So SAP buys Sybase as its first major acquisition in quite a while and industry pundits speculate on the ‘what and why’ surrounding its customer base, its mobility platform, and its background in the database market. The obvious explanation was pitched first around the need to get a mobility platform, something that increasingly becomes the battleground for delivering the ‘services’ model of clouds and SaaS. Jack Gold on his Conceivably Tech blog gives a really good overview on this. Well worth reading in its entirety! Within the review he also notes something that escaped a lot of the commentators; Sybase365 the business unit embedded within Sybase that supports SMS/MMS services through most major carriers; Jack says, and as I cant put it any better, I quote;
Sybase has a major component of its business in Sybase 365: a company with connectivity to nearly all the worldwide carriers for its SMS/MMS messaging traffic. However, Sybase 365 also has some core components necessary for extending end user services to consumers (e.g., mobile payments, m-commerce, alerting). This is very attractive to key industries (e.g., retailing, banking) that want to extend their SAP back office systems to be direct to consumer focused (e.g., on-line banking, mobile commerce). This is a huge opportunity in both the developed and the developing world, and SAP should be able to leverage this accordingly and generate some significant revenues

Put that together with the strong process side of SAP and this adds a whole new dimension into consumer services, a rapidly growing area, beyond the acquisition of a simple mobility platform to support enterprise users. Others commented on the ability of SAP to make use of the Sybase database, and in-house development skills to link up with the recent announcements at SAP SAPPHIRE around the SAP focus on developing its own database approach. There were only a very few analysts who commented on the link to in memory data management which was the real unique sales proposition that SAP wanted to position around in terms of its impact on its Business Objects, BI and Real Time Data Analysis capabilities. Philip Howard of Bloor Research covered the database side and noted this connection in his blog.
However from the time of SAP SAPPHIRE a few weeks ago now probably the most frequent question I have been getting is ‘what’s this in memory database stuff all about’. So let’s try to define it in the terms of what Sybase has already introduced in January this year in the Sybase ASE 15.5 update with the statement made at the time though I can’t subsequently find it on the Web.
Sybase In-Memory Databases, IMDB, enable customers to achieve significant performance and throughput improvements in data intensive environments by having zero disk footprint and residing completely in memory.

What it actually means is that when relational databases were designed in the first place the availability of memory was low and a very elaborate process was used to ensure that transactions were written to the disk and conformed was used, and this together with the physics of spinning discs write limitations made write times slow. Conversely the physics of disc read technology coupled with the path structure of a relational database makes read times slow too. Today cheap reliable memory in abundance enables this whole process to be bypassed for many operations, and with thin client connected mobility devices this is quite a key issue. If you want to follow this topic up in detail and find out how to set up the Sybase IMDB then try this piece on the Dev-X website.
In addition Sybase have patented a unique approach to reading relational databases with a product called Sybase IQ that was intended to speed up access times in data warehouses. This searches in a particular style around ‘columns’ to limit how many values need to be searched and once again boosts performance. Add all this up and buried in the technology SAP got some real gold nuggets that should deliver to them a blazingly good mobile platform with unique capabilities to support and enable data rich remote operations that can be linked to the existing SAP process capabilities. I don’t know what the financial analysts make of it, but from a technical perspective it looks a good move to me.