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Fedora 4 Makes Islandora Even Better!

There are key advantages for users and developers by combining Islandora 7 and Fedora 4.

Charlottetown, PEI, CA  Islandora is an open source software framework for managing and discovering digital assets utilizing a best-practices framework that includes Drupal, Fedora, and Solr. Islandora is implemented and built by an ever-growing international community.

With the release of Fedora 4 in December of 2014 the Islandora developer community began planning for integrating Islandora 7 with Fedora 4.  The “upgration”, that refers to both a software upgrade and a content migration, got underway in January. DuraSpace checked in with collaborators Nick Ruest, Digital Assets Librarian at York University, Daniel Lamb, Developer, Discovery Garden, and Melissa Anez, Project & Community Manager Islandora Foundation, to learn more about the project.


Just as Fedora 4 itself was a complete architectural redesign, the Islandora/Fedora 4 integration team sees this as an opportunity to “start with a clean slate”. The initiative will achieve a full Drupal/Fedora integration which has been a long-time priority, and take full advantage of key Fedora 4 features that include unlimited scalability and easy installation. “We can now use the powerful Drupal platform for more than its ability to display a beautiful interface. We will be able to take advantage of the extended Drupal ecosystem of software components and active developers to benefit Islandora users.” said Daniel Lamb.

Fedora 4 scalability allows for decentralized content management in Islandora. “Everything will no longer need to be in the same big box. This means that multiple users adding content will not slow the system down due to derivative creation,” commented Nick Ruest.

Installation had been one the biggest community headaches for Islandora users. The new integration paves the way for developing a well-documented environment that will speed and simplify the process.

The Fedora 4 asynchronous approach to on-boarding content while other functions are running ensures that time-consuming, repetitive tasks like OCR-ing images, do not slow the overall workflow. This does not mean that data appears instantly, but the user experience will be improved by not having to look at a slow-moving progress bar.

Working with Fedora 4

“Fedora 4 does what I want it to.” says Daniel Lamb, “Several Islandora data streams are RDF and this release speaks and breaths RDF.” Fedora 4 feedback includes reasonable information that can be used to make decisions in the code logic. The use of appropriate technologies such as ModeShape has also streamlined the Islandora integration.

“As far as getting it up and running, the thing that amazed me was the addition of components like Camel which is a great example of grassroots community contribution. Aaron Coburn, Amherst College, worked with the community to make this innovation available quickly. Working with Fedora 4 is incredibly easy.” commented Lamb.

Fedora community Kudos

The Islandora team felt that they came late to the (Fedora 4 integration) game, but have been  pleased with a warm welcome to the Fedora developer community. “Excellent support from the Fedora community is making things a lot easier,” said Nick Ruest.

Upgration for customized Islandora users

A year ago the team saw migrating Islandora installations somewhere “down the road”. It’s now becoming an easier thing to do. The team credits Mike Durbin, University of Virginia, with beginning the work on a Fedora 4 utility that will convert Fedora 3 FOXML to resources in Fedora 4. This will help the Islandora team plan for upgration data modeling. This work goes beyond greenfield installations–it is a true upgrade path,” said Nick Ruest.

York University Digital Library with approximately 200,000 unique digital assets is one of several Fedora 4 upgration pilots. Collections that cover the range of object models that the repository uses have been identified for upgration. York’s ultimate goal is an upgration of all objects in the repository.

The Islandora team is confident that the Fedora 4 integration with Islandora will open the door for new kinds of large organization adoptions that in particular need the ability to handle large data loads.