SAP execs outline plans for Sybase

Will focus on Mobile; and on certifying Sybase database for use with SAP Business Suite of ERP software

SAP executives today outlined the company's strategy for the recently acquired Sybase, which includes the creation of a mobile platform that can run on-premises or in the cloud, connects to every application and is compatible with "all major" mobile operating systems and devices.

SAP is intent on delivering new mobile products "in a fluid manner," and "no additional bureaucracy" has been added to the development process, said SAP CTO Vishal Sikka during a press event in Boston.

Sybase and SAP have a head start on the mobility front, having already co-developed a number of applications. That work will "dramatically accelerate" now that the acquisition is complete, and new mobile applications are coming soon, Sikka said.

SAP's strategy does not involve porting its enterprise applications to mobile devices, said co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe during the event. "It's about using the mobile device as a front end," surfacing business data from back-end systems, he said.

The executives confirmed that Sybase will continue to be run separately from the parent organization. Sybase CEO John Chen said that decision was made in order to preserve "the same culture that has been successful," and thereby keep customers happy.

SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe also cited a strategic advantage to keeping the units separate.

"Sybase goes into a market that is very different from SAP today, so with this model we have the broadest opportunity possible," he said.

In addition, Snabe noted that Sybase has a strong foothold in growing markets like China, which could help SAP ramp up sales of its Business ByDesign on-demand ERP suite there.

One big question is how much SAP and Sybase's mobile applications will cost customers, and how they will be licensed. "Suffice to say, there will be approaches that will be in the best interests of our customers. We'll be smart on the licensing," McDermott said. That means both casual and power users will be accommodated, he added.

The Sybase acquisition will result in other developments beyond mobile software, according to SAP.

For one, work is under way to certify Sybase's Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) database for use with Business Suite. That work should be complete in the first half of next year, according to Sikka. He noted that SAP already supports a series of database platforms and stressed the difficulty of certifying one to run with Business Suite.

But there has been no decision made as to whether SAP will also certify older ERP releases such as R/3, Sikka said. "We're thinking about it."

SAP also intends to port its Business Warehouse, Business Objects Data Services and BI (business intelligence) software products to ASE.

Despite these plans, ASE will not be meant to supercede SAP's own MaxDB database, Sikka said. There are several thousand SAP customers using MaxDB, and the technology is also figuring into the company's upcoming analytic appliances, he added. "The world is big enough for all these innovations."

To that end, there are no plans to phase out any Sybase products, according to Sikka. "Period. Absolutely not."

However, some of SAP's own mobile middleware technologies will end up folded into Sybase's, he added. In addition, the companies intend to add in-memory computing capabilities across their data management portfolios.

Sikka also demonstrated an upcoming application that used some of Sybase's CEP (complex event processing) capabilities to deliver real-time information from oil rigs through dashboards and charts.

Overall, the event helped SAP and Sybase reiterate why they believe the acquisition made sense for both sides, according to 451 Group analyst China Martens. But some questions remain "on precisely how technologies will be integrated and more importantly, in areas of overlap, how long technologies will co-exist before SAP picks a winner," she said.

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Chris Kanaracus

Computerworld (US)
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