Fedora has been an unqualified success in repository arena. More than twelve years since its inception, Fedora has seen three major releases, with hundreds of adopters worldwide and is stewarded by an independent, non-profit organization chartered in part to maintain its vitality.
Its architecture has proven itself to be both flexible and extensible, and it's an integral component in countless systems where durability is a key objective. An extensive network of committed institutions and individuals have invested in the project, and remain committed to its enduring success.
But the downside of over a decade of production, battle-tested code is a large, aging codebase that is challenging for new developers to engage with which is at odds with the internal sustainability goal of a growing, active developer community.
Despite the project's demonstrated value and track record, numerous challenges lie ahead for the Fedora community. New demands to support research data management, horizontal scalability and web-based architectures are stretching the capacity of the current implementation. The recent, explosive growth of applications and frameworks built on Fedora, in the form of eSciDoc, Hydra and Islandora have brought both energy and adopters to the Fedora community, but each project was also wrestling with Fedora to keep pace with the rapid changes and demands of their respective user bases.
For all Fedora's considerable strengths, it seemed that much of the project's momentum and future value was at risk unless a new course of action was plotted.
It's time for a serious re-investment in our core digital asset management and preservation services. This was the call to arms from a group of self-organized, concerned stakeholders at at last year's Open Repositories conference in Edinburgh. This group of a half-dozen Fedora institutions and DuraSpace committed to an in-depth comparison of their respective roadmaps for Fedora, and, given sufficient alignment, investment to kickstart a three-year effort to write the next chapter of the Fedora project.
Through a series of in-person and virtual meetings in Fall 2012, we formulated a common vision for Fedora 4 that revolves around three principal objectives:
- to preserve the strengths of the current Fedora architecture and community
- to address the needs for robust and full-featured repository services (that are now mature and well-understood, compared to six or twelve years ago)
- to provide a successful platform for our common use for the next 5-10 years
In December of 2012, the project stakeholders officially launched the Fedora Futures project, in conjunction with an announcement at the December CNI Membership Meeting in Washington D.C. The group includes representatives from projects like Hydra, Islandora, APTrust, and eSciDoc, plus DuraSpace and a range of institutions. While the effort began with just a small group, Fedora’s greatest strength is arguably that it serves as a focal point for common development and support. For the project to achieve its objectives and Fedora to continue delivering its value for the next decade, the entire community must engage in the effort at a level that has not been equaled since the early days of the project. Community engagement and governance were the focal points of a DuraSpace Summit held in March 2013, with an eye to promoting both the collective stake in Fedora as well as its resourcing and governance. In a heartening sign of early progress, the initiative has already brought major new adopters to the Fedora community, based on interest in Fedora 4’s architecture and functional goals.
At the end of the day, Fedora 4 represents an unrivaled opportunity for the research and repository community. While our collective needs are greater and more acute than ever, so too is our understanding of the needs and architecture for a repository system, and the value of a common platform. This project gives the chance to capitalize on the last ten years of development in this space, and to build the platform for research and knowledge management for the next ten.