Better, faster and more affordable database applications with Devaten

TURKU, Finland. – With its Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, Finnish startup Devan takes a novel and unique approach to improving database application performance early during software development. Founder and CEO Mikko Larkela explains why this is good news for software houses that wish to develop and deliver faster, with less cost, higher quality and thus happier customers.

By Jos Schuurmans, guest writer 

Mikko Larkela,Founder & CEO of Devaten

Databases are at the core of any sizable digitisation project. Whether it’s a medical database in a healthcare organisation, a bank’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database, or the claims database of an insurance company: when new applications are developed or updates are released, 70 percent of performance issues are caused by errors or inefficiencies in the code of the database.

In many cases, the software initially works according to the functional requirements and is green-lighted for delivery, but it may slow down over time and with new releases, due to database performance issues.

Sure, every software house routinely carries out performance tests between development and delivery. And yet, some inefficiencies are often not discovered as soon as they could, which results in unnecessary, costly profiling, refactoring, development iterations and less than optimal customer satisfaction.

A focus on use cases

Devaten is in the process of patenting its innovation. It was cooked up when Larkela brought his business idea to Turku Business Region’s BusinessUp startup accelerator programme in 2018.

The aim was to commercialise what he calls his “consultancy toolbox”, a set of tools and technologies that he had been developing since he set out to advise software application developers a few years prior.

Unlike most testing tools, rather than benchmarking overall database performance during set periods of time, Devaten looks at specific use cases.

It analyzes and stores performance metrics from all executed test use cases and shows them on a dashboard for each case. If there is a difference compared to the baseline execution, an alarm is raised. Devaten also shows a performance history of different test use cases and provides data to assist in analysis and performance improvements for the application under development.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Larkela used to work at a leading Finnish digital services and software firm, testing large database applications for clients in the financial services and healthcare sectors.

He would test new software versions for performance just before delivery to those clients. One of the things that surprised him was how often new releases had to be returned after testing – or even after roll-out – causing delays in project deliveries as well as reclamations. He figured that, ideally, performance testing should happen earlier in the development process, and that it should be done differently.

Spotting potential issues early on

The software might, for example, function according to specifications and still a client might complain after implementation because it would run much more slowly than a previous version.

“A good example is the so-called ‘N+1 problem’,” Larkela explains. “In ORM tools, which stands for Object-Relational Mapping, if you add many child objects, the tool will run table-by-table queries and those are going to slow down the whole system. With our solution, a developer would notice this quickly because Devaten counts the SQL queries to detect any N+1 problem.”

Another example is ‘lock waits’, whereby a user cannot access certain information from the database or certain features of the application because those resources are currently locked while access is reserved to a previous user. This may be a legitimate and even necessary feature, but sometimes such locks are unnecessarily long or they don’t unlock automatically when they should. This, too, is a use case that can slow down the entire system but may be hard to identify because there is no actual faulty code.

The point is that with load testing or batch run testing of use cases like these, during development rather than after release, a lot of time and money can be saved.

“When you spot the problem right away, it’s much faster to fix,” Larkela says. “These cost factors come into play in a big way when the database is at least 10 gigabytes in size. That’s where IT projects can save 10 to 20 percent in cost by using our tools.”

We’re all moving to the cloud

As a SaaS product, Devaten offers a downloadable agent and a dashboard in the cloud, to show developers the results of its performance tests in real time. It’s a freemium pricing model with trial versions for various configurations and a free version for SQL databases. For enterprise customers Larkela also offers the option to set up the whole system at their premises.

The move to the cloud is a megatrend among Devaten’s prospects. Larkela expects that more and more large database applications will reside with cloud infrastructure providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure.

For this reason, integration with these cloud solutions is a strategic focus for Devaten . Next to that, through the REST API (Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface) made available by Devaten , clients can integrate the monitoring data to their own dashboard applications.

Although large digital services companies and software testing firms are the ones that will benefit most from Devaten’s offering, Larkela did not start out running down their doors. Instead he has been bootstrapping and growth hacking his company with a focus on customer intelligence, beta-testing and conversations with early adopters.

Close to two dozen developers are currently beta-testing Devaten in locations all over the world: from Brazil to Iran, from Turkey to India, and from Canada to the Netherlands. It is through these engineers and system architects that Larkela has been able to pinpoint customer needs and validate his solution.

A tool to exceed customers’ expectations

His main goal so far has been to learn from early adopters about what customers need and how they experience core functions and the early UI (User Interface) of the product. Now that a fully-fledged SaaS version with downloadable trial agents has been released, it’s time to start getting noticed by business leaders.

Says Larkela: “Even though these developers may not have the authority to purchase the product themselves, they understand what it’s about and how it can benefit their organization, and purchase decision makers tend to listen to their recommendations.”

The conventional practice is to look for inefficiencies in the code when performance issues come to the surface. This may involve reading and checking millions of lines of code while looking for the culprit. Devaten prevents such time-consuming corrections and the negative customer experience by automatically monitoring relevant use cases in real time during development.

That’s exciting for engineers and system architects, and it should be equally exciting for managers who need to deliver high-quality software solutions in order to meet and exceed their customers’ demands.

For those software houses that wish to develop and deliver faster, with less cost, higher quality and happier customers as a result, Devaten is where to look next.

Visit Devaten for specs, screenshots, and a free test trial.

Or jump on a chat with Mikko Larkela via Devaten-Online Demo to discuss database application development and find out how much Devaten can help you improve what you deliver. 

You may be surprised by what you’re capable of.