At its user meeting last week Sybase sketched out a plan to develop a hybrid object/relational database that should help the company match the strategies of competitors Oracle and Informix Software.
Seeking to resuscitate its tarnished image as a technological leader, the company announced Adaptive Server, a series of extensions to its SQL Server 11 database that will let users incorporate multiple types of data such as HTML, text and images into their mainstream applications.
Sybase will modify its core database engine to manipulate certain data types, including HTML and Standardised General Markup Language, and will provide hooks from its engine to third-party specialised servers to handle other data types such as spatial data, text and time-series data, company officials say.
The first third-party connections to SQL Server 11 will be announced in July; the built-in support for HTML and other structured data in the Adaptive Server will likely be available next year, Sybase officials have said.
The hybrid database will also support the evolving SQL 3 standard for support of user-defined data types.
Sybase is seeking to differentiate itself from rivals Oracle and Informix, which are actively developing monolithic "universal" servers for handling object and relational data.
Sybase says its approach is more flexible because users can choose to deploy objects either through specialized database servers or, via its ObjectConnect middleware, atop application servers.
While craving more specifics and voicing performance concerns, some users says they favored the three-tier architecture advocated by Sybase and the company's plans to form partnerships.
"I think it's a more realistic approach than Oracle's Universal Server," says Tim Johnson, principal at DRT Systems International, a division of Deloitte & Touche Consulting, in Toronto. "You can't be all things to all people."
Analysts and users say that Sybase's object strategy announcement is geared primarily at addressing users' future requirements, rather than satisfying a pent-up demand for object support.
"It's a big marketing issue," says Terence Quinn, financial analyst at Furman Selz, in New York. "Unless they address these different data types, they will fall further down the line and may delay some buying decisions."
Other announcements by Sybase last week included a partnership with Baan Inc. to port Baan's client/server applications to SQL Server 11 by year's end.
Sybase subsidiary Powersoft announced that its PowerBuilder 5.0 development tool and InfoMaker 5.0 report writer will ship next month.