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Powerbuilder and SAP

As I mentioned in my earlier post Sybase’s merger with SAP seems to be complete. Since SAP took over, there was some uncertainty in the developer community about their interest in keeping the tool alive. From various posts online so far, SAP seems to committed to developing PB further.

If you haven’t already noticed, Powerbuilder (PB) is definitely making a come back (among those who left it in the late 90’s and the new developers trying to explore PB). I see lot more interest in the tool and many more blogs like this are coming up on the subject. This is almost like before Sybase took over in late 90’s. While Sybase kept the product alive, there was a dormant period where the product lost community following. With SAP in the picture, there seems to be renewed interest in PB. They are constantly adding resources related to PB on their site.

(Courtesy: Bruce Armstrong)

If you are new to PB, these videos may be helpful. I will be posting more links here later.


  1. john says:

    Would like to know if SAP’s ABAP language and PB are similar and the interest behind the merger.

    • SamV says:

      Hi John,

      That’s a great question! Though PB and ABAP seem to share similar beginning and similar programming concepts, the two languages are very different. I personally don’t know much about ABAP, but from the looks of it (See here and Wiki), it feels more like COBOL than any modern language and PB evolved from the BASIC fold, but evolved borrowing from C++ and Java. Like PB did, SAP introduced Java into their fold and their Netweaver architecture (runs ABAP and Java) feels very similar to EA Server (runs PB and Java) architecture. PB recently (PB 12) added .Net capability also. Out of the box, PB comes with 2 different IDEs, one traditional and another a .Net IDE.

      Back to your question about why, I feel the marriage is more for business reasons. Oracle and SAP seem to be acquiring more and more companies to diversify into various fields. (just look at their product portfolio in both vertical and horizontal markets) and mobile computing is one area they really want to get into. Sybase has been realigning themselves for this. They seem to be retuning PB for this. We saw a demo of (upcoming) PB release (Ver 15), which seemed to work on an Android tablet just like it did on a desktop. By acquiring them, SAP won’t have to reinvent the wheel.

      That combined with Database market Sybase has (in my opinion, Sybase was better DB than Oracle for many years, but Oracle has superior support and marketing) may be what SAP was eyeing at. As you may know, Sybase actually has various sizes of database systems: ASE (enterprise), Sql Anywhere (small to medium), IQ (Datawarehouse). With SAPs marketing strength, may be Sybase Database may see a comeback as well.

      One PB guru, Chris Pollack, thinks this is all to get more people to buy more SAP product(s). Not surprisingly, we heard from a Sybase manager that EA Server (Sybase’ middle tier) will eventually be retired and PB will be moved into SAP Netweaver architecture. PB has been a cash cow for Sybase, but still ignored for many years. By convincing PB developer community that they care about PB, SAP may be able to tap into a loyal PB developer community. This already seems to be happening judging by the activity on their PB support page.

      But we are not alone in wondering about this merger. Many did already. See here and here

      Thanks a lot again for a very thought provoking question.


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