Moving Up to the Cloud, a panel lecture hosted by the VCU Libraries

“Sky symphony” by Kevin Dooley

“Educational Utility Computing: Perspectives on .edu and the Cloud”
Mark Ryland, Chief Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services

AWS has been a part of revolutionizing the start-up industries (i.e. Instagram, Pinterest) because they don’t have the cost of building server infrastructures in-house. Cloud computing in the AWS sense is utility computing — pay for what you use, easy to scale up and down, and local control of how your products work. In the traditional world, you have to pay for the capacity to meet your peak demand, but in the cloud computing world, you can level up and down based on what is needed at that moment.

Economies, efficiencies of scale in many ways. Some obvious: storage, computing, and networking equipment supply change; internet connectivity and electric power; and data center sitting, redundancy, etc. Less obvious: security and compliance best practices; datacenter internal innovations in networking, power, etc.

AWS and .EDU: EdX, Coursera, Texas Digital Library, Berkeley AMP Lab, Harvard Medical, University of Phoenix, and an increasing number of university/school public-facing websites.

Expects that we are heading toward cloud computing utilities to function much like the electric grid — just plug in and use it.


“Libraries in Transition”
Marshall Breeding, library systems expert

We’ve already seen the shift of print to electronic in academic journals, and we’re heading that way with books. Our users are changing in the way they expect interactions with libraries to be, and the library as space is evolving to meet that, along with library systems.

Web-based computing is better than client/server computing. We expect social computing to be integrated into the core infrastructure of a service, rather than add-ons and afterthoughts. Systems need to be flexible for all kinds of devices, not just particular types of desktops. Metadata needs to evolve from record-by-record creation to bulk management wherever possible. MARC is going to die, and die soon.

How are we going to help our researchers manage data? We need the infrastructure to help us with that as well. Semantic web — what systems will support it?

Cooperation and consolidation of library consortia; state-wide implementations of SaaS library systems. Our current legacy ILS are holding libraries back from being able to move forward and provide the services our users want and need.

A true cloud computing system comes with web-based interfaces, externally hosted, subscription OR utility pricing, highly abstracted computing model, provisioned on demand, scaled according to variable needs, elastic.


“Moving Up to the Cloud”
Mark Triest, President of Ex Libris North America

Currently, libraries are working with several different systems (ILS, ERMS, DRs, etc.), duplicating data and workflows, and not always very accurately or efficiently, but it was the only solution for handling different kinds of data and needs. Ex Libris started in 2007 to change this, beginning with conversations with librarians. Their solution is a single system with unified data and workflows.

They are working to lower the total cost of ownership by reducing IT needs, minimize administration time, and add new services to increase productivity. Right now there are 120+ institutions world-wide who are in the process of or have gone live with Alma.

Automated workflows allow staff to focus on the exceptions and reduce the steps involved.

Descriptive analytics are built into the system, with plans for predictive analytics to be incorporated in the future.

Future: collaborative collection development tools, like joint licensing and consortial ebook programs; infrastructure for ad-hoc collaboration


“Cloud Computing and Academic Libraries: Promise and Risk”
John Ulmschneider, Dean of Libraries at VCU

When they first looked at Alma, they had two motivations and two concerns. They were not planning or thinking about it until they were approached to join the early adopters. All academic libraries today are seeking to discover and exploit new efficiencies. The growth of cloud-resident systems and data requires academic libraries to reinvigorate their focus on core mission. Cloud-resident systems are creating massive change throughout out institutions. Managing and exploiting pervasive change is a serious challenge. Also, we need to deal with security and durability of data.

Cloud solutions shift resources from supporting infrastructure to supporting innovation.

Efficiencies are not just nice things, they are absolutely necessary for academic libraries. We are obligated to upend long-held practice, if in doing so we gain assets for practice essential to our mission. We must focus recovered assets on the core library mission.

Agility is the new stability.

Libraries must push technology forward in areas that advance their core mission. Infuse technology evolution for libraries with the values needs of libraries. Libraries must invest assets as developers, development partners, and early adopters. Insist on discovery and management tools that are agnostic regarding data sources.

