Startup Spotlight Q&A: AsterionDB
AsterionDB Inc. uses the Oracle Database to migrate user assets out of the legacy, insecure file system. With AsterionDB, you can move all of those data files that are at risk to Ransomware into a secure database environment.
We had the chance to speak with founder, Steve Guilford, who has nearly 40 years of experience working in the software industry. He is fluent in all aspects of software design and implementation and holds 5 patents for technologies incorporated into AsterionDB.
How did you get started in the computer industry and involved with Oracle?
I got my start in the computer industry by almost flunking out of college as a pre-med student. I came back for my sophomore year on academic probation and decided to lighten my course load — no more calculus 9AM for me. This was in the fall of 1981 and they had just updated the computer science department — as much as it was back then — at Tulane University. So, I enrolled in the introductory course in computer programming where I learned Fortran. I’ve never used it since. But, fortunately, I noticed that playing with computers was as much fun as building model airplanes. I was hooked. Took a course in Pascal, another language I haven’t used since and got A’s in both. Mind you, I never got A’s in anything before so it seemed pretty obvious.
I decided to take a semester off between my sophomore and junior years and get a ‘summer’ job. My uncle, who had encouraged me to look into computer programming, was a programmer. He was doing some contracting work for a firm in Sherman Oaks, California and snuck me into the computer room in the afternoons. In the course of two weeks, I had taught myself COBOL on a Wang-VS. Finally, a language I would actually use. We used it to code the Y2K bug but I’ll save that for another story!
Anyways, the owner of the company saw me hanging around and said if I was going to play on his computers I might as well do something useful. That was my first job! Then, December came around and it was time to go back to college. My boss found out, called my parents and told them he needed me and what my salary was going to be. He told my parents they could send me back to college or have me move out in a year. Smart guy.
By the fall of 1984, we had picked up a project with Hughes Aircraft and I was assigned as a key programmer on what would turn out to be one of the first large scale Oracle installations in Southern California. I put together all of the user interface screens and did most of the database programming. Back then, there was no OracleForms or anything like it. Frankly, I really don’t want to go there, let's just say there was a lot of typing involved.
Describe how and when your company came to be. In other words, what were the problems you found and the ‘aha’ moment?
Coming up with a replacement for the legacy file system has required a whole series of ‘aha’ moments but if I were to single out one it was when I figured out how to make the database smarter.
‘Make the database smarter? Isn’t it smart enough?’ you might ask. Well, actually no, the database is not smart enough and here’s the reason why. Fundamentally, the database understands what structured data is: numbers, dates, times, character strings, etc. The database can work with structured data seamlessly. The database does not understand what unstructured data is.
Unstructured data is whatever the consuming program says it is. Traditionally, the database does not know what an image is, it does not know how to parse a DICOM file or a PDF document. Therefore, if the database doesn’t know what these data types are and you can’t work with them using PL/SQL, why would you even bother putting them in the database?
Having the database understand these unstructured data types allows it to manipulate and work with not just structured data but any type of data you might happen to throw at it.
Well, actually, that’s not it. What I really figured out was control telecommunications boards from PL/SQL but I digress. That product went nowhere.
What makes your company/product different in this market?
Migrating unstructured data and business logic out of the file system and into the database has profound implications.
Our customers are most excited by the retirement of legacy systems, the unification of operational tasks (backup, audit), fully integrated data-layer development and the zero-trust, highly secure architecture that AsterionDB provides.
What milestone are you most proud of so far?
Gaining the attention and interest from a highly strategic group within Oracle.
Have you pursued funding and if so, what steps did you take?
We pursed funding but it didn’t work for us.
What KPIs are you tracking that you think will lead to revenue generation/growth?
AsterionDB’s technology has been under development for a considerable amount of time. Therefore, we have a lot of marketing to catch up on. Things are complicated, obviously, by the global pandemic and lack of public events. AsterionDB has been fortunate, however, in being able to exploit our connections within Oracle as a result of our matriculation through the Oracle For Startups program. This has lead to some significant and highly strategic discussions.
How do you build and develop talent?
I have been working as a software analyst and engineer for nearly 40 years. I am fortunate to know and be working with several highly experienced technologists that provide skills that enhance my core abilities.
We look forward to teaching our new talent on how to program in The AsterionDB Way.
Have you been or are you part of a corporate startup program or accelerator? If so, which ones and what have been the benefits?
Oracle For Startups is the only program we have participated in. The benefits have been numerous. We are very pleased.
We have been granted access to high-end hardware to validate, test and benchmark our solution. We have had several internal briefings within Oracle’s business development organization. AsterionDB’s approach is gaining advocates and proponents within Oracle and we stand to benefit by having that as a foundation as we go to market.
What’s something you’re constantly thinking about?
Music. I’m a frustrated guitarist that found it easier to write code than to come up with a memorable riff.
What advice would you give to other founders?
Read this…. (as in, keep your eyes open…)
Anything else you’d like to share?
AsterionDB is founded by programmers and we create programs for other programmers.
If you want to develop with AsterionDB, you can do so for free. Get in touch with us and we’ll help you to get set up.
If you want to learn how to program computers, definitely come to us. I was self-taught and we’d love to land a valued employee that learned about programming using AsterionDB.