no edit summary
== Dump of Etherpad as of 10/30
4: 14 Eastern ==
"Integrated Library System Platforms on Open Source"
Chief Strategist, SirsiDynix Institute
This document was copied from the original, leaked report posted on WikiLeaks (
<http://wikileaks.org/wiki/SirsiDynix_Corp_restricted_lobby_paper_against_Open_Source_technologies,_Sep_2009>) for the purpose of collaborative annotation, fact-checking, and commentary/critique.
On February 18, 1815, Hector M. Organ purchased 111 hogsheads (111,000 pounds) of tobacco from Peter Laidlaw and Company. It was the same day that the news broke of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent between the United States and Britain, which ended the War of 1812 and lifted the naval embargo that had drastically depressed the price of American tobacco by 30 to 50 percent.
Organ, who had spoken of the news of the treaty with his brother, speculated that the price of tobacco would rise within the next two days. But Laidlaw was unaware of the news at the time of the sale. During the discussion of the contract, Laidlaw asked Organ if he was aware of any reason for the price to be higher. But Organ remained silent over the news of the embargo lifting, and kept his price low.
The next day, when prices rose, Laidlaw incurred a large loss on the sale relative to the previous day's price, and repossessed the tobacco by force.
A lawsuit ensued, which eventually reached the Supreme Court and a unanimous ruling from the John Marshall court establishing caveat emptor, or "let the buyer beware" doctrine in the United States. Under this ruling, "the buyer cannot recover from the seller for defects on the property that rendered the property unfit for ordinary purposes." While this ruling happened almost two centuries ago, some buyers ignore some of the most critical facts of their purchases.
Today, we see that happening when libraries get into talks about moving their Integrated Library Systems to open source platforms systems. What we have found is that they often are not aware of the heavy drawbacks of what open source systems cannot offer at this point in time.
Therefore, to help buyers become aware of the limitations of open source, we set out to clarify what open source is, how it is different from proprietary software platforms, and why Integrated Library Systems (ILS) are not ready for open source at this point.
So what is open source?The concept of open source is fairly misunderstood and quite vague. Most organizations courting the idea of open source development do so because they feel they can project their dreams and desires onto a blank slate and have the features they want sitting at their fingertips quickly and easily.
This is a misunderstanding of how open source software development works. By definition, "Open source is an approach to the design, development, and distribution of software, offering practical accessibility to a software's source code."
Some of the most successful open source developments include the Linux operating system, Apache HTTP Servers, the Internet address system Internet Protocol, and Mozilla's Firefox Internet Browser.
The open source community repeatedly points to these efforts as the poster children of how successful open source can be. However, each of these developments has a major issue in common: they were developed because the public demanded it--they each had a critical mass.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that it is rare for completely open source projects to be successful. Rather than focusing on best-in-class software choice decision-making, these projects often end up being archipelagos of systems driven by a philosophical principle that is anti-proprietary.
[[Criteria for measuring success needed?]]
How are open source developments and proprietary platforms different?
There are a number of assertions that proponents of open source claim as the strengths of open source, including:
* Total cost of ownership (TCO)
There are many more arguments on behalf of the open source community, but we will focus our attention on these subjects due to the importance of these assertions.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): The Real PriceThe open source proponents state that it has a much lower price and a much lower total cost of ownership (TCO). What they tend to leave out, however, are the entry costs of switching systems. Especially in the library market, the two main open source players haven't been around long enough nor do they have enough clients to provide evidence for this argument.
However, all software has a true TCO, which includes the sales price, initial implementation time and costs, any hardware and software upgrades, hosting costs, maintenance and technical support, upgrades, and training (or re-training). It is important to determine the overall costs of adopting a new mode.
It is very unlikely that an open source solution is any less expensive than a proprietary solution. In fact, in all of the data SirsiDynix has collected, we are not seeing quotes that conflict with this assertion. Indeed there are very few green fields in the ILS marketplace. Most libraries already have an ILS and receive upgrades as part of their maintenance contract from us or other proprietary vendors. These maintenance contracts are a small percentage of the initial price.
