Ingres’ Steve Shine on the Database Company’s Business Model and Plans

Steve Shine, EVP, worldwide operations, Ingres Corporation

Steve Shine, EVP, worldwide operations, Ingres Corporation

Steve Shine, EVP, worldwide operations, Ingres Corporation, was in Delhi as part of his three-city tour of India. When we met with him, he was not only gung-ho about the prospects of open source databases but also very enthusiastic about India and its potential as a market for Ingres. Here are a few excerpts from our discussion.

How would you define your entire trip to India? Who did you meet, and what’s the final impression that you’re taking away? (Post-trip question)

Though Ingres Corporation’s CEO has been visiting India almost every year, this was my first trip to this country.  I found the market to be a fertile ground for open source where the customers are smart and demanding, and want to pay for the value they receive.  We met with customers and partners, and our take away was that we needed to further expand upon our presence in this market.

What has India’s role been so far in the overall scheme of things for Ingres?

India is a high growth strategic market for Ingres where we are increasing our investments based on the rapid adoption we have seen in the last couple of years.  We now have customers in India adopting Ingres for some very interesting and innovative mission critical applications in the areas of custom applications, portals, workflow, content management systems, etc. India is also home to some of our global systems integration partners who have now established Ingres technology practices, and most of them are now involved in delivering large local as well as global projects on Ingres, from India.

Are there any changes in your strategy, with respect to India?

Even though open source as a market and Ingres as a company are seeing worldwide growth, due to the continuing slowdown in IT spending across western economies, we are actually ratcheting up investments in select high growth geographies, and India is definitely a priority in that segment.  So yes, the change is to reaffirm the commitment to this market and increase the investments in India.

Can you share details about further investments in India — what are the areas you are investing in, and what are your short term expectations from these investments?

We are investing in India by hiring local technical as well as sales and marketing resources in multiple locations, so that our customers and partners have easy access to us. We are also rolling out our ISV recruitment campaign in India, which has already been very successful, especially in Europe. The expectation is to grow our sales and marketing operations in India ahead of most regions.  We are also considering India for our engineering operations and have started recruiting in this area.

What is your view on how much open source databases are used, compared to the overall database usage in Indian businesses?

Eighty per cent of the enterprise database market runs on Oracle, globally, and the scenario is similar in India. This monopoly situation could be because of Oracle’s single sourcing strategy  –  when only one vendor provides the majority of products such as the database, the OS, middleware, etc, for an entire project.

But in the last few years, we have seen that many customers find that they do not like a scenario of over-dependence on a single vendor, in terms of achieving a balanced negotiating position. Vendor lock-in, wherein they lose the choice to experiment with other products that offer either better value for money or innovation, is becoming a significant issue.  This is where we see customers deliberately deciding to introduce an open source technology alternative into their enterprise.

Indian enterprises, including the government, are now adopting open source solutions for mission critical projects, whereas as recently as just a couple of years ago, only peripheral/non-critical applications were considered for open source.  This has been a big change and will allow customers to realise very significant cost savings in their IT infrastructure.

What is the revenue model of Ingres products? Are they based purely on socket-based licensing?

Ingres’ success is defined by its ability to provide first class global support services. This aligns us very well with our customers’ values. They want to pay for only the software they use, as they use it, as opposed to large upfront capital investments. Yet they expect the software and services to support the business. We charge on a CPU basis rather than the core, as some of our competitors do. And for those customers that want it, we are also able to provide an indemnity for potential IP violations as part of the support subscription, as Ingres does own the IP for our enterprise code base.

Customers are free to use the community version of our software under GPL licensing and we encourage this where enterprise support is not necessary. The majority of Ingres’ customers do pay for support as they are running business critical systems on our technology. This differentiates us from other OSS DBMS providers.

Is yours a dual licensing model like (MySQL) or is it simpler?

Ingres is an open source database and our revenue model is simple. We have a free community edition and a paid enterprise edition, where one pays a subscription fee for annual support. If you opt for the community edition, you will have to manage support-related issues like patch updates yourself, but if you get the paid enterprise edition, we do that for you as well as provide you with indemnity coverage, binary certifications across a lot of interfacing technologies and 24×7 support.

