Ingres CTO says Oracle will fail in bid to control open source

More fuel to the fire over attempts to control open source by Oracle (and others?).
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor on

More fuel to the fire over attempts to control open source by Oracle (and others?). I had an interesting chat with Jim Finn, the comms head of Ingres--currently the  hottest open source database enterprise software company.

Mr Finn was recently head of IBM's North Americas communications group, and about 14 months ago he was running Oracle's corporate comms group.  He has an interesting perspective on what Larry Ellison is trying to do. To Mr Finn, Oracle is interested in one thing and one thing only: to control the open source movement--or at least how it affects Oracle.

And this is a good thing because Mr Finn says it validates Ingres' strategy and business opportunities. "Oracle's acquisitions have tied up the transactional engines used by MySQL, but the Ingres database already has those capabilities, plus the security plus the other enterprise-ready features."

That is one way to look at it and you would expect Mr Finn to argue such a position. I initially said that Oracle's acquisitions in the open-source space would act as a freeze on developer activity--and that would affect Ingres.

But I didn't consider another angle: that Oracle's bid to freeze the open source database movement through acquisitions might push customers towards a company such as Ingres. It becomes one of the only alternative suppliers of enterprise-grade database software. That could be one of the outcomes, which makes it an interesting situation to follow.

Here is some more on this topic from a comment sent to me from Dave Dargo, the CTO of Ingres:


In many respects, you are spot-on.  It must have sent a chill down the spine of the open source community to see the following quote in a Business Week story that preceded the acquisition of Sleepycat:  "One source close to the talks [the rumored JBoss talks] says these deals may be just the beginning. 'Larry and [Oracle Co-President and CFO] Safra Catz have a clear plan to control the entire open-source [software] stack,' the person says."

I'd bet that anonymous quote did not come from the open-source camp.

Why is Oracle so interested in open-source all of a sudden?  I don't think this is about Oracle moving into open-source so much as attempting to consume those open-source users into the larger Oracle machine.  Oracle has made a number of acquisitions in an effort to recapture those customers who had previously chosen to do business with non-Oracle suppliers.  I see this as an attempt to force those customers back to the Oracle standard, the Oracle model and the Oracle revenue stream.

For example, many believe that Oracle's acquisition of InnoDB last Fall effectively controls the main transaction engine under MySQL which, in turn, inhibits their ability to move into the enterprise where Oracle makes billions.  It looks like Oracle is attempting to widen the moat around their closed-source fortress to lessen the pressure on their pricing structure.

Why hasn't Oracle open-sourced any of their flagship products?  I believe it is because the products that have 95 percent operating margins fund the consolidation strategy that Oracle is desperately hoping will revive its listless stock price.

It appears that the technology industry and its outsized egos never learn from history.  Microsoft was in denial about Java.  Sun was in denial about Linux.  Is Oracle similarly in denial about customers' desire for choice?  Oracle in its hostile takeover of PeopleSoft drove customers to SAP.  There is no reason to think that Oracle's latest acquisition binge won't drive customers, who want more choice not less, to business open-source.

Dave Dargo
Chief Technology Officer
Ingres Corporation

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