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Supporting Your Ambitions at Scale

Person standing under a massive rock formation underneath an expansive sky full of stars

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work." — Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912)

I live in Chicago, a city that has a history of big ideas. Among them is the oft-referenced quote above from Daniel Burnham, one of the city fathers in the late 19th century who was responsible for the 1893 Columbian Exposition and city planner of Grant Park.

When I hear the term “scale,” used often in business and technology, I think about grand ideas like this.

Scalability has technical, financial, and business connotations. Loosely defined, it focuses on whether a company can grow without being hampered by its structure or available resources. The idea of scalability has become more prevalent in recent years as technology has made it easier to acquire customers and scale.

“Is it reasonable to assume we can achieve 10x growth with this strategy?” “Who do we need to bring on board to get this done?” “Is our infrastructure able to handle 10x, 100x, 1000x increases without completely breaking?”

That’s a lot to think about for any organization. So how do you think about scale in your organization and align your infrastructure and partnerships to match your ambitions with the unprecedented challenges you may face?

One way is to partner with companies who have done it over and over again  scaling technology and business approaches to meet ever-increasing business and technology demands.

Epic Systems Corporation

When Epic Systems Corp. scored a huge win with its $1.8 billion contract to implement a slew of enterprise-wide clinical and financial information systems for Kaiser Permanente (KP), the scope of the massive project begged the question: how do you scale to something that’s never been done? “The question was not ‘IF you can do it, but how CAN you do it,’” says John Mattison, Kaiser Permanente’s Chief Medical Information Officer for southern California. This had never been done before.

We worked incredibly closely with Epic, Kaiser consulting companies, IBM on hardware and infrastructure, and Accenture on best practices to make the project a reality. A multi-disciplinary team from InterSystems – system architects, product management, our support organization, and all levels of management supported the multi-year rollout effort. Kaiser Permanente announced in a press release in March 2010 that all of its 431 medical offices and 36 hospitals are now equipped with Kaiser Permanente's HealthConnect electronic health record (EHR) system, which is based on an Epic Systems EHR. As noted by its press release, "The comprehensive health information system securely connects more than 8.6 million people to their physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, personal information, and the latest medical knowledge. Combined with Kaiser Permanente's integrated approach to health care, KP HealthConnect helps facilitate collaboration among both primary and specialty care teams."

Of course, the answer now is that Epic is big enough for nearly any scale project, and we’re proud of the technical partnership we have with Epic to continue to advance the potential of scalability.

Gaia Mission – European Space Agency

Another great example of scale: on December 19, 2013, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched an ambitious mission to chart a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way: the Gaia Mission. Because an enormous amount of data will need to be quickly stored and analyzed over the course of the project, ESA partnered with InterSystems because of the advanced database technology needed to support the scientific processing of the Gaia mission. To learn more about the project, check out this infographic.

Gaia will spend five years monitoring a billion stars in our galaxy. It will collect data on each of them about 70 times, precisely measuring their positions, distances, movements, and changes in brightness. All of this adds up to an astronomical amount of data to be collected and analyzed. A key element of the Gaia satellite is the Astrometric Global Iterative Solution (AGIS), which iteratively refines the spatial accuracy of all the Gaia measurements.

In the course of its operation, AGIS must be able to insert up to 50 billion Java objects into a database within seven days. Ours is the only data platform ESA found that could provide the necessary performance and scalability with only moderate hardware requirements.

Its extended mission is expected to last until at least December 2020, and Gaia has already generated several data releases of information since its mission began in 2013.

The latest data release in April 2018 plotted the positions of more than 1.7 billion stars, which was released in a 3D color map at the ILA Berlin Air Show. And Gaia continues to produce stellar results (all pun intended). For additional mission highlights, you can check out the Gaia resources on the ESA website.

We continuously strive to deliver advancements and innovations for improved performance and scalability. In fact, partnerships like the one we announced with Intel showcase the kind of joint efforts it takes to make real scale possible.

Scaling – whether terrestrial or interstellar – depends upon a solid foundation and remains one of the biggest challenges in the modern business world. As Ian Morrison puts it, “"The challenge is not in identifying great ideas, it is scaling them."