Those with long memories will recall the database battles of the 1980s between Oracle, IBM, Sybase, Informix and Ingres. These days the playing field has changed, with Oracle, IBM and Microsoft battling it out for database footprint in large enterprises, but open-source databases are starting to come up on the rails. MySQL has had a lot of attention, but not everyone realises that Ingres has now moved in this direction. Since 2005 Ingres has come out of the CA maw and has been operating as an open-source company. Since Ingres was one of the top-tier commercial databases, and has over ten thousand commercial customers no-one can accuse it of being unproven.
Ingres appears to be prospering under its open-source direction, with revenues more than doubling since 2006, and with over 300 employees. Recent users of the database range from a developer of Facebook applications right up to a real-time 24 x 7 banking application processing at interbank specialist BBP, running 500 million transactions a day through an Ingres database; with 139 billion dollars a day of transactions running through the system, this certainly counts as mission-critical.
Since there is no license fee, just a charge for maintenance, an open-source database can work out dramatically cheaper than a proprietary alternative. Of course the issue is migration effort: many companies have large amounts of business logic embedded in proprietary stored procedures and triggers, and the costs of migration may outweigh the lower licensing costs. However, for packaged applications that can run on multiple databases this is much less of an issue, or indeed for new applications where a decision has been made to put more of the application logic in the application server rather than the database. Here Ingres is tightly integrated with open source JBoss from Red Hat. Even in the case of migration of existing database applications with plenty of proprietary logic, help is at hand in the form of tools such as "Swiss SQL", which can assist with converting, for example, Oracle SQL into a mix of Ingres, app server logic and Java. Of course whether such a conversion makes economic sense will depend on the exact nature of the application, but in these straitened economic times more and more companies will start to scrutinise avoidable costs.
Recent developments of Ingres included significantly enhanced systems management tools and enhanced spatial support, and a plug in for Salesforce. There are bundled open-source combinations now: Ingres + Jaspersoft is a pre-integrated business intelligence offering, while Ingres + Alfresco is an offering for electronic content management. Minor releases of Ingres come out every six months, major ones every three years, avoiding too much unwelcome version churn at customer sites.
Objections to open-source are often around its "unproven" nature, but this an accusation that Ingres has a robust answer to. Linux has paved the way in showing that open-source can make significant inroads into a massive proprietary base. The steady progress of open-source databases mean that more and more companies will start to consider them seriously, a trend that can only be accelerated by the tough economic climate, where saving money is a priority.