Contained components


Post by Richard Wincewicz, Software Engineer for SafeNet at EDINA.

In the previous post we saw an overview of the whole SafeNet project. In this post I wanted to dig a little deeper into the technical side of the project.

Key Components

We are currently developing the SafeNet Service Interface component by extending the LOCKSS software (, a software platform which allows libraries to store and provide access to locally managed copies of electronic content such as e-journals. The LOCKSS software was originally designed to work from within an institution’s network and provide access only to users that are part of that network. A key component of the SafeNet service is to introduce a centrally-managed Private LOCKSS Network that can be used by UK HE institutions to provide assurances of continuing access to their subscribed content, without having to run a server locally. The SafeNet model will allow institutions to participate in a shared service offering but there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed for this to work at scale.

The first challenge is determining who can have access to what content. In standard LOCKSS deployments, access is restricted by IP ranges (e.g. the university network) and so all users can access the same content. With a centrally-managed service this is no longer the case and we need a mechanism to ensure that a user is entitled to access content that they request.  For this purpose, we are designing and deploying an Entitlement Registry which holds information about the subscriptions that institutions have for specific journals. The Entitlement Registry provides a REST API that allows a user or application to query its database. Some of this data may be made openly available, such as lists of publishers and titles, and some of it will be restricted, such as the journals that an institution is subscribed to. We are extending the LOCKSS software to include a query to the Entitlement Registry whenever a user requests some journal content. As a pre-requisite to this, a user will be required to identify themselves by logging in and providing the LOCKSS software with identifying information about their institution. Using this information, we can then determine whether a user is entitled to access the requested content.

The Entitlement Registry has broader potential value as a reference tool used by both libraries and publishers.  To this end, we are also designing a user interface on top of the Entitlement Registry to allows users to interact with the entitlement data. Users will be able to view general information about titles and publishers as well as entitlement information specific to their institution. In addition to this, we are assessing use cases about external access to the Entitlement Registry API, so that other applications can make use of the data without having to collect and host it themselves.

Deployment Infrastructure

If a service is going to be successful it first needs to be reliable and responsive. These are two aspects of a service but can be solved with similar approaches. Having redundant copies of a service in different locations allows for one site to fail while still allowing users access the service from the second site. This also helps when dealing with heavy traffic because there are now two servers able to handle requests. This approach works well up to a point, but if different parts of a service all start to require large amounts of resource then creating more copies of the service doesn’t help.

At this stage the architecture of the service becomes important. If the service consists of a single application then the only way to deal with increased load is to run the application on a more powerful server. If the service is comprised of many small applications that communicate with each other then copies of these components can be created independently of each other. This leads to a much greater flexibility and allows the service to handle hardware and software failures as well as heavy traffic.

With the different components we wanted to make sure that each could run efficiently, scale well and be updated without disruption to the service. In order to do this we have created each component separately and given them their own environment to run in. Using Docker ( each component runs in a container that isolates it from the rest of the processes that are running on the server. This means that we can have a lot of different components running in the same place without worrying about how they will affect each other.

Use of Docker also gives us a portable object meaning we can create as many identical versions of the component as needed to provide resilience or to deal with load. These portable objects can be started and stopped very quickly allowing us to deal with failed components or manage updates without affecting the running service.

For this model to be successful we had to put some thought into the design of the components so that they work under these conditions. In particular all of the information that the application uses is stored in an external database. In fact, a minimum amount of data is stored with the component to allow for it to be shutdown or restarted without having to worry about what will happen to the data. At EDINA we are lucky enough to have access to two datacentres meaning each of our services is spread across two sites. A load balancer deals with each request and passes it on to an available server in one of the datacentres. If one of the servers is down then all requests are passed to the other available servers ensuring that the service remains accessible.

Now that we have the basic structure of the service set up it is important that we continue to develop the service in a way that maintains the reliability and resilience. Docker makes it easier to rapidly deploy multiple copies of an application in different locations but it brings its own complexities. The goal now is to use Docker to make our lives easier rather than more complicated.

