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Would it make sense for CA to sell Ingres?

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Comment There are rumours flying about that CA may sell off Ingres. How much truth is there in that and would it make sense?

The rumours apparently derive from a piece in Linux Business Week which reads as follows:

"The rumor mill claims that Terry Garnett, the ex-Oracle, ex-Venrock half of Garnett & Helfrich Capital, the $250m Sand Hill Road management buyout firm chartered to find 'broken and orphaned' businesses neglected by their parent companies, wants to 'liberate' Ingres, the database that Computer Associates, its current owner, recently open sourced."

"According to what CA's new management has been saying lately, Ingres is not a core CA technology."

Let us be clear: what Terry Garnett wants to do (or perhaps merely thinks might be a good idea) and what CA wants to do are not necessarily the same things. Indeed, the author of this piece is careful not to associate the first paragraph with the second and the reader, in effect, is being invited to add two and two and make five. If is the source of the rumour then it can hardly be described as authoritative.

Nevertheless, I cannot ignore the possibility that there is some truth in this somewhere. Would such a move would make sense? The short answer to that question is no. I cannot see a single good thing for any stakeholder in such a move, whether it be CA, Ingres users or, indeed, Terry Garnett. The only people who would be pleased would be Oracle.

First, I don't think the Ingres user community could stand another disappointment. CA has at last invested some decent money into the product, but selling it off would give users the impression that this investment was simply to prepare for a sell-off (and I don't think that is the reason). This would be the straw that broke the camel's back: Ingres users would desert in droves and Mr Garnett would find he hadn't got the business that he thought he was buying.

Secondly, an Ingres disposal would be a serious mistake for CA. In its recent re-organisation the company announced that it would have divisions going forward: Enterprise Systems Management, Security Management, Storage Management, Business Service Optimisation (whatever that means) and the CA Product Group. In other words, the message (whether intended or not) is that anything that doesn't fit into the first four categories is non-strategic: all the database products, the development tools, ERWin, the mainframe management products, the query and analytic tools, the portal and so on and so forth. Now, if CA was to sell one of the most well-known brands within this portfolio what would it say to CA users about the rest of these products? It would say to users that all of these hundreds if not thousands of products were also up for sale. It would deter new purchases, put off upgrades and encourage users to adopt products from competitive vendors across CA's entire product range. It would be catastrophic for CA's figures, and shareholders would be calling for John Swainson's head.

Of course, I could make all sorts of other arguments about why CA should retain Ingres, not least because of its use within so many other (even strategic!) products, however I have a limited amount of space. So I will conclude merely by saying how pleased Oracle would be by such a sale. There are a number of high profile organisations on the verge of announcing a move away from Oracle to Ingres: I can't imagine that there will be many more of these if CA sells off the family silver.

Copyright © 2005, IT-Director.com

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