Worldwide Survey 2007 on the use of PowerBuilder

As every year, many of you replied to this large survey on the use of PowerBuilder.
We wish to thank the thousands of participants for their contribution.

If you find these results informative, please take part in the 2008 survey by filling in this form

As every year, we have done a survey of evolutions to PowerBuilder projects:

We also analysed the impact of Java / .NET on PowerBuilder users. Java/JEE technology has been used widely for many years. Microsoft uses all its marketing power to impose its platform, rallying Sybase capability to its cause. PowerBuilder has thus come closer to .NET technologies in its versions.

  • To what extent has Microsoft caught up to Java?
  • What proportion of PB teams adopted .NET technology in 2007?

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Survey summary
Worldwide Survey 2007 on the use of PowerBuilder
1.1 Which versions of PB are currently used?
1.2 Types of PB projects in 2007
1.3 PowerBuilder and databases
1.4 New uses for PowerBuilder
   - PocketBuilder
   - Web application development
   - Datawindow.NET
   - Generation of .NET code
1.5 Other technologies used: Java or .NET?
1.6 What do you think of PowerBuilder?
  1.1 Which versions of PB are currently used?
  In 2007, PB10 became the most used version with 38% of projects (PB10 and 10.5 combined), ahead of PB9 (29%) and PB8 (15%).

PB9 has thus come to the end of its lifetime.
PB9 replaced PB8 in 2004 and this year gave way to PB10.

PB11 will show up in the 2008 results, as 45% of projects in 2007 were intending to migrate to a newer version of PowerBuilder.
This percentage is relatively constant: Each year, about half of PowerBuilder projects intend updating their development environment.

  1.2 Types of PB projects in 2007

The size of PowerBuilder projects remains pretty stable from one year to the next:

  • 7% of projects are by large teams (more than 20 people). These projects often use PowerBuilder to develop user interfaces and stored procedures for business processing (see questions on databases and development of stored procedures).
  • 44% of projects involve 4 to 20 people.
  • 48% are managed by small teams (less than 4 people). These are small applications or maintenance-phase applications, taken care of by small teams involving corrections and minor changes.

As PowerBuilder is a mature technology, a large proportion of teams (30%) only manage applications in their maintenance phase:

By contrast, 70% of teams develop new applications, of which:

  • 58% at the same time manage applications in maintenance phase
  • 12% develop only new applications. These new PowerBuilder users have partly offset the erosion of the PB community.

In fact, although 80% of projects intend to continue using PowerBuilder in the long term for development, 20% said they would soon stop using PowerBuilder.


 1.3 PowerBuilder and databases

Unsurprisingly, PowerBuilder projects often use Sybase databases: Nearly half of them use Sybase Adaptive Server Anywhere (ASA) or Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE).
Databases in Microsoft SQL Server (70% of responses) and Oracle (58% of responses) are used more.

This distribution varies by size project:

  • Oracle databases are used more by large teams (74%) than small teams (48%).
  • The same is true for databases in Sybase ASE (36% for large projects vs 20% for small), Informix (12% vs 4%) and DB2 (12% vs 7%).
  • SQL Server is the most-used database for all projects combined, but it comes second among large teams (74% of large projects use Oracle vs 55% for SQL Server). On the other hand, SQL Server is definitely the favourite in small projects (76% of them use it).

PowerBuilder applications are often associated with database code (triggers, stored procedures, etc). 89% of projects thus develop stored procedures, of which 52% in large quantities:

This trend is even more marked in large projects: 95% of them develop stored procedures, of which 72% in large quantities.

They use PowerBuilder mainly to develop user interfaces, while business processes are coded on the server.

 1.4 New uses for PowerBuilder

PowerBuilder built its success in the 1990s on the development of client/server applications. In recent years, Sybase changed its offering to cover new needs (development of web applications, mobiles, etc).

What success have these technologies had?


PocketBuilder has been available for several years for developing mobile applications. 8% of survey participants said they used it in 2007 and 21% of them thought they would use it in the future.
In fact, the percentage using PocketBuilder has been oscillating between 8 and 10% for three years and that figure is unlikely to change in the future. PowerBuilder has thus been a qualified success.

Web application development

In the middle of the 1990s, Sybase launched PowerSite, a web development tool, which was subsequently integrated into PowerBuilder. Sybase then looked to extend PowerBuilder capabilities for web application development.

In 2007, 11% of projects used PowerBuilder for web development:


In the battle between Java and .NET for first place in n-tier development, Sybase went out to support Microsoft technologies.

Sybase thus offered a version of DataWindow for .NET projects. Like PocketBuilder, 9 to 10% of developers used this component in the last three years (9% in 2007):

Generation of .NET code

PowerBuilder is now able to generate .NET code from a PB application. 35% of you thought this functionality was strategically important:

There is clearly greater interest in this than in other recent PowerBuilder innovations (PocketBuilder, DW.NET, etc). Certainly, it reflects Microsoft's efforts to see its technology adopted. Are .NET applications going to become widespread among the PB community? Will PowerBuilder become an IDE.NET?

 1.5 Other technologies used: Java or .NET ?
Here we see .NET technologies breaking through to the top of this class: 48% of PowerBuilder enterprises also develop Winform and/or Webform applications.

.NET leads Java, although Java still has a respectable following: 38% of PB enterprises also develop Java applications.

This is the first time that Java has lost ground to Microsoft technologies: Usage rates were relatively similar between 2004 and 2006, but the gap widened markedly in 2007 in favour of Microsoft.

Oracle development technologies are staying at 20% usage, but continue to shrink gradually.

 1.6 1.6 What do you think of PowerBuilder?

The very least we can say is that PowerBuilder users appreciate their development tool! Nearly 40% are extremely satisfied (9 or 10 out of 10) and only 11% scored it less than 7 out of 10. Certainly, these figures do not take into account projects that abandoned PowerBuilder: Generally, developers that move to another technology no longer participate in a PB survey.

The proportion of very satisfied users (9 or 10 out of 10) has been higher for the last four years than previously. Over the period 2002-2003 it was in fact nearer 20%.
We can certainly see here the result of Sybase efforts in PowerBuilder evolution in recent years.

As for the future of PowerBuilder, the main change awaited for PowerBuilder is... better integration with .NET (absolutely vital this year)!


PowerBuilder is a mature technology, for which many projects are now in maintenance phase. However, there are as many projects as in previous years and development teams are just as large. Although the PowerBuilder community is shrinking, the erosion is barely noticeably in this survey.
Integrating .NET is likely to increase the longevity of the development and investment carried out using PowerBuilder.
Looking forward, we will be monitoring the adoption of these new technologies, in terms of types of applications developed, size of projects, etc.
If you have not yet responded to our 2008 survey, now is the time to do it! Your contribution will be useful to everybody! Take part by completing this form.