COMPUTER BUSINESS REVIEW

Critical. Authoritative. Strategic.

TECHNEWS

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by Technews
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Issue Date: October 2006

From data centre to mobile devices and everything in between

1 October 2006

Moreover, Sybase has taken care of customers while also keeping its stakeholders happy. Alan Cowley, CEO of Sybase SA notes that Sybase has one of the best predictive earnings records in IT - which is something to boast about given the rollercoaster ride some companies have experienced. And it is not a matter of simply keeping the engine chugging along with existing customers, which make up a large proportion of the Fortune 500, the company continues to gain new business, with Cowley noting Sybase has closed 150 new database customers in the last quarter.
Alan Cowley
Alan Cowley
And South Africa is part of the growth engine. The local office, one of the only international companies to be majority owned locally, also has a sterling track record of delivering on customers' requirements while keeping one step ahead of market changes. Cowley notes that the company has had 15 years of profitable business in South Africa under its belt - with more to come.
What makes Sybase different is the scope of its operations. It has long ago moved on from being a database provider, although its database business is still strong, to become the leading company in the market Sybase calls the 'Unwired Enterprise'.
Serving the Unwired Enterprise means Sybase has the technology to cover all computing needs from backend data and application integration needs, software development and business intelligence (BI) through to the edge where mobile devices need to be safely linked to corporate infrastructures from anywhere in the world. Many companies claim to have this capability, but only Sybase has the proven (and industry-leading) tools and skills to make it happen.
In April 2006, for example, The 451 Group, an independent technology analyst company, noted: "Mobilisation is key as Sybase races for the $1B revenue mark. The company is differentiating itself as an enterprise software vendor able to offer the database back-end, the mobile application in the field, and everything in between."
The company has the leading mobile database in the world with a 73% market share, as well as the leading middleware infrastructure technology and one of the top mobile device management solutions. Cowley explains that Sybase has segmented itself into three areas of expertise: the traditional database and integration business unit, a business intelligence business unit and its rapidly growing mobile solutions business unit. The company realises that it is not operating in a Sybase-only world and has therefore ensured its products adhere to standards in order to slot into almost any architecture a customer may have.
Sybase SA has followed suit, but has taken a step beyond its parent company, Sybase SA is made up of four independent divisions that subscribe to the information management, mobility and business intelligence breakdown.
The latest addition to the Sybase SA business is AVATAR, a dedicated retail Sybase practice, which distributes its locally developed point of sale (POS) and retail management solution. Its flagship product, also known as AVATAR, formerly known as RTS (retail trade system), is currently being introduced under its new name.
More than simply creating separate companies to move product, Cowley has ensured that Sybase SA's technical and service skills are able to assist customers with both Sybase and non-Sybase products. Cowley notes it was an imperative step to better serving local customers.
Sybase SA's distance from its parent has also resulted in the company supplying complete solutions, including development and deployment services. The BI Practice offers best-of-breed solutions from leading vendors such as Sybase, IBM, Business Objects and Informatica, while iAnywhere, the mobility experts, also offer best-of-breed solutions within the framework of Sybase's Unwired Enterprise.
At the eighth Sybase TechWave conference earlier this year in Las Vegas, Sybase's chairman and CEO, John Chen, highlighted a mixture of accomplishments Sybase has achieved in meeting today's technology requirements. They included the announcement of the Sybase Data Integration Suite and the growing appreciation of the strategic building blocks around the Unwired Enterprise.
He also challenged the assertion of one analyst, that by 2008, 75% of enterprise users will be using smart phones. "I think it is going to be more aggressive than that," Chen said, suggesting a figure higher than 80%, adding that the trend to smaller, faster and smarter devices is "exciting and packed with capabilities, and our software is all about capabilities."
Anywhere, anytime, anyhow and securely
Everyone is talking about mobility and the value businesses can gain from the ability to access critical information from any location it is needed. While Sybase is known for having the back-end IT architecture sewn up with world-leading information management tools, it has also taken the lead in the front-end by making it easy for companies to extend their networks securely to any mobile device in almost any industry.
The Sybase iAnywhere brand has already established itself as a global leader in making the corporate data assets mobile in a secure fashion. In South Africa, the brand is also an independent entity (called iAnywhere Solutions), run by general manager Gerard Sofianos.
Gerard Sofianos
Gerard Sofianos
iAnywhere Solutions focuses on extending the enterprise to where it is needed, such as to a sales person's PDA or a driver's electronic delivery job card. Unlike some solutions that require complex preparations and interference from integration experts, the tools in the iAnywhere stable make taking it with you simple, safe and secure.
Sofianos says mobility has become a more viable business tool in southern Africa because mobile devices are now more affordable and reliable, as is the cost of data, and wireless networks are more pervasive. In addition, he notes that wireless computing no longer means working on a scaled down version of a business application, but that all the required functionality can be offered to users in an easy to use interface due to the powerful solutions in the iAnywhere range of products.
The South African iAnywhere Solutions team is geared to offer enterprise solutions based on the core iAnywhere toolset. Sofianos adds that the areas in which iAnywhere Solutions is already proving its worth and adding business value are in logistics, sales-force automation and mobile inspection - and the list keeps growing.