[[ I am pretty sure that at the UK AGM, some people were told they'd be responsible for upgrades - can anyone else confirm? ]] [[ As far as I understand it, Unicorn/Symphony customers have to apply their own upgrades and patches ]] [[ Correct. Unless you are a SaaS (Software as a Service) customer, you are responsible for downloading patches / upgrades, applying them yourself and doing any cleanup afterward. ]][[And if things go wrong, at least as of 2008, the last time I tried it, you can only get support for upgrades during Eastern US time zone working hours, *even if you have paid extra for 24-hour/critical support*.]]
To convert to an open source option like Evergreen or Koha using vendors like Equinox or LibLime the library must start over with conversions and implementations, usually paying another vendor or consultant to accomplish these. As open source companies assert, it is free like kittens, not free like beer. [[ This is also true for propietary software. The difference is that with OSS you might have more freedom of choice as to whom to contract to do the above; or you could do it yourself if you understand the code and/or available documentation]]
Generally there will be significant limitations to the hardware and operating system options. This limits the ability to cooperate consortially or share resources with host cities or institutions that may use a different standard. The library is at risk of being an island in the community. [[This is also true for propietary software. The difference might be that with OSS you can take the available source code, and recompile it or otherwise make it work in whatever hardware or other restrictions; or possibly have more freedom in choosing it who can do it for you.]]
SirsiDynix offers--and has offered for many decades--a wide variety of options for servers, operating systems and plug-ins. Open source ILS offerings do not offer the diversity of choices that SirsiDynix offers. [[But, as an SD client, do I have the freedom to adapt or extend the software to my own situation? I assume SD's software isn't OSS. =) ]][[ Where you can, e.g. with the OPAC products, you will normally forfeit technical support if you make changes that are outside of the ones allowed by the supplied admin tools. The HIP documentation has a statement to that affect. ]]
[ CHART ]
Open source proponents and proprietary companies disagree on the total cost of ownership.
Proponents claim that even if open source requires more expertise, the TCO is ultimately lower. Companies claim that the required expertise is daunting and the other costs of proprietary solutions are exaggerated. (These charts illustrate concepts, not actual numbers.)"
[[ I'd agree that TCO *might* be higher in OSS vs. Propietary. It might also be higher in one propietary ILS vs. another one. It might also be in one OSS vs another OSS. The reasons given above don't seem to be dealing with TCO, but "look, OSS is limited", "look, we offer a wide variety of options".. not actually giving reasons why OSS TCO is higher vs. propietary overall.]]
Opportunity CostsSome software isn't compatible with open source. Choosing any solution may foreclose on other software. This opportunity cost may not be apparent for years when the need for the other software emerges.
In many markets, there are major systems in accounting, intranets, e-learning, and so on that must tie in to the ILS. In many cases, open source is still the minority solution because, for example, the number of Linux desktops is meager compared to Microsoft Windows desktops. By choosing a Linux desktop, a user closes the door on some software because it may never be created for or ported to Linux. Add to this the major changes in allied systems that require an adaptation for the ILS and the issue grows exponentially.
[[First, the Linux desktop is hardly the right comparison for the ILS. Second, the opportunity costs of a proprietary ILS can be enormous as well - for example, as proprietary ILSs have been slow to add modern search functionality (relevance, faceting), we've lost a couple of years at least in comparison to the current open-source offerings. We've watched helplessly as Amazon has lapped us. This is crucial, user-facing functionality; the cost in user trust of our systems has been huge. (Though I suppose I should add: citation needed).]] [[ Two words: fuzzy searches. ]]
SaaSReal cost savings in the ILS come from improving the architecture of the whole system. This can be done through Software as a Solution (SaaS), where a proprietary software developer like SirsiDynix hosts a library's ILS and takes over responsibility for upgrades to hardware, updating, backup, and hosting activities. [[Some institutions already have people to do this on their own servers. Other
propietary vendors can do this too. OSS-support vendors can do this (e.g. Acquia support everything "drupal", even the custom bits you add on). Is this related to OSS at all? ]]
The emergence of SaaS is growing very fast across all types of technology-dependent industries. It is cost effective, more flexible, and delivers significant benefits than traditional software installations, with few downsides.
This can result in total cost of ownership savings of nearly 50 percent. With the best professional hosting facilities available, SirsiDynix operates on a global basis. From the point of view of the end user, the ILS workflows and the Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) are invisible and are truly adaptable to the Internet.[[These last two paragraphs name something that at-least two of the current OSS ILS vendors in the US are also offering--hosting, at world-class facilities, is not something you have to close the source to offer. These two paragraphs, therefore, really don't relate to OSS ILS solutions *directly*, but more to the companies that offer them.]]
