Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Start-up looks for trouble

dbaDirect diagnoses database snarls

By John J. Byczkowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For every business situation, there's a database — of customers, financial information, operations, inventory and more. And every database is a disaster waiting to happen.

        It takes 20 servers to hold Cinergy Corp.'s power-trading databases — 500 gigabytes worth, or the equivalent of almost 800 copies of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

        “We have traders on the floor 24 hours a day, and they can't stand having these things down,” said Steve Jones, infrastructure manager for energy commodities at Cinergy.

        With an ocean of data out there and a critical shortage of qualified database administrators to keep it healthy, a Northern Kentucky start-up company has found a market: remote monitoring of databases via the Inter net.

        DbaDirect Inc. and its 39 employees watch 75 databases for 35 customers in Cincinnati and throughout the country from a Mission Control-like center in Florence.

        “Our business mission is to grow to 1,000 databases by July of next year,” CEO John Bostick said. “That may sound like a big number, but if you start counting how many databases big companies have throughout their organization, there are companies in Cincinnati that have 1,000 themselves.”

        Founded in January 1999, dbaDirect built its Mission Control with a venture investment from BMC Software of Houston, which has almost $2 billion in sales of software that monitors the health of large business mainframe computers.

        One of BMC's products is Patrol, which monitors the health of databases. DbaDirect built a set of tools that allows Patrol to operate over the Internet, watching databases for signs of trouble. DbaDirect also developed software that performs a kind of physical on a database, to help understand its structure and weak points.

        Mr. Bostick approached customers of his other company — Lucrum Inc. of Cincinnati, a database consulting firm — about subscribing to dbaDirect's new service. By September 1999, the company had signed up $1 million in business, he said.

        Every company needs three database administrators, or DBAs, he said: “One to go on vacation, one to go to lunch and one to be there while the other two go off and do other things. In today's market, nobody has three senior people watching one database.”

        There aren't enough people to go around. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates, for instance, that by 2005, the nation will need 95,000 computer scientists and engineers a year, but the nation now produces 25,000 a year.

        “A senior database administrator — it's a great

        career, and there's a huge shortage of those people right now,” Mr. Bostick said. “And there's predicted to be a continued shortage of those people, especially as you continue to see Microsoft, IBM and Oracle and all these companies sell more databases.”

        Said Mary Nugent, director of corporate development for BMC in Houston: “Nobody can get good IT people, especially DBAs.”

        BMC is working to adapt all its software to the Internet. It plans to invest $100 million in ventures like dbaDirect's. So far, it has placed $10 million with three firms, including dbaDirect but would not disclose the size of BMC's investment.

        “BMC intends to support this and fund it different ways,” she said. BMC took a seat on dbaDirect's board.

        The BMC investment “has allowed us to grow our marketing and sales organization faster,” Mr. Bostick said. “It's allowed us to invest in building an operation center ... and add additional people to gain critical mass of database professionals.”

        Cinergy uses dbaDirect to monitor 25 databases.

        “They keep our databases healthy,” Mr. Jones said. “They call us sometimes before we know there's a problem.”


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