Sybase pays dividends as City's database of choice

Hot skills: ASE has small but lucrative share of the market

What is it?

The Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) database management system, for which Sybase is best known, holds just 3% of the market, but it is a lucrative share, since Sybase is the preferred database for many City firms, and average salaries for experienced developers are well in excess of £50,000.

Sybase, or rather its offshoot iAnywhere, also dominates what is expected to be one of the fastest growing segments of the data management market.

According to analyst firm IDC, the worldwide market for mobile device management (MDM) enterprise software will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 28.8% from 2006 to 2010. For the fifth year in a row, IDC has put Sybase at the top of that market.

Sybase's foundation MDM product is SQL Anywhere, based on the small-footprint Adaptive Server Anywhere relational database, together with Ultralite, a relational database with an even smaller footprint for devices with small memories. SQL Anywhere scales from hand-held devices to 64-bit servers.

SQL Anywhere has succeeded by appealing to independent software suppliers looking for a fast, secure database to embed in their applications.

Sybase is now set to challenge Microsoft on the desktop, where it believes there is potential demand for a small-footprint, zero-administration database.

Where did it originate?

Sybase was formed in 1984. It made a strong entry into the relational database management system market.

In 1988, Sybase teamed up with Microsoft, providing the code for SQL Server on Unix, while Microsoft marketed it for Windows. The deal lasted five years, after which the Sybase SQL Server drifted apart from Microsoft's product. It was renamed ASE in 1995.

SQL Anywhere evolved from Watcom SQL, which was acquired by Sybase subsidiary Powersoft in 1993 and given its present name in 1995.

What's it for?

SQL Anywhere is designed for widely deployed mobile applications that are synchronised and administered centrally, such as those used by field sales and maintenance staff.

Synchronisation is provided by Mobilink Synchronisation Server, with SQL Remote for users who only connect occasionally.

SQL Anywhere includes a suite of tools for developing and managing applications, including Sybase Powerdesigner. However, part of the product's success has been that it enables the developer to use existing tools and skills.

Sybase is part of the Eclipse Java development platform consortium, and the Sybase Workspace application development environment is Eclipse-based.

What makes it special?

SQL Anywhere mobile applications can exchange data with Oracle, DB2 and SQL Server, as well as Sybase ASE. There is a free, downloadable version of SQL Anywhere for developers.

How difficult is it to master?

The SQL Anywhere 10 Fundamentals course, aimed at aspiring database administrators and developers, takes four days. For the more experienced, there is the Sybase Developer Network, which provides support, code examples and training. It is free to join but is controlled by Sybase.

Where is it used?

SQL Anywhere is deployed across nine million seats at 12,000 companies worldwide, according to iAnywhere. UK users include Airtours, Whitbread, Prudential, United Utilities, Reed Elsevier and West Ham United. It has more than 1,000 software partners including Cisco, Intuit, Siebel and Veritas.

What systems does it run on?

Windows 2000/XP/2003, Windows Mobile (Pocket PC/Windows CE), many versions of Linux, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, HP-UX, Novell Netware and Mac OS X.


Training is available from Sybase and subsidiaries such as iAnywhere and Avantgo. The SQL Anywhere Developer Edition is available for free download from

Rates of pay

Salaries for Sybase junior developers and database administrators start at £30,000.

Salary survey:

Catch up on training advice with Hot Skills

Read more on Database software