While some open source ILS companies are offering hosted solutions, these solutions are not at the scale or professionalism of a proprietary SaaS solution, nor do they provide the service level agreements or service expectations that SirsiDynix commits to. Some open source SaaS services are hosted on servers in a small vendor's office, which are not professional hosting solutions and come with extremely high risk to the library.[[Who, currently? If you're going to accuse an organization of un-professional solutions, name names, so they can answer questions about it.]]
[[ I believe that Dynix UK used to host customer systems from their small-ish offices in rural Chesham? Vaguely remember being given a tour of their server room circa 2003. ]]
Features and Functions
When one is evaluating the differences between open source ILS and proprietary ILS, the theories need to be overridden by practical applications.
Generally, the available open source ILS platforms have less than half of the features and functions of any SirsiDynix ILS[]. Some of these features and functions may not be essential to some clients, some will be. However on this order of scale, and with that potential number of needed features, SirsiDynix has the ability to offer libraries the most robust feature set on the market. It becomes incumbent on the library's decision-making process to clearly outline what they are giving up or planning to develop on their own if they choose to go open source. [[I agree you have to plan ahead. It's also relevant if you want to change to another propietary ILS .]]
Proprietary software has more features. Period. [[ Citation, please. ]] Proprietary software is much more user-friendly. [[ Citation, please.]] SirsiDynix has been building this ILS for more than 30 years. It has a feature set second to none. [[Citation, please.]] It is important to note that a SirsiDynix ILS has two main user groups ¬≠ the library workers who process the resources for the library as acquisitions, cataloguing, circulation, ILL, etc. and the end-users who use the OPAC features and other add-ons like self-check. Open source software developers are spending the majority of their time and resources on getting the back room operations right, 30 years after we already completed the process.[[Not to be tacky, but here, SA proves that he has not been involved in the Koha community much. Some very subtle functionality features are being worked on quite a bit lately, not "back room operations."]]
Probably the most attractive claim by the open source community is its ability to be customized by anyone, for anyone. This claim is technically true. Much of the desire for customization comes from Innovative Interfaces Inc. (III) clients. However, III has a long history and tradition of not allowing its clients to write APIs to the underlying data and fields in the ILS.[[Speaking as a vendor, many of the customization requests we are getting are from *Horizon* clients, not III.]]
In the open source world anyone can make significant changes to open source code. This is often presented as a great option to management who don't completely understand the consequences of too much customization. Too much source code change can result in completely new versions that are neither forward nor backwards compatible with the innovations of the overall open source community. Rogue programming teams may decide to create a better version, while exclaiming "Damn the torpedoes." The result is that the relationship to the core kernel of the software can be broken or made `odd'. In some of the big open source communities, there is an individual or group who gives permission to make change in the software. For example, Linus Torvalds, the genius behind the Linux platform, is materially involved in every Linux code addition to protect the kernel.
>> Linus is not involved with every Linux addition. He explicitly does not want to oversee every change. [ Find Reference ]
Customization can be a risky undertaking. Again, customization comes with the caveat emptor warning. [[ How risky, though, is the inability to do customizations that are needed? ]][[ Agreed. We had to undertake customizations "in house" to deliver functionality that was missing from the product and that was unlikely to be delivered by the vendor in the forseeable future. ]]
Libraries considering an open source ILS should seriously review how they handle version control and customization, as well as who handles the responsibilities and contracts for customization. If they don't, they may end up being an outlier or be forced into a proprietary environment like Red Hat. [[As opposed to a proprietary environment like SirsiDynix Unicorn/Symphony? SA has an interesting definition of "proprietary", I am thinking, and it's probably not the same as the one the rest of us use.]]
Open source is often represented as more secure. This, too, is debatable. Some of the most security-conscious entities, like the United States Department of Defense, restrict the use of open source software for fear that it could pose a terrorist opportunity.
