Sandia upgrades digital media management

Sandia National Laboratories

Beginning next month, Sandia National Laboratories will implement and test a digital asset management system to better manage and share tens of thousands of photographs and other rich media files.

"We've got about 45,000 images at this time and we're adding 3,500 a month to the system," said Russell Smith, Sandia's database administrator. The majority of them are photographs, but others are art images, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations and video clips. They include technical photos and drawings, aerial photos, public outreach information files, and annual reports and other publications.

"Basically, the technology to be able to easily store, quickly locate, and retrieve digital visual assets really has two benefits," he said. "One, it's obviously a major savings in time in trying to locate an asset that's known. It also expands the use and ease of locating and sharing these valuable images so it enriches our publications."

With the current system, it's often easier to exclude graphics or recreate them rather than search and retrieve known images in the system, Smith said.

Planning for the new Web-based system, he said, started about 18 months ago because the current client-server system had become archaic. A "couple of years ago, we realized the software we had was no longer state of the art, to be sure, and we started looking around for off-the-shelf software that will allow us to migrate existing assets and enhance capabilities," he said.

His group put together a team of library science experts, archivists, graphic artists and others to define what they were ultimately looking for in a system and use that model to compare and evaluate commercial products, he added.

After an industry survey, Sandia awarded a sole-source contract to Artesia Technologies, which specializes in digital asset management software. The price of the contract was not disclosed.

Artesia's software allows users to search, retrieve, collaborate, reuse and distribute rich media including raster and vector graphic imagery, video and audio. Scott Bowen, Artesia's president and chief operating officer, said digital asset management also focuses on metadata.

"In our vernacular, an asset equals content plus metadata and it's really that metadata that we feel is the keys to the kingdom, so to speak," he said. "And so with the rich suite of metadata or the descriptive data about the content, which in our world is usually rich media, you've got a pretty powerful platform upon which to build business applications."

As broadband and rich media have become more prevalent during the past three or four years, demand and visibility for digital asset management systems have expanded from specialized media companies to more traditional corporations and the government arena, Bowen said.

Christopher Voorhees, Artesia's director of federal sales, said more officials at civilian, Defense Department and intelligence agencies are grappling with more rich media or unstructured data. He said they have also seen a movement among laboratories or consolidation centers of information where officials want to pull together content spread among existing systems.

In addition to Sandia, Artesia has installed the software at another unidentified national laboratory and will be installing it in two DOD-funded laboratories, Voorhees added.

Currently, Sandia's system does not have the security built in to restrict access to certain assets, such as those considered proprietary or are tagged as for official use only, Smith said. However, he said he expects the Artesia product to address that concern.

Artesia, which was founded in 1999, was acquired late summer by an enterprise content management company called Open Text. The federal government comprises about 20 percent of Artesia's business, compared with 10 percent a few years ago.

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