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Ingres: An Open Source Rival to Oracle

Posted by: Steve Hamm on June 24, 2009

I’ve been following the path of Ingres Corp. ever since Terry Garnett and David Helfrich of Garnett & Helfrich Capital bought it from CA a few years back and made it into an independent company once again. Ingres and MySQL are the main open-source alternatives to Oracle in the database software market. Now that Oracle is buying Sun Microsystems, which owns MySQL, you’ve got to figure that Oracle will starve MySQL once it owns it—eliminating what had until now been a potent rival in the Web site market. Ingres is emerging as the last bastion of opposition within the open source world.

Earlier this week, Ingres made an announcement that gives hope that it could emerge as a credible alternative to Oracle. The company revealed that Save Mart Supermarkets, one of the top supermarket chains in California, and Cowen Group, a New York investment bank, have chosen its technology over Oracle's. "This signals that people are confident enough in the alternative that Ingres provides that they'll move mission-critical systems to our platform," says Roger Burkhardt, Ingres' CEO and formerly the CIO at the New York Stock Exchange. He says he hopes to see a "snowballing of new adoption" now that the company has made public some of its significant wins.

Daniel Flax, CIO of Cowen Group, chose Ingres as the technology foundation for the company's new program trading portal. He said buying Ingres technology was about one third as expensive as buying from the traditional database makers, and, "from a technical perspective, it does what we want."

Ingres is still a tiny pebble in Oracle's shoe. It has been growing rapidly but still only logged $68 million in revenues last year--compared to Oracle's $27 billion. Ingres didn't even rate a mention during Oracle's quarterly teleconference for equity analysts yesterday. But if Burkhardt keeps trotting out new wins, at least corporations will know they have an open-source choice.

Reader Comments

Matthew Zito

June 24, 2009 12:49 PM

Don't forget PostgreSQL. Postgres has a large and vibrant community, and a rapidly growing commercial version in EnterpriseDB, one that claims Oracle compatibility and has received investments from IBM. Ingres, while nice, doesn't get a lot of buzz from the up-and-coming application set.

Dirk Paasche

June 25, 2009 2:52 AM

@Matthew: PostgreSQL may be an Open Source alternative, just without any enterprise support. But EnterpriseDB is an Open Source DBMS with an Closed Source shell around it. With such a technology you don't lose your vendor lock-in and it is not really Open Source.

The Open Sourcerer

June 25, 2009 4:13 AM


June 25, 2009 5:21 AM

PostgreSQL/EnterpriseDB may like to think that they are enterprise class and supported by their open source community, but the reality is somewhat short off the mark.

Ingres on the other hand has even better enterprise support than Oracle and will accept ALL contributions form the open source community.

Download a trial copy of PostgreSQL/EnterpriseDB and Ingres, raise a support call on each and then you'll see which has the better support.

EnterpriseDB may be Oracle-like than Ingres is at the moment, but Ingres is gaining more and more Oracle-like features with every release.

In summary, there are many open source databases. But only Ingres has the pedigree and backing to offer a real open source alternative to Oracle.


June 25, 2009 5:38 AM

"Postgres has a large and vibrant community"

Excuse me Matthew, but have you actually tried submitting code for inclusion into Postgres? Was it accepted?

Thought not.

If you want to develop cool features for a cool open source database and want to see them included in an up and coming release then Postgres will disappoint you.

Ingres, on the other hand, is more friendly, less snobby and far more willing to take your contribution with little or no alteration.

How many Universities have ongoing research projects contributing new cutting edge features into Postgres? Ingres has quite few. That's why Ingres is THE "Open Source Rival to Oracle".

James Bennett

June 25, 2009 9:10 AM

The Open Sourcerer,

What do graphs showing Google searches prove about much of a rival an open source database is to Oracle?

Heck, by your analysis, Ubuntu is a 'better' Linux than RedHat, Suse and Debian put together:-

Perhaps searches for Ingres on Google ARE NOT REQUIRED as much as the others due to its superb documentation set, excellent enterprise class support and vibrant community at ?

