Sybase Eyes RFID Enterprise Integration

By Jacqueline Emigh  |  Posted 2005-02-14

Sybase Eyes RFID Enterprise Integration

Sybases iAnywhere Solutions Inc. has plans to expand RFID Anywhere, its new RFID development and management platform, from supply chain applications at the network edge to centrally administered implementations integrated with databases and other enterprise applications.

To that end, an upgrade to RFID Anywhere is now slated for March or April.

With its first edition now in limited release, RFID Anywhere is targeted at supply chain applications in industries that include pharmaceuticals, agriculture and the military, said Steve Robb, senior director of marketing, in an interview with

"Were also looking at universities, where there are many assets moving around that are [in some cases] high-priced," according to Robb.

Initial supply chain applications will include distribution warehouses and laboratories. Although RFID Anywhere can also be outsourced as a hosted service, many customers will choose to run and manage the Microsoft.NET-enabled solution in-house, according to David Barrack, senior director of Solutions Services.

Running on Windows XP-based embedded devices from a variety of hardware makers, Sybase Inc.s RFID Anywhere software already includes considerable RFID data management capabilities, along with connectors and controllers for interfacing to multivendor RFID readers and printers.

ProPath, one early customer, is now using RFID Anywhere in a supply chain application aimed at streamlining delivery of medical test results to doctors and hospitals. The customer is implementing RFID to track biopsies and other specimens as theyre processed and analyzed in a lab setting. ProPath handles more than 1,200 patient specimens each day.

Through the upgrade later this year, iAnywhere will enable RFID Anywhere with local and enterprise database connectivity as well as with an EAI architecture—inherited through its acquisition of Neon Inc. a few years ago—for centralized management and integration with enterprise-wide applications such as ERP.

Databases to be supported in the future will include Sybases iAnywhere mobile database, for "guaranteed delivery" through store-and-forward messaging, as well as all major enterprise databases, including but not limited to Sybases.

"Its presumed that customers might already have their own databases. If a user wants to build an RFID application, this doesnt [necessarily] mean they should have to install a whole new database," Barrack said, also during the interview.

Next Page: More than just middleware.

More Than Middleware

"But this [product] will be much more than just [integration] middleware," Barrack added.

"To do RFID planning, people will need to [obtain an understanding] of what kind of scale they can get. To gain some control over the RFID network, theyll have to develop business logic for what kinds of events are going to be read, and some of the filtering that needs to occur."

The softwares management capabilities already include a Network Simulator, which lets users assess the network impact of various data loads and content before buying and attaching readers and other RFID hardware.

"You can simulate a certain read rate, for instance," Barrack said.

Why is Sybases RFID solution architected around .NET rather than Java? According to Barrack, Java application servers, such as those produced by BEA Systems Inc., arent meant for dealing with the large volumes of "bursty data" that RFID would impose beyond smaller supply chain environments on the enterprise network.

Read more here about the .NET vs. Java debate.

"In RFID Anywhere, we wont be using a traditional client-server architecture [for RFID data.] What well have instead will be very close to a peer-to-peer network, except that one of the [RFID Anywhere] nodes will be kind of a master, listening for events that come from the other nodes," Barrack said.

Sybase is now in talks with Microsoft about how RFID Anywhere might fit into Microsofts own RFID strategy, according to Barrack. "Microsoft likes the fact that RFID Anywhere is built on the .NET framework," he said.

To read more about Microsofts RFID strategy, click here.

Sybase is also eyeing use of the solution for non-RFID sensor applications such as refrigeration monitoring, Barrack said.

Why is Sybase bringing out an RFID product right now? The answer is related to Sybases purchase of XcelleNet, according to Barrack, who migrated to iAnywhere along with the acquired company.

"XcelleNet had been looking at [RFID and other sensors] anyway, as another area of remote device management. When we looked at how this fit with Sybase, we saw that this is also about getting data where it needs to be from mobile devices, [a] natural extension of what Sybase is doing with its Unwired Enterprise initiative, anyway. But [RFID Anywhere] is a brand new product, not re-architected from anything else," he said.

Sybase hired Carlos Artiega, who wrote the device drivers for some of the earliest RFID readers, to build RFID Anywhere.

The new offering initially supports the following RFID hardware protocols: EPC Reader Protocol 1.0; ALE 1.0; ISO-15693; ISO-18000-3; and ISO-11784.

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