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Reactions to Oracle’s Unbreakable Linux move


Oracle’s Unbreakable Linux move caught the Linux community by surprise, but, for the most part, they’re seeing a silver lining to Oracle’s latest shocker. Red Hat, for example, made the best of the news that Oracle will take Red Hat Linux and support it at cut-rates.

“The opportunity for open source just got bigger,” said spokesperson Leigh Day. “Oracle’s announcement further validates open source and Red Hat’s technical leadership. We will continue to optimize Red Hat Enterprise Linux for Oracle and compete on value and innovation.”

Kevin Carmony, CEO of Linspire Inc. took a less optimistic view of the situation. This is “Not good for Red Hat,” said Carmony. “Their stock is already down nearly 17 percent in after market trading on this news. I guess it is, however, slightly better for Red Hat than if Oracle had gone with Debian or Ubuntu.”

Speaking of Ubuntu, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and Canonical Ltd. had been talking earlier on the same day about a possible partnership with Oracle. That’s, no longer in Ubuntu’s the crystal ball.

Shuttleworth said, “Given [Oracles] new commitment to the Red Hat code base, I expect them to be less open to other OSV’s [Open Software Vendors] for a while until the results from their initiative are in.”

“Nonetheless, we continue to see rapid adoption of Ubuntu and increased interest from enterprise customers in a different approach to Linux services, such as that taken by Canonical,” concluded Shuttleworth.

Novell Inc., which like Red Hat is an Oracle partner, found Oracle’s Unbreakable Linux initiative “an interesting development.”

Kevan Barney, Novell’s senior manager of public relations said, “We agree with Oracle that Linux is an enterprise-class operating platform and that it deserves world-class support.’ Still, Novell has been providing world-class support for operating system platforms for more than 23 years, including for Linux, for the last, almost, three [years].”

“That said,” Barney continued, “Oracle’s announcement is primarily targeted at Red Hat Linux servers. Red Hat and Novell have very different capabilities in the enterprise space. We have been saying for years that Novell is, in fact, the best option for enterprise deployments of Linux because of our global support capabilities, indemnification, and broad partner ecosystem. While Red Hat customers running only Oracle on Red Hat could benefit from Oracle support, customers who run applications on Linux in addition to Oracle need broader support for their Linux environments.”

Raven Zachary, senior analyst and practice head for open source for The 451 Group, an independent technology-industry analyst company, said, “What Oracle announced today was what we were expecting back in July for OpenWorld, based on Ellison’s interview with The Financial Times at that time. In the past three months, and lacking any specific direction from Oracle on its plans, the industry has been speculating on moves from a buyout of Novell’s SUSE business, to its own Linux distribution, to a partnership with Canonical on Ubuntu.”

From where he stands, Zachary thinks that, “Oracle is standing behind Red Hat Enterprise Linux here, even if it believes it can make RHEL [Red Hat Enterprise Linux] better and cheaper.”

Zachary also believes that, “What we have here is the least disruptive of the options, catering mostly to Oracle customers. I don’t see non Oracle database or applications customers selecting Oracle as a Linux provider anytime soon.”

Still, that is one of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s goals. In San Francisco at Oracle OpenWorld, Ellison said that Oracle would be offering Linux support — not only for its customers, but to anyone who wants it.

“We have built up over the life of our Unbreakable Linux program, a very, very large development team all over the world, so we have the capacity in house to make [Red Hat Linux support] continuous, more reliable, more secure,” said Ellison. “We have the largest software support in the world.”

Zachary also noted that “Oracle will now be competing with Red Hat in the Linux support business, while simultaneously throwing its weight beyond RHEL as an enterprise Linux standard. They are basically blessing RHEL with this move, although with the attitude that they can make RHEL better.”

Most people at the Oracle show saw it a different way. As an audience member at Ellison’s keynote asked, “What happens to Red Hat? Do you kill them unintentionally or do you have a program to keep them alive?”

Whether anyone goes to Oracle as a Linux distributor is still an open question, but in the early going, the tide of public opinion is running against Red Hat. In after-hour trading, Red Hat’s stock dropped to $16.33, a drop of $3.18 per share, or 16.3 percent.

A version of this story first appeared in Linux-Watch.

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