Managing the change process is daunting.. but we’re already well down the road. It’s not entirely new, but it does involve a change in culture to create a pervasive institutional agility for all staff.

IL 2010: Adding Value to Your Community

speaker: Patricia Martin

[I took notes on paper because my netbook power cord was in my checked bag that SFO briefly lost on the way here. This is an edited transfer to electronic.]

She told a story about how a tree in her yard sprang up and quickly produced fruit, due in part to the fertilization that came from some bats living in her garage. The point being is that libraries are sitting on hidden assets (i.e. bat shit), but we haven’t packaged it in a way our community will recognize and value it (i.e. bat guano fertilizer).

She thinks that the current conditions indicate we are on the cusp of a renaissance generation that will lead to an explosion of creativity. Every advanced civilization gets to a point where there is so much progress made that traditions become less relevant and are shed. We need to keep libraries, or at least their role in society/education, relevant or they will be lost.

Martin says that the indicators of a renaissance are death (recession), a facilitating medium (internet), and an age of enlightenment (aided by the internet). We are seeing massive creativity online, from blog content larger than the volumes in the Library of Congress to Facebook to the increase in epublications over their print counterparts.

Capitalism relies on conformity, but conformity won’t give us the creativity we need. Brands/companies who are succeeding are those who provide a sense of belonging/community for their users, who empower creativity among them, and who manage the human interface.

The old ways have the brand at the center, but the new way is to have the user at the center. This sounds easy, until you have to live it. When the user is at the center, they want to build a community/tribe together, which creates sticker brands.

Jonathan Harris wants us to move forward towards creating a vibrant culture online that’s not about celebrity tweets. He is studying the things that people yearn for and creating a human interface to explore it. It is projected that 80% of data generated will come from social networks – how will we make sense of it all? Why would the RenGen (renaissance generation) still use libraries if the traditional book is our brand? We need a new story about the future where libraries are present, in whatever form they become.

A president of a cloud computing company is quoted by Martin as saying that in the future, screens will be everywhere. The return on transaction (faster) will replace the return on investment. He saw the cloud storage demand grow 500 times in 2009, and expects that rate will only continue into the future as we generate more and more data.

Story is the new killer app – the ultimate human interface. The new story of the future will be built around preconition.

Libraries can create value by leaving the desk and going into the community to provide neutral information to meet the needs of the community. We add value by putting users at the center, letting them collaborate on the rules, and curating the human interface.

IL 2010: Personal Content Management

speaker: Gary Price

Giving generalities about mobile devices is challenging because there are so many options. If your library doesn’t already have a mobile website, go for a web app rather than something platform specific.

The cloud can be a good backup for when your devices fail, since you can access it from other places. But, choose a cloud service or backup service carefully – consider reputation and longevity. If you see something you want to preserve for future use, save it now because it could be gone later. Capture it yourself and keep it local.

Backup your computer (pay now or pay later). Price recommends Mozy and Carbonite. Also, pay attention to the restore options (internet vs. DVD).

[I kinda zoned out at this point, as I’m pretty sure he’s not going to talk about much of anything I don’t already know about or will read about on Lifehacker. Unfortunately, choosing a seat in the front row prevents me from politely leaving to attend a different session.]

February reading

That’s right. Reading. Not plural. I finished only one book last month, at it was just the last few chapters I didn’t finish in January. I have a good excuse, though: my limited spare time last month was consumed with packing and moving and unpacking.

The book I finished was for the semi-annual book discussion group at work. We selected Nicholson Carr’s The Big Switch last fall, but weren’t able to meet to talk about it until early January. Here are my final thoughts on the book:

I found the parallels between the evolution of the delivery of electricity from self-contained generator systems to the modern-day grid and the evolution of personal computing applications from desktop to the cloud to be fascinating, and a good argument for cloud computing. However, once making that argument, the author proceeds to show his true colors as an anti-technology, privacy-focused, Matrix-fearing Luddite. Disappointing.

IL2009: Collaboration in the Clouds

Presenter: Tom Ipri

How will cloud computing impact the library as a space? Will we be able to provide the infrastructure to support collaborative computing within our buildings or resource networks?

