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LOCKSS project to create permanent web publishing system. (Internet Publishing Today).

LOCKSS has announced the release of the LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) system, a data-integrity and document-protection solution. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Sun Microsystems, Stanford University developed an alpha version of the system. During 2000 it ran a 10-month test with one journal, six libraries, and 15 caches. With funding from the Mellon Foundation and continued support from Sun, a more complete beta implementation was developed. Beta testing began in April 2001. and is expected to be completed this summer.

The LOCKSS system is now conducting a major test involving libraries and publishers around the world. As of last month, 47 libraries on five continents had signed on to the project (including Harvard University, Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and The British Library), and numerous publishers had endorsed the LOCKSS beta test. An up-to-date project status is available at Vicky Reich, assistant director of Stanford University Libraries' High Wire Press, directs the LOCKS S project. David Rosenthal, an engineer at Sun Microsystems, is LOCKSS' designer and lead programmer.

The LOCKSS project applies contemporary automation to the old idea of preventing loss by multiplying copies. According to the announcement, the goal of LOCKSS is to enable libraries to take custody of the material to which they subscribe--in the same way they do for paper--and preserve it permanently. Using a polling system, LOCKSS permanently caches copies of online content--enough copies to assure continuous access around the world. This helps ensure that links and searches by authorized individuals continue to locate the published material even if it is no longer available from the publisher. And when a copy of an online journal is misplaced or damaged, the LOCKSS system takes notice and replaces it. According to the announcement, LOCKS S is intended to demonstrate to librarians that it's safe for them to subscribe to the Web editions of journals and to cancel the paper editions.

"The concept behind the LOCKSS program is to build a reliable, resistant system that does not rely on secrets: technology such as cryptography or firewalls," said Rosenthal. "Instead, the program is based on the theory that a greater number of good data sources can overwhelm bad data delivered by any one or more 'rogues' in the system. In this way, the program is akin to a neighborhood watch. If all members of a neighborhood are vigilant, they are likely to spot and report unusual activity to the authorities."

LOCKSS provides abootable floppy disk that converts a generic PC into a "preservation appliance." The PC runs an enhanced Web cache that collects new issues of the ejournal and continually but slowly compares its contents with other caches. If damage or corruption is detected it can be repaired from the publisher or from other caches. According to the announcement, the intent is to make it feasible and affordable even for smaller libraries to preserve access to the ejournals to which they subscribe.

Beta test sites include major libraries such as the Library of Congress, and smaller ones such as New Zealand's University of Otago. The test simulates cache failures and the corruption of its contents, as well as attacks. The beta software is being released as open source. With experience from the beta tests and further funding, the developers hope to produce a production version this year.

According to Reich and Rosenthal, LOCKSS is not "a general-purpose Web content-preservation system." It's designed only for Web journals such as those published by Stanford's High Wire Press. They claim that LOCKSS' slow, methodical polling and copying system is "clearly not suitable for volatile content," such as that of the CNN news site. But Reich and Rosenthal do say that "it may be possible to apply the system to other types of content." LOCKSS requires that the content of URLs be mostly static, that the Web site have a logical structure, and that the http headers permit caching.

Reich said: "Numerous publishers have expressed strong support for the LOCKSS project. They are particularly happy that the system shows the potential to preserve digital materials now, with current publishing systems. No new standards or infrastructure are required. The cost of entry is low. The payoffs promise to be high."

A LOCKSS project description FAQ is available at

Source: LOCKSS, 650/725-1134;;
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Title Annotation:Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe
Author:Hane, Paula J.
Publication:Information Today
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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