>> http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2009/10/dod_says_yes_to.html;jsessionid=K1DMBECLDPL1XQE1GHPSKH4ATMY32JVN : DOD Says Yes To More Open Source, 28-Oct-2009>> http://www.cmswire.com/cms/enterprise-20/cia-invests-in-open-source-lucene-solr-search-004830.php : CIA Invests in Open Source Lucene, Solr Search, Jun 16, 2009
In open source, anyone can release code. But extensive testing is needed to ensure those codes are secure. The three big open source applications--Firefox, Apache, and Linux--have communities large enough to do this to find and isolate threats. It would be naive for the library market to think that the ILS community of open source programmers is large enough to create this assurance--it isn't even close. [[ **If** the community is not large enough, is this document intended to prevent it from ever becoming so? ]][[Define "large enough", please. I would contend that the Koha community, in particular, is plenty large enough to handle this; indeed, we are doing so. It is naive of SA to think that all of those programmers have to be on paid staff or customer-beta-testers to produce valid test results.]]
To date the ILS has not been a target for security threats, although associated systems for servers and communication have. This may change if a large installed base of open source ILS platforms emerges.
[[ The Horizon OPAC currently supplied to UK academic sites contains numerous security holes that, to date, have not been fixed by the company. At least one academic site has had their OPAC server compromised on multiple occasions. ]]
Some open source vendors claim that open source is more network-friendly and relies on the Internet and other networks for its performance. Unfortunately for the ILS community, this is a grossly over-stated exaggeration.
An open format is a published specification for storing digital data, which basically can be used and implemented by anyone. For example, the format is interoperable among diverse internal and external platforms and applications.
The argument by the open source community is simply that open formats are better. SirsiDynix agrees. We try to use open formats and international standards as much as possible. Ideally, this would be all the time. But the reality is that open formats are not always the most "open" to formats that a host city or institution uses. It is our opinion that the ILS works with the formats that are needed by their clients rather than engaging in missionary work for greater openness. [[How about something as basic as RSS feeds that aren't created via screen-scraping?]]
Is open source harder to deploy? All software solutions require some expertise to deploy, secure, and maintain. Some open source software is technically challenging and requires considerable expertise. This is a particularly important point in the library market where there is rarely a large systems department with a variety of programming levels and skills quickly available internally. [[ Is this intended to convey that SirsiDynix's software does not require equal expertise to deploy? ]][[One admin's experience--39 hours for a Unicorn upgrade (v 2001-2002), vs two hours for a Koha installation. Which one sounds "harder?"]][[ As a Horizon admin of 4 years and counting, I still feel that I barely understand how the system works. The product documentation, whilst comprehensive, is also volumous. ]]
Libraries considering open source should clearly evaluate the skills required. This might involve hiring an expensive consultant. Libraries would be well advised that they have a long tradition of working with application software and that the management of a proprietary ILS involves a different skill set than managing an ILS that must be extensively customized to assure performance. Application programming is different than development programming. [[ Open source ILSes are also customized to meet user needs ]]
The employment market for development programmers is different than application programmers. It also requires a different type and level of project manager and software leadership. These people are extremely rare and cost more. And most libraries cannot cover the salaries required to retain the talent they need. Moreover, these programmers won't necessarily be in the library programming space, meaning that libraries will have to compete with a larger development market than the limited library programming space. Indeed it is an interesting strategy for some library programmers to upgrade their skills in the library open source environment and leave as their worth increases. [[ It would be interesting to note how SirsiDynix has coped with this very issue, as the company has changed hands twice in recent years and shifted operations from Huntsville, Alabama to Provo, Utah. ]]
SirsiDynix has rigorous testing procedures. These are brought about through large investments in automated professional testing programs and procedures, regression testing, a mature beta testing process, managed protocols, and testing with partners. We certify
some third parties using actual tests to ensure that the customer experience is as seamless as possible. We test for scalability and for the stress of large numbers of users. We test for all major browsers. We test on all supported servers and operating systems. We test
aggressively and well. We test at every step of the development process. We do all of this before we have actual clients partner with us to beta test the pre-release candidates. Over the past few years our product has arrived in new releases with a higher standard of
performance and more features than ever before. We have released 20 major releases and upgrades in the past two years on time. [[ The Horizon upgrades in the last two years have been region-specific and primarily focused on the US customer base. Many Horizon customers in Europe are running systems that have not seen an upgrade for several years. However, the company has assurred customers that the next release of Horizon will be a "global" release suitable for many European customers. The lack of upgrades means that libraries are tied to using older Windows OSs and outdated versions of Java (e.g. 1.4.2). ]]
This is not the pattern that open source initiatives follow. [[ Citation, please. ]] Testing is the responsibility of the original programmer and their buddies. [[ Inflammatory, not factual. ]] Then the philosophy is caveat emptor, or "Installer beware!" And the testing heavily falls on the early adopters. [[ This, I acknowledge, is true, but early adopters of any software project, open or closed source, often bear the brunt of testing or bug identification. ]][[SD should not try to present here that they have been the barely-adequate testers for the last three decades. The memory of pre-2002 Unicorn upgrades is still present in people's minds. We're old, but not that old. Anecdotes from the period should adequately document that whatever "testing" they were doing was *not* adequate, in those days.]][[ Dynix (pre-merger with Sirsi) was also regularly accussed of releasing untested and/or buggy upgrades. Jack Blount admitted as much and promised to change the testing regime. ]]
Yet, when reviewing the list of bugs in the open source ILS software as compared to the same bugs for the proprietary software, investigators have to go back decades in the list to find the same bugs open source platforms are fixing today. [[ Surely that's simply because Unicorn is considerably older than the OS ILS products? ]][[Seems so to me, too. Age is not a virtue in and of itself. Anyone want to switch to DOS? It's an older, more-developed product than this Windows business...]]
