The Next Generation of Innovation
About this time last month, The Library Corporation (TLC) hosted a webinar on their recurring Webinar Wednesday series to bring awareness to the new TLC•Cloud Services platform powered by Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) and to discuss the benefits this new hosting environment brings to both the company as a whole and their library customers.
The webinar was hosted by TLC’s Director of Marketing, Jamison Reynolds, featuring Chief Operating Officer, John Burns, and Chief Technology Officer, Justin Duewel-Zahniser, as expert panelists.
The following includes the highlights from the webinar. Some content has been edited and adjusted for clarity and length. To watch the webinar in its entirety, you can find the recording at the TLC Webinar Wednesday archive at TLCdelivers.com/webinars.
Meet the COO and CTO
To kick off the webinar, Reynolds introduces TLC•Cloud Services, an improved hosting platform:
TLC has teamed up with Oracle to redefine hosting library services. TLC•Cloud Services utilizes Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) to provide our customers with unmatched control, security, and predictability to deliver high-performance, Cloud-based infrastructure services. OCI is a deep and broad platform of cloud services that enables TLC to design and build our applications in a scalable, secure, highly available, fault-tolerant, and high-performance environment.
He shares that TLC’s current products offering TLC•Cloud Services include CARL•X™, Library•Solution®, and Library•Solution® for Schools. TLC offers ILS hosting in multiple regions of North America and globally, providing support for regions and countries who prefer or require local data residency.
Reynolds then introduces the panelists.
John Burns, Chief Operating Officer (COO)
Burns has over 20+ years of experience with TLC, having built his career in a range of roles within the organization: primarily within sales and marketing capacities. He was recently promoted to the role of COO as of January 2020. Prior to that, he was the Director of Sales and Marketing.
He shares anecdotally that his mother was a librarian in the K-12 and Public Library systems. “As irony has it … technology forced my mother into early retirement in the library industry … and here her son is 30 years later doing a webinar on OCI and technology in libraries.”
Justin Duewel-Zahniser (DZ), Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
DZ originally worked for TLC from 2003 to 2006, as one of his early technology jobs. With his computer science background, he started as a software trainer for Library•Solution® before moving into technical product management. In 2006, he left TLC and spent a little over a decade working on global supply change and reverse supply chain solutions, in a technical product management capacity.
He rejoined the TLC team in 2017 as the Chief Technology Officer. In that time, one of his focuses has been the Cloud platform migration and transition, directly relevant to the topic of the webinar.
A Long History of Innovation
TLC’s history with hosting does not begin with the OCI initiative. Burns elaborates on the 46+ years of innovation that came out of TLC within the library technology space, following this general decade-at-a-glance timeline. Interspersed here are high-level descriptions of major generations of data hosting models from DZ.
- TLC was founded in 1974 by the family that still owns and operates the company today.
- In 1985, TLC introduced the original data platform, BiblioFile, which started on microfiche. Later, TLC was the first company to use CD-ROMs for data.
- In 1995, TLC was the first vendor in the world to build their ILS platform natively from the ground up for the Microsoft Server operating system, beginning the initial partnership with Oracle for the underlying RDBMS structure. Soon after, TLC introduced its first data hosting platform, ITS•MARC.
This time in TLC’s history corresponds with our Gen 1 data hosting model. DZ elaborates on the data center built out of the TLC Headquarters office in Inwood, West Virginia and defines an on-premise (or library-hosted) solution. The library provides the hardware locally and TLC installs the software and supports it. Libraries still have this option today.
- In 2005, TLC began hosting their first customers from the corporate internal hosting facility
- Within five years (2010), demand for hosting increased and TLC moved to a Tier 3 hosting service, co-located in Ashburn, VA for Library•Solution® customers and around the Denver area for CARL customers.
This corresponds with our Gen 2 data hosting model, the co-location (or co-lo) model. DZ outlines the responsibilities of each facility and highlights the main difference from Gen 1 is the move to virtualization. Both the software installation and the database (part of that software install) run on the virtualized hardware in the data center.
- Fast-forward to today, 2020, TLC partners once more with Oracle to leverage the power and scalability of cloud hosting.
This corresponds with our Gen 3 data hosting model: the Cloud model, expanding the virtualization model.
Leveraging the Power of Oracle
Reynolds poses the question: Why did TLC choose to move to OCI as opposed to someone else in that space, like AWS or Azure?
