Acquisition creates Sybase, SAP data management product overlap

SAP could have some difficult choices to make regarding the future of its data integration and analytics products following its Sybase acquisition.

With SAP in the process of acquiring Sybase, current Sybase and SAP data management customers are probably asking themselves, What now?

Unfortunately, there are no clear answers -- at least not yet. But industry analysts say the deal, when finalized, will create a number of areas of product overlap between the newly merged vendors, much as SAP’s acquisition of Business Objects did in 2008.

That means the German software maker is again in the position of having to work out a clear product roadmap, deciding which technologies to standardize on and which ones to dump.

Sybase, SAP data integration software overlap

While SAP will gain full-fledged database management system and data warehouse offerings via the acquisition -- Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) and Sybase IQ -- it will also inherit a number of technologies it already offers itself. Among them is data integration software.

While not generally known for its integration technology, Sybase, which is based in Dublin, Calif., has a data integration suite that works closely with the vendors’ analytic and transactional databases. It also offers extract, transform and load (ETL) technology and the data federation or enterprise information integration capabilities it acquired from Solande AG in 2006 and Avaki in 2005.

SAP, meanwhile, has ETL technology associated with both its Business Warehouse and Business Objects portfolios, as well as data federation technology acquired from Business Objects.

“A big issue now going forward is whether and/or when a combined SAP-Sybase will converge their ETL and EEI to a single offering,” said Jim Kobielus, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.

SAP analytics software will outlive Sybase Analytic Appliance, partnerships

There will also be some overlap when it comes to analytic appliances and  implications for some Sybase partnerships. The Sybase Analytic Appliance is an in-memory, columnar-oriented software-hardware bundle based on the vendor’s IQ product, IBM’s Power Systems platform, and MicroStrategy’s reporting and dashboarding tools.

SAP recently announced, however, that it plans to deliver an in-memory, columnar-oriented analytic appliance of its own called Business Analytic Engine (BAE), expected to hit the market later this year.

SAP is unlikely to continue Sybase’s partnership with MicroStrategy, considering its own robust business intelligence (BI) portfolio with NetWeaver and Business Objects. And considering all the work it has put into BAE, SAP is expected to favor it over Sybase’s appliance, according to Kobielus.

“You gotta best believe going forward with SAP-Business Objects-Sybase that BAE will be the appliance of choice,” he said.

Ray Wang, an analyst with Altimeter Group in San Mateo, Calif., said Sybase and SAP analytics “customers will want a roadmap on 90-day, 180-day, and 1-year integration milestones.”

Following its acquisition of Business Objects, SAP eventually settled on a BI product roadmap that heavily favored its newly acquired products. Not all customers were pleased, particularly those that had invested heavily in SAP’s pre-Business Objects BI offerings like the BEx reporting tool, which SAP decided to phase out.

As with Business Objects, however, it will probably be some time before SAP reveals its true intentions regarding Sybase. But the acquisition could actually give comfort to Sybase customers.

“They [SAP] are going to run it as a separate company … so it doesn’t disrupt current Sybase clients,” said Donald Feinberg, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner. “And it should add longevity to the Sybase products overall.”

Among the Sybase products likely to be continued are, not surprisingly, Sybase ASE and Sybase IQ.

Despite its occasional protests to the contrary, SAP lacks a legitimate database management system. “That was one clear gap,” Forrester’s Kobielus said.

As a result, the vendor has had to rely on partners/rivals Oracle, IBM and others to supply supporting database technology to its enterprise applications customers.

With Sybase ASE in the SAP fold, the vendor can wind down those partnerships and collect all that database revenue for itself, Feinberg said. ASE, he added, “gives [SAP] strong DBMS credibility.”

SAP could also potentially boost its own data warehouse offering, the SAP Business Information Warehouse (BW), with capabilities inherited from Sybase IQ. SAP BW has come under criticism in the past for its lack of scalability and difficulty integrating data from non-SAP applications.

“The possibility of SAP offering IQ as part of SAP BW is appealing,” said Michael Prendergast, a BI consultant and president of Chile-based DataMart S.A., via a LinkedIn Sybase IQ message board. He said it has the potential to improve BW’s scalability and query performance and to reduce customers’ total cost of ownership by reducing hardware and storage requirements.

And some good news for potential new SAP customers could come in the way of pricing, Kobielus said. Sybase currently offers its analytic appliance for around $27,000 per usable terabyte, he said, significantly lower than SAP’s expected analytic appliance pricing.

Kobielus expects SAP to continue the Sybase pricing structure in order to break into the midmarket and to stay competitive with Oracle’s Exadata and Netezza’s TwinFin.

SAP will also inherit Sybase’s complex event processing (CEP) technology, which has enabled Sybase to gain a strong presence in the financial services industry. Its financial services customers include CitiBank, Lincoln Financial Group, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Sybase’s website.

“They’re both great companies.” Kobielus said of SAP and Sybase. “I’m really expecting great things from these two companies together.”

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