Validity of acquisition and deployment of Brocade library system
in South Africa
levels of government are important, the one that sits closest to the citizens is Public Libraries (local
government). As the ‘face’ of the ruling government that communities have daily access to, its place at the
forefront of service delivery and citizen interaction makes it the easiest target when service delivery is not
up to scratch. The primary focus of libraries should be on where we spent most money, on published materials
which we buy (printed materials such as books) or on a new integrated library system/library automation
into the Brocade library system has left me with more questions than answers as information available on the
internet is rather limited in all respects relating to this so called integrated library system/library
automation system. Validity of acquisition and deployment of Brocade library system in South Africa is a case of
many questions and only a few plausible answers.
product names confuse consumers
On the internet, when you do search on
Google most information with regards to Brocade refers to Brocade network routers and switches that have no
relation to the Brocade Library Services. SLIMS powered by Brocade Library Services, is more popularly known as
Brocade. In this article we will refer to this library system as ‘Brocade’ to avoid the likelihood of
Other names used are:
- SLIMS (SITA Library Information Management System powered by Brocade Library Services)
- SITA LIMS (SITA Library Information Management System)
- Brocade Library Services (In 2007, SITA and CiPal entered into an agreement that was referred to as the Brocade
Brocade was officially launched at the end of May 2002. Brocade is the name of the cloud (web-based) library
software developed by the University of Antwerp (UA) and distributed and supported by CiPal. The Brocade
library software is used in numerous Flemish public libraries, colleges, universities. “We want the world to know
that Brocade is not merely a new library system, but a whole new concept that could be used for any application
that deals with document management,” says Willy Moermans, director of applications at CiPal.
University of Antwerp
The University of Antwerp is the driving force behind the development of the library software Brocade. The
University of Antwerp works together with CiPal to commercialize and develop the Brocade library system.
Initially, Brocade was designed and developed by Anet, the automation unit of the University of Antwerp
CiPal was created
on 1st January 1980. The Information and Communications
Technology (ICT) centre CiPal is a familiar name in Flanders’ public IT landscape (as is SITA in South
Africa). CiPal, the inter-municipal cooperative ICT society based in Geel, has for many years been providing
its Brocade library software to numerous Flemish libraries with offices in Antwerp. CiPal has been
collaborating with the University of Antwerp for some time now, it being responsible for Brocade’s software
development to date. The CiPal group recorded in 2011 a turnover of roughly 30 million. Of these, 10 million
of the SA - "The growth of the SA is remarkably effective," said Director General Nico
How much did
Brocade migration and licences cost the South African libraries? The Western Cape Provincial Library Service was
outlaying R5.5 million for the initial implementation of Brocade for their libraries. Why was Brocade
chosen/selected by SITA knowing it is one of the smallest and most expensive proprietary systems in the world?
Internationally, many libraries are leaving proprietary ILS for open source ILS systems such as Koha and
of Brocade is prohibitively expensive, especially the fact that Brocade SaaS licence costs do not follow
the format of cloud, but that of inherently expensive traditional proprietary software licenses.
SLIMS, SITA and CiPal
SLIMS Library Management System (is Brocade), distributed in South Africa by SITA (State Information Technology
Agency). SLIMS is the Brocade library management system, distributed by Centre of Informatics in the Province of
Antwerpen and Limburg (CiPal) company in Belgium. In December 2008, SITA acquired the Brocade library
information management system from CiPal. SLIMS has replaced most PALS (legacy library system) sites in South
Africa. The relationship between the two agencies began in 2002 when SITA entered into a partnership with CiPal for
the Thabo Mofutsanyane district municipality Financial System project which saw it implement the ‘Hercules’
Financial Management System.
many reports on the internet, the State IT Agency (SITA) is perceived to be incompetent, disorganised and
‘riddled with corruption and maladministration’. “SITA admits that its service delivery is poor, inconsistent
and, in some cases, non-existent. A lack of compliance with regulations, pricing and turnaround times, no
economies of scale, and weak internal capabilities were also mentioned as some of the agency’s
InterSystems’ Caché database system. CiPal’s Caché-Based Library System is Brocade. Well known relational databases
could not handle what they (Brocade developer’s) wanted and so recommended Caché from InterSystems.
