Sybase and SAP: the unanswered questions

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SAP has announced its intention to acquire Sybase. Now, there are two major parts to Sybase: its information management products and its mobile computing. There are some other bits, like PowerBuilder, but these are the main two.

In its press release SAP makes much of the complementary nature of Sybase’s mobile computing and, while I am no expert in this space, I can see that the two companies could well be synergistic in this area. But there are big questions around information management.

There are two elements of information management that are highlighted in the press release. The first is the deployment of Sybase’s complex event processing (CEP) capabilities outside of the capital markets sector, where Sybase is currently focused, which is a move with which I heartily concur. The second is the discussion of the use of SAP in-memory technology to enhance Sybase’s existing capabilities. But the Sybase RAP (real-time analytics processing) product already has in-memory capabilities built around an in-memory version of Sybase ASE. And I would be surprised (very surprised) if Sybase didn’t have other in-memory developments of its own in the labs. So this is the first area where I would raise a question.

More profound, however, is what SAP is going to do with Sybase ASE and Sybase IQ. Is it going to port R/3 to Sybase ASE? If so, is it going to aggressively market this as an option for its enterprise applications? And, if that is the case, then Oracle, Microsoft and IBM are not going to be very happy – though I’m sure that SAP won’t necessarily mind about that. On the other hand, it could certainly give a new lease of life to ASE.

In so far as Sybase IQ is concerned what will be the position with respect to SAP BW? Will one replace the other? I can see the sense in replacing BW with IQ but not the other way around. On the other hand I can’t see BW disappearing so more likely is that Sybase IQ will be an option as a part of BW. But despite the fact that BW does have some column-based capabilities nowadays it is still, essentially, row-based. So including IQ would require some major engineering.

Then there is the relationship between Sybase and SAP Business Objects. Like Business Objects Sybase will continue to operate as an independent company. Unlike Business Objects Sybase may find it more difficult to market into the SAP user base, in so far as information management goes. The most obvious exception, apart from CEP, will be Sybase IQ except that that competes with SAP BW, which isn’t going to please the SAP sales force.

Anyway, back to Business Objects. No doubt they will have an entry to Sybase IQ sites, which will be bad for MicroStrategy, which has a close relationship with Sybase. However, there will also be issues with Business Objects. For example, Sybase has been investing significantly in Sybase ETL recently and it also has data federation capabilities, both of which Business Objects also offers. Will these continue in parallel or will they be merged or Sybase’s capabilities submerged. Conversely, PowerDesigner and Sybase Replicator are both potentially complementary to the Business Objects portfolio.

So, there are a number of areas in which it is by no means clear in which direction this combined company will go. And, as is the way of these things, we will have to wait until after the completion of the acquisition, before we hear answers.