What we talk about when we talk about SafeNet


July 2015 marks the halfway point for the SafeNet project. A lot of progress has been made towards developing a service that will provide value to the HE community. As we look forward towards the next reporting phase, one which involves significant outreach and negotiation efforts, our attention has focused on the need to produce a clear model of the service proposition by way of infrastructural components and stakeholders, with a demonstration of how those aspects will function and inter-relate.

In our last blog post, we introduced project personas that emerged via discussions with UK HE librarians.  Those discussions regularly explored the issues around post cancellation access in close detail, however interviewees found it harder to identify the shape of the tool or service that would address these problems. It was clear from these discussions that a more visual approach would be beneficial in explaining how the SafeNet service will provide content and how the components will work together to create a cohesive whole.

A recent work package has focused on the legal agreements required by the emergent SafeNet service, specifically in defining the publisher participation agreement that would underpin the supply and deposit of publisher content. The participation agreement outlines the commitments and responsibilities of those involved in supplying material and those operating the service. Along with these responsibilities, the agreement outlines the individual elements of the proposed service and the relationships of the main actors to the final product.

To this end the project team have spent time defining and illustrating who will do what and why they will do it as participants in the service.  The diagram below visualises the service components and, at a high level, clarifies the responsibilities of the stakeholders involved in the project (click to enlarge):

SafeNet blog diagram

This is a simplified diagram to show the high level relationships and interactions.  We can see, for example, the project responsibilities of EDINA and Jisc and their anticipated responsibilities once in service mode. We will be refining this model and adding further details where relevant to assist with production of a tool kit that will be used to aid negotiation and promotion, describing how the service works in practice.

That said, some of the above components are well defined at this stage and some require further work and investigation. For example, while the responsibility for the service components and operation lies with EDINA, Jisc Collections will deal with publisher negotiations building on their considerable experience in this area. Publishers will provide the e-journal content archived nationally using a private LOCKSS network (PLN). The publisher will always remain the preferred supplier of access, and in the event that content from SafeNet is accessed the service will provide usage information back to the publisher.

The diagram also shows, in red, those components EDINA will manage, including two of the PLN nodes which are complemented by four co-located nodes. Establishing this national infrastructure and formalising the agreements to support this is something that will be progressed in the coming months.

Methods for gathering entitlement information are being closely examined at the moment. We hope to convene a second community meeting in the coming months to discuss approaches and consider challenges. The focus in developing the entitlement registry is currently centred on considering data sources and assessing the quality of information available. The KB+ team — Magaly Bascones in particular — have been instrumental in assisting our progress with this. The SafeNet project are also grateful to KB+ users at the universities of Huddersfield, Newcastle, East Anglia and Cambridge for access to their KB+ test profiles as we investigate the possibility of reusing information held there.

As we reach the halfway point the roadmap above shows where the project is headed. Upcoming landmarks include drafting service level definitions, testing data ingest and integrating components into the broader service architecture as shown above. There’s another year to navigate through with plenty of challenging diversions along the way.

Introducing the new MediaHub App for iPhone and iPad

Today we are very excited to announce the launch of the new MediaHub iOS App, which enables you to browse, search and save items on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.

If you want to download the app and have an iOS device then head over to the App Store here. The app is free to download!

The MediaHub iOS App Featured screen for June/July 2015

The Featured screen in the MediaHub iOS App.

Who is the MediaHub App for?

The app is for any user of MediaHub based at a subscribing university or college and using an iOS device (an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad/iPad Mini).

In order to provide you with the appropriate search, preview and bookmarking functionality the app is limited to those from institutions that support UK Federation login.

When you first download and set up the app you will be asked to login with your username and password. Once you have been logged in – which may take a few seconds – you are ready to go and you will remain logged for several months before you will be asked to reauthenticate. This helps ensure that our licensed content remains secure, without compromising the speed or ease of browsing through the app.

Is there an Android version?

We know that MediaHub users have or access a wide variety of mobile devices and we are currently building an Android App at the moment to ensure more of you have access to MediaHub whilst on the move. We expect the Android App to be available later this year.

