Incorporating ATHENS into ROADS
What is ATHENS?
The ATHENS system enables controlled access to subscription services. ATHENS is currently used by over 190 UK Higher Education establishments to provide access to over 40 major databases and commercial software mirrors. Data Service Providers (DSPs) include NISS, BIDS, EDINA, MIDAS and AHDS. Many of these services are offered to the education community on the basis of CHEST agreements.
The ATHENS system provides two major types of service: resource access management and user authentication. It allows a "single sign-on" to enable access to multiple resources. It also enables the distributed management of user accounts by domain administrators. It is capable of supporting large numbers of users and resources.
Software, in the form of ATHENS Agents, is available so that DSPs can integrate support for ATHENS into their services. ATHENS authentication can be integrated into services offered via the Web, telnet or other client/server technologies.
For further information see: <URL:http://www.athens.ac.uk/info>
Potential Usefulness in ROADSFor users:
ATHENS AgentsOperationally, in order to use ATHENS, the DSP must integrate the ATHENS Agent technology into the DSP server. The method of integration varies according to the type of server. Agent guides are available for the following types of service:
Some additional information about ATHENS Agents is available from <URL:http://www.athens.ac.uk/info/agent_intro.html>.
Architecture of ROADSFigure 1 shows a simplified view of the architecture of ROADS. ROADS consists of a toolkit of Perl scripts for setting up and maintaining subject-based gateways and on-line catalogues. The software provides a Web-based search facility using the WHOIS++ protocol. It is also possible to distribute searches across multiple WHOIS++ servers using the Common Indexing Protocol (CIP) and centroids.
For further information about ROADS see <URL:http://www.ilrt.bris.ac.uk/roads/>.
Architecture of ATHENSATHENS provides access to multiple resources through a single password sign-on. It supports distributed management of user accounts through domain administrators. Authentication may be performed ate several different levels, see section 4 above.
As shown in Figure 2, the ATHENS system consists of several components, the majority of which are operated by NISS, whilst an Agent must be run by each participating DSP. The components maintained by NISS include the two ATHENS servers which process:
Licencing and Pricing
The contract for the provision of the ATHENS service for UK HE is current out to tender. This makes the medium/long term position on pricing of the ATHENS software somewhat unclear. Clearly JISC have an influence on the pricing policy adopted by whoever operates the ATHENS service.
At the time of writing, use of ATHENS within UK HE costs £2000 which entitles a DSP to use the software and receive some support. NISS appear to be favourable to integration of ATHENS software with ROADS and may consider treating all UK HE ROADS-based services as a single unit (for support and pricing purposes). I guess this is of interest to the RDNC. The licence agreement aimed at UK HE DSPs is available from <URL:http://www.athens.ac.uk/dsp>.
The cost for commercial use of the ATHENS software is negotiable, though NISS are currently developing their internal guidelines for how that cost is decided. (Note: the commercial version of the ATHENS software is known as Isos. NISS are prevented from selling ATHENS commercially, it is sold thru another company). NISS appear not to have considered non-UK HE, non-commercial use of ATHENS - but seem likely to be open to favourable negotiation on this - assuming there is perceived benefit to the UK HE community.
Page maintained by: Manjula Patel and Andy Powell
Last modified: 18-Feb-1999