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Oracle claims no Linux ulterior motive

Mixed messages

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LinuxWorld Oracle is using LinuxWorld to try and calm concerns its Enterprise Linux and Unbreakable Linux Network (ULN) will fork Red Hat and fragment the Linux market.

The database giant is playing up fixes it's making to Red Hat's Linux through ULN and its track record contributing code to the Linux kernel as proof of its good intentions.

Oracle, though, has also tried to position ULN as a response to Red Hat having badly let down customers with tardy patches and updates. As such, Oracle has claimed ULN is not designed to compete with Red Hat or erode Red Hat's market share.

Apparently, that's just an unintended consequence of its actions.

The move comes as Oracle tries to convince observers that ULN has momentum, announcing at LinuxWorld its eleventh support customer win from Red Hat. Game maker Activision is joining an evolving list that currently consists of International House of Pancakes, Timex and Diebold.

Oracle claimed some ULN customers had switched up to 2,000 servers, with most already running Oracle's software - thought to be its database. Oracle was unable to say how many servers Activision is putting on ULN, which has got off to a slow start.

It was significant that during Oracle's June quarterly results call with Wall St, senior management - including the un-put-downable chief executive Larry Ellison - failed to mention a single ULN customer win. Quote ironic, given it was Ellison who personally launched ULN at his company's annual conference in October, a move that had Wall St put Red Hat on immediate death watch.

Wim Coekaerts, vice president of Linux engineering at Oracle, defended ULN's growth to The Register. "From our perspective in the Linux market we are doing well," adding ULN customers "really started signing up in February" four months after launch.

Coekaerts continued to say that Oracle has no operating system ulterior motive. "Customers that have Linux installed today and aren't happy with their support can improve their support."

In announcing Activision, though, he admitted ULN provides a "soft upgrade" from Red Hat to Enterprise Linux - a version of Red Hat minus the Red Hat branding - as customers apply more and more Oracle-authored patches over time.

Oracle's Enterprise Linux and ULN packages are stripped of Red Hat's branding and trademarks, and replaced with Oracle's own branding. Red Hat fixes, though, are offered to the vendor. "We are not maintaining separate Red Hat code. Red Hat gets these bug fixes too," Coekaerts said. And there-in lies the rub.

"The value is in support... [Red Hat] Linux support was not adequate for our customers. Bug fixes were too slow. In Oracle we were our own biggest support customer."®

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