What can you do with the app?

As the MediaHub App will be of most use when you are away from your laptop or desktop machine, rather than include the full range of functionality available on the web service, the app has been designed to enable you to search or browse for content on the go. Use it on your commute, when filling time between lectures or meetings, or when you get that great idea and want to quickly save an item to look at or include in your presentation later.

The app allows you to:

  • Browse featured content – the highlights from our collection which also appear on the front page of MediaHub.
  • Browse the most popular items – this is always an interesting and entertaining way to explore our content, as readers of our Most Popular blog posts will already be aware.
  • Search for MediaHub content – with the option to filter by format (video, image or audio), and to search external collections. You can also choose how your search results are ordered, by relevance, title or distance from a location – either your own current location or a location you have selected on a map.
  • Preview and view MediaHub items – including being able to watch videos in full (although we recommend that you do this via a wifi connection to minimise possible data charges).
  • Favourite MediaHub items for later use –  when you favourite an item in the app, it will also be added to your favourites list when you next login to the MediaHub service website. And similarly anything you have previously favourited in the service, will be synced to the app. So, you can search, browse, and select items whilst on the move, then download and edit into presentations, lecture notes, student projects, etc. when you are next editing these on your laptop or desktop machine.
  • Share MediaHub items – via email and phone messaging.

To give you an overview of the MediaHub App and how it works we have created the following user guide video:

Click here to view the embedded video.

How can I provide comments, questions or feedback on the app?

We welcome all of your comments and feedback on the MediaHub app, and on any aspect of MediaHub.

There are a few ways you can share your thoughts on the app:

Leave a comment and/or rating in the App Store

This will not only help us, but will also mean that your fellow MediaHub users hear your comments, constructive criticisms or top tips about the app. We would really appreciate your comments and ratings in the App Store as these can really help other new users to find the app, decide whether it is the right choice for them, and get an idea of how it is being used by others.

Leave a comment on this blog post

We will be keeping an eye out for comments and, like the App Store, any comment posted here will also benefit your fellow MediaHub users who may well have similar questions. We can then reply publicly  – and may update this post with new information as a result.

Join us for a Webinar!

To mark the launch of the MediaHub iOS App we will be holding several short webinars on the app, what you can do with it, and how you might use it in your teaching, learning or research. We welcome your comments during the webinars – or send in your question ahead of time and we will ensure it is included.

We regularly run MediaHub webinars and you are always welcome to participate and comment.

Contact us privately via the EDINA Helpdesk

If you would prefer to ask your question in a less public place, or have a very specific problem, question, etc. then you can contact the MediaHub team via the EDINA helpdesk: email: or by phone: +44 (0)131 650 3302.

Who built the MediaHub App?

The app was built by the MediaHub team, based at EDINA. Not only did they build the app, they also baked a MediaHub App cake to celebrate its launch!

Image of the MediaHub team with celebratory cake

The MediaHub Team, from left to right: Catherine Fleming; Lorna Campbell; Mark Allan; Tim Stickland; Viv Mayo; Nicola Osborne; Niall Munro.

Where can I find the Terms and Conditions?

When you download the app you will be agreeing to the terms and conditions for the MediaHub App. You can read these in full via the App Store, and you can also read and save a copy from the link below. At login we ask you to agree to terms and conditions for Grapevine, the MediaHub bookmarking and personalisation service. You can read these in full via the link below. As with the web service, all use of MediaHub content must comply with the MediaHub Terms of Service.

If you have any questions about how to use the MediaHub App, the MediaHub service in general, or how to use any image, video or audio item that you have found through the app or service, please get in touch with our colleagues on the EDINA helpdesk, who will be happy to answer your questions. You can contact us via email: or by phone: +44 (0)131 650 3302.

What does the MediaHub iOS App Look Like?

The screenshot at the beginning of this post, and the images below, give an ideas of how the app looks on an iPhone.

The MediaHub iOS App Search Settings screen

The MediaHub iOS App Search Settings screen

The MediaHub iOS App Search results screen

The MediaHub iOS App Search results screen

The best way to find out how the app looks and works is by using it! So, please do download the MediaHub iOS App, try it out, and let us know what you think!

