Roger Burkhardt is president and chief executive of open-source database firm Ingres. Prior to joining Ingres, Burkhardt was chief technology officer (CTO) and executive vice president at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) for six years. He and his team were responsible for transforming the exchange to a fully electronic model, and conducted much of the IT work using open-source software.
V3.co.uk: You were a very early adopter of open-source
software when you were CTO at the NYSE in 2006. What encouraged you to implement
Roger Burkhardt: Initially we had to innovate very rapidly as we were facing a lot of competition from totally electronic venues. Part of my role was to introduce electronic trading, and in doing that we needed a lot of new technology capabilities. We found that the open-source model allowed us to move more quickly. We could innovate more quickly and that meant we could fulfil our business objectives more quickly.
But then something happened. As we introduced electronic trading the volume of data just exploded. In the trading world it used to be that, as human beings traded more quickly, they talked to each other more online and on the phone. But as we introduced an electronic trading software programme, the volume of messages sent through the exchange just exploded and we needed to cut costs, otherwise the computing capacity to handle messages would put us out of business. We found that by using open source and open standards we could substantially lower our costs.
Also, through using open-source software, we could introduce competition where there had not been enough before between providers and vendors. So, although we started to deploy open source because of necessity, we were also able to get more value out of it to drive costs down through competition.
How much were you able to drive down costs?
By around 50 per cent.
What research did you do before introducing open source?
Well, it was eight years ago that we first looked at open-source software to drive the screens on the trading floor that people look at for pricing and news. We looked at Linux and we could customise it to meet our needs. We could also get good support from vendors. The good news is that, when you do research for open source, you can easily try it out and get very good information about the product from the community behind it. All the feedback from the users is out in the community for all to see, so you never have to rely on a sales person who is just going to tell you what you want to hear. You can actually interact with other users in the community, and validate what is really there.
Why did you move from CTO at the NYSE to chief executive of
During the six years I spent at the NYSE I achieved all that I set out to do, which was to introduce an all-electronic system, or what is known as a hybrid market in the US. I was trying to work out whether I would do another chief technology officer role, or whether to do something different. I was approached about this role at Ingres, and what was exciting for me was the opportunity to make a business model that is so much better for customers, and so much better for the industry, and bring it into the enterprise database world.
Until Ingres came out as open source, there was not really an alternative choice to the Oracle database or the Sybase database. There was no enterprise-class, open-source choice. It was an exciting opportunity to go and build something, and I was pleased that the funders behind the company wanted to have the customer in charge. The nice thing about open source is that the customer is in charge and you are not locked into a particular vendor.
How do you deal with Oracle as your main competitor?
It is a David and Goliath situation. Customers have had it with the proprietary model that puts a gun to their heads and requires them to buy licences when they don't have to have them. Customers are demanding a better business model. I know as an ex-customer and talking to new customers that what they really want is an alternative to the lock-in model.
How is Ingres dealing with the recession?
We grew 30 per cent in the recession and last year we brought in $68m [£40m] in revenue. When we were formed three years ago we made $26m [£15m].
So would you say Ingres has been hit at all?
No-one is immune to the crisis. This is the worst recession in 30 years. We seem to have drawn quite a bit of interest from people who know that they have to do more with less. Either they adopt better ways of procuring software, or they save millions of dollars somewhere else. My budgets used to be dominated by salary and costs and, if you can't save money on the software side, you have to lay people off and no-one likes to do that. Cutting back on talent is cutting back on the future innovation of the business.
The recession makes the choice stark. With budgets decreasing or investment flat, businesses need to compete and they need IT to compete with. This makes people look at open source who would not have done so before.
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