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Oracle is considering certification of open source software in a move that could tread on the toes of one of Silicon Valley's brightest start-ups.

Oracle president Charles Phillips yesterday revealed the company believes its next opportunity lies in testing the interdependencies between open source software that is freely downloaded and installed by enterprise customers on servers and systems.

Phillips said Oracle has a greater role to play in the field of certification as its own application and database software becomes increasingly prevalent.

While Phillips did not go into details of either the service or delivery dates, the company could be expected to certify open source with its own applications.

Speaking at the Software 2005 conference in Santa Clara, California, on Tuesday, Phillips told an audience of 1,000 chief executive officers: "[Customers] are bogged down by the dependencies between applications. Add a patch in Linux and five other things break. People ask: 'Why can't you tell me what the dependencies are?'

"We are large enough now and in enough different areas to do something about it. We see that as the next opportunity." Phillips said.

A move by Oracle into this sector could lead the database giant into competition with Spikesource, one of an emerging generation of start-ups specializing in testing and certification of open source software.

Spikesource is something of a darling in Silicon Valley, having received the backing of Oracle's former president and chief operating officer Ray Lane, now general partner at venture capitalist Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Additionally, SpikeSource's chief executive is former Marimba co-founder, president and CEO Kim Polese, one of the IT industry's few female CEOs.

SpikeSource's advisory board, meanwhile, reads like a who's who of open source, consisting of – among others - CollabNet founder and chief technology officer Brian Behlendorf, MySQL CEO Marten Mickos and IP law attorney Lawrence Rosen.

SpikeSource plans to provide an integrated and tested stack based on 50 plus open source components including Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP), JBoss, Tomcat, Axis and Hibernate. The software will be certified, managed, supported and run on leading distributions, including SuSE 9.0, Red Hat 9, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Fedora Core 3.

Polese, also speaking at Software 2005, told The Register that she believes there is a large enough market for both companies because of the complexity of enterprise systems. Polese said: "Complexity will continue to grow. Each time a Fortune 50 company picks up a new component it creates a new integration challenge."

Commenting on the prospect of competition between the two, the US president of services company Persistent Systems said he expected SpikeSource would likely be able to serve a broader market than Oracle, who would likely just focus on inter dependencies between open source applications and Oracle's own software.

Ravi Krishnamurthy told The Register, Oracle would likely certify "big chunks" of tier-one software, while SpikeSource would certify rival customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning software. ®

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