Oracle Linux is not a threat to Red Hat

Much ado was made yesterday about Oracle’s announcement that it’s releasing Red Hat Enterprise Linux as its own Unbreakable Linux. To quote from Oracle’s own announcement,

Today Oracle announced that it would provide the same enterprise class support for Linux as it provides for its database, middleware and applications products. Oracle starts with Red Hat Linux, removes Red Hat trademarks, and then adds Linux bug fixes.

Oracle is offering its Unbreakable Linux program for substantially less than Red Hat currently charges for its best support.

Tech analysts and reporters were immediately out in force, trying to predict the impact that this hostile move would have on Red Hat. Several said that Oracle’s lower-priced support would undercut RH’s efforts to penetrate the enterprise. Others think that the impact will be minimal, because RH is more aggressively extending the kernel. Most agreed, however, that it’s unseemly for Oracle to undermine its partner, and it’s going to have a real short-term impact on RH. Also predicted is that this will boost open source software in general.

RH, for its own part, indicated that its seven-year partnership with Oracle remains intact, but under the slogan “Unfakable Linux,” Red Hat emphasizes that Oracle’s version of RHEL won’t include the hardware and software compatibility of RHEL, that Oracle’s mods obviously won’t be included in RH’s regression testing, and that binary compatibility can’t be assured. Further, it says that Oracle is forking Linux.

My view is that in the long term, this will end up having minimal impact, despite the number of companies that are loudly proclaiming their support. If you want an operating system to host an Oracle database, app server or packaged applications, it makes sense to get Oracle’s Linux. That gives you a one-stop shop for patches, upgrades and support. It’s in Oracle’s best interest, and its customers’ best interest, for the company’s stack to go down to the operating system level.

But outside of that (admittedly very large) community, I can’t see customers who simply want a supported server-side Linux operating system choosing Oracle Linux instead of Red Hat or Novell/SUSE. If you’re using the LAMP stack with a supported Linux distro, you’re not going to Oracle Linux.

Why? Well, why would you invite Oracle into your tent if you’re not one of their customers? You know that Oracle wouldn’t be content to let you run WebLogic, DB2, SAP, MySQL or JBoss on Oracle Linux for long. It’s also it’s easy to predict that Oracle will tune and tweak the former RHEL to make a better platform for Oracle products, vs. something that’s driven by the open source community.

I agree that Red Hat is going to out-innovate Oracle: RH has to, just to survive against Oracle and Novell/SUSE. By contrast, Oracle doesn’t need to broadly innovate in order to accomplish its goals of offering a supported integrated stack. Its Linux investments, I predict, will be in integration.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick