Is SAP finally getting its money's worth from Sybase?

Corporate technologies acquisitions can go bad, it’s a fact.

AT&T bought NCR to try and gain a foothold in the PC market and the deal ended up as rotten as a box of stale eggs. The Skype and eBay deal went pretty sour from the start and HP’s purchase of Compaq was not without its woes.

Oracle on the other hand sits proudly (with a Larry Ellison kind of swagger) behind an open statement which specifies that the company is “out there to push forward its corporate acquisition and consolidation strategy” to grow.

So to SAP and the company’s somewhat over-used favourite term “innovation” — this week sees the company host its Sapphire/TechEd Europe conference in Madrid with its newly adopted child Sybase also in attendance.

At the time of SAP’s most recent corporate shopping spree, headlines of “SAP buys Sybase, but why?” were not uncommon. The German software giant was derided for “purchasing” a mobile platform rather than building its own; and Sybase itself seemed to be going from strength to strength at the time, posting successive positive earnings results as it was.

But the purchase went ahead regardless and the industry has sat it out and waited to see if it was going to be a case of happy families or one of irreconcilable differences.

So to Madrid and SAP’s keynotes, Sybase has been left in the front row seats as opposed to having any stage presence these days. SAP’s spokespeople have been shuffled to the front of the press briefing list and the Sybase Unwired Platform is jolly nice, but the real news is SAP HANA.

But wait, analyst firm IDC is positive and research director for enterprise mobility strategies Nick McQuire thinks that the integrated platform and application story of SAP and Sybase is strong.

“Companies are seeking the productivity and process improvements, cost reduction and business transformation opportunities that mobile applications can provide. This perfect storm of mobile device proliferation, 3G adoption, employee mobility and consumer app demand is propelling mobile enterprise applications up the CIO agenda,” said McQuire.

So in the words of British Rail, “we’re getting there” then? Are we?

Sybase has in fact used this week’s event to talk about its next release of Afaria, a management product for mobile application development that brings some fairly well respected security functions to the table. The company also integrated its Sybase RAP trading edition product for financial/capital markets with the R statistical programming language for data scientists and business analysts.

These were pretty interesting stories. But SAP had plenty to say too and made much of its Electronic Medical Record mobile app as well as its ‘Field Service’, CRM and retail execution technologies.

Then there was also the SAP ‘Citizen Connect’ mobile app. Citizens can take a picture of an issue and locate, categorise and describe it to local authorities and then receive status updates on reported issues, such as graffiti, trash removal or street light or pothole repair.

So this Sybase story has ended up as an SAP story and perhaps that speaks volumes. Perhaps this means that Sybase has been successfully absorbed into the fold. So is SAP finally getting its money’s worth from Sybase? It seems so; SAP has stated that all mobile applications that it will not certify have to be compliant with the Sybase Unwired Platform.

Editorial disclosure: Adrian Bridgwater works in an editorial capacity for the International Sybase User Group, an independent association that represents thousands of users of Sybase products in more than sixty countries around the world. He is not an employee of Sybase but seeks to work with ISUG to support its work challenging Sybase product development and training.