PocketDBA lets database chiefs work at remote site
Wireless system ends woes of onsite troubleshooting

Traditionally, database administrators--known in the trade as DBAs--have been "handcuffed" to their desks while in the office and, when on their own time, "chained" to the office via their pagers and cell phones.

At a moment's notice when they are off-duty, if databases start to go down or become sluggish, they have to field a team back in the office to diagnose and treat a problem. Since downtime on corporate databases, such as for airline or brokerages, costs up to $100,000 a minute, their companies keep DBAs on call.

Enter Ari Kaplan, a guru on Oracle Corp.'s popular corporate database program and chief executive of PocketDBA Systems, a year-old Chicago start-up.

PocketDBA is selling new software that enables DBAs to handle emergencies or routine maintenance remotely. They just whip out a handheld device using the Palm Operating System, lift the antenna to connect to the wireless network, and then begin troubleshooting, tuning and fixing the database.

Kaplan, 31, who has developed software for major league baseball scouts to evaluate players, has used PocketDBA while sitting in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

Rich Niemiec, president of the 10,000-member, Chicago-based International Oracle Users Group-Americas, said, "There's been no way DBAs can access their databases from the zoo--until now."

Niemiec, who is chief executive officer of TUSC, an Oracle consulting company in Lombard, said PocketDBA has broken new ground with a product that is well designed, intuitive for DBAs and has excellent graphics.

Kaplan's background allowed him to recognize the need and to develop software that merged databases from Oracle, which has 40 percent of the database market, with handheld computers. A former Oracle employee, he developed databases for the U.S. military and major companies, including Hallmark, Merck and the Chicago Board Options Exchange, and he has three books on Oracle--best sellers within their field--to his credit.

He also was an Oracle developer for U.S. Robotics, the former Chicago area company that introduced the Palm Pilot.

The remote connection permits the DBA to see who is using a database, to make changes in passwords to enable staffers to gain access to the system and also provides an "X-ray" view of the availability of memory.

Kaplan said the database connections with the software are secure and cannot be breached over the Internet.

PocketDBA, which has 20 employees, charges $6,000 for a single license for a database. The rate decreases for companies that license it for multiple databases. PocketDBA's customers include Verizon Wireless, and the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office.

Tal Schwartz, 31, co-founder and chief financial officer of PocketDBA Systems, who became friends with Kaplan while they were students at the California Institute of Technology, said the company plans to expand its software to databases other than Oracle's and to other types of corporate software.

Schwartz said the company has received seed funding from angel investors, including Patrick Arbor, former chairman of the Chicago Board of Trade.

Jeremy Wechsler, director of database applications at, said, unlike some other DBAs, he can make changes to his company's database from a computer linked to the Net from home.

He said PocketDBA comes in handy for him while he's away from home.

"I was out to dinner and fixed a problem [with PocketDBA] while sitting at the table," he said. "You can handle most database problems that way."

* * *

A passion for data leads exec on hunt

Chicago entrepreneur Ari Kaplan's passions are databases, baseball statistics and investigating the disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat credited with saving the lives of 100,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.

Kaplan, 31, has used databases in his personal and professional pursuits.

As an Oracle database administrator, he helped establish and run database services for Fortune 500 companies. His new company, PocketDBA Systems has built software that enables database administrators to monitor and fix their databases remotely over handheld devices.

He also built databases and software used by one in four major league baseball teams to make decisions on acuiring and trading players. The transplanted New Jersey native's software is used by his now-beloved Chicago Cubs as well as by the St. Louis Cardinals and the Baltimore Orioles.

Kaplan's work on baseball stats resulted in his hitting one out of the park at his alma mater, California Institute of Technology.

During Caltech's centennial celebration in 1997, the school named him as an Alumni of the Decade. That put him in the company of honorees from previous decades that included Linus Pauling, the two-time Nobel Prize winner; legendary film director Frank Capra, and Harrison Schmitt, the Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator.

Kaplan's other passion is looking into the disappearance of his hero, Wallenberg. He has made 10 trips into Russia, using a database program he developed to follow the movement of prisoners through the gulag.

May 21, 2001

Back to Ari Kaplan's Home Page


is looking into the disappearance of his hero, Wallenberg. He has made 10 trips into Russia, using a database program he developed to follow the movement of prisoners through the gulag.

May 21, 2001

Back to Ari Kaplan's Home Page