I was interested to hear recently about a new initiative out of the EU called TIMBUS. TIMBUS stands for Digital Preservation for Timeless Business Processes and Services and is intended to, according to the website “develop activities, processes and tools, over a period of three years, for the complete preservation of all business-critical information.” TIMBUS has been funded by the tune of 8M Euro to try and increase the long term availability of data. It’s interesting to reflect this European approach towards data preservation, with the heavily regulated situation in the US where legislation (in the form of Sarbanes Oxley) dictates how data needs to be preserved over time.

It’s also a timely reminder that the increasing move towards outsourcing, driven by the uptake of Cloud Computing, introduces challenges as both the location and the responsibility for data becomes less defined – both geographically and from the perspective of which party is liable. As Dr Frank Simon, Head of SQS Research one of the partners in the project says;

A dilemma which companies may face is whether all outsourced data will continue to exist and be accessible in the future. How can we ensure the full preservation of data today, given that many cloud service providers may not exist in a few years time?

TIMBUS is a consortium made up of Caixa Magica Software, Digital Preservation Coalition, INESC – ID, iPharro Media, Intel, Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, Laboratório de Instrumentação e Física Experimental de Partículas, Laboratório Nacional de Engenharia Civil, Münster University, SAP, Secure Business Austria and SQS. It was launched on 1 April 2011 with the first conceptual and innovative results expected by the end of the year. While some might balk at the fact that there’s a fair number of vendors in that mix, I’m hoping that the significant involvement of educational and Governmental organizations will help to ensure the outcomes of the projects aren’t tainted by ulterior motives.

The three sets of tools that TIMBUS is aiming to develop include;

  1. Expediency of DP Effort – Organisations need to determine the feasibility of digital preservation approaches:
      – Identify the stakeholders – who are Organisation B and Organisation C?
      – Perform cost/risk analysis for ‘DP’ and ‘no DP’ making intelligent use of industry trends, projects, compliance standards, licensing laws, IP boundaries/overlaps and so forth.
      – Show the critical paths of the landscapes supporting key business processes taking into account the interdependencies between services.
      – Establish who has the authority to rerun the business process
  2. Execution of DP Process – Organisations need to execute an effective DP process:
      – Obtain a contractual agreement with all stakeholders.
      – Schedule when to execute DP process.
      – Establish the runtime DP process and type of storage landscape required.
      – Perform the DP of interdependent services (including other software and technology landscape assets if necessary) using any necessary means such as software imaging, virtualisation, emulation, and so forth.
      – Document any refinement to existing standards and development of new standards.
  3. Exhumation of DP Assets – Organisations need to exhume the services and rerun business processes at some time in the future:
      – Verify who has the authority to rerun the business process.
      – Locate or generate the data (original data and/or new instances of data).
      – Perform service exhumation and rerun the business processes.
      – Integrate the preserved business process with current business processes.
      – Verify the correctness of the rerun business processes.
      – Document any refinement to existing standards and development of new standards.

TIMBUS looks to be a promising initiative and one which we should watch as it progresses.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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