Data may be king, but it is only valuable if you can do something useful with it. Ascend emerged from stealth today with $19 million in capital in its pocket and the goal of simplifying a key part of data handling with its Autonomous Dataflow Service.

The primary pain point Ascend is addressing is the perilous nature of data pipelines and the amount of labor and maintenance they require of data engineers. The company promises that its service lets engineers create pipelines using 85% less code, with 90% less time between prototyping and production and a “zero maintenance burden.”

Such promised efficiency gains have obvious face value, but they also speak to the issue of having enough data engineers in the first place. Although the job is apparently in less demand now than a year ago (or more depending on which report you follow), finding qualified data professionals can be a challenge. Putting them on tedious though important tasks is a waste of time and talent, which has led to the launch of other enhanced efficiency tools, like MissingLink.

Ascend automated dataflows

Ascend spelled out the four components of Autonomous Dataflow Service:

  • Fully managed, portable cloud service: Ascend deploys and runs seamlessly across Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform. Customers have the option of fully managed SaaS or private deployments, and all development in Ascend is fully portable across clouds.
  • Elastic data fabric: Ascend runs an auto-scaled microservices architecture built on Kubernetes and Apache Spark for on-demand processing and auto-orchestration to handle near-limitless scale.
  • Multi-language: Ascend supports SQL and Python (Lambda functions and PySpark), with more language support coming soon. Languages and frameworks can be used interchangeably to build sophisticated pipelines with full lineage, and dependency management. All development is operationalized by default, with no need to recode logic or manually schedule runs.
  • Dataflow control plane: The powerhouse of Ascend keeps all development continuously running through the combination of declarative configurations and automation to manage the underlying cloud infrastructure, optimize pipelines, and eliminate maintenance across the entire data lifecycle.

Financially backed by Accel, Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and 8V, Ascend was founded by Sean Knapp, a Google veteran and cofounder of Ooyala. The company’s advisors include the likes of Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott and Scott McNealy, the former CEO of Sun Microsystems.

“I founded Ascend to fix data pipelines, a critical and ubiquitous component of data architectures that have been neglected until now,” Knapp said in a press release. “By streamlining data pipeline development and automatically optimizing its ongoing performance, we have changed the game for data engineers and the data consumers that depend on them.”

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