iAnywhere Solutions Inc. is preparing an upgrade to SQL Anywhere Studio that should make it easier for companies to develop Web services applications that link its mobile database software with back-end computer systems.
iAnywhere plans to release a public beta of the software, which is code named Banff and also builds closer ties with Microsoft Corp.'s .Net environment, in early May. The final product is scheduled for release early in the third quarter, said Chris Kleisath, director of engineering at iAnywhere.
iAnywhere's slimmed-down database is designed for use on workgroup servers, laptops and handheld computers. The company claims to have 7 million deployed seats worldwide and was the leading mobile database vendor in 2001 with 73 percent of the market, according to the most recent figures available from Gartner Inc.
Its database is also embedded in products from Siebel Systems Inc., Novell Inc. and others, where it's often hidden under the covers and unseen by end users. It competes with offerings from Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp. and several smaller vendors.
A focus of Banff is to bring iAnywhere Studio up to date with emerging Web services technologies, which provide a way to exchange information among different enterprise applications using standard languages and protocols such as XML (Extensible Markup Language) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol).
For example, an insurance company might use an order-entry application at dozens of branch offices that has iAnywhere for its embedded database. The Web services capabilities in Banff should make it easier for developers to create a Web interface for that application, allowing it to funnel information back and forth to systems at the company's central office.
With Banff, the Web services code will run inside the database engine rather than on a separate Web or application server. When Web services requests come in, the new database will be able to generate the associated WSDL (Web services description language) file automatically, saving developers much of the required integration work, Kleisath said.
"We've also added very significant XML support inside the database server, to allow it to process XML coming in and to generate XML to satisfy requests," he said.
Oracle, Microsoft and IBM Corp. have also been adding XML support to their databases, making it easier to store and manipulate XML documents.
Building Web services is a complex business so any help iAnywhere can provide to developers should be a boon to customers, said
Wayne Kernochan, an analyst at Aberdeen Group.
iAnywhere is also broadening the development platforms supported by its product. In addition to C and Java, iAnywhere is adding support for Microsoft's .Net Compact Framework, allowing developers to take advantage of its Visual Studio tools and ADO.Net.
iAnywhere has also done performance work for applications that run against large databases or involve complex queries and tweaked the product in other ways to make life easier for administrators.
For example, database performance depends partly on how data is indexed. Banff will add an index analysis tool that looks at database transactions and offers a list of suggested indexes that offer the best performance for the work the database is doing.
"It offers suggestions in terms of what indexes it would be beneficial to create, and which to get rid of, then you can use that to fine tune your database to get optimal performance, Kleisath said.
Stephen Drake, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts, said iAnywhere appears to have "a little bit of a step up" on its competitors in the mobile space. It benefits from the backing of parent company Sybase Inc. but at the same time operates as a subsidiary, he noted.
iAnywhere wasn't ready yet to talk about pricing and packaging for Banff. The code name comes from a national park in Canada known for its skiing, a hobby of the company's vice president for engineering.
In a research note in December, Gartner said the mobile database market is in a "short term stall" as companies were delaying mobile initiatives for economic reasons. It also said the market is in its youth with some cutting edge projects just coming out of the pilot stage.
Developers can sign up for the beta program at http://www.ianywhere.com/banff.