Dawn of a new database

Oracle Corp. makes an OK database. Microsoft Corp.’s SQL Server and IBM Corp.’s DB2 aren’t bad either. But as data gets collected over wireless and the demand for a warp-speed response increases, all of these well-established – dare I say, old-time – companies may soon get a rude awakening. You see, transactional databases are coming into their own.

Medford, Mass.-based Trakus Inc. collects sports data in real time with its DSI (Digital Sports Information) platform and displays the statistics on TV, the Internet, and wireless Web. The company has a contract with the National Hockey League to place radio tags inside each player’s helmet that measure 30 different inputs per second. That comes out to 1,296,000 discrete pieces of data per game.

The tags measure a player’s skating speed, puck control, distance skated, location, even the impact when two players collide, called the Hit Gauge.

That data is then taken and reformatted. Depending on the device accessing the DSI application, it can even create a real-time animated version of the game called GameViewer.

Trakus CTO Bob McCarthy said the company tried Oracle, but it was too slow. It tried some other traditional SQL-type databases, and none of them came close to meeting the transactional requirements. Only InterSystems Cache transactional database could handle them. See what I mean?

Klas Enterprises, a research company for the health care industry, surveyed organizations that were using applications based on Oracle and InterSystems databases. Klas found that healthcare professionals were far more satisfied with the instantaneous response-times of Cache as compared with the Oracle database, according to Adam Gale, vice-president of Klas, in Salt Lake City.

A wireless carrier in Europe (I can’t name names, at the request of some of its largest customers), is talking to InterSystems, based in Cambridge, Mass., about a way to store all of its SMS messages. Again, something a relational database can’t really handle.

Think about it. In the old days, only employees had access to a company database, typically used to collect and analyse data and issue reports. Now, anybody with a cell phone can access a database, and it must respond to not hundreds but hundreds of thousands of users, says Paul Grabscheid, vice-president of strategic planning at InterSystems.

Grabscheid’s last word: “Oracle is an old technology, a quarter-century old. They are clearly king of the hill now and no one is going to knock them off, but I believe their time has passed.”

I also spoke to Oracle, and here’s the last word from Bob Shimp, vice-president of database product marketing: “They [InterSystems] are an extremely small niche product designed for a highly specialized type of market.”

“However,” Shimp added, “we’re interested in this market, in memory database systems, but not ready to announce anything yet.”


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