Oracle doesn't want to own Linux. Oracle just wants Linux to be cheap.
That's the insight an analyst shared with me the other day as we discussed why Oracle hasn't made a move to acquire Red Hat (recently, anyway). According to this source, who is familiar with Oracle's Linux plans, Oracle wins eight of 10 deals where the operating system is Linux, and only wins five of 10 where the OS is Windows, a win rate that continues to drop as Microsoft's SQL Server gets better.
Oracle's Enterprise Linux strategy is therefore not so much about neutralizing a threat from Red Hat as it is establishing its own threat against Microsoft, a thought that others have highlighted.
Indeed, Oracle's Wim Coekaerts has declared that if Red Hat Enterprise Linux were free, Oracle would exit the market for Linux entirely.
Red Hat isn't likely to drop its pricing for RHEL anytime soon, at least, not for Oracle, but the reality is that Oracle already has a way to offer a popular, enterprise-quality Linux distribution for free, or close thereto. It's called Ubuntu.
The only thing Ubuntu lacks, as I've written, is the blessing of a major enterprise software vendor. Oracle could grant that blessing. All it would need to do is start offering Ubuntu as part of its certified stacks.
Oracle wouldn't need to pay billions for Red Hat, only to undermine the value of that deal by cutting the price of RHEL. Oracle could pay exactly $0.00 to establish a partnership with Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, and Ubuntu's already significant traction--both in personal computers and in servers--would do the rest.
If Oracle wants to beat Windows, it needs to get Windows-like distribution. Its applications help drive its databases, but if it wants a bottom-up distribution strategy to complement its sales force, it couldn't do better than Ubuntu, the leader in community Linux.
Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.