SQL Anywhere Studio adds Web services support

Mobile database software developer iAnywhere Solutions Inc. will update its SQL Anywhere Studio to Version 9 in the third quarter, making it simpler to develop Web services that link back-office applications with mobile devices, the company said Monday.

SQL Anywhere Studio 9 will incorporate 200 enhancements, according to Chris Kleisath, director of engineering at the Dublin, Calif., company. The enhancements fall into three categories: expanded platform and standards support, better performance and scalability, and improved developer productivity, he said.

The ability to import and export Extensible Markup Language (XML) data “allows customers to easily tie a SQL Anywhere database into an enterprise architecture where they use XML for transmitting data,” Kleisath said.

The new version of SQL Anywhere Studio will have an integrated HTTP server and the ability to respond to Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) requests, making it easier to create Web services, he said. These can be built using Java or – thanks to expanded support for Microsoft Corp.’s .Net Framework and .Net Compact Framework – using Microsoft’s Visual Studio .Net, he said.

The introduction of Version 9 will also mark SQL Anywhere Studio’s debut on Intel Corp.’s Itanium 2 processor, with a 64-bit version for Windows due in the third quarter, and for Linux and HP-UX in the fourth quarter, Kleisath said. The fourth quarter will also see the release of a version for Apple Computer Inc.’s Mac OS X, although this will be 32-bit only, he said.

Among the performance enhancements to appear in Version 9 is Index Consultant. This is a tool that will look at the way the database is used and recommend ways of indexing the data so the database runs queries more quickly, Kleisath said. Existing optimization tools evaluate the structure of the database at the time of construction rather than the queries made in operating it. Other improvements include new query optimization algorithms and a new cache management system. The changes mean the database can support as many as 1,000 simultaneously connected clients, he said.

Other changes will make life easier for developers, Kleisath said. These changes include the ability to make dynamic SQL queries in the mobile application and to initiate synchronization of the mobile database from the server, either over a mobile Internet connection or by sending a Short Message Service (SMS) to a phone-based device, causing it to dial up the server, he said. This technique can be used with Handspring Inc.’s Treo, a phone-PDA from Kyocera Wireless Corp. or an Hewlett-Packard Co. iPaq PDA with cellular wireless capability, he said.

According to one analyst, iAnywhere is “setting the agenda to a significant degree” by building Web services capabilities into its mobile database software.

“It’s clearly the right time to be doing that. Web services have progressed rapidly in terms of their sophistication and adoption,” said analyst Warren Wilson, of Summit Strategies Inc., in Boston.

Beta testers are already putting the new version to work, among them iTicket AS of Norway, which unveiled its iTicket Transfer application Monday. This gathers XML-encoded data on ticket sales from computers in Norwegian cinemas, synchronizing them with a central server that collates the information for film distributors. By using the new .Net data provider in SQL Anywhere Studio 9, iTicket is able to communicate with the distributors without having to tailor its application to each of their internal systems, it said in a statement.

Another customer is Shelflink Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., which has been using the beta version in a pilot project for Pepsi Bottling Group Inc. of Somers, N.Y.

“We haven’t as yet run benchmarks, but we’re pretty excited about the performance of SQL Anywhere Studio 9,” said Shelflink Vice-President of Engineering Larry Trainer, singling out the new Index Consultant for a special mention. “This is going to be extremely valuable in checking to make sure we have used the correct indexes,” he said.

Though other tools are available – Shelflink also evaluated Microsoft Corp.’s SQL CE for the Pepsi job – but iAnywhere dominates its market niche, according to analysts.

In 2001, the latest year for which figures are available, iAnywhere’s products accounted for 73 per cent of the mobile database market, with Oracle Corp. a distant second with eight per cent, according to Dataquest Inc., a division of Gartner Inc. Dataquest calculates market share by revenue from annual reports and expects to publish its market share analysis for 2002 in a couple of months.

The Windows version of SQL Anywhere Studio 9 will ship in the third quarter, priced at US$399, and will be available from iAnywhere or through its usual partners and distribution channels. Versions for Linux, Unix (Solaris, AIX, HP-UX and Tru-64) and Mac OS X will ship in the fourth quarter, the company said. A single deployment license for one mobile device will cost US$119, and volume discounts will be available, Kleisath said. Prices remain unchanged from the current version.