Sybase and the Irony of Integration

Sybase's success will be driven almost entirely by its partnerships.

Sybase chairman John Chen said that if his company isnt perceived as the top integration platform provider, he has failed. The irony is that most, if not all, the vendors in the application integration space are failing themselves. If integration is so important, then why are the companies specializing in it dropping off, being scooped up or struggling mightily? Vitria shares are trading at less than a buck. TIBCO and WebMethods have missed estimates. CrossWorlds was eventually scooped up by IBM, which already had partnerships with New Era of Networks, which was acquired by Sybase. Its not integration. Its disintegration.

Its the NEON acquisition that has become Sybases key stake in the integration space. Although Sybase has core database, portal and application server technologies, the company lost ground to competitors in every area, with the exception of mobile databases, because it had no integration platform.

The integration story resonates mainly because the alternatives dont make sense. Thats one of the reasons Im not big on the buzzword. Its simply too obvious—the term is better than "glue," "bridges" and "business process re-engineering," all terms from the past that describe the same things. At the end of the day, Sybase wont be successful because its an integration company. Dont get me wrong: It will fail, as others will, if its products cannot integrate. Sybases success will be driven almost entirely by its partnerships.

The companys recent expansion of its partnership with PeopleSoft is a major deal. It increases Sybases mind share, it elevates database technology back to Tier 1 and it opens the doors to enterprises that might not have chosen Sybase on its platform alone.

As far as core infrastructures (such as the database) go, only Oracle, Microsoft and Sybase arent tied to a hardware platform. Meanwhile, in the packaged application market, vendors are becoming wary of software infrastructure companies branching out into their spaces. Oracle and Microsoft come to mind. That leaves Sybase as the leading agnostic platform.

The real questions at the end of the day are, would you purchase Sybase technologies and would you recommend Sybase products to your best friend? The answer to both is, why not?

Doesnt Sybase seem to be playing its cards right? Write to me at