Data Points

1. What is InterSystems IRIS? (Jenny Ames)

Data Points
1. What is InterSystems IRIS? (Jenny Ames)

Welcome to Data Points! In this episode, we chat with Jenny Ames, team lead of online learning content, about InterSystems IRIS – the flexible, scalable, and interoperable data platform that powers many of the world's most important applications. From its multi-model nature to its integration engine to its healthcare features, there's a lot to unpack in one conversation!

For more information about Data Points, visit To try InterSystems IRIS today, head over to and launch your instance! You can also check out more materials at



Derek Robinson 00:01 Welcome to Data Points, a podcast by InterSystems Learning Services. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite podcast app such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Stitcher. You can do this by searching for Data Points and hitting that subscribe button. My name is Derek Robinson, and on today's episode I'll chat with Jenny Ames, the team lead of Online Learning content here at InterSystems, about InterSystems IRIS data platform.


Derek Robinson 00:39 Welcome to Episode One of Data Points by InterSystems Learning Services. My name is Derek Robinson. I'm an online course developer here at InterSystems, and all of us in Learning Services are really, really excited about launching this podcast. We have three different episodes queued up for launch ready for your listening, so definitely check out the others after you're done listening to this one. In this episode, I'll be chatting with Jenny Ames. Jenny is the team lead of Online Learning content, as I mentioned in the intro, and she has over 10 years of experience with our technology stack. So in our discussion, we're going to cover the basics of InterSystems IRIS, what some of its best features are, some of the best use cases that she's seen. And really just kind of in general talk about what this product is, what some of its healthcare extensions are, and how it can really impact your application development being a developer, developing data-intensive applications. So without further ado, here's my interview with Jenny Ames.


Derek Robinson 01:36 All right. And welcome to the podcast Jenny Ames, the team lead of Online Learning content here at InterSystems. Jenny, how's it going?


Jenny Ames Hi Derek. It's going well. How are you?


Derek Robinson Good. I'm doing great. And we're excited to launch Data Points and have you as one of our first guests here to talk about InterSystems IRIS, and what it is for the people that might not know, and also for InterSystems users that are interested in learning more and kind of the context of our technology stack. So first, why don't we start by introducing yourself, kind of letting us know what you do here at InterSystems and how long you've been here and your experience in the InterSystems world?


Jenny Ames 02:07 Sure. Yeah. So I just celebrated 10 years back in June. First five years I was a classroom trainer, taught on most of our products: Caché, Ensemble, Health Connect, most of the HealthShare class, and really enjoyed that, but some life changes meant I wanted to be around here a little bit more, so I have been doing online training for the past five and a half years now.


Derek Robinson  02:33 Nice. That's awesome. So you're obviously qualified to talk about what we're going to talk about today. So let's start with the question of what InterSystems IRIS data platform is, right? I think you know, start with maybe a high-level example or description for people that have never seen it before and then we can kind of go a little bit more detail into what some of its functionality is. So if I see you in an elevator today and I ask you, what is InterSystems IRIS, what would be your answer?

Jenny Ames 02:58 So I like to think of InterSystems IRIS as really three main pieces. So it's the database. So you can store data, you can retrieve data. It also has a built-in development environment to build in the logic. It is also an integration engine, so you can share data very easily between different systems, and there's some great UIs that help you to do that quickly without much code. You can customize it because you have that database level as well, which is great. And then it's also an analytics platform that allows you to build in machine learning to show dashboards and analyze data to really make sense of your data and then build on that. There's even some natural language processing. So analyzing large pieces of text to find positive things or summarize the text.


Derek Robinson 03:52 Yeah. Which becomes more and more important I think today with the constant streams of information coming into your applications from all different sources, not always as tightly defined and lined up as what you need your data to be in a traditional relational format where you have, you know, all the properties and everything, right? So you kind of mentioned those three prongs of it that you could summarize at a high level. You know, let's start with the database part because I think any application developer who's going to be building a data-intensive application needs to start with the database, right? Like they need their data to be somewhere. So before going into the other features, what separates InterSystems IRIS just from the database perspective, compared to other databases people could choose from?


Jenny Ames 04:30 Yeah, that's a good question. Well, first of all, we have logic built right into InterSystems IRIS, so you can build in some questions right there. If you are familiar with Caché, which is one of our other products that we've had for a while, some of the things that are new are some of the language interoperability pieces, so you can still leverage your other applications that are built with, Python, or Node.js, and then integrate with the database platform of InterSystems IRIS. But I would say some of the things that really make it stand out are the reliability. We're in a lot of markets, healthcare being a big one because of its reliability, financial institutions as well. And that's because of the reliability we have and the security that's built into that.


