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Talk to most people in the database community and Sybase is not the first name that comes to their lips. And it doesn’t much matter whether you are talking about transaction processing (Sybase ASE) or data warehousing (Sybase IQ). And, in general, it tends to be the same regardless of whether those people come from the user community or from other technology vendors. However, I can’t help if it some people are myopic.
Now, it is fair to say that Sybase ASE is not the force that it once was. However, researching the event processing market is instructive. Ask the vendors in that market who they want to partner with on the data warehousing front (yes, yes, I know ASE is not the data warehousing product—bear with me) and you get two answers: IBM and Sybase. Not Oracle, not Microsoft and not Teradata. Why is that?
Well, the short answer is that the busiest market for event processing is in capital markets and, more generally, financial services. And where has Sybase ASE traditionally had a major presence: in finance. And 60% of Sybase’s IQ customers are also ASE users. In other words, while the ASE share of the market may not be growing it is certainly holding the loyalty of its customers and, moreover, Sybase IQ is capitalising on that fact. Indeed, in the latest release the two products have been brought much closer together in the sense that the look and feel of the management functionality is now virtually identical; you can use ASE stored procedures, and so on.
Of course, the other interesting thing is that 40% of Sybase IQ customers (of which there are now over 750 with more than double that number of deployments) were not previously Sybase database users. Perhaps more impressive still, IQ revenues grew 29% in 2004 and a further 35% last year. That suggests that the company has focused its message and is gaining some considerable traction. In fact, it is focusing on three (soon to be four) areas. These enterprise data warehouses for data aggregators and resellers, where the product’s multiplex architecture enables readers to be allocated to separate subscribers, which is a significant advantage; as an analytics accelerator, where the advent of appliance vendors has helped to grow the market; and as a report server where report functions are offloaded from the transaction processing system.
The fourth area is particularly interesting, since it involves both Sybase databases and event processing. Sybase has a product called the Risk Analytics Platform. This is targeted at capital markets and is based on Sybase IQ. However, it also has an in-memory version of Sybase ASE built into it, for processing real-time analytics. And the company is also reselling Applix’s TM1 as along with this to provide OLAP capability. It is not a pure-play event streaming product as it does not have that sort of architecture but with its in-memory capabilities it can still process 80,000+ transactions per second—not quite enough for algorithmic trading but enough for anything else (though it is not marketed anywhere else as yet). It is fine for things like risk management, compliance and the like (in this context it is notable that both Reuters and AleriLabs are partners of Sybase)—so it is now talking to event streaming vendors about front-ending into the Risk Analytics Platform. Interesting stuff! And there’s the possibility of the in-memory version of ASE (which is not generally available) being embedded in other application environments.
However, Sybase isn’t just moving ahead on the database front. After its recent acquisition of Solonde (the grid-based ETL vendor) the company is coming up with a much more complete data integration story: however, more about this in due course.
While Sybase has done very well with its iAnywhere products, its more traditional offerings have been, or have been perceived to have been, somewhat in the doldrums over recent years. Clearly that is or has changed and we are seeing something of a renaissance in the company’s historical heartland.