Users praise Ingres open-source database plan

Users of the Ingres enterprise relational database heaped praise on Computer Associates International's plan to release the code for the database to the open-source community under a new licensing scheme.

A group of longtime Ingres customers meeting at CA World 2004 said the plan announced Monday to bring Ingres to open-source within 90 days would bring a higher profile to a mature relational database that isn't as well known in the U.S. as databases from Oracle and Sybase.

"I'm tired of being treated like an ugly stepsister and a second-class citizen because I use Ingres," said Tyler McGraw, a database administrator at Bowater, a US paper maker, who has worked with Ingres for 15 years. "Ingres is a good product, and I dig CA's (open-source) effort. Now I don't have to apologize for my database."

Erica Harzewski, a database administrator at medical device maker Guidant, said CA's announcement will make it easier to defend Ingres to her bosses, who want to move systems to Oracle databases. "Oracle is much more expensive and complex than Ingres, and now we can make a case for Ingres back home," said Harzewski, who has used Ingres for 13 years. "CA wouldn't put Ingres out for (open-source) if it was a piece of crap."

McGraw and Harzewski joined about 20 other longtime Ingres users at a meeting here of the North American Ingres User Association, and all the users supported CA's open-source play. The user group is seeking members as it tries to get reorganized after two years of inactivity, said NAIUA President Carmen Huff, lead database administrator at Alliance Data Systems.

"Going open-source is a great idea," Huff said, noting that Ingres, while not widely known in the U.S., has been well received in Australia and parts of Europe.

CA counts between 25,000 and 50,000 Ingres users globally but won't divulge product revenues, said Sam Greenblatt, a CA senior vice president. Ingres is sold by CA as a database under the name Advantage Ingres and is also embedded in other CA products. Bringing it to the open-source community will expose it immediately to about 100,000 developers associated with JBoss, Zope, and the Plone Foundation, a nonprofit community of Plone developers, he said.

He predicted that the open-source move could make Ingres the leading such database in the U.S.

"Going to open-source with Ingres could be an important competitive edge for CA, especially compared to IBM and HP," added Mark Ehr, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. "CA is trying to reshape its image as a kinder, gentler CA. This is a good way to get customer mind share, and why not do it with a product not doing all that well?"

Char Sharp, an IT manager at a Wells Fargo Bank data management facility, said CA's move is "very exciting," since it looked as though CA had bought Ingres in 1994 and "just put it on the shelf."

Dan Kingston, a database administrator at American Digital Systems, said he and his colleagues have used Ingres for many years but had worried about CA's commitment to it. "It's an excellent move, but CA has to be careful how they move it to open-source," he said.

Several users wondered if the quality of the product could be compromised, with security vulnerabilities and other bugs introduced after Ingres goes open-source.

Greenblatt said CA will protect the integrity of the software by releasing it through a newly created CA Trusted Open Source License, a derivative of the common public license. With that approach, customers can download Ingres for free, but they would pay for service, maintenance and indemnification. Indemnification will provide a certificate to a user that describes who developed the code, he said.

Pricing hasn't been set for any of the added fees.

Despite the users' enthusiasm, Mark Costello, vice president of Database Management Technology, questioned what new features the open-source community would add to Ingres, since it is already more mature than the open-source database MySQL. DMT makes DBAnalyzer, an Ingres performance management system.

Greenblatt said innovations are hard to predict. "Questioning what could be added to Ingres is like saying Linux is mature and what could be added to it?" he said.

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