Oracle's launch today of Linux 7 provides users with a freely available enterprise-grade Linux distribution. Oracle Linux 7 is based on the recent Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 (RHEL) distribution released June 10.
As Oracle Linux 7 is based on RHEL 7, it inherits many of the same new features, though Oracle is not simply cloning RHEL and putting the company's name on it.
A major new feature in RHEL 7 is that the XFS file—which enables a file system to scale up to 500 terabytes—is the default. While Oracle Linux 7 also supports XFS, Oracle also integrates the Btrfs file system as a supported component. Btrfs is a next-generation Linux file system that originally got its start at Oracle.
In RHEL 7, the Kernel-mode Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor is the only supported virtualization hypervisor. Red Hat dropped support for the open-source Xen hypervisor when RHEL 6 came out in late 2010. In contrast, Oracle Linux 7 provides support for Xen, which is a primary virtualization technology platform for Oracle. Oracle Linux 7 also supportd Linux Containers (LXC) as well as the open-source Docker container project, which can leverage LXC as a base.
However, price is another key difference between Oracle Linux and RHEL, Wim Coekaerts, senior vice president of Linux and virtualization engineering at Oracle, told eWEEK. "With Oracle Linux 7, if you want support, you pay for support," Coekaerts said.
Full compiled versions of Oracle Linux 7 are available to anyone to use as they please and do not require that organizations pay Oracle anything to use, he said.
RHEL is a fully supported enterprise Linux distribution that is only supposed to be available to paying subscribers.
Oracle Linux isn't the only distribution based on RHEL 7. The community CentOS release, which debuted July 7, is also based on RHEL 7.
Oracle's Linux efforts have nothing to do with CentOS, Coekaerts said. Typically, Oracle Linux updates are released before CentOS updates, but that wasn't the case this time with the version 7 release, he added.
"We don't compete with [CentOS]," Coekaerts said. "What we do is we make Oracle Linux completely freely available, but for a different reason."
With Oracle Linux, if an organization has a thousand servers but only needs support for one hundred of them, the enterprise only needs to pay for support on the one hundred servers, Coekaerts said. The other 900 servers can still use the exact same Oracle Linux code, without needing to pay Oracle for support.
Oracle first got into the Linux distribution business in 2006. Oracle Linux now powers Oracle's Exa-class engineered systems, which is a leading component of the company's server hardware portfolio. Oracle recently announced an addition to its engineered systems portfolio with the Exadata X4-8 database machine.
Looking beyond engineered systems, Oracle also has Linux customers. "We're now at over 12,000 customers that have Oracle Linux support, not including engineered systems," Coekaerts said. "These are real paying customers that pay for Oracle Linux support; we're growing rapidly, and I think we're doing quite well."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.