In a move to further strengthen its ability to deliver stable and reliable automation to libraries, Equinox Software has launched a new hosting program called Sequoia. Equinox positions Sequoia as a comprehensive software-as-a-service ILS offering based on a new hosting platform with full-service support. It is based on a technical environment for its data centers that manages and provisions software applications with the flexibility to meet the needs of its largest or smallest library customers in a way that minimizes the possibility for downtime and delivers optimal performance. Going forward, Equinox intends to focus strategically on delivering automation to libraries based on open source software hosted on its Sequoia service platform and to transition away from providing support for self-hosted installations. The open source Evergreen ILS will continue as its primary offering for larger libraries and consortia, supplemented by Koha for mid-sized or small libraries preferring a stand-alone implementation. Equinox will continue to provide support for its existing self-hosted clients, but plans to focus on Sequoia-based installations as it markets its services to new potential customers. Equinox will encourage its self-hosted sites to migrate to Sequoia.
Equinox has developed Sequoia as its internal scaleable platform to manage the hardware and software resources to support its hosted customers. Sequoia consists of proprietary control software developed by Equinox and layers of redundant data center components. Sequoia has been specifically designed to interact with Evergreen, taking advantage of its multi-tenant architecture to provision the software for any given library's installation. It has been designed to allocate access to Evergreen resources through the OpenSRF messaging middleware layer, including the ability to provision individual modules.
Sequoia is based on a layered set of hardware and software components managed through control software administered by Equinox to provision resources for the hosted installations of its customer libraries. Some of the components include a database layer with multiple levels of redundancy, multiple web service instances with load balancing, and the use of many virtual instances of Evergreen components distributed among the physical server resources.
Sequoia supports Evergreen at the component level.
Equinox also plans to provide support for other open source library applications through Sequoia including Koha and the FulfILLment platform for managing interlibrary loan transactions. The architecture of Sequoia enables Equinox to make optimal use of hardware resources within its data centers and to allocate more than ample resources needed to support each customer installation. Sequoia takes advantage of techniques well established in the software-as-a-service industry, developed to interact with Evergreen's OpenSRF-based architecture.
Equinox developed the Sequoia technology as its proprietary data center control environment, and it will not be released under an open source license. Sequoia functionality remain entirely separate from Evergreen or other open source applications that will be provisioned its customers. The Sequoia technology resides in the domain of data center management or infrastructure-as-a-service providers and not in the library software arena. As such, it would only be of use to organizations that offer hosting services and not to individual libraries interested in operating their own instances of Evergreen.
Sequoia has been designed to enable libraries to integrate third party products with their ILS. While its architecture includes multiple layers of firewalls to protect internal components, it also supports self-check kiosks, automated return and sorting equipment, payment systems, or other authorized third party applications to safely interact with the library's instance of their ILS.
Service and Support
Sequoia includes a new package of service and support that complements the new hosting platform. Although Equinox Software negotiates specific terms of service with each of their customers, the Sequoia program includes a variety of standard features. For data security, databases and other customer data is protected through multiple layers of replication and backup. Equinox has also launched a new service component it calls Active Integrated Maintenance, or AIM, which consists of development and quality assurance for repairing any defects encountered in Evergreen, Koha, or FulfILLment. AIM is designed to provide similar software maintenance to what libraries expect from vendors of proprietary software— where reported bugs are promptly referred to the software development team rather than waiting for an open source development community to address issues. AIM will be included in the price for customers of Sequoia hosting services and offered through a separate fee to self-hosted sites. Fixes produced through AIM will be automatically applied to the version of Evergreen hosted by Equinox through Sequoia and will be made available self-hosted AIM subscribers via access to the current Equinox release of Evergreen.
