Everything but the Hat Hair

by Don Marti

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison ended the Linux distribution wars today, as far as corporate installations are concerned, with the flat-out statement that "We can't provide the same level of support" (for Oracle products on other distributions as they can on Red Hat). "We've elected to work very closely with Red Hat. We're recommending Red Hat." Ellison did everything for Red Hat except actually wear the red Red Hat hat handed to him by Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik.

If you're paying, or planning to pay, for an Oracle license, better listen to Uncle Larry. He dismissed even the much-hyped UnitedLinux as another of the "crazy names" that will get second-rate support. With all the software vendors that depend on or integrate with Oracle, this is the only domino that needs to fall. 550 vendors have certified applications with Oracle 9i on Linux, Oracle announced today.

But at today's "Unbreakable Linux" launch event at Oracle's HQ in Redwood Shores, California, the subject wasn't the same old bleeding-edge, wild and wooly, "release every six months whether it's ready or not" Red Hat distribution that regulars at Linux installfests have learned to greet with a crack-pipe-smoking gesture. It's now all about Red Hat Linux Advanced Server, which was introduced in March.

Michael Evans, VP Business Development for Red Hat, said that the proprietary software companies wanted a slower, more stable, platform to work on. One software vendor might support their package on Red Hat 6.2, while another supports on 7.1. The problem, Evans pointed out, is what happens when one customer wants to run both.

Evans said the software vendors told him to "stop doing this every six months, you're killing us". The result is a Red Hat for customers who work on UNIX time--long release intervals but short support response times.

Red Hat Advanced Server will have a 12-18 month release cycle and receive more in-house testing at Oracle than any other OS, said Red Hat VP Engineering Paul Cormier. Red Hat Advanced Server is available at a starting price of $799, but all components are GPL or otherwise free software, so you can assemble the necessary parts yourself if you like. Packages with 4-hour and 1-hour support response times are available for higher prices. Red Hat Advanced Server is now available for the IA-32 architecture, and IA-64 and IBM mainframe support will be coming soon, Evans said.

Kernel-level features include finer grained spin locks, tweaked-out support for large memory on 32-bit systems and an alternate scheduler with process-CPU affinity. There is also a Red Hat Cluster Manager to handle load balancing and failover. Besides supporting Oracle, Red Hat Advanced Server does NFS and Samba failover "out of the box", according to Cormier.

Oracle for Linux now installs an Oracle-specific clustered filesystem for multiple servers attached to one shared disk array, and Red Hat is considering using it as the basis for a planned general-purpose clustered filesystem, Cormier said.

Red Hat further announced that 20 major software vendors have already committed to Advanced Server.

Why is Oracle so fired up about Linux? Ellison boiled it down to this: "Simple. Our clusters work." Applications such as SAP work fine with a cluster of Linux boxes running Oracle 9i Release 2 as their database, Ellison said, while Microsoft SQL Server and IBM DB2 for UNIX can't support business applications. "Their clusters only run benchmarks."

Small- and mid-sized customers can't afford a cluster of big systems, so Linux clusters are the only way Ellison can get his cluster pitch to those customers. "Clustering is not just for the high end of the market", Ellison said. "We think clustering is going to be more than half of our business."

Don Marti is technical editor of Linux Journal.

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