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PowerBuilder Developer's Journal Interview: Driving Innovation

An interview with Irfan Khan, Sybase VP & CTO

PBDJ: Given your "outside-in" viewpoint, you've said for a while now that ASE 15 and its update versions are unrivalled and you've studied the behavior of DBAs as it has diversified to back up this statement - could you elaborate on what you mean by that please?

Khan: Sybase ASE 15 provides substantial improvements in areas of operational management, one simple example being its ability to counter against ever-decreasing maintenance windows. Historically this has been a real challenge for many production DBAs having to manage shrinking batch windows while preserving SLAs. As a simple example: through the use of semantic partitioning, 24*7 sites can perform maintenance throughout a production day and not compromise performance.

ASE 15 also provides a dramatic performance improvement in complex analytics environments and this complements the existing core extreme transactional capabilities. From a server estate management standpoint, DBAs are now able to consolidate more data within a single server where, through the VLDB extensions, up to an Exabyte can be stored within a single server. From a development DBA perspective, the native XML processing in transact-SQL extensions provide a very rich and powerful XML processing server.

PBDJ: We are hearing lots of buzz around the benefits of virtualization across the software/hardware stack, can you comment on how Sybase data management products are optimized and integrated to address this need today?

Khan: Virtualization techniques are being exploited at several layers in the compute stack: at the storage and network layers, at the operating system layer, and finally at the data and application layers.

At the storage and network layer, we work closely with vendors such as EMC and other partners, to make sure our products work well in these environments.

At the operating system layer, our products can be used with many hypervisors today. Typically, users do this in test and development environments. For production environments, one needs to be careful that sufficient storage and network throughput is available and guaranteed. At the data tier, Sybase supports different types of data virtualization today. IQ, ASE and SQL Anywhere all have built-in support for transparent access of remote data, so that applications access data through one single information fabric. With Replication Server, ETL, and PowerDesigner, data can be moved and provisioned to optimize for local processing.

With ASE Shared Disk Cluster and IQ Multiplex, we allow users to manage and operate multiple nodes, databases, and applications as a single environment. This environment can then grow, independent of the number of users and the size of the data.

PBDJ: Unlike virtualization where ROI tends to be fairly straightforward, in spite of the steady adoption of SOA, customers still don't seem to be reaping the return on investments that most businesses would have liked. It seems to be much more important to design and model effectively rather than exclusively focus on the enabling technologies to get the job done. In your opinion how important is the definition of enterprise architectures and particularly modeling to truly exploit existing code/data and business processes?

Khan: In my mind, the underlying technologies are important, at a minimum they enable developers to connect the moving parts or in other words, "to make it work," but just like the SOA example that you referred to, if you try to make SOA work at the enterprise level, you will need more than just the underlying technology. As an example, you probably want to see how services are interrelated so that changes can be managed.

To do that, you need enterprise modeling and metadata management support. With modeling, you can see the enterprise at a higher level, you can describe and introspect what is actually going on, and metadata can also be generated from it. With metadata management, you can track and analyze the impact of changes in the enterprise automatically. All of these capabilities are available within our PowerDesigner product.

PBDJ: What's your own take on emerging technologies such as cloud computing and virtualization - and how do you think they will affect the data landscape that Sybase operates within?

Khan: Emerging technologies such as clouds and virtualization are already impacting the manner in which data centers are being designed. No longer is infrastructure arbitrarily pieced together; there is much more emphasis being paid to streamlining distributed and scaleable data architectures.

From a customer adoption perspective, core tenets such as application scalability, automatic provisioning of capacity, and integrating existing heterogeneous infrastructure still remain critical factors. Two specific examples from Sybase: ASE Cluster Edition employs a Virtualization Resource Manager (VRM) to logically partition diverse workloads and ensure service levels are maintained allowing TCO to be realized. From a complex analytics perspective, the multiplexing grid infrastructure of Sybase IQ allow for highly scalable complex computing to be accomplished.

Most medium to large IT organizations have emerging technology departments that are chartered with stimulating business users to become early adopters; from a Sybase standpoint we actively engage with these teams to solicit feedback into our R&D efforts and evangelize the potential usages within their organizations. In summary: as new systems of access/record are provisioned, Sybase's data management infrastructure will allow existing data assets to be leveraged and distributed through messaging infrastructures to reveal greater communication potential.

PBDJ: Speaking of emerging technologies, Sybase has been promoting the virtues of the unwired enterprise vision for several years, from an application architecture perspective. Why do you think Sybase is best positioned to lead this "unwired" revolution and where do you see Sybase contributing over the next 12 to 24 months?

Khan: In our unwired enterprise vision we firmly believe that application architectures will need to be built on globally distributed business infrastructures, allowing data to be shared, accessed or distributed across all corners of the world - and these will increasingly be reliant on messaging for global reach.

We believe these new architectures will need to offer real-time, low-latency solutions, often in the sub-millisecond range and we are well positioned here. Let me give some examples.

Earlier this year, we released a new product called "RAP-The Trading Edition." It allows trading environments within capital markets to process and analyze real-time market data. RAP utilizes a combination of a column-based store, ASE, and complex event-processing infrastructure to enable the processing of hundreds-of-thousands of ticks per second.

We have also developed a mobile banking solution that is fully integrated with the Sybase 365 message-based infrastructure. As mobile devices receive real-time messages, the Sybase Unwired Platform allows users to transact and respond in real time.

In the coming months we will be launching the IQ 15 release; this will enable us to have all the necessary pieces in place to support real-time Business Intelligence. We have high-speed data loads into Sybase IQ. We have a platform with IQ where we can add support for sophisticated statistics functions and time-series functions.

More Stories By Adrian Bridgwater

Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist and corporate content creation specialist focusing on cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects software engineering, project management and technology as a whole.

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