The Texas Digital Library (TDL) provides digital resources for higher education faculty and librarians to make scholarship openly available. However, digital artifacts can be fragile, and the fast pace of change requires planning to ensure that files created now will be accessible years into the future.
Since its inception, the TDL has committed itself to providing the infrastructure necessary to address these preservation issues. To date, the TDL has assembled four geographically dispersed storage nodes (at Texas Tech, Texas A&M, UT Austin, and the Texas Advanced Computing Center) and has held several terabytes of data in archives for member institutions.
Following the release of Vireo 1.0.1 in March, the TDL team has turned its attention to advancing the development of this Preservation Network (PresNet). It has begun the first of three development sprints related to PresNet, with the first sprint getting underway on Monday, March 22. The final sprint will conclude prior to the 2010 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries, to be held May 17-18 in Austin.
According to TDL chief technology officer Peter Nürnberg, the goal of the sprints is to come to TCDL 2010 with the ability to “package and move all our TDL-managed assets, including the federated ETD collection, Learning Object Repository assets, and all journals and blogs, from TDL servers to the Texas Advanced Computing Center.”
Texas Advanced Computing Center
The Texas Advanced Computing Center (known as TACC) is a key piece in the TDL PresNet puzzle. Located at UT Austin, TACC provides advanced computing services to researchers, including high performance computing, data and information analysis, networking services, and a visualization laboratory. The TDL is renting 10 terabytes of storage space at TACC and, in the coming development sprints, will develop a process for packaging data hosted on TDL servers and delivering it electronically to TACC, where it will be securely stored.
According to Nürnberg, the outcome of this first phase of development won’t constitute “full” preservation (for instance, format migration will not be addressed initially) but, he says, “It will serve as the basis for preservation efforts moving forward.”
The resulting PresNet will also serve some crucial preservation needs, such as securing multiple copies of member assets and periodically testing them for integrity, letting the TDL know when files have become corrupted and allowing it to repair the problems to ensure the long-term security of the files.
The software behind the TDL’s preservation effort is an open-source application, developed primarily at the University of North Carolina, called iRODS (Integrated Rule-Oriented Data System).
iRODS is a “data-grid software system” that can automate some preservation-related tasks, such as packaging the data and delivering it to TACC.
The software was developed by the Data Intensive Cyber Environments (DICE) Center at the UNC School of Information and Library Science and the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at UNC Chapel Hill and UC San Diego.
iRODS has an active user community that is deploying the software in similar ways to TDL. The DCAPE project at UNC Chapel Hill, for example, is using iRODS’ rules-based structure to create a distributed preservation environment for archival repositories.
The existence of DCAPE and other similar projects is a boon to the TDL: “The fact that iRODS has a user community that is doing work similar to what TDL is doing is extremely useful to us,” Nürnberg said. “We can take advantage of that work, rather than develop it entirely on our own.”
Upcoming PresNet events
The TDL development staff will present results of the PresNet development sprints at the 2010 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries, to be held May 17-18 in Austin, Texas. The TDL is also excited to have Reagan Moore, the director of the DICE Center that developed iRODS, presenting the closing keynote address at the conference.
Additionally, the TDL PresNet User Group will hold its inaugural meeting in Austin on Tuesday, April 20. The group will provide stakeholders at TDL member universities the opportunity to guide development of preservation policy and provide feedback to the TDL development team.
You can find out more information about PresNet on the TDL Wiki, which will be updated as development progresses. Additional questions can be directed to the TDL program coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.