Ingres picks NYSE CTO as its president

Open-source database provider Ingres has hired the CTO of the New York Stock Exchange as president and chief operating officer.

Roger Burkhardt, 45, takes over the position and also joins the board of directors.

Terry Garnett, the venture capitalist who engineered the spinoff of Ingres from CA last year remains CEO of the company. However, the company said that if all goes well and Burkhardt meets business targets, he will take over the top spot in a year or so.

"I actually turned down various CIO opportunities to come here and lead this team," Burkhardt said.

Burkhardt joined the NYSE Group in 2000 and led a worldwide team of 2,000 technologists. During his tenure, the stock exchange deployed its first automatic trade execution service, helped the exchange restart trading after the 9/11 attacks, and managed a sevenfold increase in trade volumes.

The former IBM executive also led the exchange's adoption of Linux and other open-source technologies. "When we needed to have something special done, the biggest obstacles with closed-source software were our lawyers," Burkhardt said. "What we could freely do with open-source products was very compelling." He declined to name specific products out of respect for the exchange's strict security policy.

Burkhardt acknowledged Ingres' need to regain credibility that was lost during a period of decline. The database was created in 1973 as an academic project at the University of California at Berkeley and at one point rivaled Oracle as the leading enterprise relational database. The source code was spun out commercially and formed the basis of several databases, including NonStop SQL and Sybase. The best-known at the time was Ingres, which was popular in the 1980s. Ingres was bought by ASK Corp. in 1990, by which time usage had started to decline. It was sold to CA in 1994.

"Clearly there are other open-source databases with more mindshare than us now, but they are starting from a more recent technology base," he said. "If I'm a CIO with a mission-critical need, I wouldn't want to invest in a database proven only for read-only Web applications."

Curt Monash, a database consultant and a Computerworld columnist, said that while Ingres tops open-source rival such as MySQL in terms of features, it lacks momentum. Moreover, Ingres' lacks the latest crop of features touted by the large relational database companies. "I don't see why many new customers would adopt the product, until it rivals MySQL in low-cost administerability," Monash said.

But Burkhardt argued that Ingres' low upfront costs will attract many companies that are not looking for the latest and greatest feaures.

"It's true that Ingres doesn't have the bleeding-edge features. It's also true that there's a very large set of users who are paying through the nose for Oracle to support databases that are 10 to 12 years old," he said. "New applications generally don't demand cutting-edge functionality. Three to five years ago before application servers were established, people did a lot more in PL/SQL. Now people want a more standardized approach."

David Postle, chairman of the U.K. Ingres Users Association, said Burkhardt's appointment fits in with the company's stated strategy of going after large financial institutions first and hoping other customers will follow.

"For Ingres to make this strategy work, they have to make the applications as simple as possible to port over from Oracle, and I think they still have some work to do in this area from what I've seen," said Postle, a director at Leeds, England-based Ingres systems integrator, Luminary Solutions. Postle also criticized Ingres for failing to communicate enough with its British customers, especially smaller ones. "I don't understand why they haven't held some sort of Ingres 2006 launch event for existing customers," he said.

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