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SAP Snaps up Sybase

Somewhere on the high seas, Larry Ellison is handing the captain's wheel to one of his acolytes and turning the volume up on CNBC. He’ll want to hear this news.

SAP, the big German ERP vendor and a rival to Ellison's Oracle, said this week that it will buy Sybase, a long-time Oracle foe in the database market, for $5.8 billion. This is a direct shot across Ellison's bow. For years, Oracle has dominated the database market, and it's been trying to siphon of some extra revenue by selling -- pretty successfully -- ERP and CRM in large part to its corporate database customers. Oracle has the enterprise applications, the database, the charismatic CEO -- when it comes to enterprise computing, Oracle has it all.

But now, so will SAP (aside from, maybe, the part about the charismatic CEO). The ERP market leader is coming at the enterprise from the opposite angle of Oracle -- SAP built its business on applications, specifically on its massive ERP back-end software. Now, the Sybase database line will put SAP on a more even footing with its Bay Area rival.

So, there's a real clash of the titans happening here. The database leader has long had a very solid enterprise-apps offering, and now the enterprise-apps leader has a database to go with its software. Where does this, then, leave Microsoft with Dynamics? Just where it has always been -- sitting pretty as the cheaper, less risky, more familiar alternative to Oracle and SAP that, oh by the way, just happens to natively integrate with the rest of the Microsoft stack.

In a sense, SAP's move, while it makes sense, is pretty old school. The company has struggled to set up a solid cloud-based offering, and this acquisition probably won't help it all that much in moving in that direction. SAP might want to consider its long-term priorities there. But the fact is that a lot of ERP revenues come from vendors selling back into their existing customer bases, so adding another big-ticket item from Sybase could be a very positive step for SAP. If nothing else, it's likely to irk Larry Ellison, and we at RCPU kind of like it when that happens.

Will you give the SAP-Sybase combination a look as a partner? As an IT buyer? Have your say at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 05/13/2010 at 1:23 PM


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