Is SAP a contending mainstream database vendor?

SAP HANA is arguably a leader in the Big Data, in-memory database market.  A modern, yet backwards compatible RDBMS using ANSI standard relational SQL.  Rapid adoption is possible due to the familiarity by masses of experienced DBAs and database developers.  Unlike NOSQL, the learning curve and tools are fairly intuitive.

Working applications built on top of any RDBMS can quite easily be upgraded to use this powerful enterprise database with minimal application infrastructure or design changes.  No need to learn whole new and sometimes proprietary programming languages or to run the risk and high cost of a complete re-write in order to fit and get the most out of the underlying NOSQL database model.

So SAP has a winner … but this database is really only practical and cost justified for VERY high volume and VERY big company needs.   What about mainstream and entry level small to medium business needs?  Will the SAP purchase of Sybase eventually take hold and grab some market share from incumbent database vendor giants like Oracle ( Oracle & MySQL ), IBM ( DB2 ) and Microsoft ( SQL Server )?   Will they be able to crack the top 5 that also includes PostgreSQL ?  I think the answer may be “it depends”.   I, for one, would not count them out based on their database strategy I am seeing starting to take shape.

What are their strengths and challenges in gaining market share?   Well one of their greatest advantages is SAP “run your business” market penetration and share.  They can continue to entice customers to switch underlying databases if, for example they maintain virtually transparent compatibility while including an SAP database for FREE with their core ERP and other enterprise software applications.  In my opinion, the top 3 action items for SAP to gain marketshare in the mainstream database space:

  1. Leverage the large existing SAP customer base.  It is far less expensive to both a vendor ( and customer ) to cross sell ( or buy ) additional products & services from a one-stop-shop then it is to acquire new customers ( or get products & support from multiple vendors ).
  2. Make it free … at least for a conversion from a competing database vendor for an extended period like the first 1 to 2 years of use.  Include complimentary ( free ) database vendor conversion tools and/or services.
  3. Promote and support an eco-system of value-added third party tools that make the switch and ongoing use as seamless as possible.  From what I can see based on recent activites, SAP is investing in and improving their Partner programs.  FinditEZ is, for example, now profiled along with others on their new SAP Analytics Extensions portal.

SAP’s biggest challenge though is not in the quality of their mainstream database systems … we all know that SQL Server started out as the Windows version of Sybase ASE.  In fact, in our recent development efforts @ FinditEZ to support SAP Sybase ASE we found the system views and RDBMS meta data to still be virtually identical to SQL Server.   I think SAP’s biggest challenge is the need to either:

  • Narrow down and focus on a smaller sub-set of databases.  At the very least, make it very clear which database is best for a given workload or size.
  • — or — Dump some of the lessor used databases to focus on one or maybe just two mainstream database products perhaps with various editions that allow component install/customization for a particular workload/configuration like all of the other major players do.  KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid  😉

Personally, I would go with just SAP ASE and SQL Anywhere for example.   Migrate away from and drop Sybase IQ, MaxDB and ADS ( Advantage Database Server ) products.  This would streamline both ongoing SAP database team development efforts and support needs.   This, in turn, would cut vendor costs, allowing them to focuse more resources on innovation in just one or two products … AND, more importantly, would make customer choices much clearer and simpler.

At FinditEZ, we recently chose to add support for a limited subset of SAP HANA, ASE, SQL Anywhere and IQ … and the only reason we even included IQ is because it was virtually identical in implementation to SQL Anywhere AND SAP is continuing to promote this database in its portfolio roadmap.

What do you think?   Do they have a shot?   At least one thing is for sure, the next couple of years will be interesting with the “new” kid ( Sybase ) returning to the block.

About the author

Ken Gnazdowsky holds a Bachelor of (Computing) Science degree from Simon Fraser University. A recipient of the Governor General of Canada bronze medallion, he began his post-secondary education at Brandon University on an academic scholarship, Ken has worked in the software development industry for over 30 years. Ken is co-founder and President of Find it EZ Software Corp., creators of the Microsoft award-winning products, Code Search Pro and Dev Surge 365.

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