Last week Sybase held its annual analyst event in the heart of New York’s financial district at the New York Stock Exchange. The event provided a useful forum in which to assess the company’s progress since being acquired by SAP in July last year but also gave an opportunity to catch-up on developments with Sybase IQ, its analytics platform. IQ is a successful columnar database, however under SAP it now has the opportunity to extend and broaden its market reach. For example through its integration with Business Objects, IQ can now be part of a cohesive BI solution stack, likewise the possibilities for channel and technology synergies will allow Sybase to build higher value strategic customer relationships and push into new markets, industries and geographies. As a previously independent analytic database vendor this is something the company could only dream about in the past.
Building on Sybase IQ’s strong market foundation to broaden and further its reach
Sybase is one of the leading columnar database vendors with over 3500 unique installations and over 2000 customers, up 250 in 2010. Similarly the company has seen double digit revenue growth in 2010 and double digit CAGR for the last six years. Building on this strong foundation and under SAP’s ownership, the company aims to extend IQ’s data warehousing presence in new and existing accounts. Where the company has traditionally adopted a horizontal go-to-market approach it will now also assume an industry-led focus by targeting customers in specific verticals such as Capital Markets, Telco, Insurance and Retail. At the same time an equally fertile (and obvious) market for Sybase is to drive adoption in existing SAP and Business Objects install bases.
Although Sybase has relied on partners, such as Microstrategy, to round out its BI platform, the move to integrate and optimise IQ with BusinessObjects’ EIM and BI stack makes a logical fit for both parties. Especially as around 20% of the IQ user base has BusinessObjects. For Sybase this means (at last) it can offer a more complete and integrated end-to-end BI offering covering capabilities such as data integration services, query, reporting, OLAP, dashboards and analytic applications on its flagship columnar database. But equally it can now underpin this with single sign-on access control, a common install and a coordinated global support effort to ensure customers receive a consistent and unified support operation. However claims that Sybase and SAP in combination can provide a full BI stack are a little off the mark considering that neither party has a native predictive analytics offering. BusinessObjects for example OEM’s SPSS’ Predictive Analytics Workbench whereas Sybase has a partnership with FuzzyLogix for in-database analytics. Whether SAP and Sybase plan to fill this gap remains to be seen.
IQ’s positioning against SAP BW and SAP HANA needs to be clearer
While tighter integration with Business Objects allows Sybase to redefine itself as a BI solution stack vendor it does raise some inevitable questions about its fit with SAP’s other data warehousing options—namely SAP BW and SAP HANA. Remaining clear about the compatibility, usage and deployment scenarios for each technology must remain a priority for SAP as confusion still appears to reign, especially if the number of questions asked at the event is anything to go by.
From what I can deduce there are three scenarios playing out here. Firstly SAP HANA, the company’s in-memory appliance, is today targeted towards accelerating the performance of SAP’s ERP suite. Whereas SAP BW is the company’s data warehousing platform for storing persistent SAP data, leaving Sybase IQ as the company’s general purpose data warehousing platform for both SAP and non-SAP data. Another way Sybase positioned it was that HANA is the platform for ‘hot’ data, whereas IQ is for the cold ‘long tail’ of data. I guess the idea is that HANA is targeted for high performance, low latency analytic applications whereas IQ is targeted for large scale analytic environments (it supports larger data volumes than HANA) where latency isn’t so much of an issue. While SAP HANA and IQ don’t directly compete in this scenario, many organisations are expected to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach before assessing if HANA provides any extra leverage over other analytic database options.
IQ sticking to its core credentials: scalability and performance
That said we believe Sybase IQ has reason to thrive in its new ecosystem. The analytic platform continues to advance in terms of performance and scalability and has posted some impressive TPC-H benchmarks results. Furthermore the upcoming release of IQ 15.3 PlexQ leverages a MPP architecture allowing organisations to scale out or up across lower cost hardware units and distribute query processing across multiple nodes for improved performance and flexibility. Likewise the 15.4 release will include a MapReduce API adding some much needed support for big data. These capabilities, coupled with the lower price points afforded by its reduced hardware and storage requirements, make IQ an attractive offering for organisations looking for a cost effective price-performant platform that can reliably scale up for industrial-strength analytic requirements but where ultra data latency is not the highest priority.
And finally while there are no (public) plans to stop Sybase operating as an independent company under SAP, we believe the opportunities for synergies across its data management portfolio will mean it’s only a matter of time before Sybase IQ becomes a fully fledged member of the SAP Business Objects and data warehousing family.