brad McLean; finally, developers' open house.

I'll cover it in one blog post (this or09 series is getting a bit long in the tooth, isn't it?). For the actual info on DuraSpace and all, see the DuraSpace website. The tech issues were covered more in depth in further sessions.

The merger, by new almost old news, though the incorporation lies still in the future: Fedora Commons and the Dspace user Group will become DuraSpace. The 'cloud' product, that originally had the same name, is renamed DuraCloud.

Not the easiest of presentations, as there is a good deal of scepticism around the merger, and not just on the twitter #or09 channel. Payette and Kimpton handled it very professionally, dare I say gracefully. Both standing on the floor, in front of the audience, talking in turns (did I imagine it, or did I really hear them taking over a sentence, in Huey & Dewey style?), while an assistant standing behind the laptop was going back and forth through the slides in perfect timing.

All in all, they pulled it off to come across as a seamless team. That bodes well.

Also well was a frankness in the Q&A (as well as later in the developers open house). After noting some difficulties in finding the right strategy for open source development: "we do not aim to mold DSpace's opensource structure to the Fedora core committer, on the contrary".

"We have to ask ourself: are we really community driven in the Fedora project? We've been closed in the past, we're opening up." Fedora has started using a new tracker, actually modelled on DSpace's model; "please use it, our tracker is our new inbox."

On the state of Fedora - many and diverse new users.

Escidoc is now deployable.

WGBH OpenVault - including annotated video

Forced Migration Online 

Jewish Women Archive - runs in EC2, first of a new wave of smaller archives now coming online using limited resources.

Notably missing on a slide listing 'major contributors': Mediashelf, Sun, and Microsoft Research: VTLS. Possibly a sponsoring issue? It was more than a bit odd, given their standing in the past.

Q: "How do yo see the future of DSpace vs. fedora - do they compete?"

A: "Fedora’s architecture is great, but we also need ‘service bundles’. CMS style on top for instance. The architecture will stay open for any kind of app on top. DSpace is going the other direction. Opportunity is to make sure we're not doing identical things with different frameworks."

It is *so* easy to read this as 'the products will meet in the middle', but this was carefully avoided. However, in the tech talk later it was mentioned that Fedora-DSpace replication back and forth experiments are actively worked on.

I think I'm not alone in thinking that the products will merge eventually. It will take some time, but they will.

Q: (cites another software company merger, IIRC Oracle and Peoplesoft) – merger brings great unrest in communities, which one is going to die? Are F&D moving together? Technical and cultural changes for both communities? etc.

A: Payette: any kind of software eventually becomes obsolete. We are determined not to let that happen, and for that it needs to be modular and organic. Side by side, cause they both do things well. When overlap starts to happen, that may change, but by the module.

Peter Sefton chimed in: very positive. Right decision at the right time. Focus on cloud computing is essential, feels that this is what we’re moving towards, and our current monolithic repositories need to adapt to that.


Some DSpace 1.x upcoming features: statistics, embargo, batch editing. I don't know that much about DSpace, and it shows: I was surprised that these weren't covered yet. Esp. batch editing and embargo, pretty basic features. I know too little of DSpace to judge the announced 2.0 features, apart from the DuraCloud integration using Akubra.

Fedora 3.2 highlights:

  • SWORD API 1.3. Of course. Nice though
  • new web admin client. Not all of the features implemented, so the java client hasn't been deprecated - it will in future. This is a big deal, as the client is also useful for metadata editing staff.
  • akubra: store files by ID, pluggable, stackable, multiplexing (ie on multiple storage environments that to the API look as one big one). Experimental, meaning included but not turned on by default.

Finally, the Fedora developer open house was like getting the pulse of the developer community. Summary: there are pains, communication has been problematic, with a gap between the committers and the community. My impression is that it is finally being talked about, and the core developers in the panel admitting that a change is needed. A constructive and open approach.

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