CA Open-Sources the Heart of Its Ingres Database

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-05-24

CA Open-Sources the Heart of Its Ingres Database

After Computer Associates International announced Monday at its annual CAWorld user conference in Las Vegas that it is open-sourcing its Ingres Enterprise Relational Database, early user feedback boiled down to one puzzled question: "Open-sourcing what?"

"Ingres [covers] a pretty wide spectrum," said Jason Schmidt, a senior consultant at Comprehensive Consulting Solutions Inc., in Clinton, Ohio.

"If they come out and say theyll release the entire suite of Ingres products, and [anybody] can look at the source code and change it and reintegrate it back into the main code base, Id feel one way," Schmidt said. "If its a small subset of front-end tools that you can go out and modify, it would seem more like just a publicity [stunt]."

According to Maurice Donegan, director of product marketing for databases at Computer Associates International Inc., in Islandia, N.Y., the preliminary list of what will be open-sourced includes the primary database engine, the Replication option, Transaction monitors, the Distributive Database Query option and potentially the ABF (Application By Form) character-development environment.

That leaves Advantage Open Road, CAs application-development tool, in its proprietary model, along with Ingres embedded tool kit.

It also leaves untouched a slew of products that either embed Ingres or that are built upon Ingres, including Advantage EDBC, a tool that provides real-time, high-performance read/write connectivity to mainframe enterprise data sources from Windows/Unix client/server and Web-deployed applications; BrightStor, its data storage family of products; and AllFusion Harvest Change Manager, a development change-management tool.

But the list of whats being open-sourced may well change. Because CA is in the midst of a 90-day closed beta test of Ingres Release 3 with select customers and internally, the company is taking 90 days to "get our house in order," Donegan said.

During that time, the company will pore over Ingres code to make sure that none of it is borrowed, thus submitting downloading customers to copyright or patent infringement lawsuits a la The SCO Group Inc.s spate of lawsuits.

Ingres will be open-sourced under what CA is calling its CA Trusted Open-Source License. Ingres also will run beneath the Zope RDBMS Persistence Engine, an open-source RDBMS "persistence module" also announced by Zope Corp. and CA at CAWorld.

The main attraction of the Trusted Open-Source License library is that it will be nonviral, Donegan said. In other words, users or enterprises can take code from the open-source library and embed it into products, the source code of which they need not divulge.

CA will require only that altered code for the Ingres database be shared, Donegan said, as opposed to code for applications developed using Ingres code.

Next Page: Companies such as MySQL use a dual-licensing structure.

Dual Licensing

This differs from the dual-licensing structure of companies such as open-source database maker MySQL AB. MySQLs dual-licensing structure works on a quid pro quo basis: If youre free, MySQL is free. If youre closed, you need a license.

MySQL recently tweaked its license after facing confusion over licensing technicalities. Click here to read more.

The dual-licensing model didnt appeal because CA wasnt interested in that revenue stream, Donegan said. What CA will sell is indemnification, support and, potentially, as-yet-undeveloped offerings around heightened security for national-security situations or features CA adds on that may involve other third-party or royalty-based code.

Ingres runs in a number of government instances. Future, heightened security technology will not be turned over to the open-source code library. But 128-bit encryption and more traditional security code will be turned over, Donegan said.

Although CA will be reviewing code contributions, it plans to indemnify those who purchase such protection so as to protect customers against potential copyright infringement claims.

CA hasnt as yet worked out the levels of support that it will sell, but "at a minimum" will offer 24x7 support as it now does, Donegan said. During the 90-day period that will precede the code release, CA will look into the option of offering a heightened service-level agreement (SLA) for those who, say, need an answer in 30 minutes.

The revenue stream that will be lost from Ingres licensing is "not insignificant," Donegan said. "Its a tidy sum of money we look forward to each year," he said.

But CA feels that the growth to be gained by turning Ingres over to open source will more than make up for that changeover, he said, and in the end the company thinks it will end up with far more users.

In other open-source news at CAWorld, the company is working on a Linux module that enables kernel events to be communicated to user applications. Click here to read more.

Donegan said Ingres Release 3 development will continue and that the company will continue to service commercial customers or embedded uses of Ingres, just as it has in the past. "The fact that its being open-sourced doesnt impact [existing customers] one iota," he said.

What motivated the move to open-sourcing Ingres was taking a hard look at the marketplace, where the prospect of competing with relational database giants Oracle Corp., IBM and Microsoft Corp. was looking bleak.

"We looked at the marketplace, and we looked at the saturation of the traditional platforms and the spontaneously huge growth in the Linux platform, and it made sense to look at how we could best take part in it," Donegan said.

Ingres users will be asking CA some hard questions as it gears up for the move, including how stability will be affected, Schmidt noted. "We have [clients] sites that run Ingres that support hundreds of concurrent users," he said.

"Theyll ask, How does this affect the stability of the platform were running on? Also, if open-sourcing means things get fixed faster, if it means that requests for changes [get resolved] faster, theyll be happy. If its just a shot to get publicity, I think it will be met with indifference."

To answer the stability concern, Donegan noted that the input of the open-source community will mean that more fixes come in faster.

"Were putting more sets of eyes on the code," he said. "Were bound to deliver a higher volume of fixes and/or more frequent fixes. The fixes still need to go through CA review, though. … Were not giving up any quality assurance or responsibility for the code. Weve now widened the availability of technical folks to be able to do so."

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