DZ addresses the value proposition for using Oracle to provide cloud hosting: If you’re using Oracle as your back-end database, who better to provide hosting and cloud solutions than the database provider? “Really no one is ever going to beat Oracle [as] the most performant, most secure, most integrated operating environment for Oracle-based products.”
Burns recognizes the cognizant choice to make an objective decision during the marketplace assessment and how Oracle’s performance and costs compare to other platforms: “It just made sense for both of our ILSs.” With the move to cloud hosting, TLC can focus less on the hardware and apply resources more toward its expertise — library software and technology.
Choosing OCI over competitors in the market was also acutely observed with one of TLC’s CARL customers, who had the option of going from an on-premise solution to a city managed hosting model provided by AWS. This customer selected to move forward with TLC•Cloud Services provided by OCI.
See additional comparison information in the Benefits of Cloud Hosting for TLC Customers section below.
In addition to the benefits to TLC customers, described below, TLC will be a customer of its own TLC•Cloud Services platform. DZ explains how TLC uses Oracle Cloud Infrastructure for its internal development environments and the operational benefits that it provides.
Benefits of Cloud Hosting for TLC Customers
“How does this directly affect TLC Customers?” Reynolds asks before expounding, “Many times people think to parse that out, whether we’re speaking about Library•Solution®, Library•Solution® for Schools, or CARL•X™. How does this affect everyone?”
DZ and Burns lay it out with these primary benefits to TLC Customers:
Geographic Redundancy and Improved Latency
By moving to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, TLC immediately gains access to all the data regions offered with no difference in implementation. Rather than managing a number of co-location hosting facilities in multiple locations, TLC gets the exact same configuration, deployment model, network and hardware performance — in all regions, globally — from one service provider.
Customers, historically, would have needed to connect to either the Denver, CO or Ashburn, VA hosting facilities respective of their ILS product, and had the potential to experience some network latency depending on their physical distance from that location. Now, TLC can provide its customers with a closer network endpoint, supporting decreased network latency.
Improved Application Performance
TLC developers can take advantage of the scalability and improved client performance, based on the Oracle expertise and how that platform is developed, in order to improve application performance.
DZ references these side-by-side speed tests from the marketplace evaluation.
Latest Hardware, Newest Software: Effective Budgeting
With TLC•Cloud Services, TLC customers will always be using and leveraging the latest and greatest in their hardware capabilities: Solid State Drives (SSD), storage, processing, and computing power.
In comparing the on-premise model to the TLC•Cloud Services hosting model, elaborated more later, Burns expresses that libraries can spend more time doing the things libraries want to do, and less time tending to on-premise servers. “The efficiencies libraries gain through this and the mental relief they gain,” he thinks is well worth the cost.
Burns keys in on the fact that customers will no longer need to go through the budgetary refresh cycle of hardware. The cost is spread out over time through a small increase yearly — more effective than the larger cost required in the typical 5-8 year rolling budgetary schedule to replace hardware.
Upgraded hardware has a direct impact on budgets, as well as the capability of the software itself. “We can develop software now faster than your hardware can keep up with.” On-premise libraries get locked into their budgetary cycles and are unable to afford newer hardware and are, therefore, unable to upgrade to the newest versions of software.
TLC takes into context these older, antiquated systems while developing new features. DZ reassures the audience that TLC does work to maintain that backwards compatibility with the on-premise deployment.
Disaster Recovery, Backups, and Data Security
Burns shares that TLC•Cloud Services provides customers with data-at-rest encryption capabilities, multiple levels of disaster recovery options, and improved data backup across multiple domains. OCI gives TLC more flexibility and options for its customers’ needs.
DZ elaborates on the inherent level of security as Oracle Cloud Infrastructure is being used by enterprise-level clients with demanding security requirements. TLC customers benefit indirectly from this, as TLC is able to take its own secure application environment and deploy it into a platform managed by the security requirements Oracle instills as a baseline for everyone who uses that infrastructure.
Reynolds asks DZ about data privacy concerns. With Oracle’s strong database encryption and data separation built into the platform, customers deployed into that environment automatically benefit from data-at-rest and database-layer encryption.
Additionally, TLC is already intentional with its logical and security separation between any given customer instances, from both a privacy and security standpoint; this level of separation is built into the underlying infrastructure of the Cloud platform.
Migrating to a New Platform
From On-Premise to Hosted
In addition to the benefits already mentioned, Reynolds asks: What difference can library customers see when switching from an on-premise solution to a hosted solution with TLC•Cloud Services?