Derek Robinson 05:27 Right, exactly. So some good elements there and good requirements for anybody using a database to build their application and host their data and really be able to work with their data. One more, one I want to touch on, which I know is a little bit related to the language interoperability, is also the model flexibility when it comes to different using different models for your database. I know this is when we've talked to developers at events, sometimes this is one that makes them stop and say, wait, tell me more about that one. So give me a quick example and kind of description of InterSystems IRIS multi-model capability at the database level.


Jenny Ames 06:00 Yeah. So multi-model…most databases they choose one model that they support, whether it's an object database or relational database. And we say, why choose? There's different reasons to do object access or relational access. From something like Java, it's already an object model. And so being able to just save an object directly is a huge benefit because it saves both the developer time and the time for…it doesn't have to transform the data to a relational…to a row…to be able to do that. But doing something like you know, select all people that work at a company, like that's really easy to do with relational model. And so we provide the opportunity to use the model that really works best for each task and then integrate it all within one application.


Derek Robinson 06:45 Right. Without having to duplicate it or without really create different kind of approaches to your same problem and your different variations within the problem. It's really cool. And by the way, along that topic, I think a future episode of Data Points could involve a little bit of a deeper dive into how that happens, with our globals and kind of the way those work. And I have a person or two in mind that would be great at explaining those concepts at InterSystems, but going into a little bit more of a discussion about the image of InterSystems and InterSystems products as a whole. I know we've before been at events where people will see our signage, people will see our branding, and they kind of drop InterSystems into a healthcare bucket. Right? It looks like you're a healthcare IT company, so that's cool. Tell me more about that, but why should people not immediately drop it into that bucket if that's not where they are? Right? If someone is not in the healthcare space, what are some of the reasons that they shouldn't immediately assume that InterSystems is really just healthcare IT software?


Jenny Ames 07:38 Yeah. well we are in healthcare for a reason. Again, because of the reliability and the scalability and the security that we've built into InterSystems IRIS and our other products. And so yeah, we're in those spaces for reason. But those features are really important in multiple verticals. So, you know, financial institutions, you know, money is really important to people and so being able to use InterSystems IRIS and leveraging those features is really, really important. But you know, like I mentioned, I was in the classroom for the first five years, and I've seen some different use cases that I thought were really cool from some of our customers. Some with, you know, a car manufacturing company where they were basically bringing in and handling car parts and being able to manage all that data. I've been at…there is a customer that did…they were basically bringing in data from multiple different police precincts and the data was stored in different formats and so they had to transform that data. And then they brought it all into one system into our product and then they built dashboards on top of that to be able to analyze the data and do really cool things with the data itself.


Derek Robinson 09:00 Interesting. Yeah, and I think that that last use case you mentioned could serve as the basis for a deeper dive into a discussion on our interoperability features in IRIS, right? And I think there's a lot more that you could go into there with, you mentioned transforming data into the right format. Some of that is where you start to get into the core of what those healthcare features can be sometimes as far as the biggest things you need in healthcare. So do you have anything else you wanted to add on that part, or…?


Jenny Ames 09:26 Yeah. We have some built-in features that really help in the healthcare world or with you know, some prebuilt components. But we've also been building in more features for other markets as well, where you can do things like a record mapper and bring data in without any code. But again, you can also customize it completely to be able to make the data in just the right format. But the interoperability stuff is actually a passion of mine. I really like, I actually have a lot of fun building integrations and playing with that and learning more myself. But yeah, I really like that feature of InterSystems IRIS.


Derek Robinson 10:00 For sure. And so just one more thing along the use case before…we're going to get to healthcare in a minute, but one of the other use cases that is often talked about with InterSystems IRIS and kind of highlights some of those scalability, reliability and really the vast capability of InterSystems IRIS to handle these data loads is the European Space Agency.  That's one that we've talked about a lot. Can you tell us a little bit about that use case, that example, and why it's such an effective way to kind of show the power of InterSystems IRIS?


Jenny Ames 10:29 Yeah, so the ESA used one of our products, which InterSystems IRIS takes the best features of that, but it was actually cool. There was a great presentation a few years ago that I got to see, and it's this thing that they put up in space and it was actually really small. And you could…you can't see me right now, but it's, you know, maybe the size of, I think it was like a soccer ball almost, or maybe even a little smaller than that. And it basically maps the whole galaxy and was, you know, for brightness and speed and all these different celestial objects. And then it brought that data back and allowed the operators to basically analyze the data and really map the galaxy, which is really cool. But yeah, I think that's a really neat example because it's handling a lot of data and we've been doing big data since before that that term was really coined. But really cool things when you have all the data and you're able to really make sense of it.


