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With free clustering for Unbreakable Linux, Oracle goes after Red Hat

By enhancing Oracle Unbreakable Linux and offering free clustering to Linux support customers, Oracle is going after Red Hat's customer base.

In an apparent competitive swipe at Red Hat Inc., Oracle Corp.announced on Wednesday, March 26, at InfoWorld's Open Source Business Conference that it would add Clusterware to its year-old Oracle Unbreakable Linux support program for all basic and premium-package customers -- and for free.

For more on Unbreakable Linux:
Oracle's Unbreakable Linux tries to neutralize Microsoft apps

Why software companies hesitate on Unbreakable Linux

Unbreakable Linux vs. Red Hat

By harnessing the collective processing power and storage capacity of multiple servers into a single system, Clusterware enables this system to be centrally monitored and managed. For years, Oracle has offered cluster management, but this is the first time it has included it in its Unbreakable Linux support program.

'Oracle's value is convenience' for an existing Oracle shop
Caroline Kazmierski,
spokespersonRed Hat Inc.

Cluster management is available to any Linux user in Oracle's Unbreakable Linux support program; but Red Hat customers are the only ones who can enroll without migrating to Oracle Enterprise Linux, explained Monica Kumar, Oracle's senior director for Linux and open source product marketing. Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise customers, for example, would have to switch to Oracle Enterprise Linux to get Oracle Clusterware, she said. Red Hat customers, on the other hand, wouldn't have to switch because Oracle's Enterprise Linux is based on Red Hat code, she explained.

"Clusterware is proof that Oracle is committed to enhancing Linux," Kumar said. "It brings high availability and deployment to Linux users … and makes our market position much stronger by enhancing our customers' experience."

Oracle's Unbreakable Linux Support program has fared well, Kumar added. It has enrolled more than 2,000 Linux customers, primarily from Red Hat, in its first 15 months, she said.

Oracle has won over Red Hat customers by offering a single customer contact, better responsiveness, reduced downtime and lower cost than Red Hat Enterprise Linux, she said. (Depending on service level, pricing for Oracle annual support packages ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 per server, while Red Hat varies between $1,500 and $2,500 per server annually.)

Red Hat spokeswoman Caroline Kazmierski said Oracle is a partner and competitor and "a force to be reckoned with." "We're not taking [Clusterware] lightly," Kazmierski said. "We are definitely paying attention."

But Red Hat's annual revenue is about $500 million, with the vast majority of those dollars coming from support licenses that average $1,000 apiece, Kazmierski said. So Oracle's 2,000 Linux customers do not consider "Oracle in [Red Hat's] league" among Linux users, she said.

As for customer support, Red Hat has topped CIO Insight's annual vendor value study for three years in a row, Kazmierski said. By contrast, in 2006 Oracle ranked 30th; and in 2007, it ranked 29th she said.

As for pricing, the respective support packages are not easily comparable because they are not identical in the offerings, Kazmierski added. "Oracle's value is convenience" for an existing Oracle shop, she said. Al Gillen, an analyst at research firm IDC agreed that existing Oracle/Red Hat shops are the most likely prospect for the Unbreakable Linux/Clusterware offering. "Oracle is just really trying to expand its influence over Red Hat's install base," Gillen said. "It's just another Oracle bullet point adding to its value proposition. It doesn't change the dynamics of the Red-Hat-vs.-Oracle competition."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Pam Derringer, News Writer .

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