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Sybase

Published
  • February 01 2003, 1:00am EST

"There are three things that I would like the readers of DM Review to know about Sybase. First of all, Sybase is a company with integrity," states Dr. Raj Nathan, senior vice president and general manager of the Enterprise Solutions Division of Sybase. "They can trust doing business with us. Secondly, we are a customer-oriented technology company. We pride ourselves on both of these counts. The third is that if they do mission-critical enterprise work, they should look to us. "

Sybase, Inc., founded in 1984, is headquartered in the Silicon Valley and is one of the 10 largest global independent software companies. Through the dedicated efforts of its 4,300-plus employees, the company's focus is to facilitate success for its customers with end-to-end solutions for data management, data warehousing, enterprise integration, mobile and embedded computing, and Web computing environments. The company is profitable and financially viable. Customer satisfaction rates are greater than 90 percent, and customer retention rates are at 96 percent.

Nathan explains that this was not the situation he faced when John Chen, Sybase CEO and president, brought him to Sybase approximately five years ago. Chen had joined Sybase about six months earlier than Nathan, and the two men now have a professional relationship that spans 18 years. Comments Nathan, "We worked together through three companies along the way. I'd say that's rather uncommon in any business, and I think it's certainly unusual here in the Silicon Valley."

When Chen and Nathan came to Sybase, the company was in need of restructuring. Nathan explains, "When I joined Sybase, I came to look at the company's programs and delivery processes. There was so much enthusiasm and releasing of new technology products, but that also caused a lack of coherence. Every group was doing great things and had good intentions, and what they were doing with each small piece was right. However, we didn't have the dots connected all the way for coherence."

"I came in following release 10 of Adaptive Server Enterprise," begins Nathan. Admittedly, this was a time when the company was hurting. "I was hired strictly to look at the company and determine what we needed to do. At the time, many of the analyst groups had us in an 'already dead or will die soon' category."

The determination was that something needed to be done from both a business and product standpoint. "We established new product priorities and marketing directions," recounts Nathan. "We also looked at the organizational structure at that time to see how we could execute quickly to improve efficiencies." The ultimate outcome was focused and coherent technology directions and the formation of divisions.

He continues, "Part of the overall company turnaround was the establishment of coherence at a much more basic level and also the structuring of our business models to the markets and the competition we were facing. Today, our company's strong financial foundation is in no small measure attributable to the fact that we created the divisions. With the divisions, we understand our target markets better. Additionally, the divisions are responsible for their own profit and loss," comments Nathan. Sybase has found that the management of business at this more granular level helps the overall business through accountability.

"My tenure to date at Sybase has been interesting, challenging and, in many ways, rewarding. Certainly there are days of frustration. However, when I look back and ask if these past five years have been worthwhile, the answer is yes," asserts Nathan. The company has earned a respected position in the industry as a data management and enterprise integration company. With Sybase, companies can attain maximum value from their data assets by getting the right information to the right people at the right time.

Probably the most satisfying aspect of Nathan's Sybase career is reflected in his comments about the company's employees. He states, "Many of our employees and customers have been with us through a lot – when we were growing and then during the tough times. It's very satisfying now to realize that all of their trust, blood, sweat and tears did not go to waste. We didn't have to turn the lights off, shut the doors and say, 'Thanks for your 10 years of support and hard work.' Looking at my career at Sybase from that perspective, it's extremely satisfying."

Nathan also gains satisfaction from the company culture at Sybase. "I think it is important to have a company culture like we have here at Sybase – a culture where you're able to go home in the evening and have the courage to look your family in the eyes because you work for an ethical company with ethical employees. Standards of fairness, consistency, decency and compassion are often difficult to achieve in business; but in our company, we have a culture that makes sure people understand right from wrong. That's very clear here. We can proudly say we work for Sybase. The culture of our company is to say things that you can back up. In the long run, our value system will rise to the top," emphasizes Nathan. "It is the combination of our integrity and our technology that differentiates us."

The restructured Sybase is now composed of three major business units and two subsidiaries. The divisions are the e-Business Division, the Business Intelligence Division and Nathan's Enterprise Solutions Division. iAnywhere Solutions, Inc. and Financial Fusion, Inc. are the two subsidiaries.

Sybase Fact Table

Year Founded: 1984
Publicly Traded NYSE: SY
Number of Employees: 4,310 employees in 60 countries
Revenue:Total revenue for 2001 was $926.1 million
Number of Customers: 30,000

The e-Business Division offers advanced enterprise-class integration technology. This division's products include Sybase Enterprise Portal, EAServer and PowerJ. The Business Intelligence Division offers solutions that help organizations utilize their data to uncover and leverage competitive advantages. Their products include Industry Warehouse Studio and Adaptive Server IQ. Notably, Adaptive Server IQ has made headlines recently as Sybase and Sun Microsystems have partnered to develop the iForce Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) Reference Architecture to streamline the design and deployment of large-scale data warehousing projects. (See "The Rating for Sun and Sybase is Terabytes!" in the January 2003 issue of DM Review.) This EDW Reference Architecture is powered by the Adaptive Server IQ Multiplex analytical database.

