CA Pushes Ingres Out of the Nest

CA's move to divest itself of Ingres is the next logical step in the company's reorganization, according to the company and analysts.

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.