by Martin Veitch

SAP buys Sybase and primes pump for more tech M&A mayhem

May 13, 2010
IT Leadership

So SAP is buying Sybase and the $5.8bn price tag will doubtless surprise those who placed the latter in the Whatever Happened To… camp. It’s not, perhaps, a blockbuster move given the scale of software transactions in recent years but it’s interesting in a couple of ways.

Historically, Sybase made its name for its database technology that was once licensed to Microsoft for SQL Server but long ago lost that particular battle to Oracle, IBM and others. Since then it has quietly but profitably pursing mobile middleware and analytics and in focusing on key verticals. If you operate in the finance sector or telecoms they might well remain a key supplier but Sybase took an exit from the commercial horizontal mainstream a long way back.

Forrester Research does an excellent job analysing the possible calls for SAP-Sybase and I agree that this not about the database (or even the synergies of combining two major golf sponsors). The deal might be more interesting in terms of what it prefigures than in itself, however. The largest IT companies now have warehouse-sized cash hordes and in this business the tendency is to spend what you have rather than leaving it to accrue interest. Even rather large companies are prone to being picked up by the big beasts of IBM, Oracle, HP et al. And when even companies that, like SAP, have conservative M&A strategies start spending again we could be in for a long hot summer of combinations. The recent trickle of deals only serves to support this hunch.