Long out of contention for general-purpose dominance but entrenched in vertical markets, database maker Sybase Inc. will soon begin an aggressive rollout of new products that tout usability as their main distinction.
A major upgrade to Sybases flagship ASE (Adapter Server Enterprise) 12.5 will debut in spring 2003, with advanced dynamic tuning and self-management functions, said Tom Travits, senior marketing manager at the Emeryville, Calif., software company.
The new version doesnt have a name yet. ASE 13 is out because its an unlucky number in the West, while 14 is unlucky in Asian and Pacific markets, Travits said. The product is called 15 at Sybase, but "well probably hold off on the big number change" because "weve been modularizing the code extensively," he said.
Names aside, the release is "exceptionally major. ... Its emphasis will be on massively reducing the use of labor to manage the database. We have this exponential increase in the amount of data to manage," while "the trim line for [database-administrator]-type talent is pretty linear," Travits said.
ASE doesnt have the advanced feature set of Oracle Corp.s or Microsoft Corp.s databases, but a Sybase survey found that most users want simpler products, not additional obscure features, Travits said. But new features such as integrated content management and indexing, with better XML support, will come in a point release this fall, and a maintenance release with bug fixes will come this spring, he said.
Meanwhile, ASE 12.5 is a success in vertical markets. "Our strength in financials remains strong; in health care, weve seen a bit of an uptick, particularly around patient records," but "weve seen continued softness in telecom," Travits said. The government and retail sectors are developing as well, he said. In the next few weeks, Sybase expects to finalize a resale deal with another pre-Internet-era powerhouse, Apple Computer Inc., for the Cupertino, Calif., vendor to sell ASE 12.5 running on Apples OS X systems in the education market. That may open doors for Sybase in the publishing and biotechnology markets as well, Travits said.
As for Sybases market-share free fall down from the Big Three of Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, "I think a lot of the concern that had kind of developed has pretty much evaporated" as Sybase has remapped its direction under CEO John Chen, Travits said. Chen is known in IT circles as a turnaround specialist.
"We estimate theres around 40,000 installations out there," Travits said.