"iAnywhere is a leading contender in the African mobile market," explains Sofianos. "And while we are focused on delivering solutions built on iAnywhere platforms we are more than capable of leveraging complementary technology where needed to ensure we produce the best solution for the customer."
Sofianos says the company is committed to using open standards and a variety of devices and communications protocols. "We select technologies and design solutions that suit each individual company's requirements. This not only provides the functionality the business requires, but also ensures the solution is future proof and able to add value no matter what decisions management makes."
To date the young company has focused on establishing iAnywhere in Africa directly, providing customers with consulting, software and services. This is changing as the iAnywhere Solutions adopts a more channel-focused strategy that will see an increasing number of companies able to offer solutions based on iAnywhere's technology to an ever-growing market.
The basic philosophy of the company, according to Sofianos, is not simply to mobilise applications by making them fit on smaller devices, but to mobilise users in a way that allows them to carry out their work functions out in the field as efficiently and productively as they can in the office.
Managing information for anytime, anywhere access
The amount of data companies need to deal with today has exploded, as has the complexity and cost of storing and managing it. The situation is worsened because much of the data is stored in independent silos in various departments and in different formats, making it harder to access and to use in business processes.
Sybase's information management products are designed to help manage information complexity and break down the barriers between departments to ensure that information is consistently useful, relevant and ready to deliver value to the enterprise.
"Almost every enterprise has a heterogeneous selection of applications, servers and databases," says Johan Reynders, Sybase SA's general manager. "Our information management products and solutions are designed to ensure information from each system is available to the right people in the right format at the right time, whether they need a paper report or an immediate response on their mobile devices.
Johan Reynders
Johan Reynders
"This includes the databases, middleware and integration tools to deliver a seamless view of the enterprise - the fabled one version of the truth all companies need for effective reporting, analytics and business intelligence functionality, as well as accurate business transactions."
Sybase SA also offers professional services to round out its customer offering by providing the products, technology and skills necessary to meet customer requirements. To this effort, it has also added the data management and security solutions from Embarcadero Technologies and is a reseller of Red Hat Linux (as well as offering training to assist customers in managing their own infrastructure).
As a part of the company's social responsibility programme, Sybase SA also provides technical training for a number of previously disadvantaged people and employs them for an internship period before finding permanent employment for them in the market. Sybase SA runs this programme annually as its contribution to job and IT skills creation in the country.
Even though the hype around the database business has cooled, the database is still a critical component of every enterprise's IT infrastructure. Sybase's Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) 15 is continually under development to meet the demands enterprises face today, with Reynders noting the company experienced over 30% growth in this market locally and internationally in the last quarter.
"Effective information management with the appropriate products helps customers lower their total cost of ownership and gain access to their information in a more reliable way," adds Reynders. "Our solutions are also secure and robust enough for the most demanding environments. At Sybase, our focus is to take information and convert it into real business value."
BI Practice makes BI perfect
One of the areas in which Sybase SA differs from its international parent is in the formation of the BI Practice. Initially created about 6 years ago around Sybase's IQ analytic server, the company has undergone dramatic growth to become one of South Africa's premier business intelligence (BI) service providers.
Led by Wayne Borcher and Estelle de Beer, BI Practice has branched out from its Sybase-only focus and is now a reseller for a number of leading vendors. De Beer says that while Sybase IQ is without doubt the best tool in its field (as noted by analysts and customers), BI Practice decided it would rely on technology from other companies to support it and deliver a complete BI service to customers.
Estelle de Beer
Estelle de Beer
"Initially we started reselling Ardent technology (now under IBM) as an extraction, transform and load (ETL) tool," says De Beer. "Later, to be able to offer a complete BI service, including business analysis and needs assessment, design, project management, implementation, training and first-line support, more products were added to the list."
Other products the company now supports include those from Business Objects, Informatica and IBM. Along with this suite of award-winning tools, BI Practice is also staffed by highly skilled BI practitioners that are able to turn technology into the analysis solutions and services businesses need.
The result of creating an independent company not solely relying on Sybase technology has seen BI Practice double its business in the last two years as it finds a warm welcome in the South African enterprise. This welcome is no doubt spurred by the knowledge that as an independent operating entity not tied only to Sybase products, the company's experts are able to design the best BI solutions for their customers.
"With 33 consultants on board, BI Practice is well on its way to achieving its vision of becoming the best BI provider in South and southern Africa," states De Beer. "Each suite of products we offer is under the watchful eye of a dedicated and well trained product manager to ensure we always offer the best advice and support. We also offer extensive training to empower customers to make full use of their BI systems."