Burns spotlights the library’s relationship with their on-premise IT support: “You offload that responsibility for all of the hardware, all of the OS maintenance, all of the updating.” He reiterates the budgetary cycle and the benefit of disaster recovery mentioned earlier in this article.
“When you’re on-prem, even though we provide full services here through our client services, there’s still a level of liability that you hold in housing that hardware in your facility.” He shares an anecdote of how TLC has worked with customers who had to use stacks of books to elevate server equipment off the floor during hurricane flooding.
DZ elaborates, stating that customers in the cloud platform would only be responsible for maintaining a sufficient internet connection — and that’s it — from a simplified IT infrastructure standpoint.
He further explains keeping up with data security standards in the library industry and shares TLC’s role on occasion during times of data crisis, such as when customers over-commit to their on-premise infrastructure. He also references this case study, where TLC moved a customer quickly and diligently into a hosted environment, restoring data following a severe ransomware attack on their local system.
Reynolds expounds on the thought, adding a sentiment from a customer who moved from an on-premise environment into TLC•Cloud Services at the start of the year. In the era of COVID-19 with patrons accessing more digital content like ebooks and e-resources, the customer felt it was nice knowing that traffic was going through a dedicated OCI network, rather than hitting the library’s network and network resources.
Reynolds takes a question from the audience: “Does this mean that the on-premise model will be phased out? At what point will TLC clients be required to move to Cloud?” Burns responds with a resounding, “We will never tell our client when they have to move from on-prem to hosted. We don’t force our customers to upgrade.”
However, Burns emphasizes that being in a cloud environment means faster upgrades with fewer hours of downtime. He references comments made by TLC Customer Matthew Mattson of Los Angeles Public Library from this interview.
From TLC’s Co-Location Hosted Model to TLC•Cloud Services
Reynolds takes a multipart audience question: Are you migrating all hosted clients to the new hosted platform? Any expected downtime? How will this affect pricing for renewals?
Burns states that TLC’s longtail plan is to migrate customers out of the current co-location facility into Oracle cloud, but that there is no end-of-life deadline. TLC will reach out to clients during their renewal and upgrade processes and initiate a conversation at that time regarding the library’s needs. “This isn’t just a mass exodus… This will be a strategic type of process.”
Downtime would be no more than what a library can anticipate for a large system upgrade. DZ answers first from the context of a customer already using TLC’s co-location hosted services: the transition is a standard maintenance window. Downtime is required as TLC performs a transformation of the library’s current transactional data state.
Transitioning from an on-premise environment into a co-location hosted environment is not very different from transitioning into the cloud hosted environment. Which is to say that both transitions require a more complex data migration project. For those considering this option, TLC has a very high success rate for data migration as well as additional data services.
Another audience question comes in: Are you required to have the latest software version in order to go into the Cloud? DZ confirms that TLC will be supporting both versions of the Library•Solution® product — 4.x and 5.x — but that there may be a minimum version within each major product line. For a more tailored response based on your own version, please reach out directly to your TLC Support team.
Future Implications for TLC
To close out the conversation, Reynolds asks Burns what potential future implications may be for TLC moving forward with TLC•Cloud Services. Burns reiterates that TLC does more than integrated library systems — the first 25 years of the company were predicated upon data services. As TLC continues to evolve more innovative products, they want to take advantage of Oracle’s scalability.
His final sentiment sums up TLC’s excitement for the future:
Be on the lookout for new products coming from TLC based on Oracle Cloud. Be on the lookout for existing products to be modernized in that environment — like our ITS•MARC data service. … As an organization at large, we’re going to benefit from this and our consumers and clients are going to benefit from this in meaningful ways. … We’re very excited about this big, strategic intent for the company. It will deliver meaningful benefits to our end users and our internal workforce.
We're about to embark on a project to move our servers to an OCI environment and we've been able to go into that with confidence because of previous TLC projects on that kind of scale."
Oracle Cloud Infrastructure combines the highest performance along with low, predictable pricing to support all enterprise workloads.”
This partnership enables us to focus all of our energies on our core value-add to our customers."
Moving our managed hosting solutions away from a co-location model to Oracle Cloud will allow TLC to apply more of our resources to improving and supporting our library management and data services."
We haven't noticed any problems, any issues. If the staff members didn't know we moved, I don't think any of them would tell you that anything changed."
Knowing that the mighty weight of Oracle is behind our hosted site makes me feel extremely confident in the uptime and security of the system."