When we last looked at Sybase, Inc., we talked very briefly about the company's new Pocket PowerBuilder, a mobile applications development tool that can reportedly be used by enterprise developers to build mobile, handheld, and wireless WinCE-based applications. The critical benefit of this new product, we explained, was its use of the Sybase DataWindow technology, which allows "dynamic data access with display formatting and data manipulation capabilities", and its use of 4GL IDE for mobile development, according to the techno-types at the firm.
A couple of months before that, we discussed a significant upgrade to the Manage Anywhere Studio "lifecycle management" software, available form the company's iAnywhere Solutions, Inc. subsidiary. We liked this software because it was broken into modules, which allowed users to install, pay for, and support only those elements needed at the time. What this essentially means is that the product can be gradually phased in and expanded as a company's mobile assets and deployments increase -- perfect for tight budgets and modest deployment tactics. The software modules include software to control asset management, security, live support, mobile and remote software deployment and OS migration.
We remind you of these past reflections on Sybase and iAnywhere Solutions because we are about to talk about yet another important release from the company, and we are concerned you might think we are on the Sybase payroll given the amount of digital ink we are spreading about the company's news. (In fact, we have renamed out firstborn "Sy-Base", but only because we thought it would stop the bullies from pummeling him in the schoolyard each day! His real name is "Billy-Gates", but that is another story and stream of therapy.)
Hip, hype and happening
Seriously, last week the iAnywhere Solutions subsidiary of Sybase announced the release of SQL Anywhere Studio 9, described as a data management and enterprise synchronization solution for anytime, anywhere access to corporate information. New features of the software include expanded support for standards, a higher level of scalability, and a variety of tools that are designed to enhance develop productivity. In short: a better, faster, and more capable product. Hmmm...where have we heard those claims before? Oh yes, from nearly every product developer and vendor on the planet!
So, we decided to cut through the hype and talk to some of the people who are responsible for developing the new product and to ask some serious questions about why we should really take the time from our all-important tanning sessions to come up to speed on it. We learned the following:
- One of the more important improvements injected into SQL Anywhere Studio 9 is its enhanced ability to support XML, Web services, and .NET applications development. Apparently, a number of iAnywhere Studio OEM customers (Sybase claims to have more than 800 of them!) have approached the company and asked about improvements to XML support. These OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) have a large requirement for relational data base technology and they view XML as an extremely necessary component for importing from and exporting to older legacy-type data and files. The improved XML support built into this new version of the software not only offers a higher degree of compatibility, but users can now parse XML documents. Previous releases of the software offered very minimal XML support, says Mike Paola, Group Product Manager for iAnywhere Solutions.
- This latest chapter in the iAnywhere Solutions story also offers an improved talent to take advantage of Web services, as well as the ability for users to publish data base information as a Web service. The previous release of the software (Version 8) offered a few initial pieces of .NET capabilities and support, although this latest version dramatically expands that capability. In fact, one of the early users of the .NET enhancements within Version 9 is Pepsi, which reportedly found that the environment makes it very easy for .NET programmers to natively use the Sybase SQL Anywhere data base.
- Version 9 is also able to handle more complex queries and support significantly more mobile users, says Chris Kleisath, Director of Engineering for iAnywhere Solutions. In developing these new capabilities the company tweaked the algorithms of the technology and then reportedly tested it with more than a thousand concurrent users that hammered away with a variety of multiple query types.
- Finally, SQL Anywhere Studio 9 has been beefed up with support for the Macintosh OS (the company was showing the technology at an Apple developers just hours after the announcement hit the streets), added compatibility for Intel's 64-bit Itanium platform as well as for Linux, and developed an "Index Consultant" that will actually let you know if your programming is not quite optimized and could stand for a little more programming elbow grease.
Since everything is focused on mobile and extending the database to a variety of portable devices, the technology was also enhanced with some new synchronization options, included a server-initiated function that aggregates back-end data base information and can zap it out as an SMS message.
But hey, don't take our word on the capabilities of SQL Anywhere's latest iteration (or the slightly biased opinions offered by Mike or Chris either, for that matter). Check out the software yourself at http://www.ianywhere.com/products/sql_anywhere.html and let us know what you think!
Just when you thought you'd had enough Sybase...
Earlier last month, Sybase announced that it would launch a $25 million strategic initiative to help foster the development of 802.11 wireless applications for the enterprise. As part of this effort, the company plans to collaborate with leading research universities and industry partners to overcome current barriers to the development of "always available" applications. Just what are these barriers, you ask?
According to Sybase, they concern roaming connectivity and synchronization, which is the heart and soul of "always available" wireless networks; end-to-end security, including on-device encryption and so-called "communications stream encryption"; and battery life, which involves developing applications that are smart enough to limit battery drain when synchronizing and manipulating data off-line.
The first stage of this multi-million-dollar effort will be the launch of a network of Wi-Fi competency centers, one of which will be hosted at the Research and Technology Park at the University of Waterloo, says Sybase. The company also plans to work with more than a thousand of its partners to pump up the volume on mobile application development, especially those applications that take a database-centric approach to wireless applications (naturally!).
We think this is a great idea, even though some critics may say that Sybase most likely has its own interests in mind by pushing an applications development initiative through its own partner channels and promoting development that will most likely be based on its own technology. Hey, any effort that targets the development of true wireless applications (and not just ports of wired programs) deserves some recognition -- although we will be keeping our analytical eye on this and other efforts as they progress.
Right now, technologies such as 802.11b are hot on the consumer side, while faster versions of the technology, such as 802.11a and recently-ratified 802.11g, are getting quite a bit warmer within the enterprise. In order to succeed in the enterprise, these technologies must be supported by solid and workable wireless applications because the people holding precious cash in these companies are just not buying technology for technology's sake anymore. A lot of vendors have discovered this and are now working to build channel relationships to sell hardware and such through systems integrators and developers who do offer business applications and intimately know their industry segments.
You can learn more about the Sybase Wi-Fi initiative by logging onto the Internet through your nearest 802.11 hotspot and cruising over to www.sybase.com.
Tim Scannell is the president and chief analyst with Shoreline Research, a Quincy, Mass.-based consulting company specializing in mobile and wireless technology and initiatives. Shoreline works with end users, looking to implement mobile solutions, and vendors, developing new products and seeking business and customer opportunities. The company also specializes in training and strategic planning projects. For more information on Shoreline Research and the company's strategic services please go to www.shorelineresearch.com.