Sybase to buy XcelleNet for mobile software

Sybase Inc. is set to expand its offerings for remote and mobile systems with the acquisition of XcelleNet Inc. for about US$95 million, the company announced Friday.

With the acquisition, Sybase will gain XcelleNet software for managing remote and mobile security, network connections and devices, according to a Sybase statement. The new capabilities will become part of Sybase’s Unwired Enterprise product and XcelleNet will become part of Sybase’s iAnywhere Solutions Inc. subsidiary. The all-cash deal is expected to close in the second quarter of this year.

Sybase, in Dublin, Calif., also expects to gain about 2,200 customers worldwide through privately held XcelleNet, which is based in Alpharetta, Ga., and has offices in several European cities.

The company’s Unwired Enterprise offering includes database, data synchronization, application design and middleware components as well as information delivery systems for mobile devices. Sybase last year completed its acquisition of AvantGo Inc. and integrated AvantGo’s mobile information service into Unwired Enterprise.

The latest acquisition will add to that toolkit device management and application management, said Terry Stepien, president of iAnywhere. Customers have been asking for those capabilities so they can keep track of the devices in the field and update the software on a broad range of devices that use different kinds of networks, he said.

XcelleNet has software to support a broad range of remote and mobile access types, from notebook computers on dial-up to Research In Motion Ltd. Blackberry devices on GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) connections. A single device may use different networks at different times, such as in a police department where in-car notebooks use GPRS on the road and Wi-Fi in the police station parking lot, said Joan Herbig, XcelleNet’s chief executive officer. In that situation, XcelleNet software can sense the change and hold back bandwidth-intensive tasks until the device gets on to the faster network, she said.

“The customers don’t want to have to worry about switching certain settings based on what they’re doing,” Herbig said.

Integration of the two companies’ technology may lead to new offerings for machine-to-machine communication, such as RFID (radio frequency identification) on retail products, Stepien said. That will require mobile database and data synchronization capabilities along with device management, he said.

Friday’s deal is just the latest investment in mobile technology by Sybase, which has moved beyond its traditional database technology to focus on enterprise business integration, particularly support for mobile users, said Colin White, founder and president of BI Research Inc., in Ashland, Ore. In the business integration field, Sybase has zeroed in on mobile users more than have competitors, which include Oracle Corp., IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp., among others, he said.

Mobile use of enterprise applications is growing but still fairly specialized, despite the push into the field by Sybase and others, White said.

“In certain companies it’s very important, but in the mass market it has yet to really take off,” White said. That is particularly true in the U.S., which lags behind Japan and Europe in mobile data adoption, he added.

XcelleNet’s whole work force, about 160 employees, will be moved over to the iAnywhere payroll, according to XcelleNet’s Herbig. The company will continue operating at its Alpharetta headquarters. The deal will extend XcelleNet’s reach beyond North America and Europe to Sybase’s worldwide footprint, the executives said.

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