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Oracle Linux

© October 2006 Anthony Lawrence


At "Larry Ellison's Linux nears release", Ashlee Vance is unsure why Oracle would want its own Linux distro.

Actually, it makes a lot of sense. It's not the direct revenue of selling the OS with the database: that's almost completely unimportant. What is important is having control of the OS - tuning and tweaking it to be a home for their database. That's where the advantage for Oracle lives. By tightly controlling the OS environment, they can gain performance, increase reliability, and decrease their support costs.

Support costs go down because Oracle Linux code would always think about what Oracle database needs. It would meet those needs precisely, with no surprises. There would be no installation issues, no tuning issues, no OS upgrade issues: it would all be nicely packaged under one umbrella.

They could even stop supporting every other OS. That's possible today because of virtualization: it doesn't matter if someone wants to have a Microsoft centric network, they can still run a Linux based app under VMWare or Virtual PC. Certainly dumping all other OSes would be radical, but think how much more support and programming overhead would go away.

Virtualization also means that Oracle Linux wouldn't have to concern itself with anything but Oracle Database. If designing and tuning for that makes it less desirable for some other purpose, so what? Whatever it is, it can be run somewhere else.

Given the performance and reliability gains they'd get from tightly coupling the OS and the database, the other OS versions would probably fade away through natural selection anyway. Customers would have the choice of buying Oracle for Microsoft and getting a product that doesn't run as fast or as reliably as the"Oracle Linux" based version would. If they had any esoteric problems, they'd get to bounce like a ping pong ball between Microsoft and Oracle support. Buy the Linux/Oracle package, and all the support is at one place, and at a place that can actually do more to solve problems.

Controlling the OS makes perfect sense for Oracle. It would make even more sense for their smaller competitors (Progress is a good example). It makes sense for anyone with a special purpose application to peddle.

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Wed Oct 18 10:52:33 2006: 2529   bruceg2004

Great points, Tony. Virtualization certainly changes everything. Although, I don't know why anyone would want a Windows centric network :-)

- Bruce

Thu Oct 19 03:33:13 2006: 2530   drag

I donno.

The thing is that it risks kinda pissing off it's Linux partners in the move, mainly Redhat.

The thing is is that Oracle and Redhat enjoy a mutually benificial relationship. Oracle sells the majority of it's database licenses on Linux, of those I expect the majority of them end up using Redhat. Redhat works with them, does the certification stuff and will modify the kernel and other things to support Oracle better. For instance with the 2.4 kernel they backported improvements from the 2.5 development kernel so that Oracle stuff ran better.

So there is already a lot of tailoring going on.

Now the danger that Oracle faces is from companies like MySQL. I know that a lot of people like to bad-mouth MySQL and it's understandable since it is not nessicarially as a professional of a product as something like Postgresql or Oracle.

But if Oracle starts to be a risk to Redhat's linux support business then I would expect that they would turn around and work with MySQL to improve their product. The thing is I don't think that MySQL will reach Oracle's capabilities any time soon, but I also don't think they have to.

Thing is that probably for the majority of low-end or mid-range users of Oracle they could probably replace it with MySQL without a whole lot of trouble. For new people setting up databases there is less and less of a reason to actually go out and buy Oracle systems.

A big indicator that this may be true is when Oracle when out and bought InnoBase. Innobased is the authors of Innodb with is a database engine for MySQL that provided the more 'enterprise' level features that MySQL needed. It gave MySQL full 'ACID' capabilities, which I am guessing is a important thing for some people as it's a benchmark for certain levels of data integrety.

Otherwise without InnoDB MySQL now lacks many of the features it needs to compete with Oracle. (Of course in response MySQL is developing FALCON and is encouraging other 3rd party database engine makers to support MySQL also)

So this probably indicates that Oracle feels threatened by the commodization of SQL database technology as Linux is commodizing Unix operating system. However Oracle isn't pulling InnoDB out of production (it would be very difficult to do that since it's OSS software) and seems commited to supporting it. Also Oracle bought the 'berkley database' company called 'Sleepycat' which is another open source company. So it seems like Oracle is attempting to make a transition of itself.
(Also keep in mind that Sleepycat produced the only other 'database engine' besides MySQL that enabled MySQL to support transactions)

Unfortunately for Oracle that stuff like that takes time. Corporate culture is nothing if not byzzantine levels of beauracracy and inertia with all these contracts and agreements with different companies and nobody in compelete control of anything. Novell had a difficult time trying to 'go oss', but they were starting to realy loose marketshare and their product was old and they are a relatively small company with 6000 employees. Compared to that Oracle is huge (50,000), is making a lot of money from licensing, and seems untouchable. The transition to adopt to the changing environment and survive the commodization of it's core software business is going to be tough.

