SAP, Sybase lay out tech road maps

Details of their plans for mobile applications, analytics and data management will be revealed

SAP and Sybase officials gathered in Boston on Thursday to reveal how they plan to bring together their respective technologies in the areas of mobility, analytics and enterprise information management.

SAP has consistently cited Sybase's mobile middleware as a key reason for the acquisition, which closed in July. Along with Sybase, which is to be run as an independent unit, within the next nine months SAP intends to build out 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, according to a statement.

The goal is to give customers real-time visibility into their businesses, with information that is "fresh, not one day old, one week old ... on any device, anywhere you are," said SAP CTO Vishal Sikka in an interview prior to the event.

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, co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe said during the event. "It's about using the mobile device as a front end," surfacing business data from back-end systems, he said.

SAP's own Project Gateway, which makes it easy to "mobilize" its Business Suite ERP (enterprise resource planning) suite, will work alongside Sybase's mobile middleware, according to Sikka.

Partners will figure greatly into SAP's mobility strategy, and customers can expect many industry-specific apps as well.

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

However, the strategy will be led by a team of executives from both Sybase and SAP, the makeup of which will be announced shortly, according to SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott.

It was decided that Sybase would be run as a separate division in order to preserve "the same culture that has been successful," and thereby keep customers happy, said Sybase CEO John Chen.

There is also a strategic advantage to the arrangement, Snabe said.

"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, 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, he said.

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.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service
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