This is evidence of a very young development program and the lack of real management in the process. The open source process is too organic and lacks tight priorities and strong management oversight.[[ As someone who has been keeping half-an-eye on the OS ILS development program over the last 18 months, it seems to be relatively well organised with some clear (customer driven) priorities. ]]
Some argue that it's difficult to integrate open source with proprietary solutions. It's always a professional task to make software work well.
"Open source exists because a large community of motivated, generous programmers work together. Some are corporate employees, but open source development thrives on volunteers. Even users without programming or other technical skills find ways to help by filing bug reports, writing documentation, or answering questions on email lists."
[[Source: http://www.netc.org/openoptions/pros_cons/principles.html#community . It continues: "Current users report a sense of belonging and accomplishment by sharing and collaborating. This cooperation and focus on the common good resonates with why they work in education." I think the "common good" in this quote is broader than the common good of SirsiDynix customers in SA's following paragraph.]]
ScalabilitySome open source system vendors describe their software as "consortially aware" or having been built for consortia from the ground up. This is fairly weaselly language. Yes, this software can be `consortially aware' without any of the attendant performance (One didn't even support the Z39.50 international ISO standard until recently!) Having been designed for a single consortium such as PINES, does not guarantee that the software will work for another consortia's needs, particularly with the diversity of needs and variety of system architectures that exist in a fully dimensional marketplace.
If clients are concerned about their ability to scale they should check the actual performance of the ILS in actual complex and consortia environments. The PINES system is actually a very poor performer at its current scale of small public libraries. For example, all large library systems in Georgia have generally decided to stick with SirsiDynix. In fact, several library systems in Georgia have declined the use of the Evergreen system specifically due to scalability and response times. [[ Citation, please. ]] One tester of that system wrote, "Slow response time in Evergreen Staff Client. This includes unexpected "crashes" and "frozen" screens which may or may not be due to response time lag. This problem causes extreme delay and long lines at Circ Desk and results in both major staff and patron frustration."[[ Source: http://pines.georgialibraries.org/files/PINES%20priorities%201009.xls , cell J13. The solution, scheduled for November (not clear what year as the spreadsheet isn't dated - need to find its context on the site), is a server hardware upgrade. This isn't a "tester" who tested Evergreen and declined to use it, as far as I can tell: it's a problem report from libraries using the PINES system. PINES != Evergreen. ]]
End-users are not satisfied with sub-Google performance. The expectation has been set outside of the ILS market and the ILS market doesn't get by without meeting it. Therefore, SirsiDynix is focused on speed.[[as opposed to what? Useful results? Enter "to be or not to be" into a Unicorn/Symphony search box, and enjoy the meaningless-to-patrons error message that results. Try the same thing in Google, or Koha, and enjoy finding Shakespeare. Speed is not a be-all, end-all of search-engine work. Failing to produce meaningful results would, I think, constitute "sub-Google" performance.]] [[ Agreed. Also try typing in the name of any book or movie whose title starts with 'and' -- without putting the title in quotes. ]][[Or the example that Joshua Ferraro seems to love: "It."]]
