SAP's Sybase boost to mobility

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Integration to meet market demands in mobility and data management has been the work plan for US enterprise infrastructure and wireless software provider Sybase and SAP (NYSE: SAP) since the latter acquired the former for US$5.8bn last year.

Contrary to customary concerns after an acquisition, the companies have managed to integrate their areas of expertise and work together to harness the benefits of their joint efforts.

"In fact because of the acquisition we're now actually hiring more people than our original plan for 2011 and 2012," Peter Thawley, senior director and architect for the CTO group at Sybase, told BNamericas. "Most tangibly we see many areas of interest that really spurred the acquisition."

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The first was that SAP needed its applications to be more user friendly, and to solve this problem the company decided to move the interface of the application away from laptops and computers to mobile devices. This was considered not just an opportunity to develop a user interface that was easy to use, but also the recognition of a trend seen in almost all classes of workers, according to Thawley.

"So mobility was certainly an area that Sybase started investing in 2001-02. We have made a lot of progress in building out a platform that allows you to write the code once and then deploy that code on all kinds of devices, from iPhones and BlackBerry to Windows Mobile and Symbian," he added. "And so that was clearly an area that SAP was very interested in, strategically."

A second area has been data management, where SAP had some challenges promoting the idea of high-speed analytics, and recently released the high-performance analytic appliance (HANA), based on in-memory computing.

Sybase has been building high performance databases since the mid-1980s, "so we have very strong heritage. So we're very pleased to work on a converged architecture for what we think is the next generation of information management platforms," Thawley noted. "SAP sees a lot of opportunities there."

Regarding customers, both companies have benefited from access to new vertical segments. Before the acquisition, SAP was very strong in manufacturing and retail, while Sybase was strong in financial services, telecommunications and governments. "There's a good balance there now," Thawley said. "We now have access to a pool of customers that we really have never been able to get in front of."


Though the cloud is really important deployment architecture for many customers, it's certainly not the only option, Thawley asserts.

Besides traditional security concerns, the cloud has to struggle with all sorts of issues, and operational problems are one of them. Operational issues with cloud include inputting and outputting data, and the fact that data in the cloud becomes a version of the original, so it now has to be managed as a separate instance of that information.

"Multinational companies have started to realize how difficult it is to manage data, even within your own company, when it starts leaving the original source," Thawley said. "You have this sort of data quality issue that starts to worsen. So that's something people will have to deal with."

In addition, the connotation of the cloud as a public infrastructure has also concerned customers. This has spurred the emergence of hybrid or community clouds, for organizations with common interests.


Virtualization is an area where there is still a lot of work to do, according to Thawley. "If you talk to customers, they would tell you it's easy to virtualize small systems, but it's not quite as easy to virtualize big massive mission critical systems."

In addition, a concept there is much talk about in the BI segment is data lineage, the executive added. This has to do with understanding how data or metadata changes as it passes through different systems. It's about input into data quality, and how reliable the interpretation of data can be, "so I think data lineage is becoming really important, and metadata is another big area for Sybase."