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Author's profile photo Rob Verschoor

Sybase impressions from SAP TechEd 2010

(originally published at in October 2010; moved to SCN in November 2012)

Even if you’ve only loosely followed developments around Sybase, it’s still pretty likely that you noticed Sybase being acquired by SAP recently.
Yes, Sybase is now part of the largest application software company in the world.    Even though I’ve gotten used to it now (and I even have an SAP email address in addition to my Sybase email) I must say I’m still pretty excited about the acquisition, and I see lots of opportunities for the Sybase infrastructure products making their way into the SAP technology stack.  
Some of the things known so far:

  • SAP Business Suite (formerly known as R/3, the classic SAP ERP system) will run on Sybase ASE sometime in 2011
  • there will be closer integration between IQ and Business Objects (which was also acquired by SAP a few years ago)
  • the Sybase mobility products will be used to mobilize various SAP applications

No doubt there will be more on these and other projects in the future — as I write this, the acquisition is less than 3 months old, so it is still early with respect to the details of how the two companies’ technologies will come together. 

Anyway, last week I attended the SAP TechEd conference in Berlin (Germany). My objective was to deliver a number of presentations on ASE and IQ, but while there I was naturally interested in getting an idea of what the SAP community thought about Sybase. After all, many or most attendees would likely not have much experience with Sybase products, or perhaps would not even have heard of Sybase.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised to see “Sybase technology” prominently mentioned as one of the highlights of the conference at the top of page 1 of the conference agenda booklet. 
Sybase sure got exposure during the big-hall opening session: In the pre-keynote, some metrics were shown about TechEd (e.g. 4000 attendees here; 15000 over the joint 4 TechEd locations). Among these, the text ’17 Sybase sessions’ was highlighted, which put Sybase in the spotlight from the start.

During the subsequent keynote by Vishal Sikka (the SAP CTO), I counted the word ‘Sybase’ 22 times; ‘ASE’: 3 times, ‘CEP’: 2 times; ‘Replication Server’: 1 time (and also played a role in a live keynote demo). ‘Mobility’ was mentioned all over the keynote and Vishal Sikka said that “with Sybase, SAP is the #1 business mobility company”.

I could tell SAP operates in different market segments than where Sybase is traditionally active: the SAP promo video at the start or the keynote looked like a flashy TV commercial, featuring anything from Harley Davidson motorcycles to 27 different kinds of ladies’ high heels… Quite a different emphasis from the Wall Street-type images you’ll typically see at a Sybase event. Again, I see lots of opportunities for Sybase’s products to find their way into places that were not really reachable before.

For my presentation “Overview of Sybase IQ” I had seriously counted with the prospect of zero attendees, this being a potentially Sybase-unaware audience. So when facing ~90 folks at the start of my talk, I felt compelled to verify we were all coming for the same topic — and apparently we were, since nobody then walked out. Interestingly, only 3 of the attendees were actually having some knowledge of Sybase products; the rest left the session convinced that IQ is great (or so I hope; haven’t seen any evaluation forms yet).  
Similar patterns occurred during the other sessions about Sybase data management products (IQ, ASE, RepServer, CEP). The general feedback I got from the TechEd attendees I spoke to was that they were quite happy with SAP having taken Sybase on board, as this would inject some great technology into the SAP world. I couldn’t agree more.

So, lots of happy moments. However, there were some awkward moments as well — and I’m not making this up. When trying to strike up a conversation in the exhibit hall with folks in the IBM and Oracle booths  (‘hey, can we chat about the underlying database in a SAP Business Suite installation?’) I got some very reserved looks when they spotted ‘Sybase’ on my badge (Sybase keeps operating under its own name while being part of SAP). The arrival of Sybase ASE as a competitor in the SAP database arena had clearly not been lost on them — which may also explain why both conversations took sudden turns towards football.

In summary, there was much more “Sybase” in TechEd 2010 than I had dared to hope. That feels great!

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