|Abstract||During the last 30 years, there has been a serious neglect of the information base stored within our data holdings. |
In the 1800's data was stored in media such as books, which had encapsulated
indexes, meta information, versioning and data. The media, paper, was stable and could be opened up a hundred years later and the information could still be retrieved. Due in large part to rapid technology shifts and the lack of appropriate
international standards, this is no longer the case.
For the past 30 years, technology shifts have created serious problems in large data repositories. The constant change of storage media from punched cards, to paper tape to 800 BPI magnetic
tapes, to cartridges, to magnetic disks, to optical media etc. has resulted in major problems for very large data archives. The hardware and software required to read the old media may not be available in a hundred years, leaving the entire
information base in a crisis state.
The technology providers also constantly change application software to store and read data. These changes are sometimes implemented within the space of six months, such as in GIS and Wordprocessing software
applications. The software is not always backward compatible due to the encapsulation of proprietary file architectures, algorithms and smart compression. These file architectures, algorithms, compression or otherwise, may not be available if the
company should ever go out of business or radically change the application domain.
There is an urgent need to stabilize the storage data structures to some open international standard for long term archival. If not, the large data holdings will
be in jeopardy - not in a hundred years but in less then ten years.
A generic storage mechanism, SDS (Self Defining Structure), has been proposed to the ISOTC211 WG1 under the guidance of the Image and Gridded Data Working Group. This paper
addresses problems encountered in the state of the data sets used for Canada's Law of the Sea project and possible solutions using SDS (Self Defining Structures) and distributed archives.