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US software tools builder Sybase plans to move beyond its database roots and challenge the leaders in enterprise software development.

The company says the latest release of its PowerDesigner modelling tool transforms what is traditionally thought of as a data modelling tool into a full-blown enterprise modelling tool.

"We are rated as the number one data modelling tool and we now have a bigger appetite and want to take on the enterprise modelling market," says Javier Cuerva, engineering director at Sybase. "PowerDesigner release 12.5 consolidates our top position in data modelling - but it also gives us a more complete tool which we are aiming at the enterprise."

A recent Gartner Dataquest study puts Sybase at the top of the data modelling tool market with a share of around 35 per cent. But it has some way to go in the enterprise development market with IBM, Microsoft, and CA heading the list.

Sybase has progressively extended its Power tool range and chipped away at the its rivals - especially CA, which announced ERWin 7.2, a new version of its flagship modelling tool last month.

ERWin offers a similar bag of features to PowerDesigner, but Cuerva says Sybase's upgraded PowerDesigner is attracting developers because it is more open and supports a wider range of database and development tools.

"Release 12.5 supports 60 database products and all of the leading development environments including Eclipse and Microsoft Visual Studio," he says.

Among the upgrades with the new release, Sybase has raised Eclipse support to version 3.3 - the latest version which came as part of last month's Europa release. PowerDesigner now also supports the full version 2.0 of Unified Modelling Language (UML).

Cuerva says one of the most important new features of release 12.5 is what Sybase describes as "enhanced metadata" support under Sybase's Information Liquidity Model (ILM).

"With ILM you can take data from different databases and drag and drop them into each other. It enables users to cover the three database operations - replication, consolidation and federation. With release 12.5 we have extended the ILM to model the design and documentation of data federation operations," Cuerva explains.

The data federation technology comes from Sybase's acquisition of Avaki back in 2005 and gives PowerDesigner its ability to process metadata and, more importantly, real time data warehousing.

"It can create transformations from XML and create a virtual database dynamically so that data is brought into the federated server at query time. It uses caching techniques to ensure performance. In this release you can only design and document - but in the next one we will enable code generation too," Cuerva goes on.

The data federation technology is, he says, currently being used by an unidentified "UK telco" customer. The next release of PowerDesigner is expected in six to eight months. ®

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