Oracle and Unbreakable Linux
Opinion You could argue that Oracle was relatively slow to jump onto the Linux bandwagon, or you might argue that IBM was fast off the mark. writes Robin Bloor
It probably happened that way because IBM was getting anxious about platforms. The world had gradually moved to Unix or Windows NT and the reference platform for Unix was Sun's Solaris, not IBM's AIX. When Linux started to become popular, IBM was quick to see an advantage. No vendor owned Linux and IBM could use it to sell its hardware and make it a prime platform for its software.
Anyway, Oracle is now clearly a Linux convert and evangelist. It is running an expensive world-wide marketing campaign under the slogan "Unbreakable Linux". As part of this it is spending $150 million to encourage ISVs to develop Oracle based applications for the Linux platform, offering help with porting and development (all in a free Linux bundle). All its products are available on Linux and it claims to "recommend Linux to many of its new customers". Oracle is also eating its own food, as it runs its own business on Linux.
Just like IBM when it "got Linux", Oracle claims to just giving the customers what they want - i says it's not promoting Linux ahead of other platforms, . However, Oracle Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Mark Jarvis, has commented that Oracle recommends Linux to its database customers "About 75 per cent of the time."
He further commented that, "It's down to size and manageability constraints, because manageability is one issue with Linux. But that'll be fixed soon." Oracle is developing its own solution to this.
There are apparent paradoxes for all major vendors in the Linux market. Microsoft, of course, has no interest and will only port to Linux in the event that it sees its applications market dissolving. By championing Linux, both Oracle and IBM have the effect of marginalising Microsoft's SQL Server database and many of its other products. However, there are several open source databases - the most prominent product being MySQL. One day the customers are going to ask "If an open source OS is so good, why not an open source database?"
Naturally, IBM is vulnerable to the same shift in customer tastes. However it is the ISVs that are key to the whole game, because they write the applications.
As time passes, customers care less and less about the technology (databases, OSes, middleware, etc.) and more and more about applications - the things that run the business. So Oracle's marketing campaign, just like the campaign that IBM ran, is aimed primarily at convincing ISVs. Some ISVs will undoubtedly want the Oracle stamp on their products, but they too appreciate inexpensive software and they are not immune to the appeal of an open source database.