US developer Basho's open source database Riak was selected as the NHS's preferred choice to underpin its efforts to rebuild its Spine infrastructure.
The new project, dubbed Spine2, will replace the existing infrastructure that was implemented as part of the ill-fated NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) - which was scrapped but cost taxpayers nearly £10bn.
Computing sat down with Sean Cribbs, software engineer at Basho, and Jeremy Hill, the company's EMEA marketing manager to find out more about the project...
Q. Why has the NHS chosen Basho instead of a bigger, more recognised vendor?
Hill I think part of what drove this was the government's drive to use open source software, which from their perspective is more cost effective, but at the same time they needed software and an organisation they could depend on, and Riak is a dependable technology - it has been proven with other organisations like [cloud-based meter data management company] Temetra, Rovio and CNN. They have been able to test it and see that it works for them as well.
Q. Do you feel that there is pressure on you as a vendor, after the failed NPfIT programme?
Hill We realise that this system has to work, and we'll work very closely with the NHS to build the project to their requirements. I don't think we feel an unnecessary amount of pressure, because we know the technology works and has been proven and deployed elsewhere. We know it simply can't afford not to be available - for example, in instances where a patient's life is at risk, we know if a server fails over the system will carry on running and we are not concerned about that
Cribbs That is a common story with our customers - sometimes they suffer hardware and software storage outages, but they don't notice because [the system] is resilient and it's still available to use even with a degrading capacity.
Q. The Riak NoSQL database replaces Oracle's relational database - what are the benefits of moving from a big player like Oracle to a smaller player like Basho?
Hill Generally speaking, the advantage of moving from a legacy-type platform is that previously people had to buy a box to store all of their information on, and as they upgraded the specification of that box, they would need to buy a bigger box and typically that gives people exponential cost increase both in terms of licence fees and hardware.
Typically, Riak gives people an alternative approach and that's a distributed approach, so instead of buying one big box as your requirement scale, you just add another commodity server and another licence to it. With a legacy system, if it fails, it doesn't matter how reliable it is, you can't help it from falling over. One of our customers, Temetra, mentioned that they hadn't even realised until they looked at their error logs that one of their servers had fallen over. So in terms of reliability it gives them a huge advantage as they don't have to worry about something failing.
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