The decision by Computer Associates to license its enterprise database under an open source agreement could change the way suppliers support older software products, experts believe.
Users will no longer have to pay a licence fee for the Ingres database, which is used by thousands of companies worldwide. Analysts said the announcement, made last week, offered organisations an improved deal and could mark a turning point in the way software is supported and developed in the long-term.
CA said the release would allow users or software developers in the open source community to review and submit modifications to the Ingres r3 code line for possible inclusion in the general availability version, scheduled for release on 30 September.
The software company has also put up £550,000 to encourage open source developers to build software for Ingres. Developers have been invited to create software tools that enable users of Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2 Universal Database, Sybase Adaptive Enterprise Server, Informix and MySQL to migrate to the Ingres r3 platform.
Mark Barrenechea, executive vice-president of product development at CA, said the open source licensing agreement would help it to develop the database by harnessing the expertise of open source developers.
Mike Thompson, principal research analyst at Butler Group, said, "Ingres is an enterprise database and it is now free. This is very good news for users."
Thompson urged users to take a look at the database as it offered many of the functions available in commercial databases. "Ingres is functionally equivalent to Microsoft SQL Server," he said. "If you have concerns about SQL Server 2005, I suggest you trial Ingres."
The source code for Ingres is available from the CA website.
The availability of Ingres through CA’s open source programme could mark the start of a trend among software suppliers to use open source as a way to increase the longevity of products.
Graham Taylor, programme director at Open Forum Europe, welcomed CA’s decision to make Ingres open source.
"This is a positive sign which shows that [IT companies] can prolong the life of products," he said, adding that he does not expect CA to be the only software company to make products open source. "There will be a huge shift in IT where the emphasis moves from licence fees to service revenue," he said.
Even though its software is now free, CA expects to make money from maintenance.
According to CA, there are 150,000 Ingres users worldwide. The database offers a number of reliability and scalability features, including high-availability clusters for maintaining performance in the event of a failure of one database or server node within a cluster configuration, and parallel query processing. It also supports 64-bit databases.