It has been nearly nine months since Computer Associates gave away the source code for its Ingres enterprise database to the open source community, fuelling speculation that Ingres could develop into a true open source alternative to commercial enterprise products such as SQL Server, Oracle and DB/2.
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Although users of the database have gained help from the open source community in making the system technically current, it will still not represent significant product development compared with software from both commercial and open source rivals, according to Sam Higgins, a senior analyst with Forrester.
“Users will find themselves gaining through the freedom of community and innovation that has so far been the boon of long-time Ingres advocates,” he said.
“However, where the divested [Ingres] products are no longer differentiated, enterprises should be prepared to find alternatives as these solutions will end their lives in obscurity.”
In August 2005, CA made the source code for the Ingres relational database available as a free download from its website. The company said that more than 15,000 copies of Ingres had been downloaded under the open source licence.
Ingres was initially developed as a Berkeley College research project during the 1970s. It was commercialised as Illustra during the 1980s and later incorporated into Informix. The system was bought by CA in 1994 and offered as an open source product in 2004.
In November 2005, Garnett & Helfrich Capital purchased Ingres from CA and created a new company called Ingres Corporation, which will provide support and services for the open source code.
Ingres has a loyal user base, which applauded the move to open source given the mammoth difficulty of database migration, according to IDC research director Rob Hailstone.
“The open source initiative has taken the pressure off people looking to more elsewhere,” he said.
But users looking for new implementations of open source databases are more likely to choose MySQL.
“It has a lot more traction,” Hailstone said. “The difference is that MySQL was designed to be open source, whereas Ingres was designed to be commercially supported. I am not convinced it is going to be easy for the open source community to contribute to enhancements to a system they were not involved with from the start.”
In the overall database market, users with business-critical requirements for performance and reliability would always opt for proprietary systems, he added.