No Roaming

Posted On Mar 16 2007 by

Things just got more interesting. I love a clever turn of phrase, and no matter what you think of vendors or their software, you gotta give props to VTLS for the “No Roaming” double entendre in this latest entry into library vendor intrigue.

VTLS will be offering a free license to its integrated library system, Virtua, in return for a 3-year service contract (press release). Basically, it’s an alternative to waiting to migrate to another system, but is pointedly in response to SisriDynix’s recent announcement about its new platform, code-named “Rome.” Of course, there are the requisite rules and exceptions, but you can’t say it’s small print. It’s all right there in the program details.

Some highlights from the VTLS program:

If you’re a North American library and your ILS vendor has announced the end-of-life for your product, VTLS wants to offer you a cost-effective way to stay on the leading edge of technology. Specifically:

  1. VTLS will provide you with a cost-free license to the VIRTUA ILS for the same user count and the same modules (if available from VTLS) as you have licensed from your current vendor.
  2. Software installation and data conversion from your existing system (acq and serials data conversion may not be available for all products) to VIRTUA will be done by VTLS for our current list price rates.
  3. ORACLE (embedded) licensing costs must be paid by the customer.
  4. Training will be offered in a variety of ways to make it as affordable as possible, including:
  5. Library must sign 3-year maintenance agreement. Early cancellation charges would apply.
  6. The procurement process has to be on a sole-source basis with no RFI or RFP requirements.
  7. Customers must sign standard maintenance and license agreements.
  8. A commitment must be received in the form of a Purchase Order, or a signed maintenance agreement, by June 30, 2007, with implementation to begin by the end of 2007.
  9. Additional, optional software modules the library may desire can be purchased and bundled with the offer.
  10. Hardware is not included in this offer and must be supplied by the customer. However, hosted access is available if desired.
  11. For the first five libraries to sign a commitment, VTLS will offer a 50% discount on the industry-leading VITAL digital repository product.
  12. VTLS reserves the right to modify the terms of the offer at any time without notice.

This is quite an interesting way for VTLS to counter the recent announcement from SirsiDynix. As I mentioned in my previous post, all other things being equal, the pain of migration is the hardest thing to deal with. The question for libraries is how does Virtua measure up to Unicorn.

Though I am sure there are business reasons that make the idea unattractive, if I were VTLS, I would have sweetened the entire thing by releasing Virtua as open source. Whether this turns out to be an interesting publicity stunt or if it gets real traction, the message is still a poignant reflection of the concern of many SirsiDynix customers who do not think that Unicorn is necessarily the best way forward.

I can’t wait to see what the reaction to this might be.


[This post originally appeared as part of American Libraries’ Hectic Pace Blog and is archived here.]

Last Updated on: January 19th, 2024 at 12:22 am, by Andrew K. Pace

Written by Andrew K. Pace

4 responses to “No Roaming

  1. “The procurement process has to be on a sole-source basis with no RFI or RFP requirements.”

    That kills it for me right there. Unacceptable. Now is the time for a real look at your options. Unless they’re just saying they can’t go through a time consuming RFI/RFP process without getting paid for it; maybe that can be accomodated. But “sole-source basis” can not be.

  2. You’re right, we just can’t give away the product and bear the costs of answering an RFI/RFP. (I once wrote an article about this in New Library World Volume: 100 Issue: 7; 1999. You would not believe how expensive it is for a vendor to answer an RFP!). We’d gladly work with you to find a way to meet this requirement in appropriate ways.

  3. If the “sole source supplier” and the “reserves the right to modify the terms of the offer at any time without notice” aren’t a deal breaker, the fact that you must use Oracle’s crippled embedded edition database (which doesn’t allow you to access your own data except through the ILS) AND buy it yourself certainly is. It’s our data. Any system that doesn’t allow access to the data is broken in the eyes of most Horizon customers.

    VTLS is trying to do the old “give them the razor, sell them the blades” routine, except they’ve added, give them the razor, but don’t let them use or even look at anyone else’s razor; only let them use deliberately dulled, overpriced blades, and reserve the right to take the whole mess away from you or change the rules whenever we feel like it. How exactly is this an improvement? How does this give us more freedom? How does this save us any money? I don’t see it.

    What customers really need is a way to migrate to a more open (shared-source if not open-source, and built upon a database system that allows SQL access), platform without any up-front costs for migrating. This could be easily achieved by using a free database and prorating the migration costs over a several year period.

    I’m starting to feel that trying to explain open-source to library vendors is like trying to explain hiphop to my dad…

  4. Obviously, some clarifications are needed:

    1. Believe me, we at VTLS, understand open-source. I would point out that we’re the ONLY ILS vendor who has announced and delivered a major new product based on open source. That product is our repository services offering named VITAL, based on FEDORA. However, back to the point of OS; we as a profession, need to have a discussion about open source. As our CEO, Vinod Chachra says, “everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” Much of what libraries want is good support, training, documentation, ongoing development, user conferences, sales calls, RFP’s answered, etc. and it all costs money that doesn’t exist in the open source model. Moving to open source, is a transition and one that requires all of us to make measured steps and with full understanding of what is being gained and what is being lost at each step on the path. Our offer is an effort to meet the needs of the customers and the needs of our company. We both have to succeed.

    2. This is un-chartered territory. As a result, we’re saying that we need to reserve the right to modify the terms of the offer. This is NOT to say that we will change it once you’ve signed – a deal is a deal. What we’re saying is that we may modify how we offer it to others, who have not yet signed, because we may find something works and something doesn’t – for either of us. We’re trying to be upfront and say, “this is an experiment and, for those that move quickly, this is the offer you get. For those that take a longer time, we may end up modifying some portion of the offer as a result of our mutual findings.

    3. VTLS is perfectly happy to sell or have the customer use enterprise ORACLE so that you can have direct access to your data. However, to keep the costs low for the customer, we started out offering embedded. It should also be noted that all ILS vendors long ago understood, and most contractually agree, the data is yours. We even provide programs for you to extract it.

    4. When we say sole source, we are NOT saying don’t look, don’t compare. Please DO, just not via an RFP, which is very costly for the vendor to answer. There are other ways. We welcome product comparisons. All we’re saying is that if and when you agree that VIRTUA meets your needs complete the procurement as a sole-source. You take the free offer – a VIRTUA license and, we’re assuming you don’t have to do an RFP to take something for free? Then, you can issue an RFP for maintenance, conversion & training of VIRTUA.

    We understand, that due to experience, you might be frustrated with vendors of proprietary solutions and some of your concerns are being voice in that light and with that frame-of-reference. I would encourage you to look beyond and see which vendors are moving quickly to deal with those frustrations and try to provide you with a TOTAL, working solution that answers all your needs. Also, look for which vendors DO have a demonstrated track record for starting to support open source.