Q&A with Roger Burkhardt, CEO of Ingres

Open Source

by Gary Flood| 08 July 2010

Roger Burkhardt, CEO of Ingres, speaks to CBR about the importance of the open source model, customer support and subscriptions over up-front costs

You lead a database company with a 25 year legacy that is in a very different place now than just a few years back, when many people saw it as irrelevant. What drew you to this challenge?
I've been CEO of Ingres for four years now but in many ways it was a totally natural progression from the previous six years, where I'd been on the user side, looking after all the technology for the New York Stock Exchange, although I had been on Wall St since 1989, originally working for IBM. That's where I really became convinced the open source model is the best one for the customer and the IT industry equally.

For a start, the customer is the one driving the innovation, which means the speed of innovation is so much quicker. The economic model obviously works very well too in terms of a much, much clearer linkage between cost and value than the alternatives. So at Ingres we are really flourishing with a subscription model that's very similar to Red Hat's, which we think really works.

Roger Burkhardt CEO open source database Ingres

Hasn't it all been a bit of a soap opera, with the CA acquisition, then the re-birth?
We have shown we are the clear alternative in the commercial database suppliers market, many of whom are now of course competing with their former partners as they themselves change into different sorts of applications and hardware companies. Since Ingres was re-created in 2006 we have tripled our revenues and established ourselves as the second-largest open source company after Red Hat. We have a set of global alliances with Red Hat and also Novell and Accenture. We have upwards of 10,000 customers, significant operations in eight countries and presence in many more, and we offer truly enterprise-level, global 24/7 support to our customers around the world.

Sounds very strong, but you are of course a private operation, spun out of CA by a private equity group. How can the market be sure you have as much momentum as you say you have?
Our backer has a demonstrable track record in getting value out of operations that struggled when part of bigger operations, like when we were inside CA. Since the 2006 initial investment, we are now profitable and generating cash. In business, there are some basic milestones and metrics to show development and one of them, surely, is achieving profitability? Frankly, that sets us apart from a large number of companies in both open source and indeed the analytic database or data warehouse markets.

Where does this next generation Ingres plan go next?
We are dedicated to growing rapidly. We are in a great position for the market, as open source is going to become the dominant platform in the mobile world, like with Android, in cloud deployments, many places. The largest growing areas in the industry like handhelds and the SaaS market, open source is the key.

What is the message of the new Ingres to the CIO?
Greater innovation and reduced and variable cost seem incompatible; you can't get both. But the CIO doesn't have to believe that, he can get both, which is where we come in. Open source and SaaS are proving to be of great interest to firms to not just cut costs but to align costs much more closely to actual usage, away from high up-front licence cost to a variable model.

This is of fundamental relevance to the CIO, as he needs to get budget on to that kind of variable, low-cost model. Ingres and the other open source firms will make money off a subscription if it's being used for mission-critical work - we won't for pure development or more lightweight apps. So the CIO looking to manage risk will buy a support subscription from a company like ours in that context, which is good news for him and for us.

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