November 14, 2005

So how robust is Ingres?

CA is spinning off Ingres, more or less, to an investment fund led by Terry Garnett, who will also be interim of CEO. Now, I’ve given Terry a lot of grief over the decades. It started by accident, when I bashed his presentation of Lightyear at a 1984 party in Rosann Stach’s house (where we also used Jerry Kaplan as a subject for the Mindprober psychological analysis product — those were the days of goofy software!). Years later, I didn’t even recall that had been Terry until I was reminded. But in the early 1990s, when Terry and Jerry Baker were dueling at Oracle, I was firmly in the Jerry Baker camp, and believe I was right to this day. Still — be all that as it may, Terry knows DBMS and knows promotion, and if the company falls flat it won’t be because he screwed it up. He’s no dunce, and he’s been around DBMS a loooong time.

But how stands the product? Let’s flash back a decade, to when CA bought it. Ingres was a solid general-purpose RDBMS. But it was beginning to fall behind the technology power curve, especially on the data warehousing side. (For more detail, see my Ingres history post over in the Software Memories blog.) And then product development slowed to a crawl. Tony Gaughan, who ran the product for CA before the latest move, claims that they’ve actually done a good job on advancing the product on the OLTP side, perhaps to the point of comparability with Oracle9i, and certainly ahead of MySQL 5.0. I’m inclined to believe him, after applying some reasonable discount factor for expected puffery, in part because this wasn’t a high hurdle to cross. Over the past decade, the main action in high-end DBMS product enhancement has been in data warehousing and nontabular datatypes, not in OLTP.

Where Ingres definitely seems to lag is in data warehousing. E.g., there are no materialized views, and I bet that even if they have some of the index types such as bitmaps, star schemas, etc., the implementation, optimizer support, administrative support, and so on lag far behind that of Oracle and IBM. So again, the proper comparison for Ingres isn’t Oracle and IBM; it’s fellow open source vendor MySQL. Only — deserved or not, MySQL has a ton of momentum for such a small company, incuding an attractive product plan partially fueled by SAP.

Appliance vendor DATallegro makes a plausibiity argument that Ingres can be adapted for nontrivial data warehouse uses as well. But while that’s cool, and might even become persuasive once DATallegro has some happy, disclosed customers, it’s not the same as saying you want to put a big data warehouse into off-the-shelf Ingres.

So basically, I’m afraid that Ingres is going to appeal mainly to users who either already are making major use of it, or else have a huge problem with paying the license fees demanded by other vendors. I wish them well, and hope they kindle a spark somehow; but right now I don’t see where it would be coming from.


2 Responses to “So how robust is Ingres?”

  1. Software Memories»Blog Archive » Ingres memories on November 14th, 2005 5:41 am

    […] I think I’ll go write about the rest of the story over in the DBMS2 blog. • • • […]

  2. plumsauce on January 26th, 2006 4:17 pm

    Having looked at many open source dbms products,
    from the well known to the obscure,
    I have settled on Ingres as being the best compromise.

    It’s main attraction is the many years of development
    that happened *before* being released as open source.

    Where that shows is in the code comments and code structure.

    For custom modifications, that is probably the biggest hurdle
    in most open source stuff that is just hacked together with
    no thought maintainability.

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