Key Considerations for Libraries

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1 Software as a Service and Cloud Computing: Key Considerations for Libraries 1

2 I ncreasingly, libraries are considering technology as a strategy. Rather than treating technology as merely tools for completing tasks, they look to technology to support and achieve the organization s goals and leverage resources effectively. Inevitably, that means that library decision-makers come face-to-face with the popular terminology, and at times the hype, that are part of the technology industry. Everyone s talking about the cloud. But what is it really, and what does it mean?...think of the cloud as computing resources located outside of the library, deliverred as a service (a utility) over an Internet connection. One such term is cloud computing. As libraries consider their technology strategies, they may find themselves asking questions like: What exactly is cloud computing? Software as a Service (SaaS)? Hosting? What are the differences between them? How tech-savvy does my library have to be to support one of these technologies? Becoming familiar with these terms, and the technological variations between them, is fundamental to helping libraries select the services that will support their goals and deliver the best value. Definitions: A Few Key Terms Everyone s talking about the cloud. But what is it really, and what does it mean? The term cloud computing comes from the common convention of representing the Internet as a cloud in diagrams of computing systems. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services). For non-technologists, think of the cloud as computing resources located outside of the library, delivered as a service (a utility) over an Internet connection. There are many advantages cited for cloud computing but the most often-mentioned include greater efficiencies through shared resources, management offloaded to third-party providers, and the flexibility to quickly add new services. To make the cloud even more nebulous, it is the umbrella term for three distinct service models, all delivered via the Internet: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) refers to accessing servers, storage, and other hardware housed in a data center. The user of these services is responsible for maintaining the operating system, performing patches and upgrades, and installing and maintaining any software that runs on those systems. Platform as a Service (PaaS) refers to accessing computing resources at the level of a solution stack which includes not just the supporting hardware, but also a defined operating system, database, Web server, and other standard software. This computing environment is maintained by the data center. The user chooses, installs, and maintains the specific application software that runs in that environment. Software as a Service (SaaS) refers to accessing complete applications as a utility. The SaaS provider is responsible for the hardware, software, and data. This includes maintenance, upgrading equipment and software, installing patches, and backing up systems and data. 2

3 Resource availability is a problem in some places, as Scott Garrison from Western Michigan University relates. We are looking to reduce our server footprint and we had a lot of issues with respect to backups and data restorations, given the campus enterprise wide backup system. So having Software as a Service that s reliable and designed out of the gate to work that way has been very valuable to us. Hosting is an arrangement that isn t exactly cloud computing but it can involve Internet access. If software is hosted in the cloud then the service provider, most often the software vendor, assumes responsibility only for the hardware. The term hosting is also applied to a traditional situation where the software user hosts the application locally, in its own data center. Whether hosted in the cloud or locally, the software user shoulders the responsibility for the software and data, including installing updates. SaaS vs. Hosting for Libraries: What s the Difference? SaaS and hosting are the most prominent, or at least the most widely promoted, means of software access for libraries. Here is the fundamental difference between the two: SaaS The software vendor or other provider owns the application (whether a discovery service, link resolver, ERM, or other) and delivers it via the Internet. The provider is responsible for maintaining the data resources and keeping them up to date and protecting them by running backups. Libraries have the ability to customize the application for their own use via Web-based tools and an API (Application Programming Interface). Hosting Model The provider runs the application on the library s behalf, on the provider s hardware, but doesn t take on the task of maintaining the software. Upgrades and maintenance are up to the library. SaaS vs. Hosting: IT Considerations SaaS Remotely Hosted Locally Hosted Infrastructure Redundant and load balanced for performance; easily maintained with a multitenant system Dependent on SLA; commonly difficult to manage due to a large number of systems to monitor Varying levels of redundancy and performance under increased use, depending local resources and institutional IT support Staffing, service and support Knowledgeable staff with experience and expertise Knowledgeable staff with experience and expertise Knowledge and experience variable with library and institution Security/Privacy Constantly monitored and up-to-date Dependent on SLA; commonly out-dated and vulnerable Dependent on IT support; variable with library and institutional resources Customization and configuration of application Web-based tools and APIs Custom programming, APIs and other tools Custom programming, APIs and other tools Data/Knowledgebase Frequent, often daily Commonly monthly Commonly monthly or quarterly 3

4 Multi-tenancy vs. Single-tenancy One of the key differences between SaaS and hosting is the principle of tenancy. With SaaS, there is only one copy of the software running, and that copy of the software accesses only one copy of the database (the knowledgebase). Since multiple libraries share and access this one instance of the software and knowledgebase, SaaS is considered multi-tenancy. With hosting, each library maintains its own copy of the software. Since each copy only serves one library, this is termed single-tenancy. The advantages of SaaS/multi-tenancy are that all libraries have the shared advantages of data aggregation, instant access to application updates, and an optimized environment. Institutional mission, and how a technology decision fits within that broader picture is a consideration. As Stephen Parnell from the University of South Australia puts it, with the SaaS approach I don t need to spend money buying servers, I don t need to have staff dedicated to maintaining hardware, and we can concentrate on the more important part of enriching the students learning experience. Tenant-specific customization Tenant-specific customization Application Logic Database What are the Benefits of SaaS for My? Tenant-specific customization Single, shared stack of software and hardware SaaS solutions allow libraries to focus their technology efforts more strategically. Specific benefits received from selecting a SaaS solution include: Lower total cost of ownership. Reduces the hard costs, hidden costs, and demands on your valuable IT staff because there is no hardware to purchase and maintain, no software to install and upgrade, and no knowledgebase loading/overlaying costs. Rapid function and deployment. Multi-tenancy, meaning that all libraries served by a single instance of the software allows for all libraries to benefit immediately from updates. Authoritative, enriched and continuously updated data. A single, comprehensive knowledgebase delivers data that makes resources discoverable, manageable, and reportable. Improved performance. A redundant, load-balanced infrastructure coupled with multitenancy allows for reliability (higher uptime), faster performance and scalability to handle increased usage. Greater flexibility and customization. Web-based tools and APIs present libraries with options to tailor a service to meet the needs of a library s unique environment. 4

5 SaaS vs. Hosting: Management Responsibilities SaaS Remotely Hosted Locally Hosted Software/Server location Cloud/Data Center Cloud/Data Center data center Acquiring, housing, maintaining and monitoring servers and other hardware Maintaining/Ensuring responsive performance and uptime Back up, failover and disaster recovery Electricity, cooling and facilities management Hardware replacement every 3-5 years Software upgrades, software vendor or third-party Data (knowledgebase) updates and management, software vendor or third-party Recommendations for Libraries When evaluating SaaS and other hosted solutions: Keep in mind the unique aspects of each mode. Probe vendors to better understand what they mean when they say cloud or hosted. Ask questions about when and how enhancements are released, and if your library is responsible for installing those updates. Get more information about how you can customize the solution to fit your library s needs. 5

6 About Serials Solutions Serials Solutions provides industry-leading technology solutions for libraries worldwide. The company helps libraries work better by providing innovative, practical Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions for discovery and management. Driven by a comprehensive knowledgebase and coupled with unparalleled client support services, these solutions uniquely merge unsurpassed understanding of libraries. Serials Solutions is a dedicated partner of libraries working to remain vital and relevant to their users and communities. Serials Solutions,, is headquartered in Seattle, Washington. 6

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