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When Sybase met SAP

Not that you would notice if you happened to visit either vendors' home pages today, but yes Sybase did indeed enter into a deal with SAP today (actually it was last night) to the tune of US$5.8bn.
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor on

Not that you would notice if you happened to visit either vendors' home pages today, but yes Sybase did indeed enter into a deal with SAP today (actually it was last night) to the tune of US$5.8bn. Suddenly it all makes sense, let me explain.

I shared a few early morning Tweets with members of the UK's technology press glitterati this morning once we first stated seeing this news. Comments such as, "who cares if two old dinosaurs lock horns," would sum up the kind of sentiment I was hearing.

Far from being an employee of Sybase, I have sat on the board of the company's independent user group ISUG the company's independent user group ISUG and have shared industry friends with the company for most of this last decade. I have also gladly attended most of the company's TechWave developer events during that time.

All this really affords me is an understanding of the company's acquisition history; it's technical development in terms of its core database and its rapid application development tool. I suppose it also gives me an insight into the company psyche and personality too.

… and I could not see this one coming.

Yes, Sybase CEO John Chen is overly concerned with his company's financial position. Every year at the press and analyst lunch I go to Mr Chen just stops short of performing a silver service and tableside drinks buffet car for all the analysts. He sometimes remembers to ask the press if they have any questions at the end, but not always. He loves analysts and he loves financial analysts even more.

But heck, why shouldn't he? The company has just recorded roughly eight successful quarters of positive growth and Chen has been lauded as a 'corporate turnaround specialist' as a result.

So why do people still ask, "whatever happened to Sybase?" Well, it's probably because the company's success stems from its work in the mobile backbone space in the USA, particularly with regard to SMS. Equally, Sybase drives a huge chunk of the databases inside the American's defence-focused (sorry guys, defense) data banks. They are also massive in financial IT too - and all three of these areas are not typically too newsworthy though are they? I mean, they're almost hush hush.

So will Chen bow to a new master in SAP or will he seek to form a "Nick and Dave" style coalition? Rumours suggest that Sybase will continue to operate as it was and make as much of its Sybase 365 mobile brand as it can. As for who gets to be the grand fromage…

Well SAP AG Chief Executive Officer Leo Apotheker unexpectedly had to catch a very long bus ride somewhere in Feb of this year leaving SAP with its own double CEO coalition in the shape of Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe. So will John Chen form some sort of database dreamer's ménage a trios and buy a big bed so they can all live happily together?

Of course it's really about the tools, the developers, the DBAs, the operations teams and the more interesting leading edge areas of data-centric software engineering such as in-memory database technology and the envelope that this is currently pushing.

Was Sybase UK available for comment? I didn't check as I'm in the process of setting up a briefing on the Sybase IQ business intelligence Data Warehousing and Mining Tool for next week with the US team. So maybe it will be business as usual after all.

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