Three year-old Sybase Inc, a recent but highly competitive entrant on the growing Unix-based database management system scene, is poised to enter the UK with its on-line relational database intended for transaction processing. Saying that it doesn’t feel that relying on distributors will get the right results, it plans to open a UK office by the end of the year. Opponents already entrenched in the UK include DBMS software vendors Relational Technology Inc; Oracle Corp, Informix Corp and Unify Corp. Sybase is convinced, however, that it has the right staff, backing and product to take a sizable share of this well-populated area. Sybase, based in Berkeley, California has a strong pedigree in personnel terms including the principal developer of Britton Lee’s database machines and a number of other ex-Britton Lee employees, as well as key staff involved in the development of Ingres – the Relational Technology product. The 100-strong company’s financial backers include Hambrecht & Quist, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Charles River Ventures, TRW Inc and Oak Investment Partners.
The Sybase system is based on a requester/server architecture where application and data management functions are handled separately. The product has two components: the DataServer, which handles data management; and the DataToolset which provides a set of window-based tools for building and running applications. The two components can run concurrently on a single machine or independently on different ones with the DataToolset providing transparent access across most major networks to the remote DataServer. The DataServer will allow applications running on many different machines to access a common database. Sybase claims high volume performance, DBMS enforced integrity, high availability, and distributed data management for its DataServer, noting that this is a function of its advanced architecture. This multi-threaded server architecture allows a single process to manage the tasks of all users accessing data on a machine. The single process creates a database operating system on top of, but independent of the machine’s operating system so that the DataServer controls functions such as scheduling, task switching, disk caching, indexing, transaction processing, and locking. Sybase claims that its product can handle the DataServer with 20Kb of main memory per user, which it points out frees more memory to act as disk cache to reduce input-output overhead. The multi-threaded architecture means that the DataServer can optimise and process several SQL statements at the same time as well as handling transaction locking and input-output. Sybase also allows an applications developer to create a set of procedures that can be stored in the data dictionary as compiled images which may then be shared by all applications. These procedures are defined using Transact-SQL which is a set of logic and transaction procedures added to standard SQL. Sybase claims that this product is the first SQL environment that handles complex transactions and referential integrity within the database. Sybase says that its DataToolset allows applications to be built, run and maintained on character terminals or bit-mapped workstations and no application code changes are required to move applications between the two. The inspiration for the DataToolset came from the Apple Macintosh-style user interface and uses all the visual facilities associated with that product. The DataToolset components include AptForms which handles the presentation of data for on-line applications; DB-Library and Forms-Library, which provide forms control and access to the DataServer from programs written in C, Cobol, and Fortran – DB-Library also includes networking for DECnet and TCP/IP; and the Data Workbench, which provides a set of tools that help with decision support, application development and database maintenance. Sybase intends its products for use in government and defence, Fortune 1000, banking and finance, and telecommunications markets and numbers amongst its current c
ustomers Chemical Bank, Johns Hopkins Hospital and TRW. Sybase is confident that the market for its product is growing citing an International Data Corp report that forecasts that relational database systems will grow from 30% of the market in 1986 to 70% of the market in 1990, and notes that the report also states that the DBMS market itself is expected to triple over the same period.
Sybase says that most relational databases are currently used in decision support applications and thinks that as more companies use them as such they will see the need for a relational database in their on-line applications. Because the product has been designed from scratch for transaction processing, Sybase makes the contentious claim that it has a two to three year lead on other relational database vendors in the on-line arena, but it is up against the likes of the established and rapidly growing Oracle and Relational Technology, both of which have recently been stressing improved transaction processing performance. Nevertheless Sybase vice president of marketing, Stewart Schuster, claims that in order to meet the required levels of performance, integrity and high application availability other database products will have to go through substantial retrofitting or even total redesign. And, he says, a problem for existing relational database vendors trying to move into the on-line market will be providing a migration path for current customers. Sybase products are currently available on DEC VAX/VMS products and Sun Microsystems’ workstations running Unix but says it is also talking with Pyramid Technology with a view to porting the Sybase product to its RISC machines. Sybase has also recently gained an OEM contract with Stratus. The 100 employee company says its product will run over a wide range of operating systems, adding that it actually avoids operating systems like the plague and in the Unix system only uses 10 Unix commands.