While AIM provides a process for addressing problems that libraries might encounter with the current version of Evergreen, it isn't intended to involve the creation of new features in the application. To advance the functionality of Evergreen and related software, Equinox has initiated another new service it calls Idea Lab. This service generates a pool of funding that will be applied to development projects that Equinox defines, based its own vision of what is needed to advance Evergreen with consideration of ideas and projects articulated by its customers. The subscription to Sequoia includes an automatic contribution to Idea Lab. Self-hosted sites can also subscribe to Idea Lab to gain a voice in its development agenda and to benefit more immediately from the software it products. Equinox anticipates that all the software produced through Idea Lab will be released through open source software licenses, either as part of Evergreen or as discrete tools or applications.
New Strategy for Evergreen
Equinox has also changed the way that it deploys the Evergreen software. Prior to the transition to Sequoia, Equinox Software has maintained a policy of providing support for the stable versions of Evergreen released by its developer community. While Equinox Software participates in the development community, many others individuals and organizations are involved as well. Going forward, Equinox will maintain an internally approved version of Evergreen in which it will apply features and fixes that may not yet be available in the community version. All code that Equinox develops for its version will be promptly contributed back into the community development stream. Equinox is careful to assert that it will not produce a fork of Evergreen, but has only adjusted its implementation policy so that it can produce and apply new code to its production instances in advance of the public release cycles.
Commitment to Open Source
Brad LaJeunesse, President of Equinox software, emphasizes that although the company has made some changes in the way that it manages its hosting services, the company remains fully dedicated to the principles of open source software. Even though its current policies now include developing and implementing code through its own development and quality assurance processes and placing them into production exclusively for its own customers, it will continue to remain true to the requirements and spirit of open source software licenses. Equinox Software states that it remains committed to working closely with the broader community of Evergreen developers beyond its own organization.
One of the key challenges in the open source software support business involves cultivating long-term customers. Especially when a consortium or library chooses to host Evergreen on its own onpremises equipment, it may eventually opt to forgo external support. Partially in response to this scenario, Equinox has shifted its strategy to focus on cultivating libraries for its hosting services. Sequoia, according to LaJeunesse, allows Equinox to provide a superior automation environment for the library at a lower cost than a library would be able to accomplish using its own local hardware and personnel or through a competing service provider.
Sequoia has also been designed to optimize the ability of Equinox Software to compete with vendors of proprietary systems in an increasingly competitive industry. LaJeunesse states that library directors and other decision-makers today care less about whether the software of a potential new ILS is open source or has a proprietary license, but are concerned rather with the system's ability to deliver needed features, operate without interruption, and come at an affordable price. Sequoia allows Equinox Software to better compete with the proprietary products on the market without compromising the values and benefits inherent in open source software development. It gives the company the ability to take full responsibility for every aspect of the ILS that it provides for its customers rather than to defer to the vagaries of relying on an open source support community for immediate concerns. As a comprehensive offering, Sequoia subscribers can be assured that they will not need to maintain in-house programmers to operate an open source ILS any more than they would had they selected a proprietary system.
Equinox Software Company Background
Equinox Software traces its beginnings to the development team that created the open source Evergreen ILS for the PINES consortium of public libraries supported through the Georgia Public Library System. GPLS initiated a development effort to develop an open source integrated library system to replace the Sirsi Unicorn installation that was then used to support the PINES consortium of 44 libraries in the state, including 249 individual facilities. The Evergreen development team included Brad LaJeunesse, Jason Etheridge, Mike Rylander, and Bill Erickson. The initial version of Evergreen was placed into production for the PINES consortium on September 5, 2006.
In February 2007 the development team was spun off from GPLS to form a new company called Equinox Software to continue the development of Evergreen, provide support services for PINES, and to promote and support Evergreen for other library organizations that might be interested in an open source ILS. The company has grown over the years with a growing customer base of consortium and stand-alone libraries taking advantages of its hosting, development, and support services surrounding Evergreen, Koha, and related products. The company currently employs around 20 full-time employees. More than 700 libraries representing almost 1,400 individual facilities currently use Evergreen.