Last week, the majority of commentary of Sybase was all about SAP's push to expand into the burgeoning mobile market. The ASA product line has definitely made inroads which will give SAP an immediate leg up,, the real key to this new relationship is this: the business information market.
SAP's purchase of Sybase was probably more of a defensive move to shore up as an alternative to Oracle's database products. In fact, there is a general misconception that the majority of SAP instance are on Oracle's systems, SAP has a significant SQL Server install base. Sybase IQ, Sybase's columular database is a much more valuable asset to SAP than what they'd like everyone to perceive. Not only does Sybase provide SAP valuable access to previously untapped financial services customers, but for the first time, also it gives SAP its own database product so it is no longer so exposes to co-opetition on a day to day basis. But what about the current SAP customers who operate on Oracle or SQL Server databases? Will SAP's new crush force these customers to choose between loyalty to SAP or to Oracle?
The companies that wish to remain on an Oracle database may find a tough road ahead of them. It's possible that post-acquisition, SAP will push customers to migrate to Sybase by lowering the price point for the database, driving a tough bargain for customers who wish to remain on Oracle's databases. For Oracle loyalists, fear not: Oracle is not going away. It will just become more imperative that the glue that these customers use to hold the application and database pieces together are designed to complement these heterogeneous environments.
There's no simple swap from Oracle to Sybase (although arguably SQL Server to Sybase is likely to be less painful), so SAP customers that make this transition are in for a difficult journey outside of the huge range of issues associated with transitioning database technology and associated support staff from one vendor to another. Reducing friction associated with this transition starts with making sure that the data the "plumbing" that connects the SAP application stack to these databases - are not only completely adhere to the contracts dictated by the APIs and standards that govern them, but are also as platform-agnostic as possible. Better still, they should consider a vendor of data connectivity components that supports all of the APIs, platforms, databases, and database versions that exist within their infrastructure. By doing so, transitioning from Oracle to Sybase can take place as fast or as slowly as needed, with less hassle.
The SAP/Sybase acquisition is the one of the final pieces of the puzzle in a major industry consolidation. As these mega-vendors build out their stacks and approach the promise of real-time analytics, the next logical step may be to acquire products that enable companies to access non-relational data stores in unstructured environments, such as the cloud. If companies are able to tap and process both structured and unstructured data in real-time, then they can come closer to achieving the goal of operational responsiveness.
The new SAP – Sybase relationship in another mile stone as the new landscape of major industry consolidation around business information, but it is not where the story ends. As interest, need, and demand for real-time analytics increases, these vendors will be under pressure to deliver faster access not just to relational data stores, but also to non-relational stores as well as those in unstructured environments, such as the cloud. Building these applications on a solid foundation of high performance data connectivity will be the key to making this work and ensuring that customers don't have to choose sides in any breakup.
Links: NYT article about the deal: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/13/technology/13sap.html?scp=3&sq=sybase&st=cse
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