If I were to copy the enterprise version of Ingres and install it on my server — knowing fully well that I will not get any support from you — would that be a legal violation?

Yes, that would be a legal violation. If you want access and use of the Ingres technologies, and do not feel the need for support services, you can download the community version and stay within the law.

Yet, you tout Ingres as a leader in the open source space. How would you justify such an action, for an open source product?

The open source market has been evolving over the past few years. There is a highly skilled core of the RDBMS community that wants and actively contributes to making a product richer and more stable. This model has proved to be far more effective than the closed proprietary software development model. Ingres works closely with its community to ensure they can take advantage of the product’s core business critical capabilities but at the same time add their own contributions, and freely use all of this within the community versions.

For those customers that want our support services, we maintain a tightly managed enterprise version whereby we are able to ensure the quality and security of the software used to support their business operations. We charge for these services, sufficient to sustain robust business and provide a return to our shareholders. Ultimately, we are guided by the market as our customers will only pay for the services if they receive sufficient value. Otherwise they could move to the community version. Ultimately, we know we have a model that the market wants because we see them moving from more expensive proprietary offerings.

What drives the revenues for Ingres — the direct customers, systems integrators or Independent Software Vendors (ISVs)?

We at Ingres believe in providing key functions of technology that offer great value for money. We do sell directly to customers, but the fastest growing part of our revenue comes from the systems integrators (SIs) and ISVs.

Whom would you consider an Independent Software Vendor under your ISV programme?
In Ingres, we see three major groups of ISVs:

  • Embedded: These ISVs tightly embed Ingres technology in their solutions and provide a complete support offering to their customers. We support the ISV directly in this case.
  • Certified: These ISVs clearly see a demand in their market, which they address by offering their applications on several RDBMS platforms of which OSS is a growing element. We work with these ISVs to ensure our software works well together and customers can choose to purchase Ingres support from the ISV or directly from Ingres.
  • Cloud/SAAS: The rapidly growing market for ISVs to offer their applications on a cloud/SAAS basis is a very exciting business for Ingres as our business model of subscriptions is completely aligned with the economics of the cloud/SAAS players.

Are you focusing only on the database space or do you also plan to go into the enterprise application stack?

Ingres’ core focus is Enterprise Data Management  –  and offerings in this space are used by application vendors and end customers. There are very few RDBMS options left to the ISV community as application players have acquired the RDBMS players. This is a great opportunity for Ingres to expand into this uncrowded space.

Do your consultants/partners recommend a customer only on the database front or would they also make recommendations for the OS, applications, virtualisation, hardware, backup, network, etc?

Most buyers today look beyond just a single layer of technology when making purchasing decisions. Our systems integrator partners recognise this and have expanded their expertise to cover most areas of infrastructure. Our close partnerships with Red Hat, Novell, Talend, etc, ensure our customers and partners are not left to put the pieces together alone, as we do the integration/certification work in advance.

Do you involve community members in order to support and share their feedback on your open source products?

The community plays an important role for Ingres and we believe in learning and in educating others to spread the word. The best example is the MoU signed with the Ministry of Information and Telecommunication, Jordan, to set up an academic centre, also extended to universities, to train professionals in the Middle East.  We also receive good contributions from the community, which we include in our product.  Some good examples of such community contributions include Ingres CAFÉ (for Eclipse-based development and the winner of LinuxWorld’s ‘Best application development tool’ award), EasyIngres (for PHP-based development), Ingres Migration Toolset (for migrating to Ingres from other databases –  available on Sourceforge) and the Ingres Geospatial Project.

We have been hearing some exciting news about your new launch — VectorWise? Can you shed some light on it?

Ingres VectorWise is a revolutionary analytical database technology, which is an innovation in the database world. It leverages the computing power of the modern micro processors, making ‘Analytics at the speed of Thought’, a reality. Customers and partners who are already using Ingres VectorWise are seeing query performance gains of 10-70 times on a single server, vis-à-vis other leading databases, when analysing massive data volumes running into millions and billions of rows.

Ingres VectorWise not only provides these dramatic performance gains but also lowers TCO significantly, as it is a simple single commodity server solution eliminating the need for massive configurations of database servers or MPP solutions which are very expensive and complex to deploy and run. VectorWise is also very simple to run with no need for indexing, self-tuning, etc, which again results in savings on the specialist DBA skills required with other solutions.

