Sybase has launched its strike in the cluster-database market, releasing Adaptive Server Enterprise Cluster Edition to compete with the likes of Oracle's Real Application Clusters.

Sybase's offering is aimed at IT shops that require high availability from their datacentres. It uses shared-disk clustering, where a number of ASE server instances is grouped into a cluster seen as a single system managing the same set of data. This allows application workloads to be balanced among the instances. The software automatically migrates connections if a node fails, according to the company.

Noel Yuhanna, a Forrester Research analyst covering database technologies, said Sybase has made a wise move.

"They've realised they need to innovate to stay competitive and they're doing that," he said. "I think it's a good move and makes them comparable in certain situations with Oracle RAC."

While most companies employ some type of failover technology in their datacentres, it may take effect in minutes, not seconds, Yuhanna said. "Companies who want it to happen really fast, that's when shared-disk clustering can really help," he said.

"It's only about five to 10 percent of the applications in an organisation that would really need that up-to-the second [performance]," Yuhanna added.

Sybase hasn't necessarily surpassed Oracle's capabilities, according to Yuhanna. Its new product might be more suitable for "smaller environments, or those that are only focused around Linux and Solaris," he said, adding that word hasn't yet circled back from customers regarding the product's performance.

David Jonker, senior product marketing manager in the ASE group at Sybase, said the company worked with 12 large companies on a technology preview version of the software. He declined to name them, and said none had agreed to speak to the media.

ASE Cluster Edition is compatible with systems running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and 5 (x86_64); Solaris 9 and 10 on SPARC (64-bit); and SUSE Linux 9 and 10 (x86_64). Sybase did not release pricing information.