The database powerhouse will now finance and support development of third-party Linux applications in an effort that could cost the company as much as $150 million this year, according to Robert Shimp, vice president of database product marketing at Oracle.
"We will provide incentives, technical and financial, to all our ISVs to develop, market and sell on Linux," Shimp said.
The program will include an online "campaign builder" on the Oracle Partner Network (OPN) to help ISVs design advertising and promotional campaigns. Oracle will fund that effort "2 to 1," putting up $2 for every $1 the ISV puts in, Shimp said.
Perhaps most importantly, Oracle plans to offer qualifying ISVs access to its own customer database. "This is millions of names" that they can sell and market to, he said.
Oracle also plans to post the applications on oracle.com for visibility.
While Linux has made inroads in departmental servers and elsewhere, application availability remains a gaping hole. And most solution providers agree that applications drive technology buys.
"We don't hear a lot of demand for Linux [business] apps, though people speak highly of it. Those using it are using it with home-grown apps," said Dallas Wilt, president of Axis Accounting Systems, Nashville, Tenn. "People are used to running multiple platforms for what they need. They buy based on applications, so even if they use Linux in part of the house, they're still using SQL Server and Windows stuff for their business apps."
But backing for Linux from big powers like Oracle and IBM could foster an ecosystem of ISVs and their all-important applications, one observer said. "IBM did this to foster development for the AS/400, now the iSeries, they made sure there was a broad portfolio of applications. People don't buy applications to look at them in the lab, they buy them to satisfy a need."
Ivan Nikkhoo, president of Vertex Systems, a Los Angeles-based Oracle partner, said that while demand is not overwhelming for Linux applications now, over time companies need to be able to deploy their applications across platforms.
Oracle sees Linux as its main thrust into the midmarket, where Microsoft Windows is strong, Shimp said. "Here's a huge opportunity for ISVs to develop for a lower-cost operating system without the Microsoft tax," he said.
Oracle first announced support for the Linux software stack--from the operating system and all of its software--last June at the kick-off of its Unbreakable Linux campaign. That effort focused on Red Hat Linux and pledged full Oracle support for the entire software stack from the operating system on up. Earlier this month, Oracle extended that pledge to UnitedLinux.
Other Linux database powers include IBM, which offers DB2 on Linux as well as MySQL. IBM said Tuesday that Version 4.0 of its eponymous database is now available and that the database has been optimized for Intel's 64-bit Itanium processors running Linux.
Linux is perceived by some as a lower-cost alternative to Windows Server, although the debate rages as to whether Linux is siphoning off more from the Unix or Windows Server installed base.
Critics might say that it is ironic for Oracle to tout low-cost software given its reputation as a high-cost, high-margin solution on Unix.
Asked if Oracle worries about Linux solutions cannibalizing its higher-margin offerings, Shimp said the company has to drive lower-cost solutions. "This is where the demand is, and this is where we're going to go. Unix remains popular, but choice is good."