Sybase creates partnerships with Netscape, Verity

Sybase Inc. last week extended its push into Internet and object relational technologies as part of a slew of product announcements. Amid the product moves, however, the company reiterated its commitment to stay competitive by maintaining an open architecture.

Rather than introducing new products of its own, Sybase announced partnerships with Netscape Communications Corp. for Internet technology and Verity Inc. for text management.

In its heated competition with Informix Software Inc. and Oracle Corp. to meet emerging requirements in the database arena, Sybase is positioning itself as a more flexible end-to-end solution that will adapt to new and future database markets.

The new wave of technology may be exciting, but "it's just another mechanism for delivering your products and capabilities to the market," said Toby Younis, director of special programs at Sybase's Public Sector Group.

Much as it did last week, Sybase also plans to extend the capabilities of its SQL Server database platform with new technology and partnerships but without locking users into all aspects of its solutions, said Patrick Arnone, vice president and general manager of the Public Sector Group.

The alliance announcements are just the latest installments of what Arnone called "the largest product rollout in the corporation's history."

Last month the company announced web.sql, a middleware solution linking World Wide Web servers and databases. In addition, the company unveiled additions to its Enterprise Connect middleware technology for linking databases on different platforms.

Now, under its agreement with Netscape, Sybase will license, service and support Netscape's Internet servers and has integrated Netscape's server products into its own Internet offerings. Sybase's web.sql, however, is still Web server- and Web browser-independent.

Also, as an element of its object relational strategy - called the Adaptive Server - the company will integrate Verity's full text-search engine as an extension to its SQL Server technology, the basis of its System 11 relational database management software.

Matrix Approach

These newest pieces plug into a product matrix Sybase now follows that depicts how different elements of its strategy fit together.

The matrix consists of three layers: the SQL Server database family, including System 11 and its counterparts; Enterprise Connect middleware products; and the Powersoft application development tools. All three product families can be applied to on-line transaction processing, data warehousing or mass deployment applications.

While the different products have been tailored to work together, customers can mix and match them with other vendors' offering without taking a hit on performance, the company said. "All those products run extremely well inside the product family; all those products run equally well outside the product family," Arnone said.

Sybase is taking the same approach as it moves into the Internet space and develops its Adaptive Server technology.

"We don't want to lock people into a solution; we want to pick the really key solutions, bring them on, but at the same time maintain our openness," said Denise Willard, a systems consultant with Sybase's Public Sector Group.

This is not the case with Oracle and Informix, which are aiming for a more integrated product set, Younis said. Such an approach - done in the name of better performance - has the effect of locking users in, he said. If you don't use all the pieces of their offering, he said, "you lose mobility and flexibility as a result."

Industry analysts see Sybase's matrix approach as a key differentiator. "From a pure database server point of view, the differences between Oracle, Sybase and Informix are not really that great," said Herb Edelstein, president of Two Cross Corp., a Potomac, Md., consulting firm specializing in data mining and data warehousing. "It's when you look at the stuff that surrounds it that the differences begin to appear."

A Middleware Standout

In particular, Sybase stands out because of its middleware technology, said Dan Kusnetzky, research director for Unix and server operating environments at Internation Data Corp. "They can connect just about anything to just about anything and do it with a fairly good level of performance," he said.

Sybase believes it can leverage this strategy for significant growth over the next five years. Sybase as a whole expects to be a $5 billion to $7 billion company by the end of the decade. Its federal business unit, meanwhile, aims to grow from about $75 million in 1995 revenue to as much as $250 million by 1998, Arnone said.

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