Interview: Sybase CEO: New database 'e-business-ready'

Nine months after taking over as full-time solo chief executive officer at database maker Sybase, John Chen still has an uphill climb.

Although profits are up, quarterly revenues slipped from last year's $US217.8 million to $210 million this quarter, while Sybase lost database server market share. And database rivals Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Informix have all unveiled new database releases. IDG's senior writer Stewart Deck talked to him last week after the company's earnings release.

Chen talked about:

Sybase's new database, to be released in October:

I'm making sure that it's enterprise-ready for e-business. My e-business database strategy is keyed to high availability and reliability geared to Web-based and dynamic content, with features including built-in, automatic retry. The entire database will be written in Java, including Java's Enterprise Beans concept, so all data types can be represented in the database. We're also partnering with Tibco (Software) for messaging capabilities.

Sybase's quarterly revenue slip:

Among my goals this year are to continue profitability and generate both earnings momentum and cash, which would allow us to grow more next year. I said this year revenue would be mostly flat, because it would take time to get sales channels fully going. The slip in revenue this quarter wasn't alarming because we've moved a lot of people into divisions and have done a lot of cross-training to jump-start partnerships and channels.

Also a lot of my (big) financial-services customers have been preoccupied with their year 2000 testing and certification. We also had a $3 (million) to $4 million revenue impact due to exchange rates and the strong U.S. dollar because we do a lot of business in Europe.

Sybase's forthcoming enterprise information portal (EIP) strategy:

In August we will announce our EIP strategy, which will stress the strengths of our middleware and the replication technology we have, our gateway technologies and our connectivity capabilities.

Optimising for SAP applications:

We don't currently have a database version optimized for SAP. We're in ongoing discussions with them, but we haven't yet come together. We're partnering with PeopleSoft and Documentum right now.

Data warehousing developments:

We released Warehouse Studio last year, which allows people to build warehouses quickly, and this year we've released four different turnkey applications - including credit-card spending, insurance renewal, and billing applications - and we plan to release four more by the end of the year.

Strategy for mobile and embedded databases:

We are working on new wireless technology, especially mobile links, that let different devices talk to each other. On the market side we're focusing our attention on getting our products embedded into application designs and e-commerce applications. We added 26 new embedded application providers last quarter; our goal is to reach 100 new applications a year.

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