October 25, 2006 2:59 PM PDT
Oracle to offer Red Hat Linux support
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Ellison has suggested for months that the company had Linux plans, and recently, rumors have swirled that Oracle OpenWorld would be the forum for an official announcement.
Oracle can try to use open-source software to gain competitive advantage, but the open-source movement is also providing the company with lots of competition. Most directly are databases such as MySQL and PostgreSQL, but also on the list are Java application servers and software for managing customer relationships and corporate inventory and accounting.
Oracle is watching the open-source moves closely, including Red Hat's acquisition of JBoss. Wednesday's Oracle move was a pre-emptive move to impede further Red Hat moves up the software stack, said Rick Sherlund, a Goldman Sachs analyst.
Oracle's influence is broad, and the company wooed several Red Hat allies into its camp. Videotaped endorsements came from Dell Chairman Michael Dell, Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd, Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini, Advanced Micro Devices CEO Hector Ruiz, EMC Chief Executive Joe Tucci and Network Appliance CEO Dan Warmenhoven. Bill Zeitler, head of IBM's server group, also endorsed Oracle's move in a separate statement.
"Dell customers can choose Unbreakable Linux 2.0 running on Dell PowerEdge servers," Dell said, adding that Dell is itself a customer. And Hurd said, "We're excited about supporting the Unbreakable Linux platform for mutual customers."
Yahoo, a major user of Linux on its 150,000 servers, uses Oracle's Linux support, said Laurie Mann, the Web company's vice president of engineering.Less than half Red Hat's price
Ellison repeatedly complained that current Linux companies often fix bugs in new versions but not current products in use, adding that Oracle will provide such support. However, that level of service--along with indemnification and lifetime support--costs a significant notch more: $1,199 for a two-processor server and $1,999 for a larger system. In addition, current Oracle customers can try the Oracle Linux service free for 90 days, and all customer can get the service for half price through Jan. 31.
Red Hat's support price, including the round-the-clock support Oracle offers in all its plans, is $2,499 per year for larger servers. For servers with up to two processors, Red Hat offers support for only 12 hours a day, five days a week, which costs $799 per year.
Oracle believes Red Hat will find itself in a difficult position should it try to throw roadblocks in Oracle's way when accessing Red Hat's Linux.
"We don't see what barriers they can erect without hurting their users," said Edward Screven, Oracle's chief corporate architect.
He said that Oracle certifies its software with Red Hat and that it has "every intention" to continue doing so. As a result, customers who don't move to Oracle's Linux won't be left out, he said.
Oracle's move isn't likely to change the Linux market overnight, though it will pressure Red Hat's prices, said RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady. "I think mainstream Linux customers will play a wait-and-see game. Platform decisions are not made quickly or easily," he said. "Red Hat customers are likely to benefit here, as Oracle Linux will act as a check on Red Hat pricing."
But paradoxically, the move could bolster the dominant position of Red Hat--or at least of its software.
"I suspect that in the short term, this will be a problem in terms of perception and customer apprehension," O'Grady said. "In the longer term, this could actually reinforce Red Hat's preeminence."
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