Friday, November 09, 2007

A short history of Horizon, part 1

As the Technical Services librarian, my job entails not only cataloging, but also database administration. We use a system called Horizon, that is supported by a company called SirsiDynix. I haven't talked much about Horizon on this blog, but it's dying. A brief history:
Sirsi and Dynix were two separate entities, and decided to merge in 2005, I believe, or 2006. They brought their two systems into the relationship: Sirsi had Unicorn, and Dynix had Horizon. Most people agree that Horizon is the more modern system, with more bells and whistles and such.
In 2007 at some point, SD was bought by a company called Vista, who immediately decided that having two Integrated Library Systems (ILS) was a really bad idea for business, and it would be so much more cost-effective if everyone just used one system. This is sound business practice, actually, but the whole thing was a public relations nightmare. Horizon was about to be updated to Horizon 8.0, which was to be this totally new system, a rebuild. Customers had already signed contacts with SD to go to Horizon 8. But....Vista decided to pull the plug on Horizon, and instead of informing the customers who already had contracts privately, just put out a big press release about it so they could find out along with everyone else.
Vista also decided to scrap Horizon entirely, and to tout a "new" system called Symphony. Thing is, apparently it looks just like Unicorn, but with some minor cosmetics. It's generally agreed all over the library community that Unicorn is old. Old old old. Like, its core system was created in 1985 and has never been changed kind of old. Who wants a system like that? No one. Plus it's a turnkey system, which usually means that you have little to no control over how your system looks. Horizon, on the other hand, is one of the most customizable databases I've ever seen, and you don't have to call customer support in order to customize it. You can do it within the system if you want to. You can also create custom SQL queries, from any of the tables. It's really pretty awesome when you get down to the nuts and bolts of it.
But I digress. The other thing that we all found out when we were told about the death of Horizon was that going to Symphony would be a migration, not an upgrade. The difference? You have to pay for a migration, and don't pay for an upgrade. Um, what? we all said. We have to pay to go to the system that you're making us go to if we want to stay with your company? (Keep in mind that Horizon, 10 years ago, had an upfront cost of $75K.)
This pushed a lot of people to rethink their systems. The explosion of open source, of course, just happened to coincide with this announcement, and the other library vendors in the business started salivating when thinking of how SD was about to go under and that left 20,000 libraries looking for new systems. Jackpot.

(continued tomorrow)

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"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.