From software to framework

Invenio v3 is a completely new framework that has been rewritten from scratch. Why such a dramatic decision? To understand why the rewrite was necessary we have to go back to when Invenio was called CDSWare, back to August 1st 2002 when the first version of Invenio was released.

In 2002:

  • First iPod had just hit the market (Nov 2001).

  • The Budapest Open Access Initiative had just been signed (Feb, 2002).

  • JSON had just been discovered (2001).

  • Python 2.1 had just been released (2001).

  • Apache Lucene had just joined the Apache Jakarta project (but not yet an official top-level project).

  • MySQL v4.0 beta was released and did not even have transactions yet.

  • Hibernate ORM was released.

  • The first DOI had just been assigned to a dataset.

Following products did not even exists:

  • Apache Solr (2004)

  • Google Maps (2005)

  • Google Scholar (2004)

  • Facebook (2007)

  • Django (2005)

A lot has happen since 2002. Many problems that Invenio originally had to deal with now have open source off-the-shelf solutions available. In particular two things happen:

  • Search become pervasive with the exponential growth of data collected and created on the internet every day, and open source products to solve handles these needs like Elasticsearch became big business.

  • Web frameworks for both front-end and back-end made it significant faster to develop web applications.

In addition to above technological changes, it also started to become more and more difficult to adapt Invenio v1 to all the different use cases we wanted to support. Preservation archives have vastly different requirements from aggregators which have vastly different requirements from research data management systems. We further started to see performance problems with larger and larger number of records.

Last but not least, we had many uses cases where it was no longer beneficial to store the records in MARC21, but instead adopt either newer or custom data model.

All in all, new technologies, an aging product showing its cracks, slow development and a wish to have other data models was key determining factors in deciding to start from scratch and implement a framework rather than a software application.

What happened to Invenio v2?

Initial in 2011 we started out on creating a hybrid application which would allow us to progressively migrate features as we had the time. In 2013 we launched Zenodo as the first site on the v2 development version which among other things featured Jinja templates instead of the previous Python based templates.

In theory everything was sound, however over the following years it became very difficult to manage the inflow of changes from larger and larger teams on the development side and operationally proved to be quite unstable compared to v1.

Last but not least, Invenio v1 was built in a time where the primary need was publication repositories and v2 inherited this legacy making it difficult to deal with very large research datasets.

Thus, in late 2015 we were being slowed so much down by our past legacy that we saw no other way that starting over from scratch if we were to deal with the next 20 years of challenges.

Mailing lists

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Note that all the mailing lists are also archived (as of the 20th of July, 2011) on The Mail Archive.