Conceding a widening gap between his company and major large-scale relational DBMS vendors, Sybase Inc. Chairman and CEO John Chen understands the time is right to make a bold move. To that end, Chen has set in at Sybase a major refocusing of efforts that fall under an umbrella mobile strategy. Chen sat down with eWEEK Senior Writer Brian Fonseca last week at Sybases TechWave user conference in Orlando, Fla., to discuss his vision for growth and much more.
Is Sybases aggressive push toward developing new mobility and mobile infrastructure technology alienating Sybase ASE [Adaptive Server Enterprise] database users?
Most people think, "Oh, yeah, sure—what youre doing is youre trying to cash-cow the database and build your mobility." Well, thats definitely an incorrect view. If "cash-cowing" is all I wanted, there would be a lot easier ways to do that. ... When you go through which messaging systems you need to sit on top of your database to facilitate a message watchdog, you quickly get into data stores, data movement, replication and the whole data management side of the house. Thats why were still so gung-ho and bullish about the database business, despite the fact theres a lot of naysayers out there for a very, very long time.
How does Sybase plan to maintain its early lead in the mobile database and data movement arena?
You have to assume that people like IBM and Microsoft [Corp.] always eventually get it right. So what we need to do is continue to expand the ecosystems, get more VARs onto your stuff. The early-mover advantage is all about being able to create a barrier of entry in two ways. One is adoption. You get more VARs, you get more OEMs running your stuff, you continue to push on your technology and upgrade your whole line. The second thing that we do is use a technology barrier. Thats why we actually have right now about 20 or so patents around this whole mobility and unwired, offline/online computing—the whole concept of a peer-to-peer network, security network and security protocols.
You have called RFID [radio-frequency identification] the "killer app" for wireless. Why do you feel that way, and what do you envision Sybases role will be surrounding RFID?
RFID is an environment that will generate an unbelievable amount of messages that need to be analyzed, are trigger-based and come from all sorts of environments. If youre in the restaurant business, you like people who are hungry. In the database business, you want massive amounts of data movement and analyzation. ... [Customers] need to have another platform to base new apps on, and we believe RFID is that. RFID is really more of a horizontal packaged application, which allows you to build different vertical intelligence on top.
Recently, IBM and Computer Associates [International Inc.] gave parts of their database code to the open-source community. What are your thoughts on that trend, and does Sybase plan to open up its code?
Its interesting. IBM only open-sourced a portion of their database. Every time you open-source a portion of it, I suppose that theres no harm done and its good for marketing. I dont know how practical it is. CA sourced Ingres, and, again, I dont think they opened the whole thing. But, more importantly, CA Ingres code has not been upgraded for 15 years. I doubt very much it has full XML support and Web services [or that] you can really run it yourself. So I dont know whether thats a good situation or a bad situation. If thats the case, you can probably get MySQL in a similar fashion. I dont expect it to dramatically change any landscape for the next 12 months. Im not going to be religious about it, but were going to have to watch carefully and see how this develops.