Computer Associates will announce Wednesday at LinuxWorld what its dubbed its $1 million challenge, eWEEK.com has learned from industry sources. The goal: to get open-source developers to develop tools to easily migrate users off of all of the major relational databases and onto CAs recently open-sourced relational database, Ingres.
Mark Barrenechea, executive vice president of product development at Islandia, N.Y.-based Computer Associates International Inc., confirmed that it will give prize rewards for five projects. Those five projects are migration tool kits from IBM DB2 Universal Database, Microsoft Corp. SQL Server, Sybase Inc., Oracle Corp. or Informix databases.
The rewards, totaling $1 million, will be paid out on a sliding scale based on completeness and quality. The contest will run through February 2005. Winners will be announced at the CAWorld conference. Rules of the contest will be released at the same time that CA releases the code for Ingres, which is scheduled for Wednesday.
Barrenechea said the rewards were conceived as a reward to the innovation common in the open-source community. “One thing that strikes me is there are near 1 million contributors to open source, all over the world,” he said, speaking from the LinuxWorld show floor in San Francisco. “Many of these contributors do it for their passion, some to create a name for themselves. Wed like to reward some of the best for these migration tools.”
CA also wants to bring that innovation to bear on its newly released database, of course. “We believe very much in open standards, and we think the next wave of open innovation will be above the operating system,” he said.
“That will need a technology stack and a database, and we think one of the potential barriers of that are good migration tools from these non-open-source databases to open-source databases. We thought wed encourage that innovation” with the contest, he said.
This marks the first time that an open-source database has issued a direct challenge to the commercial database market. MySQL AB, maker of the most popular open-source database to date, MySQL, historically has demurred when it comes to competing directly with the likes of Oracle, instead preferring to call itself a commodity database that can serve to do the menial tasks for which expensive, fully featured databases would be overkill.
Analysts called CAs move “bold,” saying its a great way to buy yourself a community around your open-source project.
“Its an interesting way to start building some community around the open-sourcing of Ingres,” said an industry source who requested anonymity. “I think this is something no one else has tried: Lets buy a community. Youll [certainly] get that network effect: lots of developers building lots of applications that will draw a lot of users.”
Ingres suffers from a lack of recognition that $1 million is sure to help, others said.
“Problem is, Ingres has been a low-profile database,” said Noel Yuhanna, an analyst at Forrester Research, in Costa Mesa, Calif. “This is [CAs attempt] to create that awareness that its there. That its worth taking a look at for serious development.”
Ingres lack of visibility is probably undeserved, some say. It supports failover clustering and ACID transactions and has data partitioning, for example—features found in large commercial databases such as DB2, Oracle and SQL Server.
From that standpoint, it is much closer to competing with the big commercial databases than is MySQL, which lacks stored procedures and triggers, for example.
And, on one hand, what enterprises have liked about MySQL is that theres a company standing behind the open-source database. But with CA standing behind the Ingres open-source database, those same enterprises will have a much larger company to rely on.
Stephen OGrady, an analyst with RedMonk, in Bath, Maine, said the cash reward is a “nice model,” but he doesnt think it will unseat traditional software development. “Even cash prizes dont work if developers dont think the platform is worth it,” he said.
Still, the move has at least one precedent. Six Apart Ltd., the company behind the Movable Type Weblog publishing platform, in May announced a contest for developers to showcase and sell Movable Type plug-ins while competing for $20,000 in prizes, including a first prize of a $7,000 Apple Computer Inc. or Dell Inc. desktop system.
What do the big database companies think of the move? Oracle did not return a phone call by the time this story went to press. Tom Rizzo, director of product management for SQL Server at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., said he is mystified by CAs move. “To be frank, [even Sybase Inc.] has more market share than Ingres in the database market, so … I dont know what CAs strategy is in pushing Ingres.
“Frankly, [CA is] a good partner for SQL Server. They have Irwin, a database modeling tool that works with SQL Server. Its kind of interesting. Its a big company, so maybe one division is pushing Ingres and another is pushing SQL Server.“
And Rizzo said that even if the $1 million contest reaps migration tools, the ROI (return on investment) for a migration from SQL Server still wouldnt make sense.
“Its interesting in that theyre paying for migration tools, but I cant see a customer wanting to migrate from a very functional database and business intelligence platform like SQL Server to a lower-quality, non-customer-deployed, non-benchmarked database like Ingres,” he said.
“I dont see the ROI for the customer. Even if theres such a tool, how customers could justify that migration? Getting data over to the database is one thing. Its what applications run on it, how you manage it, what extra services like business intelligence and data mining are supported—those are all key considerations any customer makes in a migration.
“What does Ingres provide for any of those things? Id argue that SQL Server is above Ingres in all those capabilities, and Oracle and DB2 and all the other products.”
For its part, IBM declined to respond. But an industry source close to the company was dismissive of the move. “IBM already has free development tools to move developers to DB2 from those other vendors—and there are many third-party providers who do the same—all based on user demand. Why does CA have to offer someone $1 million to do that?” she said. “[This move is CAs] version of American Database Idol.”