It’s not what you think – the hidden jewel for the near term may just be SQL Anywhere. Read on. Disclosure: I worked at Sybase in the last millennium, when it hit the wall at $1B the first time and bounced. Over the next few years, Oracle dramatically outdistanced itself, in large part, as it turned out, because of the massive opportunity presented by SAP. Thousands of huge installs atop the Oracle DBMS, and not one with Sybase. Why? Because of a technology disagreement. SAP wanted row-level locking. Sybase’s answer: “Let us tell you why you’re wrong to want it.” Leaving aside the lesson to be learned from that one, let’s talk about how much the newly acquired Sybase database portfolio does for SAP. I’m leaving the best for last, because all the chatter has been about ASE and IQ, but read to the end.
First: will Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) have an impact on SAP revenue anytime soon? Can SAP use ASE to impact Oracle? SAP is struggling to keep pace as the chart here (from the Economist post) shows, and any front in a broad battle is useful. So how much direct impact will ASE have?
- Not on the ERP side. Porting to ASE will take SAP time. It can be done; the fact that it runs on SQL Server, built on code Sybase provided to Microsoft while I was there, makes it clear that it can be done. [edit 5/14 removed reference to SQL Server’s installed base] And once it’s ready to go, how soon will customers port from Oracle to Sybase? That will be years, literally. If they decided to start the project the next day it became available, the port would still take a long time, cost a lot of money and resources, and disrupt many things. When they get their Oracle renewal numbers, they might then assess the costs – and still decide that it will be too expensive. This applies to Microsoft too, but the license/maintenance differential will be even less of a motivator there.
- What about ByDesign? Same answer. Business ByDesign, SAP’s in-memory play whose new version is to be unveiled next week, is a different code line and a bigger volume play than
traditional ERP going forward, and Paul Hamerman at Forrester thinks this might be the way SAP might go, though he doesn’t mention it in his blog post specifically. Only time will tell, but SAP needs to stem the erosion and grow its mid-market base, and this may be the play. If ASE’s in-memory technology, which is relatively new, can make an impact here, or, for that matter above – SAP’s own much-discussed in-memory play is mostly possibilities, not product, today – that might have an impact. But again: soon? No.
- How about BW? IQ maybe, but ASE, No. [edited 5/14, removing factual error] SAP is close to delivering on its “BW on Teradata” project, soon to come to market. That project has been underway over the past two years; there has been a great deal of investment in it, and pilot customers are already in the wild. BW also runs on Oracle, DB2, and SQL Server, with its default being SAP’s own MaxDB, the result of work with Software AG some years ago. Where will Sybase’s leading analytic DBMS, Sybase IQ, fit? That’s not yet clear, but it has enormous upside in SAP accounts if it’s sold aggressively. It’s done very well despite a relatively quiet marketing effort over the years, which I have often talked about, most recently here. I believe that play will happen fast, and IQ will be a supported choice fairly soon; its relationship to MaxDB is to be determined. ASE? Not so much.
- Will ASE make money anyway? Yes. It has continued to grow for the last several years, adding new name accounts – and not just in China, although it’s done quite well there. SAP pointed out on their public call yesterday, Sybase will make money for SAP even before synergies click in, and ASE is one reason.
Second: what about the Sybase IQ opportunity? Here, as I said above, the opportunity is far more obvious, and I suspect we’ll see action soon. IQ is the most widely installed columnar engine for analytics in the marketplace, the most mature, and the one to beat. In my discussion with Vishal Sikka, I asked about the opportunity to use Sybase’s powerful heterogeneous data movement capability with its industry leading Replication Server product, propagating data via its new direct connection to Sybase IQ. And putting Business Objects in front of that. He lit up. “You get it,” he said. Pricing and packaging? Integrated bundles? Of course. The possibilities are rich and complex – and they will take a while. But that is a big play.
Third – how about mobility? Yes. This is the big one. SQL Anywhere, in play in 81 of the Fortune 100, has been the leading mobile database for years, with 10 million deployed seats. It’s already a big OEM play, and with the new release 12 about to ship (beta download here), it adds functionality that SAP will use to good advantage, as will the 1500 partners that embed it in their offerings today (companies like Cisco, Symantec and Intuit, for example). SQL Anywhere already claims some 20,000 developers who will continue to build on new features, developing, say, data-driven spatial applications for smartphones, synchronizing on-device spatial data with spatial databases, application servers and enterprise systems – huge opportunity within the SAP base. SQL Anywhere has iPhone support in beta now; one can easily see the fit there – not to mention the iPad opportunity. It’s already in the right spaces: mobile commerce, utilities, telecommunications, manufacturing and government – all core SAP markets. In terms of immediate available impact for SAP’s applications, we’re likely to see this happen earlier than anything else. And it could be massive.
Some great posts: Dave Kellogg, Curt Monash, Dana Gardner, Dennis Howlett, show the skepticism and concerns we all have about execution, and raise points about important dimensions. They’re all well worth your time. [ edit 5/14 – add Jim Kobielus =- a very solid piece]
Disclosure: Sybase and SAP are clients of IT Market Strategy.