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SAP goes after Oracle's database with ASE

SAP is almost done porting its ERP software to the Sybase ASE database, meaning potential savings for customers

SAP will finish porting its ERP (enterprise resource planning) application to the Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) database later this year, giving customers now running Oracle and other platforms a lower-cost alternative, the company announced Tuesday during the Sapphire conference in Orlando.

Sybase ASE has only a fraction of the database market share held by Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, but it is widely used by financial institutions. SAP noted this in its announcement, saying its ERP customers will now get to use the same database "that powers Wall Street."

Future versions of SAP ERP will be "certified out-of-the-box" with Sybase ASE releases, SAP said. In addition, Sybase ASE's life cycle will be "fully synchronized with SAP maintenance policies to simplify release and deployment planning for customers."

The combination of ASE and SAP's business software will mean customers can deal with a single company "focused on efficient business operations and on providing attractive licensing and maintenance terms and conditions," SAP said.

It was not immediately clear how much customers could save buying Sybase compared to Oracle, although such estimates are hard to pinpoint, given the heavy discounting off list price that often occurs in software contract negotiations.

In addition, there's no telling how Oracle would respond in terms of pricing or customer incentives, should SAP manage to siphon off a significant amount of database revenue.

Also unclear was how ASE will coexist with SAP's HANA in-memory database over time. HANA, a less mature product than ASE, has so far been mostly targeted at analytic workloads, but could be positioned for transactional systems as well.

Database migrations are typically no small task. No details were immediately available Tuesday about tools or services SAP may provide customers to make the switch to Sybase, but some could emerge as the conference continues.

Meanwhile, SAP is also looking to take advantage of Oracle's recent decision to stop developing software for Intel's Itanium chips. Hewlett-Packard's Integrity servers are based on Itanium chips and run its HP-UX OS. SAP has committed long-term to HP-UX for both its business applications and ASE, according to a statement.

In addition, Red Hat is poised to offer customers the ability to run SAP software with ASE on its RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) OS, the company said.

Down the road, SAP plans to certify Sybase ASE for other products in its portfolio, including CRM (customer relationship management), NetWeaver Portal and NetWeaver Business Warehouse.

The Sybase ASE announcement, with its focus on reducing operational costs for customers, stands apart from SAP's splashy marketing pushes around mobility, in-memory computing and SaaS (software as a service).

In another announcement aimed at the installed base on Tuesday, SAP said a new Innovations 2010 "enhancement pack" for Business Suite 7 users is now available. The enhancement packs are supposed to give customers new features without the pain of a full upgrade, but in practice, the process of applying the packs has still required some work.

The new pack includes more than 300 new capabilities across various functional areas and industries.

SAP intends to increase the pace of releases for the enhancement packs, according to co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe.

"We think we can deliver quarterly enhancements," he said during a keynote address.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com


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