Free EDINA workshop on preservation and continuing access

Booking is now open for a free one-day workshop led by EDINA: “Taking the long view: Factoring preservation and continuing access into your library workflow”.

July 10th 2015: National Rail Museum, York

With the transition from print to digital publishing, it is no longer libraries but publishers who provide online access to e-journals. Librarians now need to regularly review holdings and subscriptions to ensure appropriate access and optimal use of financial resources. Historically, preservation was an incidental by-product of the access role undertaken by libraries. Today, the stewardship that underpins long-term access for the future is increasingly undertaken by external agencies such as Portico and CLOCKSS. It can thus be difficult for librarians to ensure that their communities will have stable, long term access to materials in perpetuity: this lack of clarity can have significant consequences for decisions around print rationalisation, cancellation, and budget allocation.

This knowledge exchange workshop will explore how librarians can plan for long-term access to journals. Participants will have an opportunity to share stories on how their institutions conduct annual reviews, print rationalisation exercises and other related processes, and there will be discussion of how EDINA services such as the Keepers Registry and SUNCAT can assist in these workflows.

This event is free but places are limited. Please register by 30TH June 2015.

The National Railway Museum is conveniently placed near to York Railways Station.

For further information please contact

Interviews, personas & perpetual access pain points. Oh my!

Book question. 3D modeling and renderingTo help the SafeNet project team gain a better understanding of user needs, exploratory interviews were carried out with 19 serials librarians between the 19th of January and the 6th of March 2015.

As reported in an earlier post, Jisc Collections carried out a survey of its membership in order to understand the post cancellation access needs of the UK HE community. Part of the drive to do this came from earlier consultations with selected NESLi2 publishers. During these discussions it was clear that, for there to be buy-in on behalf of the publishing community, demand for a service based on the SafeNet project from UK HE library community would need to be demonstrated.

The interviews also provided the basis for the identification of 9 distinct personas. The personas do not represent real individuals; they are composites of common themes identified during the interviews. These will be used to assist the project team in being mindful of the audience for the final service and identifying their needs in relation to perpetual access.

The interviews provided an opportunity to find out what concerns and particular pain points librarians experience in relation to perpetual access. The earlier PECAN project identified that, despite existing external service providers offering long term digital preservation services, there are still concerns from the community about continuing access that require improvement and investment. The SafeNet project team specifically wanted to explore user needs in relation to these concerns and how the potential service components of SafeNet could address these issues.

Key Findings

All interviewees noted that their main goal was for users to experience seamless access to content and, should access be lost, to rectify it as quickly as possible. The quantity of journal content available electronically to libraries means that pro-actively checking access to all subscribed material is not practical. Library staff reported that they have to be reactive to access issues when notified by users and this can give a poor impression of their service. Many interviewees indicated that users don’t always see the distinction between the library catalogue and the content provider which is often reflected in NSS and LibQUAL surveys.

Institutional engagement with the issue of post cancellation access (PCA) varied. In some cases a ‘belt and braces’ approach had been taken with institutions participating in both LOCKSS and Portico. In others there were no library-side arrangements and PCA was left to publisher provision.

Record keeping in relation to entitlements also varied. There were similarities in terms of storing physical and digital copies of licences but strategies for making this information usefully available ranged from using the library management system to spreadsheets to nothing at all.

A common theme throughout the interviews was the time constraints library staff face. It was not uncommon for interviewees to report that correspondence with publishers was often protracted and required significant investment of time to provide evidence to support assertions. Again, record keeping was an issue here. In one specific case it was reported that entitlement claims were not pursued because the library was unlikely to have the evidence to hand and the staff time spent investigating the loss of access would outweigh the cost of an inter-library loan.

