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Brocade library system_Is Brocade broken

Validity of acquisition and deployment of Brocade library system in South Africa

While all 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 system.

Investigation 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.

                Brocade CiBLiS       Brocade logo 2014

When 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 confusion.

Other names used are:
SITA Library Information Management System powered by Brocade Library Services)
- SITA LIMS (SITA Library Information Management System)
- CiBLiS
- Brocade Library Services (In 2007, SITA and CiPal entered into an agreement that was referred to as the Brocade Library Services)

About 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.

About the 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 Library.

Cipal logo 2014

About CiPal
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 Cras.

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 Evergreen!

The cost 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.

Sita logo 2014

About 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.

According to 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 challenges”.

About Caché
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 Africa

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 chosen.

Brocade 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 better!


Public Library Sales 2011

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 ( makes no mention of the Brocade library system.

The digital shift ( 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.

Questions 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)?

SaaS Brocade library system 

Brocade 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, etc.).

To login, 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 internet.

Things to consider when migrating to SaaS environment
Segregation of 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 disadvantages.

Availability Management: A 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.

Change 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.

Upgrade 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 continuity.

Cloud 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.

Data and 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.

Compliance 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.

Security risks: Lack 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.

Vendor lock-in: It 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.

How to 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.

Cloud 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.

Data 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.

SLA (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.

UC (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? 

Is Brocade broken

Is Brocade broken!

Is Brocade open source?
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 public service.

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 interfaces!

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?

Future 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 development strategies?

Internet Google searches did not return with results, therefore no software development plan was found for Brocade.

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 many benefits:
- 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, etc.

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.

OPAC (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.

The OPAC 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?

Stocktaking/Inventory module
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 workaround strategy?
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 project.

Overdue 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.

Additional Reading:
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 industry:

Further information about CiPal available at
Further information about Brocade Library Services available at
Further information about LRM available at
Further information about the University of Antwerp at 

  Date: 17 March 2014



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