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Sybase targets financial services

It's the latest move in the struggling database vendor's search for new markets to prop up its sagging business.

Sybase wants to cash in on the lucrative financial services market.

It's the latest move in the strugglingdatabase maker's search for new markets to prop up its sagging business.

The Emeryville, California, firm announced today that a new database server designed specifically for banks, insurers, and capital markets. Called the Sybase Financial Server, it is a database designed to handle such financial operations as Internet banking, securities trade processing and agent automation functions.

"This type of new direction is the only way to go if you don't have the gargantuan installed base others in this business have," said Brian Murphy, analyst at the Yankee Group in Boston. Murphy was referring to Sybase chief rival Oracle's 80 percent share of the database market.

"The days are gone of selling a database on its merits," Murphy added. "And an industry differentiator isn't going to hurt."

Among the standards the new database server supports are Open Financial Exchange (OFX) for the electronic exchange of financial data via the Internet; Financial Information Exchange (FIX), a messaging standard for the electronic exchange of securities transactions; Object Life (OLifE), which focuses on the integration and sharing of information between life-insurance applications, and JLife, the Java programming language version of the Olife standard.

"There's a growing trend toward standard protocols to automate operations and support new delivery channels, such as the Internet," said Michon Schenck, vice president of the financial services division at Sybase.

"We saw how a substantial portion of customers and partners in the financial services are essentially duplicating efforts to enable their transaction processing systems for these standards." Sybase executives said they are hoping to expand on these systems and develop more application templates and business objects for the industry.

Sybase Financial Server is also a way for Sybase to push its Jaguar Component Transaction Server into the market. Jaguar CTS, on which the financial server runs, is a transaction server that handles such component architectures as enterprise JavaBeans, COM, and C/C++.

As database sales across the board level off and chief rival Oracle continues to hold 80 percent of the market, Sybase has been searching for some wiggle room to grow.

It is concentrating its effort on data warehousing, mobile computing, and Internet application development. And, like other software vendors, Sybase is also hoping to take advantage of the burgeoning services market to boost its revenue.

Murphy said the push into financial markets is equally an effort to hold on to existing customers and gain new ones. Sybase already has a large installed base in the industry with some 6,000 customers.

"Sybase's early adopters were all Wall Street companies," he said. "They have pretty much held on to the financial business. Oracle has done well there but it has not unseated Sybase. If it's a case of lead with your strengths, then this is a good idea for Sybase."

Sybase has had a string of losing quarters. In its three-month reporting period, the company posted a net loss of $29.6 million, or 37 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $66.2 million, or 8 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.