Several interviewees reported that assurance of PCA was most pressing when moving from a print and electronic subscription to e-only. The SafeNet service, offering a level of national resilience for content, was viewed positively in this scenario as it was common for interviewees to report that they continued to receive print journals in conjunction with the e-version to act as an archive should the subscription be cancelled and electronic access lost. Many stated that these print copies were never made available to users. The proposed SafeNet archive was also welcomed by librarians who had experience of PCA clauses being fulfilled on CD-ROMs or hard drives but who lacked the local infrastructure to provide access to this content for their users.

Overall it was clear from the discussions that there was enthusiasm from librarians about the SafeNet project. The sense that it would save time and provide a centralised, authoritative source of entitlements should access — either current or post cancellation — become a problem, was viewed positively. The national infrastructure was seen as an extremely useful step on the road to providing more robust perpetual access to content which had been paid for.

The persona document is available for download.

If you have any comments or feedback please contact us at

SUNCAT introductory webinar

We ran a very successful introductory SUNCAT webinar at the end of April covering:

  • Scope and content of the service
  • Key features of the interface
  • How SUNCAT can support information professionals and end-users
  • How to contribute to SUNCAT
  • Future plans for the service

The event proved popular with around 90 participants from a wide range of UK Higher Education, Government, NHS and specialist research institutions. Almost all of the participants, 87%, reported that they had found the session useful and 60% indicated that they would be interested in future, more focused, SUNCAT seminars on either improving serials metadata or collection management.

Questions covered bibliographic issues such as the inclusion of different ISSNs and non-standard subject headings and if SUNCAT is RDA compliant, to system issues, such as how records are added to the catalogue and how often records are updated.

More details about the webinar including the slides, Q&A and a recording of the session are available at

User satisfaction survey

After the launch of the new look service last spring we asked you to give us your opinion of the new interface and features. We thank all of you who responded to this survey, the results have fed back into the service and we are using your comments to inform the continued development of the SUNCAT interface.

You can view a summary of the last survey, with a list of the planned actions resulting from this.

This year we would again appreciate your input to help us improve the service by answering some slightly different questions.

Your feedback is vital in helping us to identify and prioritise areas for further development, so we would be very grateful if you could take a few minutes to complete this survey which will remain open until Friday 29th May.

We would not only appreciate your comments but would also encourage you to circulate the survey details as widely as possible, both to your colleagues and end-users.

Thank you in anticipation!

SafeNet: Nine months on

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe SafeNet project has been officially underway for around 9 months. As SafeNet begins to take shape so too has Project Manager Adam Rusbridge’s son who emerged into the world three weeks ago. The first project baby but, with another 15 months to go, there’s no guarantee he’ll be the last. Congratulations to you all, the gauntlet has been thrown down to the rest of the team.

The team have been productive in other ways since our last post on project activity. In January the SafeNet project group met at the Jisc offices in London for a face-to-face meeting that included colleagues from Jisc and EDINA as well as contributors to the project from RLUK and Stanford University.

The group converged to discuss work carried out and planning for the future. The team reviewed project activity that included, at that stage, consultations with publishers and the beginning of consultations with libraries around the pain points of post cancellation access. Consideration was also given to access triggers, content scope, community development and the eventual negotiations with publishers regarding the intended local load agreement.

Aims for the six month period following the meeting up to our next face to face in July 2015 included drafting and testing a publisher participation agreement for the service, planning the service infrastructure, and developing community engagement. These elements would be addressed in tandem with the practicalities of building a service platform.

The publisher participation agreement is in the final stages of revision and should be ready by July 2015 as planned.  Setting up the service infrastructure is progressing and we are investigating options for hosting and co-location.  In terms of community outreach the first meeting of the advisory group took place in York and we aim to take advantage of the input the group have to offer to ensure the resulting service meets the needs of the community.

Development of the Entitlement Registry has progressed. The Entitlement Registry now has a user interface which will be tested and refined over the coming months. Publisher and library test data has been kindly supplied for testing and Magaly Bascones of the KB+ service has been very helpful, providing insights into data held for NESLi2 deals. This data will form the basis for initial testing.

Finally SafeNet has attracted international attention and resulted in conversations with both German and Italian colleagues who are also exploring the national hosting problem space. More information on these and similar initiatives will feature in a future post.