Derek Robinson 11:38 Right. Nice. And just as a little bit of a note to our learners as far as looking to learn more about some of these features, in general, we were just talking about both scalability and reliability. With scalability, it's sharding that you really can look at as far as learning more when it comes to scaling your systems horizontally. And I don't want to dive into it because we'll have other content on that. And for reliability, it's mirroring, right? Like I think what you mentioned with the reliability of systems, if one goes down, maybe that mirroring ability is one of the features of InterSystems products. I sometimes say IRIS, but we're talking about really most of our technology stack that are really fundamental to some of those scalability and reliability features. So kind of moving into the last portion here, which is, we kind of punted on healthcare because we wanted to say "Don't drop InterSystems directly into a healthcare bucket without, you know, doing more research on it and kind of understanding what's available." But let's say you are in the healthcare space. InterSystems IRIS for Health is the healthcare extension of InterSystems IRIS, a more robust platform. Tell us about some of the extended functionality that's specific to healthcare with InterSystems IRIS for Health.


Jenny Ames 12:46 Yeah. So IRIS for Health is that it's InterSystems IRIS, but it's really built for the healthcare environment, so it has a bunch of prebuilt things that help you to integrate and really build an entire application for the healthcare environment. So it includes prebuilt support for things like HL7 v2, so you can bring in different messages based on events. We have support for FHIR. There's even a built-in FHIR resource repository to manage all the resources. If you're not familiar with those terms, you can Google it and learn about it. We actually have some courses on it as well that you can take. We have support for IHE, so many of our healthcare formats. And so that's built in, and it basically makes it a lot easier to build your integrations and your application a lot faster because of those prebuilt things.


Derek Robinson 13:45 Right. Nice. And just a quick little plug there is that that learning content, Jenny referred to,, is where our learning catalog is. I think that's in kind of the intro of these podcasts and everything. But speaking of kind of learning more and calling to action, the last thing we want to talk about here, we've been talking about InterSystems IRIS and InterSystems products as a whole. If some of our listeners are curious and they want to learn more about it, how can people try IRIS?


Jenny Ames 14:08 Yeah. We have two great new things that are available. There is the Try IRIS instance. It's basically a trial instance that you can get hands-on for free, and it's available for 24 hours if you don't register. But if you register, you can keep it around for 30 days, which is really cool. You get hands-on, there's some prebuilt samples built into that. So to access that, you can go to, and there's a button on the right where you can start coding. And then there's another site that's actually related to that. So on the left-hand side of that screen as well, there's our new button to get to our new Getting Started site. So if you go to, you can go directly there and again, there's exercises and some use-case videos, so you can start to imagine different ways of using InterSystems IRIS.


Derek Robinson 14:57 Nice, nice. And for our listeners, we'll put those links in the episode description so that you can go straight to those, whether it's the Try page or the Getting Started page, to really learn more about InterSystems IRIS. So Jenny Ames, thank you so much for joining us, and we'll talk to you soon!


Jenny Ames   Great. Thanks for having me!


Derek Robinson 15:16 So thanks again to Jenny for joining us in having a really, I think, informative conversation about InterSystems IRIS and InterSystems IRIS for Health a little bit at the end there as well, about really some of the biggest impacts that it can make for developers building these applications that might be very data intensive, they might require interoperability with other systems, transforming data that you're sending or receiving between other applications. Having an ultra-reliable setup that can really be depended on if something goes down, or if you need to scale it a lot more than you currently have it. So a good discussion with Jenny about InterSystems IRIS, and thanks again to her. Like I mentioned in the intro, we have two other episodes available for you in the catalog that you can listen to right now, and then as we go forward, as we mentioned in the trailer, we're going to be looking to do one to two episodes a month, and really as much as we can churn out content to you from our experts, that's the plan for us to be able to give you informative and intriguing discussions to make you want to learn more. So like Jenny mentioned, you can try out InterSystems IRIS by going to or, and as far as generic learning content, head over to to see our full catalog and again, search for Data Points on your favorite podcast app and hit that subscribe button. That way you'll get every new episode every time we have one. So thanks again for listening, and we'll see you guys next time on Data Points.


Brought to you by InterSystems Learning Services of Data Points