Acquisition and deployment of Brocade Library System in South
The PALS automated library system has been used
by Provincial Library Service and the affiliated libraries in South Africa for many years (since 1995). This
system was maintained by SITA from a central mainframe in Cape Town. In 2007, the Provincial Library services
together with SITA, decided to migrate to a new system with updated technology and software. Apparently user
requirements were submitted and a tender process was followed and the end result was that Brocade, a software
system developed by the University of Antwerp and used by CiPal in Belgium for their libraries, was
designed and developed for use in university libraries environment. Just as the Millennium ILS product was
designed/ developed and used in university/academic libraries (educational institutions) in South Africa.
Therefore, if Brocade was originally developed for university/academic libraries, why in South Africa is Brocade
marketed to be used in Public Libraries? An integrated library system/library automation system is not designed
to be a one-size fits all solution. Maybe it just that librarian’s in South Africa do not know
Is Brocade at least as good as
the major international products out there on the market today? The answer to this question is no, as this has
not been proven! Perceptions 2013: An International Survey of Library Automation (http://www.librarytechnology.org/perceptions2013.pl) makes no mention of the Brocade library system.
The digital shift (www.thedigitalshift.com) makes no mention of the Brocade library system in its article
on Automation Marketplace 2012: Agents of Change – see “Three Year Sales Trends by Category”
This ILS system is rather insignificant when compared to other international integrated library systems/library
automation systems. Even open source ILS systems such as Evergreen and Koha have out preformed Brocade.
and concerns with the procurement process of Brocade
- Who were selected to be part of the
evaluation team? and, Were they integrated library system/library automation system savvy?
- Was the request-for-bid (RFB) process followed to identify and appoint a suitably qualified service provider to
supply, configure, install and offer training and technical support to an integrated library management system?
- Was Brocade software functionality analysed with regard to efficiency and usability?
- Were the selection criteria based on cost or adherence to the user requirements?
- Were the results of the different ILS systems features evaluated based on a series of criteria and then results
compiled into a table matrix and the final score then used to identify strengths, weaknesses and the distinctive
features of each product?
Do these documents exist?
- Technical report with the functional requirements?
- Request-for-information (RFI)?
- Advertise: Request-for-bid (RFB)?
cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
It is a service that provides a software solution to the clients or computer model that deploys software over the
internet. An organization has to consider many key factors such as criticality, elasticity, governance and
technology when migrating to cloud services. It is essential to understand whether cloud providers offer security,
service management and compliance checks for the cloud services and whether an appropriate technology,
architecture, and infrastructure are in place to offer cloud services.
Brocade is a
solution that is hosted by SITA and is offered from the so-called cloud (100% web-based application using
the computers web browser), making it accessible to everyone via the Web. In
cloud computing you the client therefore interface through a web browser (internet) to a SaaS service provider
(Borcade) via a computer, laptop, PDA, mobile device, tablet, etc. Brocade web application is a communication
between user and library system via a standard web browser (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome,
librarian opens the web browser and accesses the Brocade server by entering the supplied URL and when page
opens, entering the personal identification and password (just as you would do to log into, for example
Facebook) to create a workstation/session. Therefore,
each time you access Brocade you are accessing the internet and all the security risks that are related to the
consider when migrating to SaaS environment
data: Data is
stored in a shared environment along with other data users using Brocade. Where in the past your structure of the
catalogue was that each library has their separate catalogue, there is now only one single catalogue. Having one
centralized union catalogue with individual libraries set-up on multiple cataloguing systems, multiple
acquisition systems, multiple circulation systems and multiple authority files has its benefits and
process that outlines the measures you can take to ensure that your organizations have steady access to the
services they require. High availability often uses technologies such as fault tolerance, resilience and fast
recovery to limit the amount of interruptions to the service and then reduce the amount of time required to
restore that service if other precautions are unable to prevent an interruption. 99.999% (5 nines) availability
allows for only 5 minutes and 35 seconds of downtime over an entire year.
Management: The process responsible for controlling
the lifecycle of all changes. The primary objective is to enable beneficial changes to be made, with minimal
disruption to SaaS service.
and Maintenance Schedules: Cloud vendors have to upgrade their
systems at regular intervals in order to install the enhanced security patches and
features. Application developers should carry out testing well in advance to ensure service
security risks and mitigation (reducing or eliminating the impact): Involves a framework of policies,
technologies and control units that are deployed to protect data, applications and the infrastructure of cloud
computing. Restriction of unauthorized access, audit policies, physical location of data, risk control processes
and forecast new vulnerabilities.
disaster recovery: If data and application infrastructure
cannot be replicated across multiple sites by cloud service provider, then it is vulnerable to complete failure,
with no ability to restore data. Server and backup maintenance, offsite
backup storage and disaster recovery service, level of provision of service delivered to the
customer should be specified.
with regulations and audit policies: Security and integration of data is
ultimate responsibility of customers, though it is held by the service provider. Audits and certifications on
security are recommended.
of visibility (consumers are unaware of the physical storage/location of their data and this leads to security
and compliance issues).
