I popped into the Brewer's Hall at the invitation of Sybase for thier UK launch of Sybase 15. The have three great new features to help them compete with Oracle and the free ones, and its good to see them spend some money and more importantly intellect on the database server.
The optimiser has been given a major overhaul. They've looked long and hard at what they can do and what academia and the market say is possible and adopted more modern, flexible and cheaper query plans, including multiple entry points, eliminating work tables, minimising the use of nested loops, new storage structures, more row level locked defaults etc. Some of the query performance improvements they claim would be unbelievable if you don't understand what they've done. This has been done to support their re-engineering of the size limits to allow VLDB implementations, together with changes to enable more effective OLAP mixed work load solutions. However, perfromance improvements can/will be obtained by more traditional OLTP implementations.
Sybase 15 has improved XML support, both storage and more excitingly, the ability to
expose stored procedures as a
web service. This might not be enough to encourage people to locate the data server in a DMZ, but either Sybase replication or standard web proxy architectures should be sufficient to protect the solutions.
Another featured highlight is LDAP implementation, I was discussing with Mark Hudson of Sybase about this because it extends the solutions design capability based on Sun/Sybase co-operation and he pointed out that Sybase have been on a road to LDAP implementation since V12.0, initially offering support for the server maps but now offering User authentication. I expect that understanding the definition, storage and aquistion of privilidges and aliases will need a fuller reading of the documentation.
They've also responded to customer calls and the markets growing requirement for more pervasive Encryption. My final personal highlight is that they've improved statement level statistics capture, permitting the simpler tracking of rogue queries.
Mark also let slip that Grid enablement is next. It'll be interesting to see what competition will do to the market's solutions designs when active/active HA databases become non-proprietary.