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Reviewing the technical foundations of the JISC Information Environment

The JISC Information Environment (IE) is one of of JISC’s well established strategic ‘themes’. At a technical level, the IE is framed by some important documents: a ‘technical architecture’ and by a set of technical standards, both previously developed at UKOLN.

Since this technical framework was created there have been significant changes in the wider technical environment such as the growth in Web 2.0 applications, cloud computing and the use of third party services. The time has come for a comprehensive technical review of these technical foundations which were established more than three years ago. Both the content of these foundation documents, and the approach of using such documents to frame something as broad and complex as the IE, need to be reviewed.

A great deal of technical development has taken place under the umbrella of IE Programmes in the last three years. Some of this has been pure R&D, while some has led to deployed and supported services. It is time to review the extent to which the technical architecture and standards of the IE have remained relevant to these development.

Funded by the JISC, UKOLN is undertaking a technical review of the IE. Towards this end, we will be carrying out a process of consultation. This consultation will take the following form:

  1. A series of initial interviews with identified stakeholders in order to establish a broad sense of those issues in the IE which are relevant to a technical review. These interviews will be in the nature of an ‘intelligence gathering’ exercise – they will be neither transcribed nor quoted from.
  2. A series of posts on this blog, introducing issues, themes and questions as part of the ongoing review. These will driven by the issues being raised in the initial interviews (in addition to others already identified) and will be posted with a view to generating discussion (either via direct comments on this blog, or elsewhere) from the community as a whole.
  3. As issues are raised, posted here and discussed, materials will be synthesised form these to inform a workshop to be held in February 2010. This workshop will be offered by invitation, and will be focussed around major themes or issues emerging from the consultation to that point.
  4. This blog will be continued indefinitely, as a component in a planned process of ‘continuous review’, intended to ensure that the IE remains current and relevant.
  5. The review will be formerly written up and reported in 2010.

In order to integrate into this discussion any comments made elsewhere, please use the tag:


If you would like to comment on this review, or on the technical foundations of the IE in general, please feel free to do so – we are happy to receive any and all relevant comments.

We will be posting further, more specific discussion pieces on this blog, so if you are interested in being part of the discussion then please subscribe to the RSS feeds:

Some starter questions:

  • We intend to review the following technical documents:

    Are these documents useful? Is it worth developing these further?

  • Is the IE’s technical focus on interoperability through open standards still relevant? Is it enough?
  • Does the IE require an architecture?
  • How has Web 2.0 changed the wider context for the IE?
  • There has been significant technological change and development since the IE Technical Architecture was published (~2005). What implications do you think this has for any attempt to update the technical standards list and the IE architecture?


Minor comment but it helps

Minor comment but it helps with some of the context for this work…

You suggest ~2005 as the publication date for the IE Technical Architecture. I don’t recall what particular event that date would associated with but I think the bulk of the significant thinking around the architectural aspects of the JISC IE was done well before that.

The DNER Technical Architecture, containing most of the underlying thinking, was published in 2001 for example.

I don’t remember much about the dates on other documents, but I note that the Technical Standards doc appears to have been managed (by me I guess!) using RCS or CVS (or something) so you might get some evidence of its history from that. The Internet Archive entry for that page –*/ – goes back to 2003, so it is at least that old.

Dr. Radut | blog_post_tf