SAP is acquiring Sybase. On the conference call SAP said Sybase would be run as a separate division of SAP (no surprise). Most of the focus was on Sybase’s mobile technology, which is forecast at >$400 million in 2010 revenues (which would be 30%ish of the total). My quick reactions include:
- Sybase’s main businesses are:
- Classic OLTP DBMS (Sybase ASE, for Adapative Server Enterprise, unless I’ve missed yet another name change).
- Analytic technology — mainly Sybase IQ, but more generally Sybase RAP.
- Mobile technology. (The frequently renamed small DBMS SQL Anywhere was the foundational product of and still is included in the mobile division.)
- SAP’s thoughts on in-memory database management are interesting. However, I think SAP’s oft-repeated claim that it has a lot of important in-memory database technology to bring to Sybase (or for that matter SAP customers) is mainly smoke and mirrors. Cool data access methods, good niche database products, and broadly applicable multi-domain DBMS innovations are three different things. Granting that SAP probably has the first and thinks it has the second is not the same as giving it much credence for having the third.
- SAP claims that, 15 years after its refusal to support Sybase turned Sybase into a DBMS also-ran, it by now is “relatively simple” to port SAP’s apps to Sybase ASE, and that they will make that happen. I actually believe that SAP’s apps will soon run on Sybase ASE, where by “soon” I mean “in a couple of years for no-apologies general availability.” (Certifying a DBMS for SAP is a long process.) The main missing features — e.g., row-level locking — were already put into Sybase back in the last millenium. Nor could there be fundamental architectural problems that keep SAP from supporting Sybase ASE, or else SAP couldn’t have supported Microsoft SQL Server (which, long ago, was a Sybase fork).
- I don’t see any market or competitive dynamics that would lead the SAP acquisition to hurt Sybase’s ASE or mobile businesses. General merger management mishegas is, of course, always a possibility.
- SAP Business Objects partners with Sybase IQ’s competitors. That could be a problem. However, coopetition is pretty strong in the business intelligence market. I don’t think any of SAP Business Objects, IBM Cognos, or Oracle Business Intelligence are much held back from partnering by competitive dislike of their parent companies.
- The rest of SAP might be able to drum up some extra business for Sybase IQ.
- It would be natural for IBM/Cognos to now buy a columnar DBMS of its own. Vertica is an obvious first choice. ParAccel would surely come much cheaper. Since ParAccel has little chance of surviving as an independent company — too immature and too little differentiation to overcome that — I’d expect ParAccel’s board to jump at the chance to sell out.
- It would be interesting if SAP Business Objects would revive the CEP-based BI idea.
- I gather Sybase’s AnswersAnywhere concept network/object model-based natural language/speech recognition technology never went anywhere. Unsurprising (it seemed like it needed too much hand-building to scale semantically), but regrettable even so.
- I don’t see anything in this acquisition that would revive PowerBuilder (Sybase’s Visual Basic competitor), Sybase’s CASE (Computer-Aided Software Engineering) tools, and so on.
- And on the personal side — I’ll probably lose Sybase as a customer due to this merger, but it could have been worse. A lot of vendors smaller than Sybase are bigger customers for Monash Research.
Edit: Right after I posted this, I saw email from Sybase clarifying that Sybase’s in-memory technology, while slightly influenced by some ANTs IP Sybase bought non-exclusive rights to, is essentially home-grown. That’s what I thought, but the call sounded like it was saying something different.
Further coverage of SAP/Sybase:
- SAP believes in database proliferation
- More quick reactions to SAP/Sybase
- Technical basics of Sybase IQ