Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Seagate's Ethernet Hard Drives

A week ago Seagate made an extraordinarily interesting announcement for long-term storage, their Kinetic Open Storage Platform, including disk drives with Ethernet connectivity. Below the fold, the details.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Trust in Computer Systems

Ten years ago our paper Preserving Peer Replicas by Rate-Limited Sampled Voting was awarded "Best Paper" at the 2003 ACM Symposium on Operating System Principles. It was later expanded into a paper in ACM Transactions on Computing Systems, The LOCKSS peer-to-peer digital preservation system. According to Google Scholar, the twin papers have accumulated over 300 citations. Below the fold I discuss the ideas about trust we put forward in these papers that have turned out to have lasting significance, and are particularly important today.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Special Issue of Science

I'd like to draw attention to the special issue of Science on scientific communication, which the AAAS has made freely available. It is all worth reading but these pieces caught my eye:

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Major Threat is Economic

Annalee Newitz at reviews an essay by Heather Phillips entitled "The Great Library at Alexandria?". She makes two points about an institution often cited in discussions of digital preservation that have particular  resonance at a time when the US government is mostly shut down, and may be forced into default.

First, contrary to popular myth, it appears the library was not destroyed overnight by fire, but decayed slowly over a long period of time as its initially lavish budget was repeatedly cut. Phillips writes:
Though it seems fitting that the destruction of so mythic an institution as the Great Library of Alexandria must have required some cataclysmic event . . . in reality, the fortunes of the Great Library waxed and waned with those of Alexandria itself. Much of its downfall was gradual, often bureaucratic, and by comparison to our cultural imaginings, somewhat petty.
As I've frequently said, the biggest threat to the long-term survival of digital materials is economic. This isn't something new.

Second, the importance of the library was not its collection, but the synergy between its collection and the scholars it attracted. Newitz writes:
What made the Museum and its daughter branch great were its scholars. And when the Emperor abolished their stipends, and forbade foreign scholars from coming to the library, he effectively shut down operations. Those scrolls and books were nothing without people to care for them, study them, and share what they learned far and wide.
What matters isn't the perfection of a collection, but the usefulness of a collection.  Digital preservation purists may scorn the Internet Archive, but as I write this post Alexa ranks the 167th most used site on the Internet. For comparison, the Library of Congress is currently the 4,212st ranked site (and is up despite the shutdown), the Bibliothèque Nationale de France is ranked 16,274 and the British Library is ranked 29.498. Little-used collections, such as dark archives, post-cancellation only archives, and access-restricted copyright deposit collections are all at much greater economic risk in the long term than widely used sites such as the Internet Archive.

Of course, many of the important (and thus well-used) works from the Library of Alexandria survived because their importance meant that there were lots of copies. Newitz writes:
Even this account of the burning has to be taken with a grain of salt. The first stories of it appear hundreds of years after the events that took place, and historians aren't sure whether it's accurate. Canfora also notes that by the time this alleged destruction took place, the men who cared for the library were aware that many of its important works were in circulation elsewhere in the world. Major centers of learning had been established in India and Central Asia, along the great Silk Road, where nomadic scholars wandered between temples that were stocked with books.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hybrid Disk Drives

Dave Anderson gave an interesting talk at the Library of Congress' Designing Storage Architectures meeting on Seagate's enterprise hybrid disk drives. Details below the fold.

Friday, October 4, 2013

It was fifteen years ago today

Fifteen years ago today Vicky Reich and I were hiking the Cañada de Pala trail at Joseph D. Grant County Park when we came up with the idea for the LOCKSS technology. The next day we pitched the idea to Michael Keller, the Stanford Librarian, and got permission to start the project. As I recall, Michael told us:
  • Don't cost me any money.
  • Don't get me in to trouble.
  • Do what you like.
You can't ask better than that. The name for the project came later, on a rather muddy hike to Berry Creek Falls in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

End-of-life in the Cloud

The Register reports on the demise of Nirvanix, an enterprise cloud storage startup. Nirvanix customers were told on Sept. 18:
Customers had to get all their data out by the end of September or, in effect, face losing it.
They had 13 days to do it. Below the fold I ask what would happen if Amazon made a similar announcement about S3 - not because I think that is possible but to show how impossible it is.