Robert Treat

June 25, 2009 10:59 AM

Wow, quite a bit of misinformation going on around here. Let me set the record a bit straighter with regards to Postgres:

1) Postgres is supported by a number of enterprise players; Fujitsu, SRA, Red Hat, Sun (still), Unisys, and others.

2) EnterpriseDB offers support for both it's closed source version of Postgres, and the community Postgres as well.

3) Postgres is used in mission critical systems including Safeway grocery stores, and several big name financial/stock companies (CashNet is one example).

4) Postgres has high standards for code contribution, so it's true that submission of a patch alone does not guarantee your feature will be added. This is a good thing for software of the nature of database systems. That said, Postgres development is a completely open process, and *all* of it's development comes in the form of community contributions, including patches from well over 50 different people in the last release cycle, so it's certainly open to newcomers.

5) Many universities use Postgres, including Berkley, Moscow State, and the University of Sydney, just to name a few. And they do this with no sales team or financial incentives.

Additionally, I'd like to point out something that seems rather overlooked in this discussion. While Ingres is certainly a top tier technology, and certainly capable of managing mission critical / enterprise workloads, it suffers from the same critical flaw that MySQL has, specifically, it has a single owner company, which can be purchased by corporations that have different goals than its user base. If you believe Oracle is purchasing MySQL in an effort to kill it (personally I don't), then it seems to me you would be rather unwise to move your eggs into the Ingres basket.

James Bennett

June 25, 2009 3:34 PM


You're entitled to your opinion, but please don't try to express your opinion as fact.

Fujitsu, SRA, Red Hat, Sun (still), Unisys, and others (including EnterpriseDB) may 'support' Postgres, but go log a call and tell me how good their support is.
How many bugs do these individual companies identify and fix. How quickly do the fixes get into the code line? And how quickly do the fixes get to enterprise class clients? NOT VERY QUICKLY - IF AT ALL!

Oracle doesn't own MySQL the database. It can't because it's Open Source. It may own the assets of a company called MySQL which once built, QA'd and sold support for the database of the same name, but it certainly has no claim to MySQL the database.
So, whether you think that Oracle won't kill MySQL or whether other think they will is of no consequence.

The same is true for Ingres. If a large corporate, like IBM, bought Ingres Corp., they would get the assets of Ingres Corp. but not Ingres' GPL open source code. So, everyone acquired by IBM could in theory all leave to form their own company that does everything the Ingres Corp. does right now.
That's the beauty of Open Source - it belongs to the community.

Berkley, Moscow State and Sydney Universities may well use Postgres. But do they actually have cutting edge research projects in place to develop and extend new features for it? What features might they be?

How many banks bet their business on Postgres? I don't mean have sitting on someone's server in the corner or making a website look nice. I mean betting the whole business on its availability and performance?
How many military systems or safety-centric nuclear power plants run on it? VERY, VERY FEW..

Ingres has been used commercially for over 25 years with tens of thousands of users worldwide from banks to utility companies, telco's to manufacturing industries, healthcare to commerce, military to space and nuclear research. It is very mature, very robust and very secure; and it keeps improving all the time.

As much as you want to big-up Postgres, the plain fact is that In the real world, where real databases are needed to underpin real solutions Postgres isn't in the same league as Ingres.
That's why Ingres really is the only Open Source database out there that can rival Oracle.

Brad Palmer

June 25, 2009 6:22 PM

May be worth noting that Oracle's $27 billion covers all aspects of Oracle's revenue streams including E-Business, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel, BEA etc. It would be nice to know what percentage of that $27 billion is attributable to Oracle database licensing and support.

For those who need Oracle's advanced features and can afford to pay. I say stick with the devil you know.

For those who maybe use less than 66% of Oracle's features and are sick to death of Oracle's licensing and support costs, I say switch to Open Source. There's never been a better time to switch.

