Is Oracle Getting Ready To Kill Unbreakable Linux?

By Chris Josephes
July 13, 2009 | Comments: 10

People outside of IT seldom think of Oracle as a Linux company, probably because it isn't. Oracle has always been considered a database and application company. Their main bread and butter is the Oracle database (currently at version 11g), and the application products they have acquired through PeopleSoft, BEA Systems, and other companies. They also offer a product called Oracle Unbreakable Linux (a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux), but it has never achieved the wide market share that Red Hat currently enjoys. So now that Oracle owns their own operating system in the free and clear, what benefits do they gain from maintaining Unbreakable Linux? The answer is probably: "Not much".

Oracle Unbreakable Linux was originally designed to be a Linux distribution backed by Oracle's support group, which is considered superior to the support offered by Red Hat. It gives their enterprise customers a better sense of security knowing that they can get operating system and database support from a single vendor. It also provides a platform for Oracle contributions to Linux. Oracle has contributed improvements to libstdc++, NFS, ext3, and they are the original creators of the Btrfs filesystem. Those contributions are being made to ensure that Oracle runs great on Linux. But while they contribute a lot of code, they don't actually own the Linux kernel. Every Linux distributor can use Oracle's contributions, and the only true benefit Unbreakable Linux offers is their support package.

But now that Oracle has acquired Sun, the landscape has changed. Oracle can still continue to support Linux, but nobody is ignoring the fact that they now own the copyright to their own operating system. Linux vendors like Red Hat cannot benefit from improvements made to the Solaris kernel, in contrast to the contributions Oracle made to Linux.

It would also be negligent to ignore the fact that Oracle and Sun have maintained a strong relationship for over 20 years. In 2005, Oracle named Solaris 10 as the preferred development platform for all 64 bit hardware (that's UltraSparc, AMD, and Intel). Oracle on Solaris has a stronger market share in contrast to Oracle on Linux, so it makes sense for Oracle to continue backing the platform that is trusted by more customers.

As far as features go, OpenSolaris has ZFS, container virtualization, role based security, network virtualization, and dtrace. Linux has spent the last six years playing catch up with a lot of these features, and they're still not 100% there yet. By the first quarter of 2010, OpenSolaris users will have a default filesystem that supports encryption and de-duplication. In contrast, Red Hat Enterprise Linux users are just starting to get their feet wet with ext4, a filesystem that has no real notable features whatsoever.

If Oracle had to take a serious look at these the feature sets between Linux and OpenSolaris, which one are they most likely to put their money on?

Oracle could still make contributions to Linux, but sooner or later the shareholders are going to ask why Oracle is using time and money to write code that inevitably helps Red Hat and Novel build a better product. Efforts at contributing to Unbreakable Linux will probably be better redirected in convincing customers to migrate to a more stable enterprise level operating system.

I hope that isn't the case, because Linux has benefited from the contributions made from Oracle. Without those contributions, it's unlikely that anyone would have deployed Oracle on Linux at all. And now that Oracle and Solaris are under the same umbrella, what reason do they have to stay with Linux?


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10 Comments

This is complete speculation. The many people questioned Oracle's need for developing Unbreakable Linux. Very likely, the biggest benefit has been in virtualized environments where Linux x86 has been traditionally easier to virtualize than Solaris on Sparc or x86. And, Oracle has been a long time user and supporter of Open Source, beginning with Apache Tomcat for its Oracle Apps Server. They deploy optimized and customized versions of Tomcat and often push changes upstream. Also, running their set of Enterprise Software requires less from the OS than you might think. Databases are often run out of raw partitions (OS filesystem features are useless in this workload), and the trend is to migrate databases to run via their grid computing technologies (again, OS features are not very useful here). Essentially, Oracle uses their own software to abstract away the peculiarities of hardware and OS, making usage of their software simpler.

Oso2k
So what you're saying is, the Oracle Database is going to become its own operating system, since it apparently doesn't rely on one?

Chris,
you don't seem to understand the basics of what Oracle is trying to do. Moreover, you don't understand their offerings. Unbreakable Linux is a Support offering. Oracle Enterprise Linux is the rebadged RHEL distribution.
Oracle got into both support of Linux, kernel contribution and ultimately OEL because a large chunk of their customers started using Linux. These enterprise customers demanded better support, faster bug fixes including backports, and a more robust enterprise platform for the Oracle DB/Apps than Linux vendors could offer. As Redhat and others weren't interested/able to step up to this plate, Oracle did so.
Everything in this article is pure speculation based on little fact. Suggest you wait and see exactly what Oracle does, then comment on it.

So to clarify your point: Oracle customers migrated to Linux, and then complained to Oracle because Linux vendors could not offer the support they were used to from other operating systems.

Yes, this article is pure speculation, but I'm a little surprised that nobody else noticed that it's also a parody.

http://blogs.computerworld.com/is_oracle_getting_ready_to_kill_opensolaris

So to clarify your point: Oracle customers migrated to Linux, and then complained to Oracle because Linux vendors could not offer the support they were used to from other operating systems. If that's the case, did the Linux migrations really make sense in the first place?

Yes, this article is pure speculation, but I'm a little surprised that nobody else noticed that it's also a parody. Check recent blog articles from Computerworld and you'll see what I mean.

Oracle on Solaris has been a paradigm for years. Solaris had 16+ processors while Linux was learning to deal with 4. Same sort of issues with RAM, which Oracle uses lots of.

The simple answer is that Oracle will leave Linux behind as they don't sell as many seats for it. Oracle will customize Solaris for Oracle products and sell a unified packe while lessening support for combinations they don't sell. They're already doing this with VMware.

If Oracle realizes how much they could make selling support for MySQL on a customized web-host tuned OS, they'd love Linux. Until then it's Solaris.

When you consolidate all of your eggs in one basket, a lot of IT departments will lean away from you. Personally, I don't want all of my database needs dictated by one company. If I have the option to run my database on an operating system developed and maintained by someone other than the DB developer, I will.

As bad as it is, can you imagine the cost of Oracle DB if there was no way to run it other than on their own OS?

If what you say is true, turning away from linux because Oracles contributions to linux can be realized by other companies, this does not reflect positively on Oracle. How about the benefits Oracle has realized from the linux community? This is the spirit of linux, and if they don't want to be a part of it, so be it, good luck. I think you might be overstating Oracles contributions just a tab bit as well.

Remember that without Oracle and Sun , the question becomes Linux or Solaris . Given that Linux has cannibalized old Unix more than Windows , I'd say that Linux is the winner here . It's because of this that Oracle got into the game in the first place . If Microsoft can have multiple versions of Windows (Server2003,Vista,XP,7,etc), then Oracle is allowed to own 2 Unices .

Oracle has been a database company for long. They have acquired all database and ERP based companies.Siebel,peoplesoft,etc. Now is the turn that they have acquired mysql and java which they will push in future for their revenue. Regarding Linux OS , the cost of acquiring linux with oracle decreased the overhead of the customer company in comparison to Sun Sparc server with Solaris OS and Oracle. Imagine the price a company has to shell out for these two. Apart from Oracle,Veritas was also depending on Sun,now with Linux own Volume Manager and Raid concepts their business has decreased.

Linux in comparison to Sun Solaris is there to stay for long so oracle with Linux is the best thing in long run.

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