Digital scholarship blog

06 February 2013

Digital Conversations series: Debating the Cloud

 Digital Conversations is a series of seminars hosted by the Digital Research and Curator Team aimed to engage staff in a lively discourse about digital innovation. So far the team has organised six Conversations at which inspirational individuals and organisations were invited to give 10-minute long thought-provoking presentations around a topic relating to the digital environment. Annotation and sharing, profiling and privacy, and digital narratives are some of the topics covered in this series that featured speakers from The Guardian DataBlog, The Oxford Internet Institute, Mendeley, BBC, Artfinder, Microsoft Research, TouchPress, to name but a few.

The latest Digital Conversations on 18 January focused on the topic of Cloud Computing and considered the opportunities it presents for the British Library, Higher Education, public sector ICT provision, and audio social networks.


Panellists (from the left): Lance Patterson, Niels van Dijk, Peter Middleton, Simon Waddington and Andy Tattersall

Lewis Crawford from the Architecture Team at the Library spoke about the benefits of the Cloud for the Library which currently uses a private cloud cluster for full text indexing of content in its Digital Library System and for image conversion. However, in the longer term it is hoped that private cloud storage will be used for all Digital Library content, with metadata and access services based around this cloud store.

Dr. Simon Waddington, Centre for e-Research, King’s College London, shared the results from the JISC-funded Kindura project which used DuraCloud to build a prototype hybrid-cloud based repository for research data. Taking into account the diverse requirements of researchers from different disciplines, the system acts as ‘broker’ for the management of research data, offering both cost optimisation and an important institutional rules engine.

 DC6SimonWaddingtonDr. Simon Waddington presenting the Kindura prototype

Audioboo‘s Lance Patterson offered a technical demonstration of this audio-based social network and explained how cloud-distributed transcoding and streaming helps manage high level of demand and supports projects such as the BooKnows educational initiative that uses audio to create and share knowledge among students and exerts worldwide.

The other speakers included Peter Middleton who introduced the UK Government G-Cloud Programme which encourages the adoption of Cloud services across the public sector;  Andy Tattersall, ScHARR, University of Sheffield, who shared his and his University’s experience of implementing the Google Cloud for collaborative working, teaching and learning; and Niels van Dijk from the Dutch National Research and Educational Network (NREN) who presented on its arm SURFconext that offers a collaboration infrastructure connecting systems, services, tools and people.

 DC6SURFnet1Niels van Dijk about to introduce SURFconext

There was a lively panel debate on the value of the cloud for on-demand, easily scalable, “no lock in” services, data portability and interoperability, whilst highlighting the security and legislative risks relevant to storage in the Cloud.


Previous Conversation in the series can be viewed from the Digital Conversations playlist on the British Library YouTube Channel. The series has generated a lot of interest from external audiences and the team is currently exploring the possibitily of opening up the talks to people from outside the Library. Enjoy the videos and watch this space for more news!


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