Sybase Plays Catch-Up

Developer bids to broaden ase appeal with clustering and added XML support.

A longtime database underdog, Sybase Inc., plans a major push further into the enterprise with revamped versions of its database server.

Upgrades planned for the companys ASE (Adaptive Server Enterprise) database feature improved clustering capabilities, expanded XML support and more self-management features, said officials of the Dublin, Calif., developer.

In an ASE release tentatively called Version 12.6 and due in mid-2003, Sybase will improve its so-called shared-nothing clustering approach with a new software feature called updateable partition views that gives users a more unified view of data partitioned across processors. The release will add other intelligent partitioning features to ease data partitioning, said Raj Nathan, manager of Sybases Enterprise Solutions division.

Further out, Sybase is considering a move toward a shared-disk approach to clustering in a 2004 release tentatively called Version 15.0. That release is expected to ease management of files in a clustered environment.

Meanwhile, Sybase rival Oracle Corp., of Redwood Shores, Calif., offers shared-disk clustering with its RAC (Real Application Clusters) feature in the Oracle9i database. This week at LinuxWorld, it will introduce an open-source cluster file system for its Oracle9i database running Linux with RAC. A developers release will be available this week, and a general release will follow by late October, officials said.

Sybase also plans to add further native support for XML in the 12.6 release and support for the XML querying standard XQuery as it develops, officials said.

"We believe in looking at our customer base and the value we can add," said Sybase Chairman and CEO John Chen. "Rather than going to fight it out with [Microsoft Corp.s] SQL Server on price ... pushing the enterprise up plays to the strength of our hand. Thats what were trying to do."

At its TechWave user conference here last week, Sybase announced that PeopleSoft Inc. will extend its support of ASE to the companys customer relationship management applications. Sybase will treat PeopleSoft as a preferred applications vendor.

In addition to the PeopleSoft partnership, Sybase will announce one or two similar partnerships over the next 12 months with vendors in other applications areas, such as geographic information systems, said Chen. The goal is to strengthen ties to customers so that they arent lured away by database vendors.

The PeopleSoft partnership isnt enough to reassure all users that Sybase is committed to the database for the long haul. Sybase has faced a steady decline in its database market share in recent years, falling to 3.3 percent of the relational database market for new sales last year, according to Gartner Dataquest, in San Jose, Calif.

Its falling profile worries Bakul Patel, a supervisor/ computer specialist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in Washington, which runs ASE 12.03.

"We dont want to be left out in the cold," Patel said. "Id like to stay with Sybase, [but] were looking at Oracle as a backup."

Other users, though, said they felt more confident after hearing details about Sybases ASE road map during conference sessions. ASE user Brian Pollard, data systems administrator at Micron Technology Inc., said he believes Sybase is heading in the right direction to help him deal with an increasing amount of data and users.

"Ive never felt more assured that the Sybase database is going to be a vital database solution for the next couple years," said Pollard, in Boise, Idaho. "Its clear the direction theyre taking ASE is going to solve the larger database, more user problem Im going to see in the next few years."