Monday, October 15, 2007

VITAL out of contention

We've been looking at the VITAL repository software and reported on some testing we did to see how many objects it can handle, but we are going to stop evaluating it for AANRO. (One more report to come I am happy to report that v 3.1.1 is MUCH better than previous versions of Vital.)

There is one key reason for this decision: There is no web interface that allows non-technical users to edit the metadata for an item in Fedora.

Yes, there is an ingest tool for VITAL, known as VALET, which offers simple workflow for new items. But once an item is in Fedora it cannot be edited with VALET, a technically proficient user must use an XML editor to change metadata, a far from easy or intuitive process.

Obviously we knew this going in to the evaluation, but we looked at VITAL in case there was no other Fedora solution that would scale, and we reported our concerns to VTLS to see if they responded with changes to VALET or VITAL. I am a member of the ARROW Developers Group and we have made the point before that a full web interface for editing metadata is a must. I even mentioned this to Vinod Chachra (VTLS President and CEO) at the ARROW community day who told me that they built VITAL for environments where using an XML editor for metadata maintenance was appropriate.

(Note also that there has also been no response from VTLS to the questions I asked ten days ago about their product strategy.)

Given that Fez has a web interface and scalability has improved dramatically with version 2 we now turn our attention to Fez. If VTLS respond with a web interface for VITAL in the next couple of weeks I'll report it here, and I'd be happy to post a feature list for the forthcoming version. Even if Fez cannot handle hundreds of thousands of items comfortably, there is still scope to use a number smaller regional or subject based Fez repositories, with an aggregated search.

To finish on a more positive note, it's appropriate to talk about the good bits of VITAL. In my opinion the best feature in terms of usability is the indexing; it is possible to run VITAL without having to pre-organize items into collections (unlike Fez), instead you can define virtual collections by defining indexes based on metadata. VITAL also promises to use standard Fedora access controls via work done by the Muradora team, but I have not seen this in action yet.

Copyright 2007 The University of Southern Queensland

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