BI Implications Of SAP-Sybase Deal - Plenty

By Boris Evelson

The obvious:

  • SAP gets its own relational (Sybase ASE) and analytical (Sybase IQ) DBMS. Why is this a positive since SAP already has tight partnerships with major DBMS and DW vendors such as Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Teradata, and HP? Simple. First, SAP can now control the code. Second, SAP can now potentially reduce reliance on DBMS partners, most of whom (Oracle, IBM, Microsoft) have their own full software stacks and therefore compete, often putting a strain on partnership relationships. True, Sybase ASE has a rather low market penetration, other than on Wall St (see Stefan Ried's blog), but since SAP BW takes care of most of the traditional RDBMS design and implementation tasks, Sybase could be positioned as a black box engine under BW, that does not require separate design, administration and maintenance environment. *** Update. SAP just confirmed that each of its applications can run on an independent database, so having mixed DBMS platforms under ERP and BW will not be an issue.
  • SAP also gets highly relevant (for low latency BI) and currently missing CEP technolgy from the Sybase Aleri acquisition and an OEM version of Coral8.
  • SAP customers may also benefit from advanced analytics from Fuzzy Logix, integrated and embdded in SybaseIQ
  • Sybase gets a badly needed BI front end on top of its Sybase IQ analytical DBMS. While Sybase is leading the market in the columnar DBMS, it is somewhat challenged selling and positioning the product with the business buyers, since they can’t really see, feel, or touch it.


The not so obvious:

  • Will SAP BW be now certified on ASE, IQ, or both? IQ is probably a better choice, since BW is mostly analytical and not transactional. But first, that would require giving IQ an MDX interface which it does not have. Second, BW architecture calls for building OLAP cubes (InfoCubes), and IQ is all about columnar architecture which does not require cubes (can often query, group,  sort and rank faster than cubes). So both engines (BW and IQ) would require significant re-architecting. Putting BW on ASE would probably be architecturally easier, but it would not then take advantage of all the benefits that columnar technology brings to DW and BI. I hear from some of my colleagues that certifying SAP ERP apps and BW on a DBMS platform is at least a two-year process (is it true?) - so this may not even be relevant in the short term. *** Update. It was correctly pointed out to me that a front end tool accesses BW via MDX, but BW in turn issues SQL against the underlying relational DBMS (if/when it has to). However, IQ, like all columnar DBMS do not have ACID (append, change, insert, delete) architecture on a row level, rather they require batch updates. So both BW and IQ may have to be rearchitected to allow for batch, not row level operations.
  • There’s quite an overlap between Sybase IQ and SAP TREX (DBMS that BIA is based on) engines, both columnar. SybaseIQ is way more mature, but TREX is optimized to run in memory. Perhaps, best of both worlds? *** Update. One of the SAP executives erroneously stated on the merger announcement call that "TRex is not columnar". It is indeed columnar, SAP  just reconfirmed it.
  • There’s also an overlap in SAP BusinessObjects and Sybase EII technologies. Neither are market leading, so combining two mediocre products with tiny market shares may not be the best option. I say SAP now needs to acquire Composite Software and complete the physical + virtual DW picture.


What's next? Plenty. SAP is still missing a few key BI components:

  • Seamless analysis of structured data and unstructured content. Perhaps an Endeca or Attivio acquisition will make sense here.
  • Even though SAP is positioning Explorer with BIA as its in-memory technology, it serves a different purpose than other, more general in-memory tools. I say a QlikTech acquisition is not totally out of the question.
  • Advanced analytics. Since Sybase only cosells/resells Fuzzy Logix SAP still needs to get advanced analytics capabilities of their own. Perhaps SAP will revisit SAS talks, but that's highly unlikely until Dr. Goodnight is ready to retire. And I don't think he is. Plenty of other targets, though.
  • Process analytics. Pegasystems? Appian?


Read other takes on the event from my colleagues Jim Kobielus, Holger Kisker and Paul Hamerman.