Sybase Creates Financial Tech Lab

If there’s one thing Sybase’s new inSite center can’t be criticized for, it’s the view. Last month, Sybase Inc. (Emeryville, Calif., www.sybase.com) inaugurated its new Sybase Interactive Technology Expo Center, which is located on the 87th floor of the World Trade Center in New York.

The 11,560 square-foot center is designed to provide Sybase customers and partners in the financial industry with a laboratory environment where they can develop, test and implement solutions. "We know we need to get closer to partners and customers," said John Chen, Sybase CEO, who kicked off the launch. "The importance of this is to broker relationships and to enhance our knowledge of the market." According to Chen, Sybase counts all of the top 75 securities firms and 80 percent of the largest banks among its customers.

Bill Harris, president and CEO of Intuit Inc. (Mountain View, Calif., www.intuit.com), who also spoke at the launch event, explained why it’s important to have a place where partners can work together. "Why would I be showing up at a group like this? The answer is the world is changing. There used to be a strict division between the data center and end-user tools, but the separation between those two worlds is disintegrating," he said. "Because these worlds are on a collision course, the tech providers have to learn to work together and leverage each other’s strengths."

The center is divided into a reception area, where monitors connected to several Internet services hang from the ceiling, a briefing room, two conference rooms and a "brainstorming" room, where the walls are covered with whiteboards. The glass-walled "fishbowl" lab isn’t fully operational yet, but several financial, back-office and other applications are available for demonstration. The center is currently running about 70 percent Sun Solaris systems, according to a Sybase spokeswoman. The back of the center is filled with cubicles for the Sybase technical staff who will work at the center.

The center’s servers are primarily Unix-based because that’s still the platform of choice in the financial industry, according to Sybase representatives. The securities industry in particular is going through a wave of database consolidation, which calls for ever more powerful systems, according to Michon Schenck, vice president and general manager of Sybase’s financial services division. However, Schenck indicated that Sybase has also seen tremendous growth of NT penetration among financial services companies. "Virtually every trading floor will have NT on the desktop," she added.

If this center is successful, Sybase plans to open additional centers in Asia and Europe to serve the financial industry and Sybase’s other two primary verticals -- healthcare and telecommunications, Chen said. More than 30 companies have already signed up as inSite partners, including PeopleSoft Inc. (Pleasanton, Calif., www.peoplesoft.com), Sun Microsystems and Intuit. Many of these companies plan to use their access to the center to present customer seminars in the coming months. Scheduled topics include online banking, data warehousing in the insurance industry, and time-series data integration for financial analysts and risk managers.

When asked if he feared that the current global economic turmoil would prevent the inSite center from becoming successful, Chen responded that Sybase’s financial business has not yet been affected. That sentiment was echoed by Greg Barnard, a senior database administrator and vice president at Bank of America (New York), who also attended the event. "If we want to keep our customers, we need to move forward," he explained. "It’s critical we stay on the cutting edge of technology, and that means spending more money."