Microsoft will become a significant player in the relational database market at the expense of Sybase within 18 months and may even acquire its rival, predict analysts.
Andrew Frost, IT business systems analyst at the Butler Group, believes all Unix database companies, not just Sybase, should watch out for Microsoft's SQL Server.
"Oracle and Informix have nine to 18 months leeway before Microsoft can get a decent level of scalability with SQL Server," said Frost. "SQL Server today is gaining in small percentages, at Sybase's expense. Sybase will have to pull some rabbits out of the hat if it wants to keep its head above water."
Ovum senior consultant David Wells believes Sybase should pull out of the NT database market. "Competing on NT with SQL Server is a battle Sybase cannot afford to fight," he said.
Some analysts believe Sybase could even be bought out, possibly by Microsoft, unless it does something soon to change its position. Before going their separate ways in 1994, Sybase and Microsoft co-developed SQL Server.
Andrew Bellinger, Sybase product manager, said the company had no intention of leaving the NT market.
He added: "If a customer is just looking for an NT solution, in terms of price, Microsoft is the most competitive. But Microsoft does not have a true enterprise view. There are not many companies which could work in an NT-only environment throughout their organisation."
Luke Spikes, managing director of Spikes Cavell, recommends Sybase concentrates its efforts on sectors in which it is strong, such as financial services where high-end transaction-based systems, scalability and robustness are paramount.
"Sybase probably has between 12 to 18 months to decide what it wants to be. I think it should focus more on a few key things rather than compete in NT territory," Spikes said.
Microsoft has a reputation of getting what it wants. And where it really wants to be is in enterprise computing. If it can't get there with SQL Server on Windows NT then it will look elsewhere. If that means buying a company like Sybase, then so be it.
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