Yuri Cherio

June 25, 2009 10:29 PM

Hi everyone,

My company is converting an existing application to web. After a thorough research PostgreSQL was a clear winner by most of our criteria. It showed to be an excellent performer measurably outperforming MySQL InnoDB, feature reach and very scalable.

Just like any open source software you can find most of the answers on forums. It has a great reference and technical documentation.

I should note that when using open source one needs to develop a habit of skimming through developer forums. This is an essential part of open source development. Otherwise you may want to pay for a commercial product :)

Indeed, considering the history of PostgreSQL evolution it has very strict code standards. In my opinion it is a good thing. Strict development process results into quality and reliability.

My goal is not to defend PostgreSQL (all the more I wish I had experience with Ingres) but to share my experience and back up the point that the article overlooked this Oracle competitor which arguably comes closer to Oracle than any other open source DBMS.

Dmitriy Shevchenko

June 26, 2009 4:28 AM

For the benefit of those Postgres fans that have clearly been upset by the fact that their beloved database has been omitted from this article, I would like to add my 2c worth.

Enterprise Class users wouldn't consider building executables from source or trawling online forums for answers to their technical issues. They pay for, and rely on, third parties to do the hard work for them. Most Enterprise users prefer a one-stop shop too.

The good people at Ingres Corp. have supported enterprise customers for decades. They understand customer's needs and move quickly to resolve any issues. Who do you turn to when you have an issue with Postgres? Or put it another way, who provides the best Postgres support?? [Too many players, too much muddle, too slow to fix issues. Pointless!]

Being a closer database to Oracle doesn't make it a better Open Source Rival. Ingres has plenty of neat features all of its own that give it an edge.
You may be surprised to learn that Oracle has included many Ingres-like features over the years. Features like stored procedures, Cost Based Optimization, Index Organized Tables and automated backup and restore (to name just a few) were all in Ingres first.

Like Postgres, Ingres has strict coding standards too. The difference is that the Ingres Community are much warmer and encouraging to their contributors. Ingres will accept nearly all contributions that are well documented, coded and tested.

The history of Ingres and Postgres helps to explain why Ingres is THE Open Source Rival to Oracle.
Postgres went from academic research to open source. Now several companies are trying to make a business out of beefing the product up to commercial grade and offering support.
Ingres went from academic research to over 20 years of solid commercial use before being made open source. It has more users and more mission-critical applications on it, that Postgres fans could only dream of.


June 26, 2009 6:43 AM

Hi Yuri,

Did you evaluate Ingres for your project?
If you did, how did it compare to Postgres? What features made Postgres a better choice?


Jim Mlodgenski

June 29, 2009 9:52 AM

Have you submitted a ticket with EnterpriseDB for PostgreSQL support? EnterpriseDB regularly works with Fortune 500 companies and other large enterprises to resolve issues and submits fixes back to the community which are accepted.


July 16, 2009 1:51 AM

Hello all,
I am an existing user of Ingres (close source version - 12 years), PostgreSQL (5 years), MySQL (5 years) and MS SQL (2 years) but not Oracle.
PostgreSQL out perform Ingres for many mission critical applications.

We never needed support for PostgreSQL. Any issues we encountered were pretty much posted somewhere on the web.
Support from Ingres was only average grade, despite it was paid support.

The JDBC and ODBC drivers for PostgreSQL is faster and more robust that the drivers for Ingres.

The release of bug fixes on PostgreSQL occur more often and faster than Ingres.

There are support for more data types on PostgreSQL than on Ingres.

I have not tried open source version of Ingres (but plan to do soon) therefore I can not comment.

Our ERP system runs on Ingres and is planning to move to open source version of Ingres. Our BI system runs on PostgreSQL. Both have similar number of users but PostgreSQL has larger amout of data and more processes running in the background manipulating the data. So between the two, PostgreSQL is the winner.

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