IBM To Migrate Sybase Customers To DB2

ANTs Software is partnering with IBM to offer users an easy path to migrate their relational database systems to DB2.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

May 24, 2010

4 Min Read

An IBM/ANTs Software partnership has been formed to move Sybase customers to DB2. That's ironic because IBM is a quiet partner of SAP in their mutual competition with Oracle -- SAP is in the process of acquiring Sybase.

IBM is now paired with ANTs Software to offer an easy migration path to SAP's future Sybase customers. (The Sybase deal hasn't closed yet.) All is fair in pursuit of relational database system customers, a form of perpetual warfare between IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and now SAP.

ANTs CEO Joseph Kozak said in an interview May 10, two days before the SAP-Sybase announcement, that he had originally thought Oracle would be the best partner for ANTs, the maker of an in-memory, relational database system, the ANTs Database Server. Because ANTs was coming into an established market, it geared its in-memory system to be compatible with the existing mainstream relational systems, including Sybase, leading to an ANTs Compatibility Server.

Having learned how to make its system compatible with Sybase, ANTs began to offer migration aids and application compatibility to move Sybase customers to Compatibility Server, or in some cases, to Oracle.

Oracle, however, has its own in-memory systems, including the TimesTen relational system, and didn't push ANTs Compatibility Server.

Citigroup, with many instances of Sybase running among its business units, evaluated ANTs and found that it liked the stability and performance of the software in its labs, Kozak said. He recalls being called into a meeting two years ago with the Citigroup CIO, who told him he had a very strong product but his firm would not buy it from a firm with revenue of only $5.8 million in 2009. It would buy it, however, if it were offered through IBM, he was told.

And that was the beginning of a partnership with IBM, leading to the announcement of DB2 SQL Skin for Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise on May 20 in Rome. DB2 SQL Skin for Sybase ASE is built on ANTs Compatibility Server and is sold and supported by IBM. It will become available May 28 and will work with the 9.7 release of DB2, introduced April 22, 2009. It will be integrated into a future release of DB2, Kozak said.

Don Haderle, who retired as an IBM Fellow in 2005, is a founding member of the ANTs technical advisory board and helped ANTs build its relationship with IBM. He is regarded as "the father of DB2," as the leader of the technical team that developed it in the 1980s.

"Most DB2 customers have site licenses with IBM," he noted in an interview. "They can consolidate Sybase servers on their DB2 systems with spare capacity without incurring further license charges. Sybase is currently urging customers to upgrade to Version 15 on larger hardware servers, which will increase their license charges, he claimed.

By working with DB2 SQL Skin for Sybase ASE, an existing Sybase application can run under DB2 with few changes. Sybase uses its own version of the SQL access language, T-SQL, just as Oracle uses its distinctive PL/SQL. DB2 SQL Skin can take T-SQL calls and other Sybase specific stored procedures and triggers and convert them into commands understood by DB2.

Although SQL is a standard language, the major vendors found ways to implement it differently. Each database system tends to have several unique characteristics that make migration from one vendor to another difficult. Error handling is done differently by different database systems, as are data-type definitions and save points, which determine at what point in a process data is saved to disk.

"We retained the original Sybase dialect. We ended up converting Sybase applications to DB2," Haderle said.

Kovak said Citigroup has 3,000 Sybase applications and Credit Suisse has 10,000. Both are candidates to convert some of them to DB2, he claimed.

Additional customers cited as engaged in the Sybase to DB2 migration included BJC HealthCare, a nonprofit health care system with $3.2 billion in revenue in the St. Louis to mid-Missouri region; it moved a clinical results application and a business intelligence app from Sybase to DB2, said Tom Holdener, lead architect, in the announcement.

Pep Boys automotive parts supply and retail chain, with 580 stores, plans to consolidate some Sybase systems on DB2 to reduce administrative costs, after a pilot project shifted special order parts from Sybase to DB2 in a few weeks, according to Jim Ofalt, systems manager, in the announcement.

The Italian fashion e-retailer, Faith Industry, is another user, along with ABSA Bank in South Africa, IBM spokesmen said.

Ironically ABSA Bank application architect Jaco de Jager said in the May 20 announcement that it was IBM's close relationship to SAP that prompted the bank to consider using DB2 SQL Skin for Sybase ASE to migrate applications away from Sybase -- soon to be a part of SAP. The announcement said, "IBM's strong partnership with SAP was the main reason for ABSA turning to IBM." The bank is a big customer of SAP applications as well as IBM.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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