I am sitting on the porch reading a Sybase ASE document on transparent database encryption, so it’s ironic that a few minutes ago I got word that SAP bought Sybase for $5.8 billion. SAP posted a press release. This announcement is right on the heels of their partnership announcement last March.

It’s been my feeling for several years now that relational databases have been on a steady retreat back into the core of the enterprise, from whence they came. Smaller, modular, more agile repositories are in vogue for everything outside enterprise IT data centers. They are easier and more accessible to developers, and they are free. I bring this up because this is one of the ways Sybase has been squeezed out of the enterprise relational database market. Let’s be honest – people looking for a new database now either go cheap and select a PostgreSQL / MySQL platform, or pay for the name brand / stack synergy / bundled pricing discounts for Oracle or IBM. Sybase has been steadily growing over the last five years due to new product offerings, but they remain something of an afterthought in the enterprise database market. Sybase does not enter into the discussion of new database sales, so they rely on keeping their current installed base happy and growth of their mobile offerings.

And it’s not easy to succeed with Oracle undercutting them on price and IBM going after all their hardware vendor relationships. SAP levels the playing field for Sybase, putting them in a position to grow and get visibility with a larger body of prospects. Sybase gives SAP a technologically current database platform, an analytics engine, mobile data/device support and some other tools. Honestly, many of us had been wondering how long it would be before someone like SAP bought them. Sybase could not compete head to head in the relational database space without this relationship – not because of the technology, but due to customer preference to reduce risk by buying from stable providers. I really hate saying it, but the purchase legitimizes Sybase products and viability. An established company with over a billion in revenue should not need such endorsements, but when competing with Oracle and IBM, they do.