Award-winning SQL Anywhere Studio from the iAnywhere Solutions subsidiary is a mobile database and enterprise synchronization technology that currently has more than 7 million seats deployed worldwide. Financial and banking industry customers turn to the Financial Fusion subsidiary to build complete e-finance solutions that integrate applications and middleware.

In the Enterprise Solutions Division, Nathan is responsible for strategic oversight of the company's core database, middleware and application development tools businesses. This division offers fast, reliable data management, replication and integration solutions that match the needs of nearly all IT customers. Their products include Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE), Replication Server, Enterprise Connect Data Access and PowerBuilder.

ASE is the enterprise-class relational database management system for large organizations that supports transaction-intensive, mission- critical applications. This is the company's flagship enterprise database product. The current release, 12.5, delivers new productivity, management and security features for the expanding e-business needs of enterprises. Replication Server and Enterprise Connect Data Access offer the first practical architecture for building cost-effective, high- performance, robust, distributed systems and supply a flexible approach to information delivery that adapts to changing business needs. PowerBuilder is the award-winning, integrated application development environment for the rapid and cost-effective development of Web, client/server and distributed applications.

ASE is a product in Nathan's division that has made headlines recently. In September of 2002, Sybase announced the general availability of ASE on Apple's "Jaguar" Server. "We are pleased to provide the Mac community the same superior database capabilities with low TCO advantages that our other ASE customers enjoy today," remarks Nathan. Advancements in his division are underpinned by Sybase's current strategy. "We are focusing on self- managing systems and reduced TCO, intelligent handling and management of any kind of business data, management of data agnostic to the location of actual data storage, XML and integrated content management, and modularity and customizability for specific applications and functions."

A former college professor who taught at the university level for eight years, Nathan holds both a Master's and Ph.D. degree in industrial engineering from Iowa State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Madras, India. As a professor, Nathan was motivated by the success of his students. A similar motivation has transferred with him to Sybase where he is, in his words, "privileged to have the opportunity to visit customers." Nathan explains, "When visiting customers, I see firsthand how Sybase products benefit their organizations. That is rewarding. We talk to customers methodically and see that they stake their bets on us – and how our technology and their organizations have progressed. It's tremendously satisfying to see how we have made an impact."

The man who is so passionate about teaching that he would teach in Santa Clara and then drive to San Francisco in the evening to teach again shared one of his philosophies. Putting it all in perspective at a time when the country is facing the threat of war, Nathan says, "You cannot take advantage of all the resources the country has and not put something back into it. I want to put something back so that future generations can still make sure the country is the best there is in the world. Our talents at Sybase seem to lie in our ability to do something that we think helps humanity in the long run from a technology standpoint. We have a certain sense of responsibility with regard to our talents. You've got to get up in the morning and be thankful for the talents you were given. Then, you have an obligation to make sure that your gifts, the gifts that have been given to you, are not wasted. My ability seems to be to help people and society through technology."

The Multidimensional Aspects of Raj Nathan

Last Book Read: Principles of Corporate Finance by Brealey and Myers
Most Memorable Movie: To Kill a Mockingbird
Favorite Entertainer: Barbra Streisand
Most Entertaining Game: Golf
Most Respected Politician: Harry Truman
Dream Car: Aston Martin ­ Virage
Perfect Vacation Spot: Any place with low humidity and heat and plenty of good golf courses
Most Admired Individual: Mahatma Gandhi
Best TV Show: Nova
Favorite Sports Teams: Lakers and Cowboys
Hobbies: Reading and woodworking
Type of Music: Anything except Rap
Favorite Food: Rice
Favorite Beverage: Tea

"I was born in India. Because we didn't have much – we had enough, but we didn't have much – I am able to keep my feet on the ground. Certain value systems and the ability to 'hang in there' are both very useful traits in the software business – and I learned them at home. And the two elements I feel I'm very lucky to have had exposure to are the fundamental value of respect from the Indian system and the complement of the value system in the U.S. that is based on integrity, honesty and a 'can-do' attitude. I'm blessed that I have been able to absorb the good things from both of these cultures."

Not surprisingly, Nathan has a strong commitment to Sybase employees, which he explains by saying, "At the end of the day as I drive home, there is a thought I always have: Have I done everything I know to do that fulfills my obligation to our employees? It's always on my mind that we're responsible for the 4,300- plus employees of this company, and the decisions we make affect them. I think any manager worth his salt has to be accountable for the decisions that he or she makes and how those decisions impact the people that are trusting them to make the right decisions."

For others, Nathan encourages them to make the right decisions about enterprise data. "Data is going to become an even more important component of the enterprise," he notes. "I don't think people should be disillusioned because the spotlight right now is not on data. Many people think application paradigms are the 'in' thing. However, in the long run, the data will be the core. Application paradigms and applications come and go. Data lives on forever."

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