Security: Protection of sensitive and confidential
information from malware attacks in the external cloud applications. It is critical to place safeguards to
prevent security breaches. Contractual agreements should be verified so that external cloud suppliers are
obligated to meet the agreed level of service.
Malware: Hackers find ways to insert malicious
software (viruses, trojans, worms, spyware) into a cloud computing system.
is a strategy that has been employed by certain SaaS service providers to make customers dependent on their
products or services and unable to move away from them without incurring substantial costs.
mitigate the risks involved when making use of SaaS (cloud) services
Clear contractual documentation of the service desk roles and responsibilities should be made available to
both the cloud users and the cloud providers. If roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined and assigned,
it may cause havoc and result in poor customer satisfaction. Also the cloud suppliers will charge extra to provide
any services that are undefined in the agreement.
suppliers should be responsible for incident lifecycle ownership to ensure that security breaches do not
occur due to excessive workload. It is crucial that technology should be employed to identify security breaches
and proper action plans are available and applicable to both cloud supplier and consumer.
protection, interruption, limited application support and liability implications. Liability is a contentious
issue in contracts. Logistic elements from conversion of data
to installation, customization, configuration and training should be incorporated. Service providers
will try to limit their liability by reference to the value of the contract.
(Service level agreement): A legal documented agreement between IT
service provider and the customer on the level of provision of service delivered to the customer. Describes the
services and specifies the responsibilities of both the provider and customer.
(Underpinning Contracts): A contract is a legally binding agreement
among two or more entities. The contract clearly outlines the conditions and expectations of each party involved
and typically includes expectations of services, compensation for services, time constraints and terms of usage.
Failure on any side to comply with the conditions in a contract may result in legal action.
Is there a Service Level
Agreement (SLA) between SITA and CiPal? and, Between SITA and Province/ Municipalities?
It’s clear that the spirit of free and
open source software development is very similar to the principles of librarianship, as noted by Eric Lease
Morgan, a staunch supporter of FOSS (free/open source software) in libraries. He explained that libraries
encourage intellectual freedom and free access to library resources while FOSS encourages respect for
intellectual property and the free distribution of its source code and documents. The two movements maintain a
mission of open access and the sharing of knowledge to enrich and advance society. When a library selects free
software, it chooses not only a powerful means of reducing its spending, but also opportunities to become more
independent in terms of its choices of business and software vendors and more importantly, it reinforces its
primary mission of disseminating information while further justifying its choice of technology in a context of
The City of
uMhlathuze (KwaZulu-Natal) announced the “Replacement of the outdated Public Application Library System (PALS)
with the Brocade Library system. Libraries across South Africa are migrating to this Open Source
technology in line with government's IT Strategy…” Libraries across South Africa are migrating to ‘open
source’ technology in line with government’s IT Strategy?
It is a
misconception that Brocade is open source. Brocade is not open source, but uses an open source database and
Brocade is developed on open source
technology, yet costs the same as proprietary software.
Brocade makes use
of proprietary third-party software like Aquabrowser, which is also subject to separate licensing. State IT
Agency (SITA) has policy on free and open source software use in government, however they procured Brocade
which is not open source software, why? Itis said that Brocade is proprietary, but based on open
source! However, Brocade is not using the open source database management but rather Cache ahead of an open
source databases, why?
Brocade local operational
maintenance and support
It is rather concerning that many South
African public libraries are migrating to Brocade, as for someone that is knowledgeable and aware of other
well supported international ILS systems (e.g., Millennium, Inmagic, Amlib, Exlibris, SirsiDynix, etc.), when
compared to operational maintenance and
support, be it functional or application support, it raises many questions.
Cloud suppliers should provide support
for the problem management similar to the in-house infrastructure and serve as a crucial point of contact when
solving incidents. Customers should be completely engaged in request fulfilment process to ensure that they both
agree upon the type of requests and end result of request. Who is supporting Brocade in South Africa? SITA
does not give support (or have in-house skills/expertise) needed to support Brocade users. Are South African
libraries currently dealing directly with CiPal for support?
software development: Brocade
Thus far Brocade does not have a software development track record unlike most larger and well
established integrated library systems (ILS)/library automation systems out there.
