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Sybase plans technology turnaround

The company hopes "Gryphon" a major new object-relational version of its database server--will restore its innovator image.

Hoping to clean up its sullied reputation as a technology innovator, Sybase (SYBS) plans to trot out a major new object relational version of its database server next month, along with new middleware and a reorganized tool lineup.

At its annual user conference next month in Orlando, the company will debut the next major version of its SQL Server database, called version 11.G internally and also known by the code name Gryphon, said Terry Stepien, vice president and general manager of database marketing at Sybase. The update is expected to enter beta this spring and ship by midyear.

Sybase, which recently slipped into the No. 3 slot among database software makers, has been in a downward spiral, losing money the past several quarters and trimming staff.

Sybase management has pegged 1997 as "the year of technology" and plans to turn the company around with new products to debut throughout the year.

The new version of SQL Server will be focused on Internet and intranet transaction processing and data warehousing applications, two areas where Sybase sees an opportunity to grab market share from competitors including Oracle, Microsoft, and Informix Software.

Along with support for very large databases and parallel querying, the update will include technology called Adaptive Server, originally announced by Sybase last fall. Adaptive Server technology will allow SQL Server to support Java, multimedia and nonrelational data in conjunction with specialty servers from third-party vendors.

Sybase's approach to multimedia data support differs substantially from competitive offerings. Instead of building support for new data types into the SQL Server database engine, Sybase will link text management, imaging, spatial, and time series data servers to SQL Server through middleware.

Sybase has already inked deals with text management software company Verity; imaging software maker Network Imaging; Alexandria, Virginia-based Vision International, which makes geospatial software; and Fame Information Services, which sells time series data management software.

Stepien said additional deals will be added throughout the year.

To make the database more resilient to Net-based hacker attacks, Sybase will include Server additional security features in the updated version of SQL, such as support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), C2, and Kerberos security standards, say sources.

Stepien said that despite Sybase's tardiness in delivering an object relational database, he believes the company will have a technological edge over competitors. "Our advantage is performance. Sybase has always provided a high-performance online transaction processing database. We are maintaining that performance and extending it to other data types."

Sybase will also provide additional details on integration of the SQL Server with its Internet transaction processing middleware, code-named Jaguar. Jaguar combines the features of traditional transaction processing software with object request brokers, to handle very large Web-based electronic commerce and other order entry applications. The software is in beta testing and is expected to ship later this spring.

Also at the user conference, the company's Powersoft tools division will disclose plans to more closely integrate its PowerBuilder, Optima ++, S-Designer, and upcoming Java tool code-named Jato. The revised tools will also work with Sybase's new middleware.

A new version of Sybase IQ, specialized data warehousing software, is expected to be released at its user conference next month.