The Norwegian technological company Piql together with Tedial, the leading independent MAM technology solutions specialist, the research group Parallel Architectures and Algorithms of the University of Malaga, the Norwegian Computing Center and the Norwegian National Museum participate since the end of 2018 in a European project funded by the Eurostars-2 program called iVM, which proposes for the next two years the development of technologies to solve the problem of logical obsolescence in very long-term digital preservation systems.
Origin of the project
The project is part of the general problem of archiving and preservation of digital information in the very long term (several centuries). The solution to this problem is of utmost importance in those sectors that have contents of great economic or cultural value and, therefore, want a reliable and secure preservation of their data for an indefinite period.
In a previous project, also funded by the Eurostars program, the same partners, Cinevation (now Piql), Tedial and UMA, participated in the design of a physical platform for long-term digital preservation, called Archivator. This platform uses high resolution micrographic film as a physical medium, which can last without significant alterations for centuries.
The current project, iVM (Immortal Virtual Machine), focuses on the logical preservation of data, that is, the ability to extract and interpret in a very distant future data stored at present. This technology will be integrated into the PPS (Piql Preservation System) preservation system, based on the Archivator project.
The current dominant approach to managing the long-term preservation of information is data migration. Migration implies periodic transformations (for example, every 3 or 5 years) of the archived data in new logical formats, since the original formats are becoming obsolete. Despite the existence of sophisticated methods for the detection and correction of errors, there will always be a possibility of altering the digital content, compromising its integrity and completeness (data corruption) every time the migration occurs. In addition, migration consumes time and resources, resulting in a very expensive process, especially for massive data.
An alternative to migration is emulation. Basically, this approach consists in the development of the necessary metadata to locate, access and regenerate the archived data, the technology to encapsulate the documents and their metadata and the software required to process and interpret said documents. Since this software must be able to be executed in the distant future, a key technology in this solution is the design of an abstract (virtual) machine and its emulator, independent on the current hardware technology. The software will be executed by said emulator. As a consequence, the preservation of long-term data is reduced to ensuring that an emulator simulating the operation of the virtual machine can be reconstructed in a distant future.
The iVM project focuses on the context of virtual emulation. In recent years some partial solutions have been developed in this line, with limited application in some public and private institutions. However, there is currently no comprehensive and integrated solution in the market based on virtual emulation for long-term digital preservation.
The development of this advanced technology has a pioneering and innovative character and provides a competitive advantage over existing systems, due to its ability to preserve data in the very long term, with limited costs and high reliability and security, both in preservation and in the recovery of data. This aspect, combined with the experience of the research group of the University of Malaga and the project partners, makes it possible to successfully face the technical complexity of this ambitious project.