CA Pushes Ingres Out of the Nest

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2005-11-07

CA Pushes Ingres Out of the Nest

CAs move to divest itself of Ingres, its well-respected, 30-year-old RDBMS, is just the next logical step in the companys reorganization machinery, said both officials and analysts on Monday.

"I think CAs strategy over the last year, where weve organized by business unit, and those units represent strategic markets our customers are asking for with relevant solutions [such as] security and storage … and weve completed acquisitions in each of those areas … The next natural step is to look at those assets that are highly relevant and have a lot of value but that we cant completely unlock in CA," said Mark Barrenechea, executive vice president of technology strategy and chief technology architect at Computer Associates International Inc., as well as a board member at the newly formed Ingres Corp.

CA on Monday announced it will partially divest its Ingres open-source database unit, which will now be an independent corporate entity. Garnett & Helfrich Capital, a private equity firm, will be the majority shareholder in the new corporation, and CA will retain an ownership stake.

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CA will also have the right to appoint a member to Ingres board of directors and intends to work with Ingres on product development, industry partnerships and marketing.

The divestiture is all part of the housecleaning thats been taking place following a rocky time at the Islandia, N.Y., software company.

To wit: John Swainson was named CEO a year ago following a corporate accounting scandal and a multiyear Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. CA settled with the government, averting a possible corporate indictment. Several top-level executives, including former CEO Sanjay Kumar and Chief Financial Officer Ira Zar, were indicted last year, and nearly a dozen more resigned.

But although the reorganization wheels have been turning for months now, the spinning off of the Ingres business unit is probably the first of the companys moves as far as getting itself untangled from some of the businesses it no longer wants to be in, analysts said.

"… John Swainson took control last year. After a few months he decided on what [CAs] focus was, and the focus was not the database," said Robin Bloor, an analyst with Hurwitz & Associates.

Spinning the database off in this manner makes a lot of sense, Bloor said, given that the company, as it focuses on its core strengths, has no time to market Ingres. "Swainson held an analysts conference [in the spring]," Bloor said. "His first objective was CA only wants to be in markets where its No. 1 or No. 2. It doesnt want to be No. 8. Its the only way to get extraordinary growth at CA, which it hasnt had for the best part of five years."

CA retains an interest in Ingres, though, which is important, given that its the underlying database in many of its products, including Unicenter.

"They have guaranteed in one way or another the power of Ingres, which they really cared about," Bloor said.

Barrenechea confirmed that, saying that the deal was engineered to make sure CA stays close to Ingres development. "Its not a traditional, private equity deal," he said. "Its more a venture-backed opportunity. Because CA standardizes on Ingres. CA uses Oracle and SQL Server as well. … [But] Unicenter, for example, runs on top of Ingres."

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Ingres has a long and venerable history. It began as an early RDBMS at the University of California at Berkeley 30 years ago. CA acquired Ingres in 1994 when it purchased the ASK Group. The initial code base was available under a version of the BSD license, and it became a commercial database in the mid-1980s.

Its long history and the fact that it was already an open-source product will serve to distinguish Ingres in the increasingly crowded open-source database market, according to Dave Dargo. Dargo, who will be senior vice president of strategy and chief technology officer at Ingres, has a long history with open source: He spent 15 years at Oracle Corp., where he established Oracles Linux Program Office.

"The opportunity here is the fact that Ingres has a rich and deep pedigree of already being deployed in thousands of customer sites for very complex, very heavy-lifting types of database applications," he said. "Some open-source database vendors are still developing their … features. Ingres has the privilege or advantage of having developed and matured those enterprise-class features over the past three decades. This is not lab-type development, this is industry deployment."

Emma Gratten, who has been working on engineering in the Ingres database since before it was acquired by CA, will serve as senior vice president of engineering at Ingres.

She told that at this point, Ingres R2 is comparable to Oracle Database 10g in terms of features and functions. What Ingres plans to focus on moving forward is to simplify installation and configuration.

"Weve packed it with technology and maybe complicated it a little," she said.

Next Page: Ingres to Focus on Business Intelligence.

CA Pushes Ingres Out

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Ingres will also focus on BI (Business Intelligence), she said. That focus will serve to push the database out of the realm of OLTP solution, where CA has positioned it until now, she said.

"BI is a place where it performs well," she said, particularly with partitioning and parallel processing capabilities CA has added in order to build out its BI capabilities.

Dargo said that licensing will be another focus for change, as the company seeks to drive greater adoption and better distribution by making Ingres the easiest database to deploy—not just from a technology perspective but from a business perspective as well.

"Various licensing [models] will make it easier to deploy in the GPL world while still keeping the ability of ISVs to bundle and work with Ingres in an embedded market," he said.

When CA released Ingres code in May, it created a new license for the unveiling: the CA Trusted Open Source License. The one downside of the CA TOSL, Dargo said, is that somebody with a GPL licensed product cant use it, since GPL stipulates that everything it covers also be under GPL.

Hence, the market has seen a good deal of alternative licenses, or dual-licensing, he said. In the tradition of dual-licensing schemes such as that of MySQL AB, Ingres will be looking at licensing models that allow it to get into the GPL community and to still maintain what he calls the friendliness for community that CA TOSL maintains.

Friendliness aside, the Ingres move is obviously targeted at Oracle, Bloor said. "Its interesting, the number of Oracle people whove jumped onboard," he said. "Its quite obvious this company is going to target Oracle directly."

Dargo is just one ex-Oracle heavyweight. Others on the new staff include Andy Allbritten, who was most recently with Oracle as group vice president, Support Services and at PeopleSoft as managing director, group vice president, Support Services, Worldwide Sales & Operations.

Dargo said that the Oracle reunion is just reflective of the fact that "when you really want to bring good talent together, Oracle really crated a lot of that talent. Its an opportunity for us to get back together and get re-energized," he said. Besides, Barrenechea said, Ingres is pulling in talent from other big software companies, including Microsoft.

As far as applying lessons to the new venture that he learned at Oracle and as a consultant around venture capital and startups, Dargo said hes realized a lot of customers have a lot of issues when it comes to negotiating closed-source licensing and support contracts.

"The real opportunity here is taking a great technology base that Ingres represents and applying a little different business model to it, something really attractive to the enterprise database market," he said. "Theyre looking for relief from some of the types of pricing and support negotiations they have to go through with closed-source databases. When they see theres an open-source alternative that has that capability, theres a tremendous opportunity for us."

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