Virtual computing labs allow students to access their software, settings, and files from any computer on campus. However, there are concerns about reliability, privacy, and the security of data. If you are sending your students to services outside of the university, what impacts are there on the policies of the university?

Who needs libraries when everything is in the cloud? The library can become fully both a warehouse and a gathering place.

IL2009: Cloud Computing in Practice: Creating Digital Services & Collections

Speakers: Amy Buckland, Kendra K. Levine, & Laura Harris (icanhaz.com/cloudylibs)

Cloud computing is a slightly complicated concept. Everyone approaches defining it from different perspectives. It’s about data and storage. For the purposes of this session, they mean any service that is on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and measured service.

Cloud computing frees people to collaborate in many ways. Infrastructure is messy, so let someone else take care of that so you can focus on what you really need to do. USB sticks can do a lot of that, but they’re easy to lose, and data in the cloud will hopefully be migrated to new formats.

The downside of cloud computing is that it is so dependent upon constant connection and uptime. If your cloud computing source or network goes down, you’re SOL until it get fixed. Privacy can also be a legitimate concern, and the data could be vulnerable to hacking or leaks. Nothing lasts forever — for example, today, Geocities is closing.

Libraries are already in the cloud. We often store our ILS data, ILL, citation management, resource guides, institutional repositories, and electronic resource management tools on servers and services that do not live in the library. Should we be concerned about our vendors making money from us on a "recurring, perpetual basis" (Cory Doctorow)? Should we be concerned about losing the "face" of the library in all of these cloud services? Should we be concerned about the reliability of the services we are paying for?

Libraries can use the cloud for data storage (i.e. DuraSpace, Dropbox). They could also replace OS services & programs, allowing patron-access computers to b run using cloud applications.

Presentation slides are available at icanhaz.com/cloudylibs.

Speaker: Jason Clark

His library is using four applications to serve video from the library, and one of them is TerraPod, which is for students to create, upload, and distribute videos. They outsourced the player to Blip.tv. This way, they don’t have to encode files or develop a player.

The way you can do mashups of cloud applications and locally developed applications is through the APIs that defines the rules for talking to the remote server. The cloud becomes the infrastructure that enables webscaling of projects. Request the data, receive it in some sort of structured format, and then parse it out into whatever you want to do with it.

Best practices for cloud computing: use the cloud architecture do the heavy lifting (file conversion, storage, distribution, etc.), archive locally if you must, and outsource conversion. Don’t be afraid. This is the future.

Presentation slides will be available later on his website.

Internet Librarian 2009 begins

Yesterday was my first time touching California soil (I had previously spent some time in LAX, but I don’t think that counts), and I have to say, Monterey is as beautiful as everyone says it is. Also, the Crown & Anchor is a fantastic place to gather with friends who arrived and left through the evening last night. Good times.

I arrived too late this morning to get a seat at the opening keynote session with Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, so I stood in the back and listened for most of it. Look around and you’ll probably find some good write-ups, and it was streamed live and the recording is available on Ustream. Pay attention to the Ustream channel to catch more of IL 2009!

This afternoon, I will be co-presenting on some of (IMHO) the best tools for collaboration using cloud computing resources. We have our presentation posted on Slide Share already, if you’re interested (and that way, you don’t have to be there and see how nervous I can be when speaking in front of a group of people who are probably smarter than me).

thing 18: web applications

It has been a while since I seriously looked at Zoho Writer, preferring Google Docs mainly for the convenience (I always have Gmail open in a tab, so it’s easy to one-click open Google Docs from there). Zoho Writer seems to have more editing and layout tools, or at least, displays them more like MS Word.

I have been dabbling with web applications like document editors and spreadsheet creators mostly because I don’t like the ones that I purchased with my iMac. I probably would like the Mac versions more if I were more familiar with their quirks, but I’m so used to Microsoft Office products that remembering what I can and can’t do in the Mac environment is too frustrating. While Google Docs isn’t quite the same as Microsoft Office, it’s more-so than iWork ’08.

Playing with Zoho Writer, however, reminded me that I need to work around my Google bias. Particularly since the Zoho products seem to have the productivity functions that make my life easier.