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Linux is now Oracle's low-end offering

Oracle will push Oracle Linux for commodity x86 boxes, reserving Solaris for high-end data center push. But Oracle's support for OpenSolaris is still unclear.

Oracle Corp. has rekindled its Solaris love. Sun's Solaris operating system will underlie all the promised high-end data center appliances running the Oracle software stack. And Oracle EnterpriseLinux now becomes the de facto preferred OS for lower-end commodity hardware.

By making the Sparc/Solaris tandem the foundation of big-iron SMP appliances, the company is going back to its roots when Oracle and Sun were tightly and intricately intertwined. Pre-Linux, Solaris was the favored development platform for new Oracle software. New Oracle databases came out first on Solaris and later -- sometimes considerably later -- on everything else.

That Solaris ardor faded as Oracle discovered the appeal of commodity (read: cheap) x86 hardware and Linux (read: free) operating systems. By putting the database on a cheap platform, Oracle could bleed the cost out of the solution without sacrificing its own software margins.

On last month's epic teleconference outlining the company's Sun plans, Oracle president Charles Phillips and CEO Larry Ellison both extolled Solaris as its strategic enterprise platform. Only in response to questions did Ellison talk up Linux.

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"We're still a big fan of Linux. [Oracle Unbreakable Linux] is compatible with Red Hat and you'll see us do many things better than Red hat. We're Red Hat plus." Ellison said.

And Oracle execs said -- again in response to questions -- that Linux remains a strong focus for the company, with 4,000 accounts paying for Unbreakable Linux support.

Oracle partners -- many of which said most of their newer accounts run Oracle on Linux -- said a two-tier approach makes sense.

"I think Linux prevailed as the commodity OS for Oracle. It's the operating system choice for most network servers and Solaris won't replace that," said Scott Jenkins, CEO of The EBS Group, an Oracle partner based in Lenexa, Kansas. About 80% of his company's Oracle customers run on Linux.

For the high end, Solaris is a no brainer to help Oracle compete with IBM in the data center he said. "Solaris has a lot of features for people using Sun hardware. They will more tightly integrate with Solaris and make that the enterprise play," he noted.

Andy Kamlet, provost and senior vice president at Carnegie-Mellon University, a big Oracle shop, said the bifurcated OS strategy gives the vendor a play in two key but very different markets.

"Fielding Solaris at the high end and Linux at the low end gives Oracle a way to play in the broad base while also having best-in-class offering. [It looks like the message is] keep Linux but run hard with Solaris -- it seemed clear from what Larry said that this is their strategy," said Kamlet.

Open Solaris shut out?
While the word is full speed ahead on Solaris and Linux, the silence around Open Solaris both during and after the conference call has been deafening. Phillips, Ellison and Oracle chief architect Edward Screven all pledged to nurture the key Sun Java and MySQL open source franchises but did not mention the open source version of Solaris once.

Some partners said Oracle will likely continue to support, if not enhance Open Solaris. "Oracle's history is it'll make its software work on any major OS but there will be a first among equals," said one long time Oracle VAR. "Larry [Ellison] typically will pick a set of hardware and operating system, make sure it's carefully architected for compatibility and optimized for speed and hold it up as the poster child for very fast execution -- and that will be the Sun native OS: Solaris."

Send your comments or feedback to Site Editor, Leah Rosin.

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