Austin’s Datical Gets VC Cash to Manage Databases for App Updates

Would you ever guess that making changes to a software application is difficult for the app maker? Updates are so common, that doesn’t seem likely.

Yet the process that allows a software developer to update an app remains arduous, difficult, and time consuming, even as software development has progressed in the last 15 years, according to Derek Hutson, the CEO of Datical. That’s in part because database managers must meticulously check and recheck dozens or even hundreds of pieces of data in a database impacted by the update.

And Hutson says that is partly because the process of managing databases has lagged behind. Now Austin, TX-based Datical says it has developed a tool that automates that laborious process, and is pitching it to large corporations like GE Transportation, Fidelity Investments, McKesson, and eBay Enterprise (all of whom are current customers of Datical).

The company’s service, called Datical DB, has earned it the attention of venture capitalists, particularly in Texas. Datical announced an $8 million Series B round last week led by Austin-based S3 Ventures, along with participation from Austin Ventures and Houston-based Mercury Fund.

Datical is focusing on the large enterprise market because those companies typically have larger e-commerce businesses that employ numerous people to manage updates, so they get a greater return for the investment (ROI), Hutson says. Being enterprise software, Datical’s price may be too high for a small company, he adds.

“It saves them days in terms of making updates,” Hutson says. “When you think about a company like GE Transportation, where you have probably hundreds of people involved in a mission-critical process, the ROI is tremendous.”

The problem of making certain a software update works seamlessly has always been prevalent, but has become more important as software updates have become more frequent, says Ben Geller, the company’s vice president of marketing. “The solution for addressing the problem has quite frankly been to throw bodies at it.”

If a developer writes a new script to update an app, database administrators have to take multiple measures, including reviewing the script to ensure it functionally fits in with the other data from the database and searching for glitches that could cause the app to stop functioning entirely. Datical’s tool does that all, and starts at an earlier stage in the process than database administrators typically get to: while the developer is still coding the update, Hutson says.

“What our software does it recognizes what the developer is doing, the SQL script they send, and translates that into a language to actually change the database,” he says. “We can automate that against a set of rules that says, here are things we know that, based on this database environment, will adversely impact it. Don’t drop this, don’t do this.”

The system then runs the updated application if everything checks out, or alerts the system as to what the problem is, he says. Datical currently works with three database management systems: Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and IBM DB2. It may soon add MongoDB, Cassandra, and Hadoop, once they gain a larger market share, Hutson says.

The company was founded in 2012 by Robert Reeves, Pete Pickerill, and Daniel Nelson. In 2006, Reeves and Nelson also co-founded Phurnace Software, where Pickerill was the company’s first employee. Phurnace was acquired by BMC Software in 2010 for an undisclosed price.

Datical has direct competition in the market, including Cambridge, England-based Red Gate Software and DBmaestro, which has offices in Houston and Tel Aviv, Israel. “We’re certainly not experts on DBmaestro products, but I can tell you that Datical customers who have looked at their solution have told us that their product simply does not meet their needs,” Hutson says about dealing with competition.

The company raised its $3 million Series A from Mercury Fund and Austin Ventures in 2013.

Datical plans to use the new $8 million for software development, including increasing the number of database platforms it works with, and for its customer service and sales and marketing, Hutson says.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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