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Sybase unwires the enterprise

When the lure of the Internet first started to draw companies in a mad panic of activity, it was seen as something to glue onto existing enterprise processes.

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When the lure of the Internet first started to draw companies in a mad panic of activity, it was seen as something to glue onto existing enterprise processes: We do business, so let's try to add the Internet on the side. The next phase was we do Internet, let's try to add business on to the side. Both are doomed to fail. Clearly the only successful way was to fully integrate the technology with business. It's the same with mobile.

Mobile technologies from laptops and PDAs to wireless LANs and cellular data services have been glued onto the side of many businesses over the last few years. Not really integrated under the control of the business, but making an attempt to make employees more effective. To be fair, most vendors have only been offering pieces of a solution, and integration is pretty complex, so it's no wonder many products have made it in to enterprises through the back door.

One vendor looking to change this, is Sybase.

When I looked at Sybase after the acquisition of AvantGo around a year ago, its mobile strategy seemed confusing. A raft of product names, wireless infrastructure and services through the iAnywhere Solutions subsidiary and a big legacy database business. Things are beginning to look different now.

Sure there's still a raft of products, but Sybase has a new mobile vision of how the products will develop. Of course the still successful database plays a major part, but the emphasis is now based more on managing the flow of information to the point of best utilisation, rather than locking into a managed box. This means outside the corporate perimeter -- both in terms of brick walls and firewalls -- to the fingertips of the mobile employee. The point being that information moved to the point where it can be best used makes it more relevant, accurate and reduces the decision cycles, saving time and money.

Sybase call this strategy "the unwired enterprise."

This only works if the enterprise mobilisation is managed from end-to-end, from corporate data centre to handheld memory. This poses a number of challenges. Few companies have the breadth of understanding from the requirements of a limited power and memory footprint mobile client, through delivery over the intermittent connections of multiple mobile networks, to the high volume integrated transactions of corporate applications.

Seen in this light, Sybase's current products fall into three categories: enterprise data management back end, mobile middleware, and mobile database. If it can successfully integrate this existing product line up it will be able to provide end to end managed data for applications that need to be always available, but on devices that are only occasionally connected.

The end goal is to do just this. Sybase is making a big bet on the average enterprise employee becoming more mobile, and that their organisations will move from tackling this in an ad hoc manner to one which is fully integrated into their business. Sybase has a good track record with managing aspects of mobile data, from long experience with a mobile database market leader, to major customers where it has provided integrated mobile solutions. If it can take this experience and productise it into the next round of 'unwired' products, it will meet that goal.

There's more to mobile data than just carrying it around in a PDA, and there's more to Sybase than just database.

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