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CA Divests Open Source Ingres

Computer Associates is divesting its open source enterprise database, Ingres, to venture buyout specialists Garnett & Helfrich Capital, officials announced Monday.

Ingres Corp. will take over management of the open source project and sell services and support on top of the software, a la JBoss. While CA retains its ties to the software with a board of directors chair, Garnett & Helfrich will be the majority shareholder of the company.

The database competes against commercial enterprise database giants like Oracle and IBM's DB2, as well as the popular open source product, MySQL.

Garnett & Helfrich created Ingres Corp. to act as the corporate home for the open source project, selling premium services and support for the open source database. Development will continue under the open source model, though officials are going to change the license in the coming months.

Garnett & Helfrich has a stake in a number of ventures, focusing on mid-sized technology spinouts. Earlier this year, the fund took a controlling stake in thin-client vendor Wyse Technology.

Currently, Ingres is distributed under the CA Trusted Open Source License (CA-TOSL), which is an Open Source Initiative-approved (OSI) license. Ingres Corp. executives, however, want to make Ingres more accessible to ISVs and potential business customers, and plan to re-license the software.

Dave Dargo, Ingres CTO and senior vice president of strategy, said CA has done a good job attracting attention to Ingres in the open source community with its license but the newly formed company wants to get the software out to more people.

Ingres will remain an open source project, Dargo said, though officials are still determining which one is best for the project. They will not invent a new license, he said, but concentrate on the licenses already found in the open source community.

"In any discussion about licensing, certainly the GPL and [Lesser GPL] come to mind, and that will certainly help an entity get greater distribution in the community," he said. "On the other hand we recognize there are some ISVs that would like to be able to use the Ingres product and distribute it freely without necessarily having to open source their products."

Officials expect to reach a decision on the new license by the end of the year and implement it at the beginning of 2006.

CA bought the Ingres technology from ASK Group in 1994, its entry into the relational database market. The company, primarily a management software vendor, lost traction with its new database among its commercial rivals, and officials played with the idea of open sourcing the product.

The company open-sourced the database in July 2004 under CA-TOSL and dumped $1 million into marketing the software to the open source community.

The move to divest the database into a professional open source company along the business model of JBoss should come as welcome news to everyone involved with the project.

For CA, it means getting back to its roots; the company wants to focus on its core strengths while still giving Ingres a chance to succeed in the enterprise database industry.

"During the past year, CA has been looking closely at its solutions portfolio and deciding how to best focus investment dollars on growth areas," John Swainson, CA president and CEO, said in a statement.

"Part of that program has been aimed at internal development, part on making key acquisitions and the last part on finding ways to unlock the value of solutions areas that, while not strategic to CA's core business, have significant potential in the marketplace."

Officials at CA said they plan to continue Ingres support in product development, partnerships and marketing activities.

According to Emma McGrattan, Ingres Corp. senior vice president of engineering, the Ingres team of 100 developers, support and services staff will move from CA to the new company. Ingres Corp. plans to add 50 more employees to fill marketing, sales and business development positions.

This is good news for developers as they now have a patron willing to invest primarily in the database, rather than being one of a crowd of CA products.

"With [CA's] portfolio of more than 1,200 products it was kind of easy to get lost," McGrattan said, "whereas now we are focused on a very limited product set and we're positioning ourselves to be the business open source database."

While much of the work is already done, Ingres Corp. officials said they will continue to work on the software project's migration from the CA site to its own Web site. Officials said developer accounts will be transferred to the new site.