Our stress testing is done on the professional stress testing facilities at Sun Microsystems, Microsoft and UNIX servers. We test at 50,000 users per configuration for over a week. We use advanced automated testing procedures that cost money but deliver a definite positive result and tell us where to invest time in improving the performance of our software.
In addition we also test for all major browsers and try to ensure compliance with all standards and browsers evident in our market. This includes PC and Macintosh.
This has not been the case in the open source ILS systems. If anything, one of the major complaints by users and clients is that it is so slow. Simple searches in PINES can hang for minutes, resulting in the `searching..." bar popping onto the screen to encourage user patience. This is unacceptable in ILS software, which is why we test our system so rigorously.
Finally, one of the biggest claims of open source proponents is that it is more reliable. They argue that since any programmer can find and fix bugs, the software will be repaired and improved more quickly. There is, however, no guarantee that the bug you want fixed will
engage a member of the community to fix it. A bug fix can work in one environment and not others and the testing is up to each individual organization in open source. [[Whereas in closed source, the customer is wholly dependent on the supplier's decision to put money and time toward fixing the problem. This is not a problem if the needs or the problems are widespread, but if your issue is small or you are one of only a few customers who have it, you have no way of fixing it yourself and no guarantee that your supplier will deem the problem important enough to fix. ]]
With open source, the advantage depends on the participation of enough competent programmers who are deeply committed to the entire development process. Without enduring, sufficient, talented interest, an open source project is doomed to fail, and many do.
Unfortunately for the open source proponents in the ILS community, there currently isn't a critical mass that is demanding the development of open source software. At this point in time, the open source community for ILS software is tiny.
Open Source and Libraries
Although many in the ILS industry are taking an in-depth look at the viability of open source development over the long run, we believe the movement is premature. Moreover, we are joined in our opinion by none other than Cliff Lynch, the head of the Coalition for Networked Information and a leading thinker in the library space.
Cliff called the development of the open source ILS by OLE, Pines, etc. one of the "stupidest strategies ever undertaken" in the library world. At a time when libraries should be investing in systems to improve the priority issues in the end-user's research, discovery and learning experience, here we have a cadre of libraries investing in the reinvention or at least, recreation, of something they already have and have at a cheaper cost than the redevelopment effort.
>> Cliff Lynch clarifies position here:
< http://www.librarytechnology.org/blog.pl?ThreadID=134&BlogID=1 >
In addition, these projects do not have a compelling vision of what the end result will be and appear to be driven by library workers' desires rather than institutional strategies or end-user needs. As such, they are tying up resources in an open source ILS effort at a time when budgets are constricted and other priorities are much more important and strategic.
SirsiDynix on Open SourceSirsiDynix is not de facto against open source. We use open source software a great deal in our development efforts, in our software and in our company. We easily support clients using the poster children of open source software
¬≠ Linux, Apache, and Firefox. We have done so for many decades. Simply put, it's a good solution when it matches the needs of our clients. [[Linux support for Unicorn is fairly recent. 2003? 2004? (source this, someone?) certainly not "many decades". Don't know how long Apache has been an option for Unicorn web services, though the staff client is just now getting to the Web--also not "many decades." Firefox, by that name, has only existed since 2003/2004.]]
SirsiDynix has been an early leader in building more open library management systems and indeed, being more open to even greater integration. This is especially true in the user experience end of our products where clients have added hundreds of applications onto our OPAC easily using our API strategy. We also have a very long track record in being open to our customers with beta tests, discussion forums, user groups, feedback mechanisms, and more.
However, SirsiDynix has also been in the ILS industry since 1979 and has developed the best-in-class solutions year-in and year-out. We've led the development of some of the most advanced features and capabilities of ILS platforms. So we know a thing or two about what it takes for library systems to be successful.
[[So you might also recognize that healthy competition and open debate are key to a robust marketplace.It's important for individual libraries and institutions to have important opinions, but they also need to be their own.]]
While we encourage the development of open formats, we must discourage libraries from jumping headlong into an open source platform to operate their ILS system on. At the current production cycle, jumping into open source would be dangerous, at best.
Caveat emptor! [[Good advice at any time, and especially if there is a lot of money involved. Weigh the options, take a good hard look at the TCO, with *real* numbers for your library--get quotes--and talk to real customers and users, not marketing folks or lobbyists.]]