Ask Computer Systems Inc’s Ask Ingres is in the interesting position of having to reinvent itself. It is winning the first battle to persuade the industry that it is still a viable third-party database company, it is in the process of getting its business act together courtesy of Ask’s control and support, but its biggest problem is now to find an identity for itself other than as the database company that was acquired by Ask. This is largely the task of Dr Stephen Levine – ex-Wang Laboratories Inc – who has been recently appointed as vice-president and general manager of Ingres to find that marketing message and rationale for the Ingres product set. Although the message has not yet been decided upon, one thing that it will not focus on is client-server computing. Internally at Ingres the mission statement may be to lead the software revolution to client-server business computing, but externally such a message has image problems. Ask chief Sandra Kurtzig has seen the marketing campaign in the US by Sun Microsystems Inc that tried to get across a client-server message and noticed its problems. Despite lacking a strong external image at the moment, Ingres is getting a credible business act together behind the scenes. Craig Stevens, director of product marketing is clear of the direction Ingres will be taking over the next three to five years – the main principle is to provide a tightly integrated database and lower CASE offering and partner with other companies to cover the sort of market areas that a larger database rival has tried to enter under its own steam. For example, in the systems integration area Ask Ingres is, of course, partnered with Electronic Data Systems Corp, a partnership that will soon take it to Japan. Other partnerships are likely to emerge in the areas of networking and application software as well as in the software engineering field where Cadre’s TeamWork will be tightly integrated and sold with Ingres tools. From a database perspective Ingres is adopting a two-pronged approach – it intends to remain competitive with the core technology to be found in release 5.0 and to offer leading edge technology as found in version 6.0 with Data Manager, Knowledge Manager and Object Manager with future functionality added via documen-ted entry points into the architecture. Development of the database will be focused on Digital Equipment Corp and IBM Corp environments and Ask Ingres will own the gateways to DB2, IMS, RMS and Rdb, while other gateways will be developed by partners as they see fit. Indeed, Ingres is, as has been widely reported, cutting back on the number of environments it supports. Ms Kurtzig points out that 80% of revenues come from 20% of the systems Ingres supports. She believes that most users want a database tightly coupled with the operating system and optimised for that computing environment. She added that now relational databases are for real production sites people no longer want a database running equally poorly on all platforms. Group product marketing manager for server products, David Kellogg developed this theme by arguing that the database was not becoming a commodity product. He claimed that price pressure would lead to increasing consolidation in the market, but that while core relational database technology might become inexpensive, sensible vendors will add value through advanced technology. The latent marketing message here seems to be that users should compare Ingres 5.0 with other well-known databases, thus appreciating the advanced technology to be found already in Ingres 6.0. This is a marketing comparison that bears up tolerably well for Oracle Corp and Informix Software Inc, but that appears nonsensical when stretched to cover Sybase Inc.
According to Ingres, more than half of its revenue comes from release 6.0 of the database, and around 75% of users have upgraded to this release. In the database area the next year or two of development work will focus on data management with Knowledge Manager and Object Manager taking a back seat. Data Manager comes as
part of the database offering while Knowledge Manager and Object Manager are sold unbundled. Kellogg says that around 40% of version 6.3 users have also bought Knowledge Manager but the penetration of Object Manager is described as very low. However, one area where object-oriented technology is set to play a more immediate role is in the repository and with Ingres release 6.0, the design of the data dictionary was changed to comply with objects. Third party upper CASE tools such as TeamWork will be closely integrated within this data dictionary. Character-based application development tools such as the Vision product will not be sunsetted; however, Mark Hanner, group manager of tools product marketing, made it clear that the bulk of research and development in his area will focus on graphical object-oriented fourth generation language technology. – Katy Ring