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Oracle spins own Linux for mega hardware

Red-Hat compatibility holds us back

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OpenWorld Oracle has given up on copying Red Hat and is delivering its own Linux to squeeze the last ounce of performance from new cloud-in-a-box and OLTP server giants.

Four years after Larry Ellison announced Oracle's Red Hat-compatible Unbreakable Linux distro, intended to sink Red Hat, he has dropped any pretence to compatibility and announced Oracle's Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel instead.

Ellison is not confident enough to cut the umbilical cord entirely, though, given that Oracle has 5,000 customers running his Red Hat-compatible distro.

He's therefore promised Oracle that "we will keep Red-Hat compatibility for the long term". It just sounded like that's not possible yet because the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel has been built to enable Oracle's new server giants.

What giants, exactly?

Oracle's brand new Linux will be offered with Solaris as one of two guest operating systems on the Exalogic Elastic Cloud - a combined server, storage, networking and software box Ellison announced Sunday evening at OpenWorld. Also the Linux and Solaris combo will be on eight Exadata OLAP servers due to be officially launched on Monday morning.

The Exalogic Elastic Cloud is founded on Oracle's Exadata server and a version of Oracle's WebLogic Java application server with Oracle Coherence running on Oracle's virtualization, 30 compute servers with 360 cores, 960GB SSD and 40GB InfiniBand networking.

Ellison claimed the Exalogic Elastic Cloud server he showed on stage at OpenWorld is capable of processing all of Facebook's HTTP traffic - from five million users - on two racks.

The eight OLTP servers, meanwhile, will feature 2TB of DRAM and up to 4,096 CPUs, 4PB of cluster volumes and what Ellison claimed will be "advanced" NUMA support. The servers will be announced Monday by vice president of systems John Fowler and Ellison's tennis buddy and newbie Oracle president Mark Hurd.

Such is the scale of raw processor, storage, networking and memory Oracle's putting in the Exalogic and Exadata OLAP servers the code needed to run them had to be put inside the actual Linux kernel.

Ellison therefore proceeded to shift the blame for Oracle's Linux to Red Hat, saying Red Hat has historically been tardy at implementing past bug fixes in its Linux that Oracle had found, while the Red Hat kernel was four years old. It seems that such is the amount of engineering Oracle undertaking on Exalogic Elastic Cloud and the new OLAP servers it was unable to work with a standard version of somebody else's Linux as before.

"We can't afford to be four years behind in software," Ellison told OpenWorld on Sunday evening in San Francisco, California.

"Going to the new kernel [you] will not only get the Oracle enhancements but the community's enhancements to Linux. You will have a more modern Linux."

Exalogic Elastic Cloud has, Ellison said, been designed to run Java "very, very fast".

Oracle's cloud-in-a-box runs a version of Oracle's WebLogic Server - bought with BEA Systems and engineered to work with all the multiple servers, cores, storage and gallons of networking - in conjunction with the former BEA's JRockit virtual machine.

The "secret sauce" is Oracle Coherence, bought in 2007 to run data transactions across a server grid. Exalogic Elastic Cloud features something called Cache Coherence to make the 30 servers perform as one - according to Oracle's chief executive - by delivering balancing, synchronization, clustering, caching and partitioning data and workloads.

It sounds as if the combination of Coherence and Oracle VM, with Oracle's Linux, will handle the "elastic" part of cloud compute - to spin up and spin down servers - instead of using a more widely used and open offering such as Eucalyptus or going with OpenStack.

The former is an implementation of the Amazon elastic compute architecture. This, Ellison let it be known, is Oracle's definition of a "a cloud", based on open technologies and standards. The latter is a still-forming work in progress led by hosting provider RackSpace and attracting industry support.

One of Ellison's OpenWorld slides did reference something called "Exalogic Elastic cloud software" but he chose not to return to this one particular piece of minutiae during an over-long presentation that re-examined just about everything else. Several times. ®

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