When interacting with anyone from BI Practice, the one immediately noticeable current running through the organisation is passion. The company puts all potential employees through a rigorous screening process before hiring them to ensure their knowledge and passion for BI matches customer expectations. Staff are also continually encouraged to advance their knowledge and expertise via ongoing training.
De Beer believes the BI Practice is well placed to take advantage of the changes happening in the BI market. From ETL and data integration processes through to the current focus on data quality, the BI Practice is set to lead by example when it comes to offering a full range of BI services to the South African market.
Sybase unveils Data Integration Suite
At the Sybase Techwave 2006 Conference in Las Vegas this year, Sybase introduced the Sybase Data Integration Suite, a flexible and scalable solution that combines key data integration techniques ­including replication, data federation, ETL ­(extract, transform and load), realtime events and data search with integrated development and administration. Combined, these techniques enable enterprises to unleash the latent value of their data assets and improve the speed and quality of ­business intelligence across the organisation.
Sybase Data Integration Suite’s integrated ­capability will help customers gain a competitive advantage by providing an easier, more flexible way to combine data from multiple heterogeneous sources. Building data-rich applications for ­business intelligence, regulatory compliance and customer relationship management becomes less complex. The suite builds on Sybase’s experience in data integration and offers particular value to ­enterprises using analytic applications that combine historical and realtime data.
“Recognising the need for consistent management of all styles of data integration and the issues associated with multiple overlapping data ­integration tools and vendors, organisations will increasingly seek a single toolset for creating data services which access, move, transform, integrate and deliver data. Narrow point solutions that ­address only one style of data integration (such as ETL) or a single use-case – such as business intelligence (BI) – are falling out of favour,” writes ­co-author and Gartner Research vice-president Ted Friedman, in “Predicts 2006: Navigating the Data Management Market and Usage Trends,” ­November 2005.
The Sybase Data Integration Suite supports both structured and unstructured data and is strengthened by integrated tools for modelling and design, application development and administration. ­Modelling and metadata management, provided through Sybase PowerDesigner, ensures data ­design and control as integration requirements change to accommodate business needs. The integrated development tooling, Sybase WorkSpace, is based on the popular Eclipse framework.
The suite’s modular, easy-to-deploy architecture enables IT managers to introduce new ­capabilities in an affordable, evolutionary way, immediately supporting tactical integration projects while comfortably scaling to the most sophisticated, enterprise-wide integration programs.
Sybase acquires Mobile 365
Sybase announced in September that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Mobile 365, the global leader in mobile messaging and content ­delivery, in an all cash transaction. The purchase price set forth in the definitive agreement is $425 million. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2006. For its fiscal year ended 31 March, 2006, Mobile 365 generated approximately $90 million in revenue.
Mobile 365 delivers mobile data and messaging, premium content, and value-added services for the leading mobile operators, content providers, ­global brands, media companies, and financial institutions worldwide. The company’s core products and ­services include interoperability services, ­interactive services, and distribution services. Mobile 365 is the global leader in mobile interoperability messaging, including SMS, WAP, MMS, and ­Instant Messaging. At the core of its offering is an ­­operator-grade network that is the most extensive, private network for mobile messaging available.
Mobile 365 delivers more than 3 billion ­messages per month and has approximately 700 connections into mobile operators around the world.
“This acquisition extends our Unwired ­Enterprise vision with the addition of two new enterprise channels – wireless carriers and content providers – making Sybase the leading mobile enterprise ­software and services provider in the world,” said John Chen, Sybase chairman, CEO and president.
“The mobile messaging market in the US alone is expected to grow to $7,5 billion by 2008. ­Getting closer to this exploding mobile market through ­carriers is a key extension of our Unwired Enterprise strategy.
Untouchable analytics
The cornerstone of Sybase’s BI offering is Sybase IQ, an optimised analytic business intelligence engine, designed to deliver fast results for mission-critical analytic business intelligence, data warehousing and reporting solutions. The product delivers unsurpassed query search test performance and storage efficiency for structured and unstructured data, making it ideal for specialty operational data stores.
More than simply another analytics engine, Sybase IQ combines speed and agility with a low total cost of ownership. With IQ, customers are able to perform analysis and reporting that was previously impossible, impractical, or cost-prohibitive.
IQ also offers near-linear user and operational data store scalability to support thousands of users and terabytes of data. It also supports multiplexing ­(clustering), a powerful feature, especially in Linux environments where SMP scaling is limited. Sybase IQ's scalability sets it apart from competing data warehouse software applications.
The latest version of Sybase IQ, version 12.7, adds enhanced query performance, improved data privacy and features that support compliance of regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley.
It also includes functionality that will enhance ­loading and ease of data migration from operational systems and analytics including additional online ­analytical processing (OLAP) functions. Other key enhancements include the new Encrypted Column Option, a patented encryption technology that makes data on disk unintelligible to unauthorised viewers. Enterprise customers can protect critical data assets even if the media or media backup is compromised.


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