Case study

Compare Networks

A custom platform to handle extreme scale in the healthcare space

San Francisco-based Compare Networks (CN) has made a name for itself building software products for the global biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Among their many innovative digital products is a family of platforms that allow scientists, researchers, and medical professionals to compare millions of specialised products quickly and easily.

With time, the fragmentation of this family of platforms began to cause problems. Having worked with us on many projects previously, CN asked us whether we could use our expertise to help them come up with a sound, long-term solution.

We started with some small projects with Calcey back in 2005 and it just grew from there. We found great success with our projects
Andy Miller
COO & Co-founder

A unique digital product in every way

One of the first things we realised when evaluating CN’s family of comparison products was that regardless of the niche they catered to, all product comparison platforms possessed very similar features. For instance, while CN owned and operated two platforms by the name of Dental Compare and Bio Compare, both had nearly the same functionality. The most significant differences between these two platforms (and eighteen others operated by CN) mostly came down to the products they carried and the technologies they were written in. Having understood how this complexity was blowing a large hole in CN’s finances and contributing to a lot of maintenance issues, we decided that it would be best to create an advanced bespoke, unified content management system (CMS) that could do it all. And so, Vertical Platform was born.

One of the more significant challenges we faced when building Vertical Platform was the transfer of huge amounts of data from the legacy systems to the new system. With hundreds of thousands of records residing on different databases, we had to obtain the data, cleanse it and load it into a new, unified data store. Throughout all this, we had to make sense of the old data, ensure its integrity, and transform everything into a format that is compatible with the new platform.

Considering that this suite of comparison platforms exclusively serve the medical and scientific community, we added functionality for vendors to list detailed product specifications and related research articles which serve to reinforce the clinical efficacy of a given product. To guarantee peace of mind to all vendors who list their products on any portal running on the Vertical Platform CMS, we engineered features that make it easy to upload products in bulk and manage product catalogues. We also developed and bolted on a cutting-edge multi-layered piracy protection mechanism so that proprietary product details could be shielded from spying eyes.

Building Vertical Platform is a challenge which I think you must be very fortunate to come across as an engineer. It forced us to completely reimagine a legacy product with an eye to the future. It’s the kind of challenge we at Calcey relish!
Manjula Tillekaratne
Director - Project Management

Iterating towards excellence

As a result of being CN’s engineering partner in developing Vertical Platform since Day One, we have been able to seamlessly upgrade the underlying software to keep up with the times. For instance, as the original database powering Vertical Platform grew over the years and showed signs of turning into an unwieldy behemoth, we moved it to the cloud and also devised a system to archive and retrieve old content at lightning speeds. More recently, we also developed a tool that could process millions of rows of product data contained in CSV or XLS files within an hour or two, drastically cutting short a process that previously took days, literally. 

As a result, CN is now able to onboard 50 times more vendors in a month than it ever could before. For its part, VP too continues to play an important role in powering CN’s growth year after year. And what about us, you may ask? 

Well, we continue to help keep VP running smoothly.

Here are a few more interesting reads on our work with Vertical Platform:

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