Staking its fortunes on its early sprint to help customers seize control of increasing volumes of mobile data, Sybase Inc. is crafting an overarching mobile strategy that encompasses new applications, developer tools and tie-ins to its enterprise databases.
Buoyed by the proliferation of mobile devices and services in the enterprise, Sybase officials believe such a strategy will benefit enterprise customers through an array of mobile-to-back-end solutions and development tools. According to officials, when it comes to the growing mobile work force, managing and analyzing the increasing amount of data becomes key.
"Somebody has to make some sense of all these devices out there," said Sybase Chairman and CEO John Chen in a speech last week to Sybase users at the companys TechWave conference in Orlando, Fla. "Its a different form of computing. How do they connect to back end? That is something we would love to have a major role in."
Regardless of the companys role, the stage for mobile growth has been set. According to a recent report by Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., 47 percent of enterprises plan to have mobile applications in deployment within 12 months, while 68 percent of small and midsize businesses plan deployments in the same window.
Forrester said standards such as 802.11 and the success of Wi-Fi will catapult a new breed of mobile applications into the heart of enterprises, resulting in a critical need for customized mobile management.
And although Sybase is not alone—IBMs DB2 Everyplace and Microsoft Corp.s SQL Server 2005 Mobile Edition technology are on similar collision courses, with expected tie-ins to the WebSphere and Visual Studio 2005 development platforms, respectively—it does have a leg up. "Those big guys will catch up," said IDC analyst Stephen Hendrick in Framingham, Mass. "[But] in the last two to three years, [Sybase] has built a very strong emphasis on developer tools, and I think that will play well when this new breed of enterprise applications that need to be mobile [appear]."
One major cog driving Sybases early mobile push is its subsidiary, iAnywhere Solutions Inc., the companys mobile and embedded database provider. In an IDC report released last week, iAnywhere was named the leader in mobile device management software, ranking ahead of nearly 20 competitors in revenue and market share.
At TechWave, Sybases Chen unveiled the first two products of his companys Unwired middleware platform, due for release next month, and unfurled details of PowerDesigner and DataWindow .Net developer tool enhancements.
Unwired Accelerator aggregates Web applications and data sources for instant access to multiple mobile devices. The product comprises Sybases Mobile Web Studio, Mobile Portal Server, M-Business Anywhere and Content Capture tools. Unwired Accelerator is compatible with Microsofts Pocket Internet Explorer, Motorola Inc.s MPx200, PalmOne Inc.s Treo 600 (running the Palm OS), and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications ABs P900 wireless devices and technologies.
A second product, Unwired Orchestrator, manages and monitors mobile business processes that use a mix of legacy custom, mainframe and packaged applications. It also enables near-codeless integration to extend applications to mobile workers.
The Dublin, Calif., company is building its Java-centric application development Workspace tool, code-named Tahiti, that is based on the open-source Eclipse platform. Workspaces common interface allows developers to unify Sybase infrastructure and server products; common frameworks; Web applications; and enterprise modeling, mobile, portal and Web services.
As thoughtful as the strategy may be, Chen acknowledged that some Sybase users are having trouble digesting the mobile plan. "A lot of my customers have questioned [that] by focusing on mobility, they think for some reason that the database or [developer] tools are no longer important to us," Chen said in an interview last week. "Actually, quite the opposite: It is extremely important we do that."
Sybase customer Scott Smith, data warehouse manager for ComScore Networks Inc., in Reston, Va., said its clear Chen is "betting the whole thing" on the unwired vision. According to Smith, to attract new developers, Sybase must first boost the integration capabilities and support of its PowerBuilder product: "How hard will it be to pull a C++ [developer] out there to use your product? It doesnt matter if its for new mobile [infrastructure or devices] or not; it has to be compelling enough to do that."
Other TechWave attendees, such as Sam Foster, president and CEO of FosterSoft Inc., in Lanham, Md., said Sybase is headed in the "right direction" with its mobile push. "As data needs grow, what good is data if you cant get to it? Everything is mobile now—unwired, unplugged. I cant wait for some of this to start happening on the back end."