There’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the past few years. Those who know me have often heard me surmising about it. To date I’ve not really talked about it publicly, but I’ve decided it’s perhaps time I did. It’s a contentious idea:
I really think that it’s about time InterSystems bit the bullet and re-licensed their core Caché database technology as an Open Source product.
Unlikely? Perhaps. But this one step would have a massive impact. Overnight it would change attitudes out there in the mainstream towards Caché from one of either total lack of interest or scornful disdain to one of great interest. In my opinion it would be hugely beneficial to everyone including (contrary, I’m sure, to their current belief) InterSystems themselves.
Yes, it would require a significant mindset change within their organisation and would require a courageous act of faith on their part. Of course, it would force them to move them to an entirely services-based commercial model (at least for their core Caché database product), but then, as the charts they present annually at their Global Summit conferences demonstrate, these days support and maintenance are already two of their major revenue streams anyway.
If Caché is going to succeed in the new NoSQL-centric world and become a household name (uttered alongside the likes of MongoDB, CouchBase, Cassandra, Neo-4j etc), then it’s going to have to become an Open Source product.
And before anyone pipes up and reminds me that InterSystems’ Globals Database product has been released as a free product: yes I’m well aware of that, but “free as in beer” is not what it’s all about: Open Source isn’t about a zero price, it’s about freedom. The sad reality is that despite Globals being a perfect potential NoSQL database to sit alongside Node.js, nobody in the Node.js community has gone anywhere near it. An interesting case study, then, in the difference in attitudes out there between a free database and a free Open Source database.
Meanwhile, many other (mostly inferior in my opinion) NoSQL databases are gaining serious traction out there, for the very reason that they are Open Source products.
I suppose it will come down to InterSystems’ strategic intentions for Caché and their long-term vision. Perhaps the idea of Caché being a household name and a mass-market NoSQL database doesn’t actually appeal to them. Perhaps they want it to remain a little-known database outside of its dominant niche of healthcare (where even most healthcare IT people are actually barely aware of its existence!). Perhaps it’s doing quite well enough, thank you very much, right now and they don’t need to consider anything so potentially commercially risky.
But maybe, just maybe, there’s a glimmer of hope. Anyway, at least I’ve chucked out the idea. In the words of McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: “But I tried, didn’t I? Goddamnit, at least I did that.”