SAP Outlines Sybase Development Plans

Business Suite applications will go mobile as in-memory technology spreads to Sybase products.
SAP offered a deeper look at its plans for co-development with recently acquired Sybase on Thursday, but the picture fell short of a detailed product roadmap.

Echoing the soaring, "game changer" language evoked when the $5.8 billion Sybase deal was announced in May, SAP executives laid out plans for mobile applications, analytic and in-memory infrastructure, and enterprise information management enhancements, albeit with varying degrees of specificity.

The deepest detail was provided on mobile applications. SAP promised that within nine months, SAP and Sybase will jointly enable customers and partners to mobilize the entire SAP Business Suite application portfolio on the Sybase Unwired Platform.

The two companies also will release a supporting software development kit (SDK), said CEO John Chen, who will continue to run Sybase as an independent business unit of SAP. "The nine months ahead is about combining and integrating our Sybase Unwired Platform with all the SAP assets, but even more important is getting an SDK out there that people can use to build applications and tap into backends," Chen said.

The SDK is aimed at systems integrators, independent software vendors and customers so they can extend capabilities and build additional mobile applications on top of the platform.

SAP and Sybase have already released mobile CRM and workflow apps on Sybase Unwired. To enable the rest of the application suite, SAP will have to complete a previously announced Gateway interface to SAP content, and it will also enhance an SAP data orchestration engine for mobile applications.

Sybase executives demonstrated a mobile coupon-redemption application during Thursday's press conference that Chen said is already being used by two Sybase retailer customers. But analyst questions about other applications were answered with generalities about sales and service environments and the growing numbers of mobile phone users rather than scenario-specific mobile applications.

As previously promised, SAP said it will certify its applications to run on the Sybase ASE database by early next year. Executives also underscored in-memory technology as an area that will set SAP apart, giving customers what co-CEO Jim Hagemann-Snabe characterized as real-time, sense-and-respond optimization capabilities.

SAP did not detail which products will gain in-memory capabilities and when -- beyond a broad 18-month timeline -- or from which portfolio the technology will be derived.

SAP uses in-memory and column-store technologies within its SAP BW Accelerator and SAP BusinessObjects Explorer products. Sybase has developed its own version of in-memory support within the ASE database. Sybase IQ, the leading column-store database used for data marts and data warehouses, is a prime candidate for in-memory technology. But picking the right approach and technologies is easier said than done.

"One size does not fit all scenarios," said SAP CTO Vishal Sikka. "Depending on the nature of the applications, you need different types of database management. But together with Sybase, we believe we have the world's leading-edge database technologies."

SAP executives also delivered bold claims to be "the leader in the analytics category" and "the broadest information management software provider." Details on those fronts were even sketchier (and surely SAS and IBM would rightly quibble with the claims).

But Thursday's event was mainly about mobile application development, and on that score, Sybase is clearly helping SAP stand out.