What were the evaluations criteria used and were other international library (ILS) systems considered? Is
Brocade still a concept ILS system that has to prove itself?
Was it a
sustainable choice/selection to procure and rollout Brocade to South Africa libraries? Will Brocade have
continuous development of the software and focus on developing modules that are specifically tailored to the
needs of its customers in South Africa? Is there a development path? and, What are the current and future
Google searches did not return with results, therefore no software development plan was found for
Of course, a
solution like Brocade continues to evolve. “Our agreement with the University of Antwerp specifies that they
continue to develop the basic software, and that CiPal develops additional modules geared to the specific needs
of its customers,” says Moermens.
Developing a software product road-map has
- helps reach a consensus about a set of needs and the technologies required to satisfy user’s needs;
- it provides a mechanism to help forecast technology developments;
- it provides a framework to help plan (communicate the product strategy) and coordinate technology developments,
If the above
mentioned was done, it would help ensure that the application software (Brocade) runs smoothly, so that the
users (libraries) always experience efficient and trouble-free service and ensured added value (improve service
delivery) in further software development of the Brocade library system.
(Online Public Access)
Perhaps the most recognisable feature for
Brocade will be the online library catalogues (OPAC) that make it possible to find information about the
collection via your web browser. Brocade makes use of Apache Lucene (Query Parser Syntax) that provides the
ability to create your own queries through its API. It also provides a rich query language through the Query
Parser, a lexer which interprets a string into a Lucene query using JavaCC.
module with its content enrichment makes Brocade shine. When OPAC searches carried out, results have digital
book descriptions, book covers, and links to external sources such as images, sound clips, video clips,
documents, etc., via hyperlinks. Apparently Brocade has an integrated URL-checker (automated check of
hyperlinks) which is all great. But in my reasoning, why would you want to have so many links (URL’s) leading
your patrons away from your OPAC to other external sources on the internet/web? Who maintains and verifies all
these links to external sources?
Does the Brocade ILS have a functional stocktaking/inventory module for GRAP17
compliance? Why was this part of the ILS software tender specification and evaluation criteria? Is there a
Stocktaking/inventory should be carried out in a ‘live’ real-time environment on the library production database
server. Most non-compliant ILS systems and smaller undeveloped ILS systems will only have the option to allow for a
means of exporting data (extract to a 3rd party software e.g., Excel spreadsheets) whereby the database is not updated in a ‘live’
real-time environment and it becomes an administrative mission to keep the records between the exported data and
live production library database synchronized during and after a library stocktaking/inventory
mailers and reports
Larger and well established integrated library systems/library automation systems can send overdue mailers to users
as a reminder of overdue items. Integrated library systems/library automation systems should produce custom reports
where user can select any fields and range required. Can Brocade produce custom reports and consolidate them into
one report that contains both patron/user information and item information in a consolidated view? Can Brocade
generate overdue mail, emails or SMS’s? Can Brocade generate consolidated reports as needed by users for monthly
statistics? If not, is there a workaround strategy?
Although not open source itself, it uses an open source database and interfaces with
open source products and costs as much as proprietary software. Was this a
sales ploy? A cloud
database can offer significant advantages but also has many drawbacks/disadvantages such as reliability, privacy
protection issues, access and usage rights, data security and liability for loss or violation of data and can
suffer from inability to retrieve critical data in the event of disaster or bankruptcy of the cloud service
provider and also vendor lock-in. At the risk of repeating myself, I cannot reiterate strongly enough that
extensive research into the Brocade library system has left me with more question than answers as information
available on the internet is rather limited in all respects relating to this so called integrated library
system/library automation system. Validity of acquisition and deployment of Brocade library system in South Africa
is a case of many questions and only a few plausible answers.
SLA between SITA and the City of Cape Town dated 9 November 2009:
By that time
CiPal already had a foothold in South Africa through a 2002 partnership with its South African counterpart, the
State Information Technology Agency (SITA), to distribute CiPal's solutions locally:
There is fraud and corruption in IT purchasing within the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), the
institution's acting chief executive said on Monday during the opening of a national conference on the
Further information about CiPal available at www.cipal.be
information about Brocade Library Services available at www.brocade.be
Further information about LRM available at www.lrm.be
Further information about the University of Antwerp at
Date: 17 March