Sybase has been in SAP hands for almost 5 years now. What did it mean to Sybase DBAs? Did we (if I may reference myself) experience any difference? Do we feel better or worse? Did it make any difference at all for Sybase DBA community in general?
In my opinion, 5 years is a sufficient period of time to draw a line of now & then. Some things did change. Some trends have crystallized. We changed too. Or did we?
One of the major difference for non-SAP Sybase DBA community has been the demise of most of the old sites from Sybase. Most of them now reference to maintenance.sybase.com bluntly. Which is fine, as it is. What is less so is that if once it has been very easy to locate Sybase-related technology information on the web (e.g., go to http://www.sybase.com and continue from there…) today it is quite a daunting task.
Say you go to http://www.sap.com and try to look up Sybase DB technology there. Where should you look for it? Technology perhaps? So you go to solution->technology (http://go.sap.com/solution/platform-technology.html). Found it?… Nope. Not there. The easiest way is to search for it using the site search interface. Trying to locate it “logically” is frustrating.
Sybase database technology information is now accessible from help.sap.com portal (http://help.sap.com/database or, for ASE, http://help.sap.com/adaptive-server-enterprise/). The old good friend of Sybase DBAs (http://infocenter.sybase.com) is now under the rubric of “Non-Supported Documentation.” All the PDF versions of the new documentation are available from help.sap.com, but the search engine of infocenter.sybase.com has been so much more convenient. There is no longer free of registration search engine available as of old. You do have the new one in place (https://support.sap.com/home.html), but it requires registration with SAP first. You are also encouraged to use SAP community network (http://scn.sap.com/community/ase-custom-applications or http://scn.sap.com/community/ase).
Which brings me to SAP marketing policy on Sybase. SAP’s umbrella has been definitely beneficial to Sybase ASE product. New features are being poured into it. Extreme performance is targeted. Simplicity too. But this comes at a price. In a sharp contrast to either Microsoft or Oracle, SAP tends to keep information on its database product available mostly … to it own community. If you happen to have access to SAP marketplace you are open to a lot of information on Sybase products. If you are not – you are in a disadvantage as far as your non-Sybase colleagues are concerned. One thing that did not happen in an aftermath of SAP purchase, much to my disappointment, is that Sybase reached the masses. SAP is everywhere (all of the clients I have attended as a consultant have a SAP product on the IT shelf). Sybase is nowhere (most of the clients I have attended haven’t heard about it, and those who do work with ASE as a platform for SAP applications have no idea how this “free” DB works and usually see it as an underdeveloped database version compared to DB2/Oracle database technologies they were used to work with).
This brings me to the Sybase DBA vs SAP DBA Cockpit issue. Every Sybase DBA knows that as far as Sybase is concerned you’d better write tools on your own than wait for some vendor to get interested in Sybase technology and come out with a good tool to manage it. This too did not really change. I’ve seen large vendors dropping support for Sybase (Dell e.g.?) but haven’t seen a reverse trend yet. Given SAP marketing policy of keeping a product to itself it will hardly change in the near future. Here too Sybase DBA and SAP DBA fare differently (???). SAP DBA doesn’t have to worry about its DB. It is (now) a-thing-in-itself. SAP envisions ASE DB as a DB solution that takes care of itself. All you need is your DBA Cockpit to be installed and configured properly. The rest is history.
If you have your ASE DB incorporated into DBA Cockpit it will manage statistics automatically, treat fragmentation on its own and auto-expand when needed. It will even allow you to walk through MDA statistics collected into 30 or so nice blue windows (Waits, Spinlocks, Table Statistics, & many more). So SAP DBA will probably have no idea how the DB supporting its SAP application works, but he/she will have little need for that since Solution Manager will take care of the DB for him/her. And if the need will arise to peep into how the DB actually fares, he/she will have rudimentary MDA metrics collected and archived for his/her convenience. Sybase DBA, on another hand, will have to continue to struggle on his/her own.
So did or did not the SAP purchase of Sybase make any difference at all for Sybase DBA community in general? It definitely did.
In my opinion the purchase has introduced a rift into it. There are now Sybase (SAP) DBAs and SAP (Sybase) DBA Cockpit operators. Instead of empowering the former, SAP marketing (?) policy has given rise to a sub-community with less knowledge but more privileges which has not been really meant to dive into DB technology in the first place (see, for example, how many sessions on DB technologies are there in SAP TechED && d-code events). To me it is pretty unfortunate. In order to transform ASE (&c) into the second (or even third) major DB technology one has to bring communities together and open up technology to the wider public rather than introducing differentiating factors into that community and aiming to control access to technical information. It is not enough to make the technology better. It must be better known, better presented and must make the lives of those used to take care of it daily for years more comfortable.
As far as I am concerned I still wait to see a change in SAP agenda. DB technology is not just another product in SAP PAM. It is a technology. And it has its community out there.