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PowerBuilder Developer's Journal Interview: Driving Innovation

An interview with Irfan Khan, Sybase VP & CTO

PBDJ: Platform fragmentation sometimes causes headaches for developers who have to rewrite applications for different environments - and open source has gained massive ground in the last decade. How have these facts impacted the product development direction that Sybase has engineered in recent years?

Khan: My thinking here is that platform fragmentation extends from the hardware deployment environment, to framework selection, and now increasingly multi-channel development to mobile platforms like Google Android. Application developers have traditionally suffered hardships when working within a closed IDE environment. One other observation to compound matters is that applications have become increasingly more composite in nature. Employing components from different sources can come together to form one single application, and this can happen at both the business component level and at the presentation layer.

Sybase has always advocated open architectures, for example, PowerBuilder customers have been able to leverage both Java, .NET, or web technology directly from within a single IDE. To help our customers overcome the impediments you referenced, the Sybase tooling direction has always maintained three key principles: RAD, modelling, and support for multiple frameworks. These principles enable much higher levels of productivity for developers. In the coming months we will be launching the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) that will extend these same core principles to the new wave of mobile developers.

Relating to open source software, I agree this has made a tremendous impact on traditional IT organizations. Development projects are increasingly looking to the open source community for application components, best practices, and even organizational models for software projects. Sybase has contributed substantially to some open source movements such as Eclipse where we have been the lead for projects like Data Tooling (DTP), and this effort is benefiting the community at large.

PBDJ: Sybase 365 has been a hugely positive development since the acquisition took place back in November 2006. More recently, Sybase acquired the GRX assets of Cable & Wireless. Can you first explain what this means and then expand on how well positioned Sybase is to taking a leadership role in the next generation of mobility solutions?

Khan: Global Roaming Exchanges or GRX networks provide roaming capabilities between wireless carriers' GPRS networks (IP mobile data networks). Today they allow subscribers to send emails, MMS message,s and browse when they roam off their home network.

In the future, GRX networks will form the backbone of the mobile 2.0 Internet, which will initially support telco applications such as VOIP, presences, location, IM, and PoC services. Fundamentally, GRXs are private networks that will only be accessed through cellular providers. This will ensure greater reliability and QoS than the public Internet can provide. Owning one of these private access networks will provide Sybase with a unique opportunity to provide infrastructure to next-generation mobile solutions.

Sybase now owns the second-largest GRX in the world with direct access to 73 carriers and, through peering agreements with other GRX providers, an additional 497 operators worldwide.

PBDJ: Some years ago now you bought into technologies from Afaria and XcelleNet to provide a stronger technology proposition in terms of robustness and security. Now that these technologies have been allowed to evolve under Sybase's stewardship, what has it really meant to your customers for whom these factors are a key consideration?

Khan: Our customers consider mobile device management and security as an essential component in controlling both user access to sensitive corporate data and protecting data assets stored on mobile devices while in transit. To put this into context, it's estimated that over 300,000 mobile devices are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year. In the UK, it's been reported that over 100 devices a month are lost at Heathrow Airport alone.

What customers have experienced is that maintaining the reliability and security of data and devices at the frontlines can be very challenging. These environments are diverse, complex, and often beyond direct, on-site IT control. The IT function must be able to proactively manage all the devices, applications, data, and communications critical to the success of mobile workers. Ultimately organizations need to take a centralized approach to management and security.

Afaria has enabled our customers to benefit from infrastructure that gives IT departments the broadest cross-platform device control and gives their mobile workers the freedom to do their jobs rather than battle with baffling technology. Afaria has also helped "enterprise IT" deliver unified management control over mobile devices, data, and applications from a single command and control console.

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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