Friday, January 26, 2007

Why I left, why I'm still there...

I received the following comment on my previous post:

Can you talk a little about why you left Ingres? Specifically, there's been rumors in the press that Ingres may be an Oracle acquisition target (e.g. the Bruce Richardson anaylst comment). Obviously, that freaks out any open source developer considering Ingres. Any comments?
January 22, 2007 2:40:00 PM PST

One of the articles that references the rumor can be found here at

While an interesting rumor, my understanding is that the original source for the thought of Oracle buying Ingres included a list of predictions and potential "out there" kinds of thoughts. I think the acquisition rumor was closer to the latter than the former.

The reason I "left" Ingres is much more personal and not at all wrapped up in corporate intrigue but I'll touch on both in this post.

First, the intrigue. Rumors, speculation and prediction are plentiful in the corporate world. While some are well founded others are just out there a bit too far. I imagine that there will be many rumors to come over the next few years about Ingres and its future. Ingres is already successful, has a large and loyal customer base and is likely to continue to celebrate its longevity. As Ingres continues to drive new ideas many people will speculate about its future; will it be acquired? will it go public? These types of rumors don't surprise me and I expect there will be many more. At some point the investors will look for an "exit strategy" for their investment - that is, a way to realize the value they're building in funding Ingres.

Will Oracle buy Ingres? Who knows? I certainly don't and the rumor and my departure are completely unrelated.

So, then, why did I leave? It's wrapped up with a little history.

I left Oracle in 2004 to help my family back in Maryland. I spent almost all of 2004 travelling back and forth between California, where I live, and Maryland. During that time I also spent a lot of time working with the venture capital firms in Silicon Valley discussing open-source strategies. When I wasn't in Maryland supervising the construction of a house, or in California advising in the open-source world I was playing golf. I finished the house in 2004 and spent most of 2005 advising and playing golf. I was contacted in the summer of 2005 about Ingres and its potential spin-out from Computer Associates.

I was reluctant to become involved at first but after a few meetings with Terry Garnett, the lead on the deal for Garnett & Helfrich, I became convinced that something more could be made of Ingres than just being another open-source database company. I agreed to provide consulting to the new Ingres company before the spin-out had occurred. I agreed to extend that consulting engagement into a full-time position as SVP of strategy and CTO when Ingres was spun out in November of 2005.

A lot of people put in a lot of hard work over that first year contacting the existing Ingres customers, creating a business-model, modifying the licensing and pricing of the product, setting a product direction - essentially building a company. It was a tremendously exciting time for me. I flew close to 200,000 miles in 2006 spending well over 400 hours inside airplanes and well over 1/3 of the nights away from home. 2006 was tremendously fun for me as we worked on the strategy for the company and set about creating a direction.

Now comes execution. Often, the characteristics of a company executing attract a different kind of personality than a company inventing itself. I tremendously enjoy the invention of new ideas, new products and new companies. I had what I consider to be an extremely exciting year during the most interesting time to be involved with any company. I believe that Ingres is going to be tremendously successful.

For me personally, however, it's time for me to go back to advising. Ingres has a good management team concentrating on building out new business opportunities based on some of the strategies and products that I helped create. That's very exciting and satisfying for me. I will continue to be involved with Ingres as an advisor. I will re-establish many of my old relationships, on and off the golf course. And, I imagine, I will have a lot of discussions with a lot of other open-source companies as an "independent advisor."

Mostly, however, I am in the very fortunate position of being able to spend more time with my wife, Wendy. She has her own hobbies and interests and I look forward to spending more time with her as we explore different parts of the world together - first stop, Kona.

I will miss a lot of the day-to-day activity at Ingres but I will still be involved in some of the strategic discussions within the company and also within the industry. I consider myself very lucky.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Next Stop - Nurenberg

I'm scheduled to speak at the Open Source Meets Business conference next week in Nurenberg, Germany. This has been on the books for some time and I'm looking forward to having a chance to speak there. I had many trips to Germany last year and I always enjoyed my visits. My speaker bio still lists me as the CTO of Ingres and I'll still be representing them but I'll also have a chance to speak about other aspects of the open-source economy.

One of the things I wrote about in my last blog at Ingres was the insuppressable desire for knowledge to be freely available. The software industry has experienced this movement over the past 20 years or so and the internet is amplifying this desire to non-IT related businesses.

I started in the IT industry in 1979 and one of my first jobs was writing software to run on Microsoft's version of Unix (Microsoft Xenix). I then moved to IBM mainframes, UNIX/Risc and then to Linux/Intel. I became involved with database systems back on Xenix but really cut my teeth on Cullinet's IDMS on IBM mainframes. I started really working with relational database systems in 1989 when I joined Oracle.

One characteristic has always held true for all of these technologies - in the beginning expertise in a given technology is rare and valued and, ultimately, that expertise becomes widespread and commoditized.

I remember having to run performance benchmarks back in 1989 to prove that a relational database could handle 1G of data. The population of people who could successfully run performance benchmarks and implement systems in relational technology was relatively small. This allowed companies such as Informix, Ingres, Oracle and Sybase to prosper by building concentrations of expertise in the core technology itself. These companies were able to monetize that expertise by creating and servicing their products.

Ultimately, however, the knowledge and expertise around relational databases became institutionalized within the industry. It was no longer a mystery how to write efficient SQL statements. The original relational database companies had to find other ways to differentiate themselves enough to justify collecting fees.

I believe that open-source software is succeeding because the industry no longer places a premium value, monetarily, on the knowledge and wizardry it takes to produce operating system and relational database technology. The IT industry still values the services that help make successful implementations of these technologies.

I am convinced that we will see the same model start to creep into other industries. As information and data become available to a wider audience and cease being the exclusive domain of information brokers we will see the components that the markets value shift. I'll touch on some of these in future blog entries but for every existing business that needs to worry there's a business opportunity for a new entrepreneur.

I look forward to seeing many of my old friends in Germany next week. We should have some very interesting conversations as well as a good beer, or two.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Where Am I?

This is me on the 3rd hole of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. I'm recharging right now and will be posting some things a little later. All that open-source stuff is still rattling around in my head and I'll be thinking about it but not until after I enjoy a little bit more of planet Earth.