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Attack of the clones: Oracle's latest Red Hat Linux lookalike arrives

Oracle's Linux boss says Larry's Linux isn't just for Oracle apps anymore

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For each new Red Hat Enterprise Linux release, a new version of Oracle Linux is never far behind, and RHEL 7 is no exception.

Red Hat shipped its latest version in June, bringing such features as support for Linux Containers, XFS as the default file system, improved integration with Microsoft Active Directory domains, and more.

And naturally, because Oracle Linux is built from Red Hat's own source code and is designed to be a 100 per cent compatible replacement for Shadowman's OS, Oracle Linux 7, which the database giant released on Wednesday, includes all of the same stuff.

"That's a big part of the message," Wim Coekaerts, Oracle's senior VP of Linux and virtualization engineering, told The Register. "Full compatibility with RHEL, the same packages and the same level of support and compatibility as what we've done in the past."

According to Oracle's bumph for the new version, more than 12,000 customers have already signed up for Oracle Linux Support contracts, even though the software they're getting is virtually identical to what Red Hat offers.

In fact, Coekaerts pointed out, customers don't even have to run Oracle's binaries to get their Linux support from the database giant. They can keep their existing RHEL servers in place and simply switch to Oracle support, and they can install RPMs from Oracle's repositories on their RHEL servers without a hitch.

But increasingly there are concrete reasons why customers may want to opt for Oracle Linux even if they aren't otherwise Oracle customers, Coekaerts said, which is why the company has begun positioning its Linux as a "general-purpose OS."

"In the early days, people put us into the niche market, to say, 'Oh, hey, if you're going to run Oracle products on Linux, obviously Oracle Linux is the way to go because you get full-stack support.' And while that's obviously true and that's why we got an easy entry into our customer base, it's certainly not our intention of just being that," Coekaerts said.

Yes, you can run SAP apps on Oracle's penguin

He emphasized that customers are free to run any applications they want on Oracle Linux – including custom applications and even ones from Oracle competitors like SAP – and Oracle will provide the same support under the same terms, some of which are better than what the competition offers.

For example, unlike other enterprise Linux flavors, Oracle's is freely redistributable. Anyone who wants to can download Oracle Linux and make as many copies as they want and give them to anyone they want. Oracle even permits free redistribution of its logos, trademarks, and other intellectual property.

What's more, you can even install and run Oracle Linux on any system you want. Unless you need support, you don't have to pay. Companies can standardize on Oracle Linux across their entire infrastructures, install it on 1,000 machines, but pay only for the ones they consider to be production servers.

"We want Oracle Linux to be used by anyone and everyone out there who wants to use an enterprise Linux distribution," Coekaerts told us.

Similarly, while some Linux vendors – Red Hat included – try to steer customers toward their own flavor of the OpenStack cloud management software, Coekaerts said Oracle sees OpenStack as merely another application. Oracle Linux customers are free to run the OS as a guest on anyone's OpenStack distribution, and Oracle will support any flavor of OpenStack running on Oracle Linux. Better still, OpenStack support is included in the price of an Oracle Linux Support contract.

But Oracle's Linux also caters to the company's traditional customer base. Take, for example, its approach to Linux Containers. While some Linux companies are putting all their efforts into Docker compatibility, Oracle sees room for more than one container technology in the Linux ecosystem.

"Docker is more designed around DevOps kind of environments, where it's small, nimble apps like MySQL or Apache," Coekaerts said. "And Containers, typically, for us are used for these more traditional applications as an alternative to using VMs – so, like a big Oracle database container that can be terabytes in size. And Docker doesn't really lend itself well ...  to these massive containers. So we want to offer both to customers."

Coekaerts added that customers can trust Oracle Linux to handle such heavy-duty workloads because Oracle puts its money where its mouth is. The Oracle Linux that customers can download from the database giant's servers is the same code that's running on all of its Intel-powered Exadata engineered systems.

Oracle Linux 7 is available for download beginning on Wednesday, with individual RPM packages also available on the company's public Yum server. ®

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