Caché: old or new?

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InterSystems has been around for a long time: it was founded way back in 1978 and its Caché object-relational database, although it was introduced in the 90s, is a direct descendant of the work that the company was doing in the decades before that.

Historically, the company has been especially strong in the healthcare market where it is probably the leading supplier of database and development tools (the two are combined in Caché). However, because of its longevity in this space, its technology is regarded pretty much as a given and there is a certain element of it being “old hat”.

Nevertheless, there is no other product like Caché on the market and it is especially good at supporting applications that include complex business logic (which is why the product is so strong in the healthcare space) where this sort of requirement is commonplace.

But of course InterSystems does not want to remain just in the healthcare space and, indeed, it has always had a variety of other customers. However, it has recently been touting its success within the telecommunications market in particular, for which it set up a dedicated team a few years ago. In this area it has applications installed at BT (where it is part of Operational Support Services) and Eircom (underpinning directory enquiries, emergency calls and so forth), it is embedded in third-party products such as those from Airwave Solutions (previously part of Schlumberger) for fraud detection and device recognition on mobile phones, it is used for logging and tracing SMS messages, and so on and so forth.

Typically, InterSystems wins its deals initially because it has a smaller footprint than conventional relational approaches and because it is a lot (an order of magnitude in some cases) faster. However, it is frequently the case that once a company has invested in Caché and starts using it, it then goes on to develop new capabilities that it would never have even thought about attempting when using a relational database. And the typical reason is that developers start to appreciate that Caché is innovative and original.

This is in an interesting dichotomy: the healthcare business sees Caché as being relatively humdrum (familiarity breeds contempt, I guess) whereas the telecommunications sector regards it as new and innovative. Which is it?

Well, the obvious answer is both. Yes, the product has been around for a while but many companies and market sectors have only recently started to appreciate the need for the sort of relatively complex applications that Caché is so good at supporting, whereas these were always basic requirements in the health industry. In particular, the ability to build rich applications that combine structured and unstructured data is a rapidly growing area, while it has always been necessary with such things as patient records.

InterSystems regard the adoption of Caché in new markets as a sign of the product “coming of age”. Actually, I think it is more a question of the market catching Caché up: a case of an idea whose time has come perhaps. In any case the company would seem to be very well placed to take advantage of the growth in complex applications.