Oracle Warms to Linux

Software giant expected to announce advances in running a fail-safe database using clustered servers running the Linux operating system.

Oracle Corp. next week is planning to announce enhancements to its support of Linux for its 9i database, which sources say are most likely to revolve around its much-touted Real Application Clusters, or RAC, features.

On June 5, the software maker, along with Dell Computer Corp. and Red Hat Inc., will hold an event at its Redwood Shores, Calif., headquarters to launch of what it is calling "Unbreakable Linux." Oracle officials wouldnt provide details on the announcement but did say it would deal with running Linux on its flagship database software. Oracle since its 9i version has used the "unbreakable" mantra in marketing campaigns to play up the security and reliability of its database software.

Analyst, however, said that they expect the announcement to focus on how Linux versions of Oracle can run RAC, Oracles clustering technology that is a central part of the companys "unbreakable" claim. Oracle has yet to announce any certified implementations of RAC running on Linux or demonstrated any customers running it, said Terilyn Palanca, a database analyst at Giga Information Group Inc., of Cambridge, Mass. But she has heard of customers beginning to go through a certification program for the Linux version of Oracle 9i with RAC, and she expects Oracles announcement to be about certifying RAC for Linux in partnership with computer hardware maker Dell and Red Hat, which sells a version of Linux.

"If it proves out, it will represent the first clustered implementation of a Linux database," she said. "So it is very significant. If you can solve the scalability factor by allowing it to cluster and get near linear scalability in that fashion then you have no fear of moving into Linux as an enterprise-scalable platform."

Of most significance to Palanca is whether Oracle will be able to announce any customers that have deployed RAC on Linux as opposed to being able to certify its along with vendor partners.

"Weve had a lot of noise from Oracle about RAC moving along and getting certified, yet we dont see a lot of customers," Palanca said of RAC in general.

Stacey Quandt, another analyst at Giga who covers Linux, agrees that the announcement is most likely about RAC. Red Hat in March released its Linux Advanced Server operating system that included eight-way SMP scalability that was optimized for Oracle RAC, she said.

Oracle is likely targeting the Linux market because Linux is increasingly being viewed as an alternative to Windows and because of the noise from competitor IBM in the Linux arena, said analyst Betsy Burton, of Gartner Inc. So far, Linux deployments account for a small percentage of Oracles database sales. She estimates Linux deployments to account for just tens of millions of dollars of the total $2.8 billion of new database sales each year.

"Linux is of high strategic value and visibility for Oracle, and Oracle wants to be viewed as a leader in this area," Burton said.

Oracle, which says it was the first database vendor to support Linux, first introduced support for the operating system with its 8i version several years ago.