Oracle wants to cook up its own stack, based on Linux and has pondered purchasing Novell as a quick way to get its own Linux flavor to kick-start the project, Larry Ellison recently told the Financial Times.
Thats a no-brainer. Oracle has been pushing Linux like mad for some time. Small wonder, given that it provides Oracle users who run on Microsofts operating system and applications with an alternative stack.
The IOUG (Independent Oracle Users Group) recently put out the results of a survey showing that only 7 percent of 812 surveyed Oracle shops run exclusively on Oracle, with the Microsoft product set being the closest contender at these sites: Seven out of 10 respondents support SQL Server.
Oracles Linux push has paid off, with Linux in the coming year set to unseat HP-UX as the dominant operating system on which to run Oracle technology, according to the IOUGs survey.
Forget IBM and DB2; Microsoft is Oracles most threatening rival.
Microsofts control over the Windows operating system and its applications have given it a complete stack for some time now.
More recently, Red Hats announced acquisition of JBoss means that it, too, is set to be a serious threat to Oracle, given that it has grown that much closer to offering a complete stack.
So why not buy Red Hat? As Ellison told the Financial Times, the price was just too steep, particularly when youre talking about open-source—in other words, free—software.
“I dont see how we could possibly buy Red Hat… Im not going to spend $5 billion, or $6 billion, for something that can just be so completely wiped off the map,” Ellison was quoted as saying in the FT. He also said that he had considered making an offer on Novell.
Novell is too expensive as well. Why pay billions for Novell SUSE Linux when there are much cheaper and more deployed Linux distributions out there, with robust communities in place, to be had for probably what would amount to a few million?
I had a recent conversation with Richard Monson-Haefel, an analyst with Burton, in which he told me that Ellison is likely telling us he doesnt have to buy a company with a huge existing open-source presence.
Instead, Ellison likely wants to buy an existing variation of Linux around which Oracle can build a community.
Ubuntu and Mandriva are two strong contenders, Monson-Haefel believes. Theyre both on the Top 10 Linux distribution list.
He thinks Ubuntu in particular is a likely candidate to play the starring role as the Linux operating system in an Oracle stack.
Ubuntu, which has only been in distribution since 2004, is now cited as the most popular of all the distributions. Its based on whats considered to be the “unstable” branch of Debian and, according to Linux Forums, features “a fast release cycle, up to date and numerous packages, fast download mirrors, great documentation and even free shipment of CDs.”
According to Linux Forums, its unclear whether the distributing company, Canonical Ltd., makes a profit off the distribution, but thats reportedly not the main purpose or priority. Hence, its only “con” is considered to be an unviable business model.
A possibly unviable business model: Thats one thing Oracle, one of the worlds largest software vendors, would certainly be able to help with.
Besides it being an ideal target, Ubuntu also is darn flexible, serving both as a desktop and server platform.
“Ubuntu really makes a lot of sense” as an acquisition, Monson-Haefel said.
“Its a popular open-source platform, as well as being a desktop and server platform. If you want to create a full stack, thats an important element.”
If you could buy the most popular Linux distribution for a figure in the low millions, compared with buying Novell for what could have amounted to billions, its not too hard a choice, he said.
“I dont see where the hesitation would be,” he said.
What do users think of all this? I would have thought Id be hearing from users who would be leery at the idea of having Oracle control everything from the operating system on up through the database, management tools, middleware, development tools and applications.
But as Ari Kaplan, president of the IOUG, pointed out in a recent conversation, based on recent history, Oracle can be trusted not to lock anybody into an Oracle-only setup.
“Based on recent history, you can still run PeopleSoft on IBM or other databases,” he said.
“It would be a mistake for Oracle” to do otherwise, he said. After all, its a heterogeneous world, as the IOUGs survey pointed out, with Oracle users running Windows, Linux, HP-UX, mainframe—you name it.
Its up to Oracle to make the Oracle stack compelling from the customers point of view, Kaplan pointed out. And thats not too hard to imagine, given that a company like Teradata has developed its database to be so tightly coupled with hardware and software and the operating system that Teradata also owns.
An Oracle stack: Tell me why this isnt going to pose a serious threat to Microsoft. Tell me why this wouldnt be a technology boon for Oracle users.
Youll have to spell it out, because from where I stand, it all looks good.
Lisa Vaas is Ziff Davis Internets news editor in charge of operations. She is also the editor of eWEEK.coms Database and Business Intelligence topic center. She has been with eWEEK and eWEEK.com since 1995, most recently covering enterprise applications and database technology. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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