Open source Ingres breathes new life

Startup to focus on database support, development outside of CA

More than a year after it was spun out of software giant CA, Ingres Corporation, maker of the open source database of the same name, is ramping up its local operations and reassuring customers it is here to stay.

The Ingres database began as an open source research project at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1970s before being commercialized by a number of companies during the eighties and nineties.

Ingres Corporation was acquired by CA over ten years ago but it was only in 2004 when CA re-released it as an open source project. This year the independent Ingres Corporation relicenced the database under the GNU GPL.

Local Ingres users include the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Legal Aid Canberra, the Australian Electoral Commission, and Queensland's Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

The department's manager of titles automation, Michael Droder, is very satisfied with the database, but was initially concerned about a spun-off Ingres Corporation's ability to maintain the product.

Droder said because the company had divested from CA, and that Ingres Corporation is VC-backed, it had increased the department's risk level.

"Time will tell if it does perform as well as we expect for an enterprise level database vendor," Droder told Computerworld. "We've been in a relatively stable environment with CA, with good support and releases, and now that's uncertain with Ingres."

That said, a recent meeting with local and international Ingres representatives, Droder now has a renewed sense of confidence in the company's ability to support the open source database.

"The press from Gartner and talks we had with them indicate it is moving in a positive direction," Droder said, adding the department will be maintaining its existing investment in the product.

"There was a little bit of wheel spinning while they were getting the organization up and running, but they seem to have taken some positive steps forward over the past few months," he said.

Droder, whose role it is to manage computer systems support and development, and translate business requirements into IT systems, said the department uses Ingres for all land ownership in Qld, so "it is fairly important to have a stable base to work from".

"It houses about 30GB of data reliability and has been a 100 percent very, very stable base for us over the years," he said.

Regarding the open source version, Droder said the department is not contemplating moving to it until it determines the level of support available.

Ingres established its local operations in May this year when former Oracle employee Stuart Pike was appointed country manager for Australia and New Zealand.

Pike said the five local CA support staff have moved across to Ingres and the company plans to relocate an engineer from the US to do development here.

Ingres certainly hasn't been timid in recruiting staff from its competitors, with seven of the twelve local team former Oracle employees and the former managing director of Sybase in Australia and New Zealand, Peter "Fletch" Fletcher, was coerced out of retirement to manage the New Zealand office.

Pike said the new Ingres is "small enough to care but big enough to matter", and the company still has about 400 customers in Australia and New Zealand.

"Ingres has been perceived as a legacy but it is still delivering value," he said, adding the subscription cost of Ingres is comparable to Oracle but it does not have any upfront cost.

"Between 30 and 40 percent of systems out there are on unsupported versions of Oracle," he said.

The new company is also beginning to attract the attention of the ISV community, Pike said, with ERP software vendor Infor contributing Unicode support for the Ingres OpenROAD development environment which is scheduled to be released as an open source project early next year.

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