Post-CA Ingres is thriving, says CTO

Four months after his company was sold to private equity firm Garnett & Helfrich, Ingres' chief technical officer Dave Dargo is pleased with the company's new direction. Eric Lai reports

Has the momentum of open source products slowed due to the dual-licensing model implemented by the major database vendors? I really don't see that at all. Customers started experimenting with open source databases because they were successful with Linux and Apache web server. And they recognised that their licence fees weren't driving new product development. They desperately wanted the open source business model. But the open source databases are immature. They haven't gone through a 30-year maturation process like Oracle and DB2. In the long run, you may see some temporary wins [by vendors of proprietary databases distributing free editions] for those users who are making pure price decisions. But I think you're going to see more people driving towards an open-source business model, which makes it more efficient for new database features to be delivered to the market. For the leading-edge customers who still need new features, there are ways to get such features much quicker than paying licence fees to closed-source vendors. When you want a change in a closed-source product, you have to lobby the vendor like you would lobby the US Congress.

Can open source companies keep up with the much larger development operations of proprietary database vendors? Some Wall Street companies told us that they have lobbied Oracle for 10 years to add certain new features. So it's not just who has the capacity, but who has the willingness to do it. And while Oracle or IBM may appear to have more developers, the fact is the number of people actually touching the kernel is very small, usually about a dozen or so.

As a veteran of the database wars, can Ingres generate the buzz that surrounds new open-source databases like MySQL? I think that's kind of naive. It's not the way the development organisations or CIOs I've worked with make decisions. Developers make decisions based on what is the best tool for a specific task. Standards bodies within organisations then make their decisions on what is going to be the easiest to deploy, support and maintain. MySQL's popularity is at [the level it is] because it is the easiest tool [with which] to deploy web-based applications and it came along at a time when web applications exploded in popularity. It wasn't the "cool factor", it was because MySQL was easy to use. When you talk to an enterprise database admistrator, they don't care about the coolness or how fast you can develop a web app with it; they care about stability, about whether they're going to have to come back in at 2am to recover a corrupted file.

Has Ingres gained any new customers since spinning off from CA four months ago? The deals we have closed — and we have closed many deals — have all been expansions within existing customers. I don't know that we've closed any brand new customers. We've concentrated on communicating with our existing customers, making sure they're satisfied. We believe that new customers will come as a natural course.

Has the new Ingres formulated a product development road map? On February 7 we released Ingres 2006, which has a new licensing, packaging and pricing model. We will also have a product coming out in the first half of 2007. We're doing things that are subtle changes to major features we already have. With our community edition of Ingres, we expect to have a new release each month. Then, when we roll out as a single enterprise-class release in a year, people know it's been through a heavier testing environment. We're also working with partners to create an Ingres-type software appliance that makes it very easy to provide support for both the operating system and database. We haven't decided yet whether to open-source the OpenROAD, Enterprise Access and EDBC products.

What is the status of the company's search for a permanent CEO? [Interim CEO] Terry Garnett is still looking. He wants to make sure he finds the right CEO. As Terry watches the team gel and grow, some of his search criteria may have changed.

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