Mobility and analytics, growing CIO requirements

by Ashutosh Desai & Jamsheed Gandhi    Apr 29, 2010

Approximately 25-30 percent people in a large enterprise use smartphones based on different mobile operating systems. There is a growing trend of mobilizing the workforce, making them more productive even while they are not in office. In order to make these possible, enterprises need to deliver applications on the intranet to these smartphones, securely and seamlessly. In addition to this, CIOs need to ensure that the mobility platform they choose is one that is scalable and can manage varied mobile platforms. Speaking to CXOtoday, Sunil Jose, MD-India & sub-continent, Sybase Software (India) shared his views on this growth area, CIO challenges and opportunities.

On a global level, Sybase has been in existence for 25 years now and has had a presence in India for the last thirteen years. How is the company positioned right now in the market place?
We have a huge local presence across 70 plus countries. Globally, we are over a billion dollars in terms of revenue and have achieved three consecutive years of double digit growth. Our database business has also been growing in double digits, year on year. This has taken place even through the downturn when the markets were shaken. From a technology perspective, we have been in the right place at the right time.

Any particular technologies you are referring to here?
Today analytics and mobility are the two big things in the market place. When we talk to CIOs, analytics and mobility figures in the top five (requirements).

Mobility has probably taken a bit of time to reach the maturity curve. That was probably because a couple of years ago, email and SMS were the killer applications. Today, enterprises are looking at how take it to the next level. You are looking at collaboration at one end, application development at the other end, and then we are looking at device management and security. All these when put together, forms Sybase’s unwired strategy.

Additionally, when we look at the growth for smartphones, all the analysts predict that 50 to 60 percent of enterprises will have smartphones within their organizations. Enterprises are not looking to own those devices but definitely looking at managing them.

Are there any partnerships or any deployments that you have undertaken in the infrastructure space? For instance, does Sybase partner with telcos for the deployment of its products or do telcos buy your products?
It is a combination of a whole lot of things. From a messaging platform per se, we have tie-ups with close to 840-odd operators globally. That is one side from the pure messaging perspective.
In terms of customers, what would be your user base?
Globally, there are over 1,800 customers for analytics and more than 20,000 customers in mobility. Of this, we cater to over 500 customers in India, which are large, small and mid-sized enterprises. We have a whole lot of ISVs who had adopted our technology. They use our technology to build portable applications which can probably be used on a handheld or a kiosk.

How many ISVs does Sybase work with in India? Are there any plans to increase the count?
We work very closely with around 4-5 ISVs who have been developing all the solutions. Our approach for building the ecosystem has been fairly cautious. In India, we have two distributors whom we work with — Avnet and Inflow (which we signed up in January this year). We have close to 30-odd partners. The top ten are gold partners and the rest are silver partners. Overall the ecosystem consists of about 40-50 odd partners to take our product to the market. That number is good enough for us because our solutions are not a commodity product. We are still fairly niche in the market, and we like to call it boutique than anything else.

What about device management and security?
In device management, we hold 20-21 percent market share, versus our nearest competitor would be near 8 percent. Afaria has been in the market place for some years now and has a global market share of close to 20 percent.

What are the short- and long-term goals for Sybase?
Our short-term to mid-term is analytics and our mid- to long-term is mobility. That is purely because India is moving ahead from a mobility aspect. When we look at what’s happening in the market place, today a CIO is consciously taking the effort to ensure some part of his organization is not building a Mickey Mouse type of application. They want to ensure that it is built on a platform which is interoperable, designed once-deploy many, etc.

Organizations cannot force employees into buying a particular device like Blackberry, Nokia, Windows Mobile or an iPhone. They then need a platform to talk to each other. What we have is the black box in the centre, which interconnects the smartphone to the application. That’s where our middleware is the de facto standard in mobile middle app server. This is what SUP (Sybase Unwired Platform) is all about.

In our association with SAP, we have kind of jointly co-developed two of the solution areas which is an extension to the mobile devices. The SAP CRM and SAP Workflow are both mobilized for the market place.
What about CIO budgets?
The CIO does have a view that this technology has to be adopted and there is some money which is going to be used for it. There is some mystery around it as to how much it is. They club it as ‘new initiatives’, mobility and allot a couple of crores. They are fine with this. The CIO is now looking to spend that money and choose what is easily deployable, gives an immediate RoI, and is visible for organizations.

Today we are with at least half a dozen organizations in India, including one of the largest IT organizations that are looking to deploy field service operations for their mobile workforce.