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1. Introduction

Sybase ASE / SQL Server is an industry-strength high-performance database solution used by some of the largest corporations worldwide. It is also, in my personal opinion, one of the easiest database servers to learn and to work with. It has a wide range of extremely advanced options, probably the most advanced replication in the market, and a set of various add-on products that will even support opaque access of data from competing products. There is a Linux version available for download which is free even for production use. Sharing a common heritage with Microsoft SQL Server (Sybase sold the code to Microsoft, but the T-SQL dialect remains almost the same in both products), Sybase ASE is the easiest way of getting "MS SQL on Linux". Having said that, you may also understand by now that Sybase ASE could deserve the label "the best-kept secret in the market". Welcome to a free helping of a commercial database server that basically runs most of Wall Street and stock exchanges around the world - now on your home PC or business server.

1.1. Copyright and License

Copyright (c) 2003 Kian P. C. Spongsveen.

This document is free documentation; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version. This document is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details. You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this document; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA.

1.2. Contact information

Kian Spongsveen is the originator and currently the maintainer of this HOWTO. Please send feedback, suggestions for improvement, questions to me at . English is not my native language, so please send me helpful corrections to grammar and spelling as well as any technical issues you find in this document.

1.3. What is Not Covered

There are some parts I have skipped since this is a HOWTO for installation, configuration and very basic usage. Some points that could be of interest are:

  • SySAM - a utility needed to install software license certificates for certain advanced options that you have to pay extra for in version 12.5.0.x and up.

  • Full-Text Search - an add-on for searching TEXT columns

  • Data replication - Two products are available for free with the server (SQL Remote in 11.9.2.x, ASE Replicator in ASE and up). There is also Replication Server, a separate product also available for Linux.

1.4. History

Sybase started as a company in 1984, making a relational database management system (RDBMS) called SQL Server. At version 4.9.2, Microsoft licensed the code and released their SQL Server 6.0. Sybase version-inflated their next version to "System X". The product has been enhanced and improved over the years, it was first released on Linux with a pilot of version which was already a mature version on it's way out at the time of release in 1999. The product was renamed from SQL Server to Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) when version 11.5 was released, the name is a bit of a mouthful and some users simply refer to it as "ace". Later, version 11.9.2 was released both as a free developer version and a fully supported production version on Linux. Currently Linux is considered a tier-1 platform and the current version as of this writing, 12.5.0.x, as well as the beta release of the next version, 12.5.1, are available for the Linux OS.

A brief note about the version numbering. Sybase patches are called EBFs, or Emergency Bug Fixes, and each has a unique number (product number) for that particular set of fixes on each particular architecture. Since this made comparing the various bug fixes across OS platforms difficult, the notation of ESD (Electronic Software Distribution) was introduced. So for a major release (Maintenance Release) there were some EBFs numbered ESD#1, ESD#2 and so on, until a minor release with significant enhancements (Interim Release) numbered and then further EBFs are based on this. If a Linux machine and a Solaris machine both run ESD #1, you know they will have exactly the same bugfixes corrected even if the EBF product number of course differs.

1.5. Availability

I have briefly mentioned the available versions. You can download the free versions from, and if you need a production server with support etc. you can order a boxed CD from your local Sybase office or

  • SQL Server ESD #6 is no longer supported or maintained. The reason it is still made available is that it is free for production use on Linux. Read the license file shipped with the product for details. The 11.0.3 versions are the earliest that were Y2K-certified.

  • ASE 11.9.2.x was the first release on Linux where you could get either a free developer license or buy support. It is no longer actively maintained or supported. I describe it in this document since it was the first production use supported release for Linux and hence became very popular.

  • ASE 12.5.0.x is the current release on all platforms, including Linux.

  • ASE 12.5.1 is the next release, currently in beta. There is a beta for Linux available.

The functionality varies in the releases, certain significant enhancements have been made in the current versions. However, major corporations based their infrastructure on SQL Server 11.0.x until very recently (and some of them may have old installations still very active) so don't think of it as outdated. Some of the new enhancements may be of interest to you, others will only sooth your pain if you were annoyed by the lack of them over a period of time first.