Well, I'm at the New York Stock Exchange, where Sybase is hosting the launch of its time-series version of RAP and the security is a bit OTT (although it is pretty close to where the World Trade Centre once stood). It's a very last-century place—surely, real trading happens in Cyberspace these days? But I'm sure that dealing with time-series analytics (and rather more than just replaying old transactions for compliance or "what-if" analyses) is becoming an important part of financial-services data management.
Anyway, no doubt either Philip Howard or I will report in detail on what RAP can do sometime. Sybase's database technology business seems to be extremely healthy.
But for now, I just want to highlight a couple of snippets from Sybase's speakers at this event. First, Raj Nathan (Sybase's SVP and Chief Marketing Officer) described a new type of customer that is, in effect, a "virtual employee" of the vendor and which Sybase is targeting with its mobile e-commerce offerings. These customers are driven by consumer and games-playing experience—and expect work applications to be as easy to set up and use as, say, setting up an account with Amazon's on-line bookshop. Which makes sense to me—and dealing with Internet savvy customers who are used to doing business with companies like Amazon, often on beta Web 2.0 software, will be a real challenge for most IT departments. The day of IT as the people who say NO is over when people see Amazon and Google, say, "just doing it"; and when you can self-provision a multigigabyte gmail service at the click of a mouse (and without paying for it). This doesn't mean that IT Governance has gone away—but it surely changes how you achieve it (I'll be writing more about this, no doubt). And Sybase appears to be thinking about how its customers may be changing, which is good; and although this isn't unique, it seems to be thinking more radically than many established enterprise vendors.
The next snippet arises from someone asking John Chen (Sybase's CEO and Chairman) about the secret of Sybase' success. Well, keeping its customers (whatever they look like) happy is a big part of it, he says. Think of a customer ringing up and saying "you corrupted my database", There are a thousand possible reasons for database corruption, most of them nothing to do with Sybase's technology. Regardless of which, Sybase's policy is to take ownership of the issue and solve the problem for its customer—instead if first worrying about who is to blame (and Sybase won't be using the dreaded questions "have you changed anything" and "what third-party software have you installed" as a cop out either). Customers like that.
Then, Chen claims he focuses on making real money for his shareholders not on some notional "profitability". This helps ensure that Sybase remains focussed and helps it to concentrate on maintaining its delivery capability, rather than just on making the sales numbers. He's also seems proud of Sybase's low staff turnover—and the loyalty of Sybase's existing customers returning for more Sybase technology.
All of this rather reads like common sense to me—but just how common is "common sense" in our industry? Hopefully a return to comon sense will be one result of the current recession.