InterSystems updates Cache database

New Cache database to transform InterSystems' customer focus

InterSystems hopes that Cache 2007, the newest version of its object-relational database, will help the company break out of the health care niche it now dominates.

The update to Cache, first introduced in 1997 during the peak of the craze for object-oriented databases, includes new features aimed at Web and Java developers. Cache 2007 is slated to be formally unveiled next week.

One, called Zen, is an Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) framework to enable the creation of data-intensive Web applications. It includes dozens of prebuilt components and allows the rapid creation of other components by extending existing ones, said Paul Grabscheid, vice president of strategic planning. "We get rid of the tedium of working with XML," he said.

Dana Gardner, an analyst at Solutions, said Zen "provides a shared-objects benefit for server and client that balances the chattiness of AJAX apps with performance demands on the server."

Jim Klein, chief technology officer of QuadraMed, a health care software supplier, figures Zen will allow his 200 developers to work between 20 percent and 40 percent faster. "Zen will allow my developers to tackle things we wouldn't have wanted to tackle before," he said.

InterSystems said there are 100,000 licensed Cache databases today. The company, which expects to book US$200 million in revenue this year, with 80 percent of that amount coming from health care customers, 10 percent from financial institutions, and 10 percent from other firms.

More than 100 of QuadraMed's hospital clients run Cache as part of the QuadraMed platform. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Defense's health affairs group, and all of the hospitals ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report also use Cache, according to InterSystems.

Steve Garone, an analyst affiliated with Ideas International, said InterSystem's disproportionate success in health care stems from the industry's demand for "the ability to store and efficiently access large amounts of varied information and data types quickly, tasks for which Cache is designed to support." Garone added that "given the growth in information and compliance requirements in [health care and financial services], this is not a bad position for Intersystems to be in."

But InterSystems is hoping to also woo more people like Don Oldham, CEO of Digital Technology International (DTI), a US$35 million-a-year developer of software for the newspaper industry. Zen "is the simplest AJAX we've ever seen," he said. "We're fond of Adobe, and so we looked long and hard at Flex. But it's still a traditional middleware approach, which we think is cumbersome and slow to develop in."

DTI is switching all 260 of its newspaper clients over from Sybase's Adaptive Server Enterprise to Cache, which Oldham said should boost runtime performance about tenfold.

Another new tool, Jalapeno, lets Java developers quickly create objects that persist in the database by eliminating the usual object-relational mapping layer, Grabscheid said. He said Jalapeno "relieves the developer of the worry of how the data is going to be stored. Developers should therefore enjoy a higher level of efficiency because they can use tools with which they are familiar."

Curt Monash, an independent research analyst, said that Cache's "advantages are, in most markets, nice to have, not must-haves."

"In health care, there is a greater need to build or buy applications from scratch. If you're going that route, Cache is an attractive option," Monash said. But even with Cache's latest updates, he said, "I expect their customer profile to remain fairly similar, which is somewhat less broad than it deserves to be."

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