A business perspective on Sybase v Oracle: Why Migrate to Oracle?

Some Business Drivers for Migrating Away from Sybase ASE/IQ to Oracle 11g

Since SAP announced the intent to purchase Sybase I and my colleagues have gone from busy to, as we say in North Carolina, "Wiiiide Open" <--(think accent on the 'i' a la Richard Petty)

I want to jot a few thoughts to consider when you making the case to move. In some future blogs, I can write to the technical advantages, but in this one, I'll speak to some business considerations.

Antidotally, I have heard a multitude of customers telling me that they are on a forced march upgrade from 11 and 12 to ASE 15, and they are paying a heavy price for it in dollars and effort. Let me break down a few things to think about.

Business Risks of Sybase

In looking at the business perspective of staying on Sybase versus moving to Oracle, we will examine several key areas. I will look at the existing trends in the database and middleware marketplace, what analysts are saying and the amount of investment made in innovation. I believe that the current state of the Sybase database product poses business risk and uncertainty about long-term viability. Further, when compared to Oracle, there is a clearer choice of which product stack will provide the most security, reliability and support for mission critical systems, but I'll save that for a different post.

Sybase Roadmap? or What's going to happen now?

Two recent history events support this idea. First, the forced upgrade of customers from 11 and 12 to version 15. I see it time and time again. The costs associated with this effort along with the dropping of support of widely used versions left many Sybase Customers with limited alternatives namely: 1) Upgrade at a large cost 2) Face steep true up costs and 3) in some cases both.

The second event is the recent acquisition of Sybase by German owned SAP. This purchase has left a lot of questions to customers as to the commitment for forward progress of the traditional relational database. Analyst comments on the deal highlight SAP's desire to gain a strategic mobile product and in-memory technologies.

"They're investing in two areas they think will be important for them," namely mobile technology and in-memory databases, both areas where Sybase is strong, said Ray Wang, partner with Altimeter Group. - InfoWorld, May 12th 2010

Another industry analyst covering Sybase/SAP deal commented on the future of the RDMS System. The following excerpt is taken from a Reuter's article dated May 13th, 2010

SAP argued the Sybase deal made strategic sense because it will allow the German company to benefit from the "explosion in mobile data" especially in the Asian-Pacific region where Sybase had a strong presence.
California-based Sybase sells programs that make it easy for workers to access business software via smartphones and other mobile devices. SAP already uses the technology to let customers access its applications when they are on the road.
Jefferies & Co analyst Ross MacMillan said it was not clear how the Sybase database would fit into the rest of SAP's business of selling software for managing business tasks, such as accounting, human resources and manufacturing.
"The question I have is: what's the plan with the database business? Reading between the lines, it's not really growing, but it's highly profitable," MacMillan said.
What the Analysts are saying


The analyst community has been vocal on their position regarding Sybase. The following are documented quotes from known and respected analysts.
Enterprise DBMS Rating: 'CAUTION'
"We don't believe that Sybase will become the major player in the DBMS market that it once was. During the past few years, Sybase had experienced a decline in new license revenue for its ASE product." - Gartner, Vendor Rating, Sybase 2005
Questionable Long-term Viability
"[ASE] Sales have been tepid in recent years, prompting some to question the long-term viability of the company, and this perception, in turn, has undermined its ability to win new accounts (especially in the enterprise RDBMS space) and even to retain some customers." - IDC, Doc #34052

Lost Market Momentum
"Sybase has struggled in recent years with a perception that it has lost its market momentum and its database focus." - IDC, Doc #34082

Limited Skills Base

"Sybase has a limited skills base". Forrester estimates that "globally, only about 5% of database administers (DBAs) are trained on Sybase, and this number has not increased over the past three years". - Forrester Research

Market Share
In 2007, Sybase moved into the "Other" category for Sybase Market Share. As you can see in the following figure Sybase falls in the "Other" category along with Teradata, MySQL, Postgres and others.
(Source: Gartner, 2007)

Resource Comparison PRIOR to SAP Acquisition

According to 2007 SEC filings, we are able to examine the amount of innovation possible as a function of resources, revenue and investment. Sybase has put a fraction of R&D into its RDMS products sets and focused instead on work to propel its mobile technology. Ironically, their legacy RDMS revenue still represents ~60% of Sybase's software revenue.

So, here are just a few things to really think about, without even doing a functional comparison. If there was a question about moving, you should really thing now. Oracle has free Sybase Migration Tools with SQL Developer. Don't forget about the Safe Switch Program as well.


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