My former colleague Andy Powell was one of the key developers of what was originally known as the DNER (Distributed National Electronic Resource) and was later rebranded as the JISC Information Environment (IE). Andy produced a diagram of the IE architecture, an early version of which is illustrated.
This diagram (and subsequent versions which further developed the initial model) illustrate how JISC’s development strategy recognised the importance of the network as a platform for providing access to services across the higher and further education communities.
I was involved in some of the early discussion about the JISC IE. And the following diagram (taken from a talk on The Web In The 21st Century given at the JUSW 2001 workshop on 4-5th September 2001 at Loughborough University) gives my interpretation of how the JISC IE might develop.
It should be noted that in this diagram I floated the idea that the JISC IE could be enhanced to include access to application services and not just middleware services such as authentication. It is interesting that my vision was for access to lightweight services such as spell-checks and bookmarking services. The idea came to me after reflecting on services such as HaL’s Web-based HTML validation service which was announced way back in 1994 and was subsequently mirrored on the (now defunct) national HENSA mirror service. It struck me back then that this concept (based on simple REST interface) could be applied more widely.
Back then I didn’t envisage that it would be possible to deploy networked versions of full-scale applications such as a word processor. But this is now available, as the Google Docs service (and many other competitors) clearly illustrate.
I also did not foresee that the service we use within the higher and further education communities could be provided by the commercial sector. But del.icio.us, and many other social book marking services, also clearly demonstrate that the model of networked access to bookmarking services, which I suggested in my diagram, can be deployed on a global scale.
On reflection I think the vision for the JISC Information Environment, which was devised and developed by UKOLN and JISC colleagues including Andy Powell (who now works for the Eduserv Foundation) and Liz Lyon (UKOLN) and Rachel Bruce (JISC), can be seen as an architecture which has strong connections with Web 2.0. The JISC IE vision, however, probably missed out on the importance of social networking and user generated content and, indeed, generating interest which will encourage users to adopt new technologies (indeed, as Andy Powell commented recently “One of the … problems with the JISC IE diagram is that it was largely technology driven“). But the initial technical architecture that was devised (especially syndication using lightweight technologies such as RSS) seems to have been validated by the success of Web 2.0.