Oracle Builds Linux Support, But Partners Say Adoption Is Weak

Oracle said it's making headway in building support for its Unbreakable Linux, but some open-source partners say the software giant hasn't created a serious threat to mainstream market leader Red Hat.

"We are not seeing Oracle in any major way in the Linux opportunities we are encountering," said Ken McLaurin, senior marketing manager of open source and virtualization at Akibia, a Westborough, Mass.-based solution provider.

Chris Maresca, founding partner at Olliance Group, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider, also said he doesn't see Oracle gaining much traction with Linux.

"They don't have much credibility in the Linux community, and they are not adding any value to Linux, just support," Maresca said. "In that sense, they will always be behind Red Hat."

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OpenLogic, meanwhile, hasn't yet run into any customers that have asked about Oracle Linux, said Stormy Peters, director of community and partner programs at the Broomfield, Colo.-based open-source firm.

"Although we don't distribute Linux, we would know if customers wanted us to certify or support any open-source software on Oracle Linux. So far, we've had no requests," Peters said. "In the short term, we don't believe they will have significant adoption in the market. Enterprises use Linux broadly, not just with Oracle database or applications."

Still, Oracle said it's making progress in drumming up support from ISVs and OEMs and has identified more than 20 customers that have signed up for its enterprise Linux and support program, announced last October.

On Wednesday, the Redwood City, Calif. announced that EMC and EGenera are among several infrastructure partners have joined Oracle PartnerNetwork, and open-source ISVs Sugar CRM and Knowledge Tree now officially back the Oracle Unbreakable Linux program.

Other Oracle PartnerNetwork members announced Wednesday include AppWorx, Egenera, Emulex, Hitachi Data Systems, Patchlink, Pillar Data Systems, QLogic and Synoran, which now include Oracle Enterprise Linux among the list of operating systems they support.

Oracle also said Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices continue to validate Oracle configurations on their hardware platforms.

Oracle executives said it's early, but the company is making solid gains on the Linux front.

"We are building a huge ecosystem for our UL customers," said Monica Kumar, senior director of open-source product marketing at Oracle.

Last month, Oracle named more than 20 customers that have signed up for Oracle Enterprise Linux, including Yahoo, IHOP, Timex, Diebold and ABC Stores. Other customers that purchased Linux support from Oracle include Stanford University and the New York State Insurance Department.

Linux support isn't new to Oracle. In fact, the company has been supporting Linux for several years, including offering advanced support for Red Hat. But the two companies had a public falling out last year after Red Hat acquired Oracle middleware rival JBoss. In October, Oracle announced its plans to support a company-developed derivative of Red Hat.

One partner said Oracle's announcements this week give customers reassurance that Oracle is compatible with Red Hat, but little else.

"I would expect that most software that already runs on Red Hat should run out of the box on Oracle's Linux. In a way, this announcement is just saying that Oracle didn't break anything," said Dave Gynn, director of enterprise tools and frameworks at Optaros, Boston.

NEXT: Oracle's Linux holds some promise

Nevertheless, Oracle's enterprise Linux code and support program is likely taking business away from Red Hat and offering a good option to major Oracle customers, according to some industry observers.

Salem Associates is providing Oracle Linux to one client thus far, and Re-Quest, an Oracle partner based in Naperville, Ill., said it has signed up three or four customers.

Other open-source observers said Oracle's Linux support program will gain some traction.

"Oracle's approach makes sense because their customers are interested in vastly less software than Red Hat customers," said Andrew Morton, a co-maintainer of the Linux kernel at the Linux Foundation. "Oracle presumably doesn't need to support third-party drivers, USB, the X server, Gnome, KDE, etc. Oracle only uses a tiny subset of the kernel and of all the application software on that CD. So they can cost-optimize their support a lot."

Olliance's Maresca said the cost factor could be a draw for some Oracle users. "I suspect that some Oracle shops will find this solution better than paying two vendors," he said. "It will probably be somewhat successful in Oracle shops, as their sales force is fairly aggressive.

Ranga Rangachari, CEO of open-source ISV Groundworks, said his company will educate clients about Oracle's Unbreakable Linux but isn't expecting too much at this point.

"From our vantage point, it is still pretty early. We see a lot more demand for Linux supported by Red Hat and Novell," Rangachari said. "Where Oracle has the biggest chance for success is [with] customers who intend to have a single Oracle stack."