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Who's Afraid of Oracle Linux?

Regardless of the denials, I have always thought the Microvell deal was at least in part a response to Oracle's entry into the Linux market, it all felt rushed and even in the ensuing days it was clear that both parties weren't in total agreement on the significance of the deal.

I don't think the Microsoft-Novell deal was born of any specific Oracle Linux concern, but it seems to have been an induced birth that may have been a bit premature, and perhaps unnecessary. If Novell had taken the time to look, they probably would have noticed that Oracle's Linux is a pile of poo.

Maybe Novell is feeling silly now for their knee-jerk reaction to speculation of the time, while everyone saw the obvious attack on Red Hat posed by Oracle Linux, analysts also recognized the potential impact on Novell:

So does Oracle Linux actually hurt Red Hat?

Not as much as you might think.

I believe that it actually hurts Novell far worse since Oracle is essentially standardizing on a Red Hat base. As long as the myth of binary compatibility between Oracle Linux and RHEL exists, users will potentially have the option of moving back and forth between the two.

Novell should have noted "the myth of binary compatibility", which would have only taken a download by one techie at Novell and perhaps they wouldn't have sold their souls. Red Hat is not afraid of Oracle Linux, because it is apparent that Oracle has no idea what it is doing with Linux.

"They rolled out something that they don't understand," Pinchev told ComputerWire of Oracle’s announcement. "He [Oracle chief executive, Larry Ellison] tried to announce that Oracle is supporting Red Hat Linux, what he really announced is Oracle forking Red Hat Linux."

[...]

"They are delivering no innovation, delayed patches, delayed releases, no real knowledge of open source and no involvement with the community, so where is the value?" he asked.

Pinchev also said that Oracle had launched its offering on a basic misconception of the value customers get from open source software. "They are not buying just the support, they are buying the speed of innovation, because this is very important today to compete. They are going to open source for innovation."

When I had first heard that Oracle announced their Unbreakable Linux Support for "Red Hat", at lower cost than Red Hat, I was intrigued. When I also saw there was to be an "Oracle Enterprise Linux" distribution that was going to maintain RHEL certification and compatibility, I thought nice - CentOS is getting a backer. But no, it is just as Pinchev said, Oracle is forking Red Hat Linux, and given their history in providing timely bugfixes and security updates, I can't see why you'd want them for your Operating System support. Here is an Unbreakable Uncompatible Linux experience:

The installation was just like CentOS installation. It went by without incident. After I rebooted, I went through the same initial boot configuration. And then I was dropped onto a Gnome desktop, where things got bad:

  • When I click the Applications menu, there is nothing available.
  • When I try to add an application to a panel, there are no applications available.

Out of the box, those two are already show stoppers. So much for “unbreakable”. I question the reliability of Oracle’s QA department over this. Out-of-box experience should not be this horrendous. But, it gets even worse. Ellison and his FUD factory promised “compatibility with Red Hat Linux“. Not even true. I ran an up2date in Breakable Linux and the little up2date icon turned green — telling me that everything is up-to-date. So:

  • Kernel version: 2.6.9-42.0.0.0.1.EL (compared to Red Hat version 2.6.9-42.0.3.EL)
  • Firefox version: 1.5.0.3 (compared to Red Hat version 1.5.0.7)
  • Thunderbird is completely missing from the installation options

That shows that first: Oracle has already broken from binary compatibility with RHEL because the kernel version is completely off (and who the hell got decimal happy?). Second, it shows that Oracle is already behind in putting out bugfixes when you look at the Firefox version. Lastly, Thunderbird being missing from the custom installer really proves that Oracle is not putting together a true RHEL rebuild.

Perhaps Oracle is listening, and will get it right, perhaps not. But, as long as they abide by the letter and spirit of the GPL and the community, they are welcome to keep trying.

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