Oracles Linux Boss Gears Up for Grid

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2004-01-17

Oracles Linux Boss Gears Up for Grid

The latest Linux salvo to come from Oracle Corp. will arrive at LinuxWorld in New York on Wednesday.

Thats when Dave Dargo, vice president of Oracles Linux Program Office and the Performance Engineering team within the Platform Technologies Division, takes the keynote stage to detail the challenges companies will face as they standardize on Linux in the enterprise.

Besides discussing topics such as server consolidation vs. standards consolidation, open- vs. closed-source implementations, and how best to support environments as enterprises move to grid computing, Dargo may also discuss Oracles plans to take Linux beyond servers. Oracle this week said it plans to add the open-source Mozilla browser to Oracle applications. Database Center Editor Lisa Vaas recently caught up with Dargo to discuss Oracles ongoing plans first to put Linux everywhere and then to layer it with a good, thick coating of grid.

Could you give us a little background on Oracles Linux initiative?

We started 1.5 years ago with our Linux support program. Its still unique. Were the only vendor providing code-level support for the distributions. If a customers running Oracle on Red Hat or SuSE Linux and they have an issue, Oracle has the business relationships with those vendors so we can fix the code.

Were still the only ones doing that. Were looking to expand it in the coming year. Most of our support has been in the area of servers. Were looking to enable Linux as a client for Oracle applications via the Mozilla browser, so Oracle customers can use Mozilla to access Oracle applications. Were looking at not just supporting Linux as a server but as a client.

Reiterate for me, please, why Oracles so Linux-focused.

Its an enabler of a few things in the market. It enables customers to retain the skill sets theyve built over the past decade or so in Unix while enabling them to take advantage of low-cost, high-performance processors from Intel [Corp.] and [Advanced Micro Devices Inc.].

The reason Oracles made such a huge investment in Linux is so we can have a platform where we can make it easier for customers to deploy Oracle and our clustering technology.

Next page: How Linux and grid fit together.

The Linux

-Grid Connection">

How do Linux and grid computing fit together?

Linux serves as a great base platform for grid. Benny [Souder, Oracles vice president of distributed database development] has talked about grid control and our ability to manage large numbers of standardized servers. We think we can provide higher support in Linux. Its inexpensive, and [it enables companies to deploy low-cost, high-performance] Intel servers that allow us to drive commoditization into these standard building blocks that can be configured together in a grid environment.

To check out Benny Souders article on grid computing, click here.

One thing weve done, last month we released Oracle for Linux on IBMs PowerPC line. Customers whove been running on AS/600 can now run Linux on that hardware. That opens another opportunity for Oracle customers.

As IBM starts looking at where theyll take the PowerPC line—which is a price-sensitive market—it provides customers choice in terms of 64-bit computing.

Oracle has said its moving all of its developers over to Linux. Whats the status of that initiative?

Now, all Oracles application developers develop on Linux. As soon as we release 10g as a production product, our database developers will move to Linux as their base development program. We re seeing a tremendous adoption curve of Linux at Oracle, for base and development systems. That represents great news for the Linux community, when a company like Oracle starts using Linux as its development platform.

So that will be something like 8,000 or 9,000 developers moved over to Linux. Was that a tough migration?

Over a weekend in October we transformed them to be developing on Linux. It was an extremely smooth migration. We did a lot of planning. Youre talking about 5,000 (application) developers, so that takes a lot of planning. We had no downtime, no issues. There was no second-guessing at all. They were working on Unix RISC on Friday, and on Monday they were on Linux on Intel.

And the 3,000 to 4,000 database developers will be moved over after 10g goes production, which is when?

10g is imminent.

Next page: What benefits are grid customers seeing?

Grid Benefits to Date

Are customers seeing any benefits from grid yet?

Customers are definitely seeing the benefits now. I dont have numbers off the top of my head, but Electronic Arts did an independent ROI study. They found theyre saving something like 40 percent in terms of using the Linux-Intel space. They run an online game called Sims Online. Theyre supporting thousands upon thousands of simultaneous users acting online. Something like 30,000 SQL operations per minute theyre supporting. Were seeing hard numbers in terms of specifics, in terms of customers seeing savings. Its not just the general feeling; theyre publishing [hard facts].

And the savings are coming from where?

Savings are coming from a couple areas. Its stuff that fits into what were doing with grid. If we look at the traditional way of deploying systems, we always had to deploy to handle maximum payload. [With grid, we have the choice of deploying] to handle the maximum size of, say, financial accounting, at quarter- and year-end. Those systems tend to be idle most of the time. What 10g allows us to do, by using small building blocks, like two- or four-processor servers, we have the ability to share our computing resources across multiple applications. Grid allows us to dynamically move compute resources between accounting and Web maintenance, say. Start multiplying that by all your systems, and you have the ability to run with much larger utilization.

Next page: The thinking behind Oracles certification strategy.

Certification Strategy

Some developers complain about Oracles Collaboration Suite only being certified for Red Hat Application Server 2.1 and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 7. Are there any plans to certify Collaboration Suite on more Linux alternatives?

Our certification program for all Oracle products is concentrated on commercial enterprise-class versions of Linux. Red Hat has Advanced Server 2.1 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, their current product. We support those versions and SuSEs [current versions]. We decided to support two to give customers choice, but were not going out and supporting many. Were providing direct code-level support if the customer has any problems.

Some people complain about being forced onto Linux. For example, they ask, "When I put in a new kernel and the system crashes, whos going to support us? Newsgroups?" Whats your response to that attitude?

Thats exactly the reason why Oracle got into support. In the Linux world, you end up with multiple communities. We tend, as readers and publishers of news, to blur the lines between what is created in the open-source community and what has created success in the commercial software community. People can apply changes, look at the source code, and go to the open-source community to get solutions. Thats certainly not how we expect high-end customers to support Linux.

Lets not confuse whats possible for someone to do with what they should be doing. While its possible for them to apply their own fixes and manage their own source code, it doesnt mean they should be doing that.

The model Oracles created with Linux is for customers to get a higher level of support than they get with other platforms. It gives Oracle the capability to apply fixes directly to the Linux operating system.

I would agree with the argument that it makes no sense for companies to do their own maintenance of open-source code. Were a professional software and support company, and so we provide that support for the customer. We help identify what are the appropriate updates. Were now taking that responsibility for the Linux operating system as well.

Editors note: has learned that Dave Dargo is leaving Oracle because of personal reasons. An Oracle spokeswoman said that a replacement has not yet been named.

Rocket Fuel