It was launched last month, globally and in India, and we already have customers using the product.  Visit ingres.com/vectorwise for any information. We are already talking to customers and partners in India about this technology and are seeing a very high level of interest.

How is VectorWise different from SybaseIQ?

SybaseIQ is a very capable Analytics DBMS which leverages column-based technology as well as compression technologies. Ingres VectorWise uses the very latest column and compression technologies but where it really differentiates itself is in the areas of chip cache management (as opposed to the much slower RAM- and disk-based approach of its competitors) and vectorisation (utilising the multi-threaded nature of today’s modern chip architectures). All of these technologies are embedded in an enterprise grade RDBMS which makes it robust and easy to use. These factors make VectorWise so much faster and easier to use than anything else on the market. The solution is very simple and we encourage customers to download the product and give it a try.

Do you have products for business critical applications? Could you share some real or run time examples in or outside India? We would also like to know about the potential customers you are targeting in this space?

Ingres database is our enterprise grade open source database that’s being used to run some of the world’s most business critical highly transactional applications.  These include online tax filing and processing systems for a country’s tax authority; a micro-processor chip production application; an airport station control system for a major airline; an airline scheduling and planning application serving hundreds of airlines; one of the largest police custody suite applications; core and online banking applications for a leading bank, etc.

Examples of such customers include the Irish Revenue Commissioners, Cathay Pacific, Global Collect, Banca IFIS, Cypress Semiconductors, Lufthansa Aeronautical System, Peerless Foods, Business Standard, Honeywell, an e-District Project for the Government of India (GoI), an ERP implementation, workflow management and portal for a GoI organisation, etc.

Ingres’ database can be used as a true low cost enterprise-grade open source alternative by all large and small enterprises that currently use expensive proprietary solutions.  Our other solution, VectorWise, is for customers who want to analyse massive volumes of data very quickly, cost effectively and easily.  Typical customers of our analytical database would be in telecom, financial services, retail, government citizen data, etc., — wherever you would need to analyse massive amounts of data.

Is there a training-related business model too at Ingres, like at Red Hat? Any certifications?

Ingres Corporation does have an education services division through which we have trained many systems integration partners and customers in India. We continue to expand these offerings and have found that the Ingres database is easy to learn and cross training from other RDBMSs is particularly easy.

Do you think training is the best way to spread the word about the product?

Yes, we totally agree with the fact that if we have more certified database experts on Ingres it will be easier to get a bigger foothold in the market. But to start with, we have various community activities that are at the core of adding capabilities into the database. We have many programmes like the one in Jordan, plus we have a strong relationship with Red Hat which has great experience in this domain.

Do you look at Sun’s acquisition by Oracle as a good sign for Ingres?

Oracle’s business model is clearly more of a financial consolidator today. We have seen a lot of Sun resources and particularly MySQL skills leave the company since the acquisition, as there is clearly a cultural rift between Oracle and open source. I think this is sad for the OSS community but such is the beauty of the OSS model that you can never really kill off a project if there is a motivated community behind it.

Since the acquisition, Ingres has seen a great deal of interest from the broader community as well as from customers and ISVs using MySQL, who are uncomfortable with the future direction of MySQL under Oracle’s stewardship.

With MySQL entering into a ‘grey-zone’, firms like EnterpriseDB have upped their ante to promote open source solutions like PostgreSQL in India. How do you plan to handle such a scenario?

I believe the market here in India can easily support multiple OSS RDBMS offerings, and I welcome this as it creates a more healthy competitive landscape.  Here, at Ingres, we believe we are the leader if you need enterprise OSS RDBMS, and as we continue to expand our capabilities and deliver more innovation such as Ingres Vectorwise, we will see this leadership increase.

Does Ingres have a solution for the embedded segment too?

Yes, we have a large number of customers in the embedded segment as well.  There was a very recent case in the electronics industry wherein an electronics scales manufacturer, Mettler Toledo, selected Ingres’ compact database for use inside its devices.  Any organisation that needs an embedded database with enterprise features, stability and world-class support can utilise Ingres’ database.

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