Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Microsoft releases v. 1.0 of its repository software

Microsoft Research has released Zentity 1.0, its research repository platform.  From the May 15 announcement:

MSR’s Research Output Repository Platform aims to provide the necessary building blocks, tools, and services for developers who are tasked with creating and maintaining an organization’s repository ecosystem. Furthermore, it provides an easy-to-install and maintain experience for those who want to quickly set up a research-output repository for their project, team, or organization. The platform is based on Microsoft’s technologies (SQL Server 2008 and .NET Framework version 3.5 SP1) hence taking advantage of their robustness, their quality support infrastructure, and the plethora of developer-focused tools and documentation. New applications on top of the platform can be developed using any .NET language and the Visual Studio 2008 SP1 environment. The platform focuses on the management of academic assets —such as people, books/papers, lectures, presentations, videos, workflows, datasets, and tags— as well as the semantic relationships between them. In this latest release, developers can declaratively (or at runtime) easily introduce their own asset and relationship types. Support for various formats and services such as full-text search, OAI-PMH, RSS and Atom Syndication, BibTeX import and export, SWORD, AtomPub, RDFS, and OAI-ORE are included as part of the distribution.

From the Zentity site:

...Our Research Output Repository Platform provides a built-in ScholarlyWorks data model with pre-defined entities, such as Lecture, Publication, Paper, Presentation, Video, File, Person, and Tag along with basic properties for each of these and well known relationships such as Author, Cites, Version, etc. The platform also provides support to create custom entities and design custom data models using our Extensibility API....

Included is an easily extendible (ASP.Net) web interface. The web interface is built using custom controls developed as part of the included UI Toolkit controls. The web interface can be customized with (CSS) style sheets to integrate your organization’s existing web site, or the ASP.Net controls can be deployed directly into your current web presence....

The Search API is included, which supports Advanced Query Syntax similar to that provided by Windows Search. Included in installation is support for services such as RSS, OAI-PMH, OAI-ORE, AtomPub and SWORD. Also provided is a pluggable Security model for Authentication and Authorization to allow an administrator to secure repository content. Extensive MSDN-style documentation for each API is included to enable developers to build new services or custom applications....


  • Zentity will be a player.  But because worldwide repository installations on all platforms range from 1,345 (ROAR) to 1,392 (OpenDoar), and because new repositories appear on the order of five per week (the number for 2008), rather than hundreds per day, it may be a while before we can point to working examples, detailed comparisons, user surveys, or case studies.  Both ROAR and OpenDOAR allow filtering by repository software, but neither lists any repositories running the Microsoft package (at least not under "Microsoft", "Zentity", or the project's former codename, "Famulus").  If any earlier adopters have evaluations they are ready to share, please post them to SOAF.
  • Nothing on the Zentity site indicates whether the downloadable .zip file includes the source code, and I haven't had time to check.  But at least the .zip file is downloadable without charge.  The license allows users to "use, copy, reproduce, and distribute this Software for any non-commercial purpose...." but is hypothetical about open source ("If the Software includes source code....").  However, the license is dated September 2006 and applies to many Microsoft Research programs, not just Zentity.  If anyone can shed light on the openness of the code, please drop me a line.
  • Also see our past posts on earlier releases of Zentity.  For those who wonder about Microsoft's commitment to OA, it's important to remember that the Research Division doesn't sell products and is headed by Tony Hey, who ran the UK e-Science Programme for four years and is "passionate about OA".  For more detail, see our past posts on Microsoft Research and Tony Hey.