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3/13/2009
08:15 PM
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Oracle Urges Red Hat To Give Away Its Product

There would be more migrations from Unix database servers to Linux if Red Hat made its product available for free, Oracle's chief Linux technologist said.

Oracle's chief Linux technologist, Wim Coekaerts, said Oracle is making an important contribution to Linux reliability by extensively testing the Oracle database system on the open source operating system. And he has some free advice for competitor Red Hat.

Oracle reports all bugs it finds and bug fixes that it makes to Red Hat's Bugzilla database. The Red Hat Bugzilla listing is public and Oracle believes putting its findings in Red Hat's Bugzilla "puts pressure on the company" to fix bugs in its Enterprise distribution that affect database and enterprise operations.

Coekaerts volunteered that observation in an interview on how Oracle was faring with its "Unbreakable Linux" support program and its Oracle Enterprise Linux distribution. The latter is actually Red Hat Enterprise Linux with the logos and trademarks removed. Far from being a value-added distribution, Oracle strives to keep it as close to the original Red Hat version as possible, Coekaerts said. Otherwise, the two systems could diverge, to the confusion of those Oracle customers who are Red Hat customers as well. "Oracle Enterprise Linux is literally an exact replica of Red Hat Linux. We have no interest in forking the [Red Hat] product," said Coekaerts, Oracle's VP of Linux and virtualization engineering, in an interview Thursday. Oracle doesn't even perform optimizations on its own Linux to get the database to run faster on it.

On the other hand, Oracle has an interest in seeing Oracle run on as many Linux servers as possible. Coekaerts said Oracle thinks Red Hat should make Red Hat Enterprise Linux available for free download, rather than imposing an up-front charge.

Red Hat makes its frequently released Fedora Linux available for free download, but it asks customers to buy a subscription before downloading the more heavily tested and certified Red Hat Enterprise Linux. There would be more migrations from Unix database servers to Linux if Red Hat made its product available for free, Coekaerts predicted.

"Let them [Red Hat] charge for support. That's their bread and butter. … Open source software is supposed to be free," he said. He said Novell should also make SUSE Linux Enterprise System available as a free download. Oracle gives away its Oracle Enterprise Linux distribution, a repackaged Red Hat Enterprise Linux, because no other free version of an enterprise system is available, he claimed.

Moments later, asked if Red Hat's testing and certification of RHEL for enterprise use added value to free open source code, Coekaerts agreed. "Honestly, yes, Red Hat does add value." But he insisted that it should give RHEL away anyway, as Oracle gives away Oracle Enterprise Linux after certifying that it can run the database system "with thousands of users."

Oracle competes directly with Red Hat by offering Unbreakable Linux technical support at pricing below Red Hat's. Coekaerts said some Oracle customers want their enterprise software supplier to also provide Linux technical support.

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