SAP is offering 5 and a quarter billion for Sybase. Besides saving a troubled RDBMS manufacturer, it’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out for SAP sales.

One of SAP’s selling points over the years has been their ability to reside in varying database platforms; sure, they had their own database, but no one really used it — Oracle, DB2 and the like were almost always chosen instead. In fact, Oracle is probably the single largest database of choice.

Assuming the merger goes through, SAP will have a large vested interest in “encouraging” customers to use Sybase over any other RDBMS vendor. If an organization has no enterprise database platform and SAP is the only enterprise application being installed, then I suppose why not. But what are the odds that any organization that needs SAP would not already have made such a choice? IT organizations are very big on homogenization these days and adding yet another vendor to the mix (particularly one with Sybase’s lack of penetration in the market — 3%) may make it a hard sell.

Laura Lederman, an analyst for William Blair & Co, chimes in:

“This decision was made because of several significant missteps by management… In our opinion, the most important reason was the company’s increase in its maintenance fees, a decision that angered many customers since they viewed it as a price increase in the midst of a recession. Second, the company has had trouble creating on-demand software, allowing many smaller vendors to take share and gain sizable installed bases. … While SAP management stated that it will continue to support other leading database vendors, our sense is that SAP will try to have customers use Sybase instead of the Oracle database. We do not expect them to be successful in this effort.”

To put it mildly.