Sybase Previews PowerBuilder Upgrade

Sybase announces plans to unveil an upgrade to its PowerBuilder toolset at its TechWave User Training and Solutions Conference.

Sybase Inc., supplier of the still-popular PowerBuilder rapid app development (RAD) tool, is planning a significant new release this month of its namesake offering.

The company revealed plans for its PowerBuilder 11.5 tooling at its annual TechWave User Training and Solutions Conference in early August. Despite its legacy as a 4GL RAD tool dating back to the client/server era, PowerBuilder remains a strong presence. Moreover, Sybase has continued updating it to take advantage of the .NET Framework.

The new version of the Dublin, Calif.-based company's tool, PowerBuilder 11.5 for .NET, will sport a more visually appealing user interface, native driver support for Microsoft's newly released SQL Server 2008 and Oracle 11g databases, a plug-in for third-party app server deployment directly from the PowerBuilder IDE and added security-compliance features.

That app-server plug-in also allows PowerBuilder objects to be deployed to JEE application servers, where, the company says, "they will act just like EJBs." The PowerBuilder 11.5 package will include PocketBuilder for agile Windows Mobile development and deployment.

On the Right Track
At the heart of this release is Sybase's commitment to "continuous, timely updates in tandem with releases of Microsoft technologies for .NET, including support for Strong Named Assemblies, access to .NET static, primitive and enumerative classes and support for IIS7." In fact, that's the reason we're seeing a ".5" release right now, says Sue Dunnell, product manager for Sybase's PowerBuilder group.

"Even though it has '.5' in the name," Dunnell says, "this is a major release. We were set to go with version 12, but we've been working closely with Microsoft and we learned about their commitment last year to the Windows Presentation Foundation [WPF], and we decided that it made more sense to our PowerBuilder customers to give them the ability to leverage this Microsoft technology now -- especially as it was clear they wouldn't be enhancing WinForms and WebForms technologies as much anymore."

Sybase appears to be on the right track, says Gartner Inc. analyst Mark Driver. "WinForms is as close to legacy .NET as we have today," Driver says. "Most of the new stuff going forward is going to be around WPF. With that said, they've got a long way to go, and WinForms isn't going away anytime soon."

New in PowerBuilder 11.5
  • Improved user interface
  • Native driver support for SQL Server 2008 and Oracle 11g
  • Plug-in for third-party app servers directly from the IDE
  • Added security and compliance features
  • PocketBuilder for agile Windows Mobile development
  • Windows Presentation Foundation support

Back in 2002, Sybase implemented a four-phase plan to support .NET with PowerBuilder, Dunnell says. Starting with version 9, the company added Web services support; version 10 saw the DataWindow integrated with the .NET Framework; and version 11 allowed users to deploy their PowerBuilder business logic as a .NET assembly, consume .NET assemblies, and deploy entire applications as .NET WinForms or WebForms.

"This is a release that focuses on core Data Windows enhancements and .NET enhancements and functionality, as well as the typical updates you'd expect in any PowerBuilder release," Dunnell says.

Among the new DataWindow enhancements in this release are features designed to allow developers to create more visually appealing, data-driven applications with 3-D chart rendering, special gradient and transparency features, support for .PNG files, and Rich Text Edit style for columns.

Dunnell calls the DataWindow PowerBuilder's "crown jewel." Forrester Research Inc. analyst Jeffrey Hammond agrees. "Whenever I get a data-driven development tool presentation, I always compare it to the PowerBuilder DataWindow," Hammond says.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at

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