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Sybase Flexes Muscle With Database Software Release

Vendor hopes updated adaptive server enterprise will help it catch up to rivals
Amid the noisy competition among Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft for dominance in the database software market, it's easy to overlook the fact that Sybase Inc. is still a competitor. Sybase aims to remind everyone this week when it ships its updated Adaptive Server Enterprise database.

Sybase has seen its share of the $7.06 billion relational database market shrink steadily since the mid-1990s; it fell to 4% in 2000 from 4.3% in 1999, according to Dataquest. But Sybase has a loyal customer base, particularly among financial-service companies, and Giga Information Group analyst Teri Palanca says defections have decreased as the company's finances have stabilized. Sybase "still has a solid group staying with them for the time being," she says.

A case in point is Fannie Mae, the federal mortgage lender in Washington, which maintains 6 terabytes of data in more than 5,200 databases--all from Sybase. Oracle and IBM tout their leading-edge technology, but William Banick, director of Fannie Mae's database-management systems, says he's more interested in "technology that will deliver business value in the most cost-effective manner. Sybase has found a good balance between value-added features and quality. It's one of the most stable technology platforms we have."

Sybase's new release, ASE 12.5, brings the vendor closer to delivering the same capabilities as its competitors. It includes XML data storage and query capabilities, the ability to execute Enterprise JavaBeans applications, and technology for managing nonrelational content. Security enhancements include row-level access control and Secure Sockets Layer encryption. "As we develop new projects in the E-business space, security becomes more important," Banick says. ASE 12.5 also adds self-tuning capabilities and clustering for improved availability.

But Sybase still trails in some respects. Its clustering support, for example, only improves the database's availability; Oracle's recently unveiled Real Application Clusters improves the database's availability and scalability.

Pricing for the workplace edition starts at $1,000, plus $200 per processor; the enterprise edition starts at $4,000, plus $800 per processor.