If they piss off Redhat and threaten Redhat's business then the natural response from Redhat would be to put it's talents into hastenning the maturity of MySQL and thus within a couple years putting a large section of the market out of Oracle's reach. But on the other hand if Oracle plays nice and keeps getting along with everybody then it's long term survival will probably be much more likely.

However I like what your saying...

The idea of a stripped down Linux maybe nice though and not step on Redhat's toes. I expect that if they do something very clever like maybe integrate the database backend into the kernel or use it as the operating system itself they may be on to something. Essentially then the database would run pretty much on the 'bare metal' without all the extra layers of software nessicary for a OS to support general purpose Unix aplications.

Then the VM stuff makes it all managable. Very interesting. :-)

Thu Oct 19 03:33:43 2006: 2531   drag

Also on a side note you may want to take at the new EULA for Microsoft Vista.

Specificly the section that says:
4. USE WITH VIRTUALIZATION TECHNOLOGIES. You may not use the software installed on the licensed device within a virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system.

Nice. This applies to retail versions of Vista Home Basic and Vista Home Premium. If you purchase Vista Business and Vista Ultimate then you don't have these restrictions, except you can't use any sort of DRM or anything like that in the VM.

People have told me that this means that you have to purchase two copies of Home basic or something like that so you can run one copy to host the VM and another to install into the VM. A Microsoft guy (in very unofficial capicity) indicated that this is incorrect. He said that the EULA forbids the installation of those editions in a VM (although there is nothing that will stop you from successfully installing Vista home into a vm)

So it looks like if you want to be able to use Vista in a VM (like Parrellels) and you want full multimedia capabilities (minus the drm stuff) you have to spring for the 'Ultimate' edition which may cost something around 450 dollars.

Oh and your only allowed to transfer it to another machine once before you have to buy another copy.

Looks like Microsoft things VM is a bit of a threat.

Thu Oct 19 10:45:39 2006: 2532   TonyLawrence

VM definitely IS a threat to Microsoft.. and RedHat too. Folks aren't going to want to pay for the vm'd OSes.

As to MySQL, yes, you are right: a lot of Oracle could be replaced with MySQL - though it's also true that an awful lot of MySQL use is completely unnecessary also and could be done with flat files.. ( (link) )

Fri Oct 20 12:19:34 2006: 2544   drag

The license stuff with Redhat's VM is, if I remember correctly, that you can pretty much make all the VM's you want and your only going to have to pay for support on that machine once.

Remember that Redhat's licensing model doesn't depend on restricting access to it's software to get the money, they can't do that it's all GPL'd. They sell service and support stuff that a lot of businesses require as matter of policy. Otherwise if you don't want that you've been able to get the same software via CentOS no problem.

Microsoft's problem is a bit bigger.

Look at those Mac Sales! Going from 1.6 percent of the market to 6.4 percent recently?
In June it was as much as 12 percent of sales when to Macbook pros.

When I can do stuff like:
qemu -hda windows.img -cdrom install.iso -boot d

It's pretty crazy. Then Parrellels and Vmware, and eventually through things like Xen virtualization is going to be simply assumed to be present in non-windows operating systems.

And win32 compatability layers (Wine, Crossover, Cedega) are gaining in functionality and compatability will Microsoft's win32 stuff is loosing theirs with the transition to 64bit.. The old Lock-in scam is starting to loose it's effectiveness.

You know what was probably the #1 app that prevented people from running Linux?
Well it ain't a problem anymore.

Also Apple and Linux have a very high degree of compatability. Not only they are following the same Unix-style design, and they share a lot of the underlying code (development software, CUPS, Samba, etc), but with things like GNUstep they share a very high degree of source code compatability.

Funny stuff. Plus now people are realy starting to take notice of new Vista EULA language..

For Microsoft's sake Vista better be damn good, but it's going to have to last them at least another 3 years before the next desktop OS is going to come out of them and Apple and Linux are getting better month by month.

Sat Oct 21 22:27:33 2006: 2547   anonymous

Did you notice, Oracle already has a Linux distro ?

See (link)


Fri Oct 27 09:53:09 2006: 2558   TonyLawrence

Well, they pulled the trigger: (link)

One quote there amused me: "As some analysts have been expecting.." Most of what I read before now said Oracle would never dare tick off RedHat this way..

Sat Oct 28 12:03:05 2006: 2560   drag

That is funny.

Most everybody except you figured that they wouldn't do it because it's such a bad idea.

Seriously.. Oracle chooses to antagonize the people that make the (probably) #1 most popular platform for their software for what will amount to probably zero profit?

Oh well.


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