May 3, 2011
Sierra - and other thoughts about the ILS
Ironically, yesterday, while I was attending a users group meeting for Koha (open source ILS), I saw an article by Marshall Breeding pop up on my phone. It was about iii's Sierra product - their newest platform which takes "advantage of technology components, architectures, and methods consistent with the times..." And because I am thirsty for a 21st century ILS, I drank.
According to the article, and other posts I've read (see, for example, David Rapp's post at LJ), iii is going to use what seems to be a quasi open service oriented architecture. "Quasi open" because they are building Sierra with some open source components and will be publishing a full set of published APIs and RESTful web services. Theoretically, this will allow creative librarians to build on the open source components and customize their environment if they so choose. It is unclear what open source components iii is using, or, if they will require innovators to contribute their code to an open access iii repository - sort of like other open source projects. Regardless, this move is a good thing.
Service oriented architure stands in contrast to object oriented architecture. SOA is basically a more flexible system so that pieces of the puzzle can be used for multiple purposes. For a better lay person's description, you can check out this short You Tube which gives you a nice analogy to music. Anyway, its been around for years and years, so its sort of nice that iii has caught up to the times.
As I read through the article I actually thought that when the product became available later this year, iii was going to start migrating its clients to Sierra. I am, for another couple of months, a iii client. So, I should have known better. There will be a fee for the migration. And, I bet it will be pretty stiff if my own experiences with iii mean anything. I feel bad for iii clients, including myself.
Years ago our libraries paid for a state of the art system, we continued to pay dearly to maintain and enhance it, Encore adoptors had to pay even more for a faceted search result that was not even tied into their base packages, and now, Sierra adopters, in order to provide a 21st century search interface for their clientele, will have to pay again. I was saddened, though it confirmed my desire to leave that business model behind.
I shut down my phone when I finished reading the article and paid attention to the conversation surrounding Koha. In the room with me was my excellent support team (Bywater Solutions) who has already provided me with more customer service than I have received in years from iii. I think many librarians do not realize that you do not have to go it alone if you go open source. Marshall Breeding also maintains a site that reviews different IL systems, open source and proprietary. I recommend it if you are interested in the subject.
I hope our migration goes smoothly. I'll be sure to report back and hopefully, like Peter Pan, I will be crowing about it. (VS)