Itâ€™s been a busy two weeks for me having attended both the IBM Information on Demand and Oracle Open World conferences. Over the coming week Iâ€™ll provide some comments on both events. The topic that got many peopleâ€™s attention of course was Oracleâ€™s announcement of Oracle Unbreakable Linux and its likely impact on Red Hat.
The Oracle Linux announcement was the main theme of Larry Ellisonâ€™s keynote. I must admit I was disappointed with the keynote. Given the influence Oracle has on the market I expected more of a visionary speech from Ellison. Instead we got basic PowerPoint slides containing pricing data for Linux support that is normally the domain of the sales folks. It was a shame because Oracle unveiled some innovative products and technologies at the event. I guess I should also mention that the first twenty minutes of the keynote was taken up with the NASDAQ closing ceremony that was full of photo opportunities, but of little interest to the audience.
The keynote outlined the reasons why Oracle had decided to provide Red Hat Linux support in competition with Red Hat. The reasons given were valid. Large enterprises moving to Linux want to be reassured that they will get good and fast support to their problems, and want to be isolated from lawsuits by the sharks at SCO. Oracle feels that Red Hat is not providing adequate support. Some good references to discussions on this topic can be found in Pete Loshinâ€™s blog on the Oracle Linux announcement.
The obvious motivation of Oracle is to encourage customers to move to Linux, rather than Microsoft operating platforms. The weight of Oracle behind Linux gives credibility to the product and also to open source solutions. It remains to be seen what the long term impact of this announcement is on Red Hat. It demonstrates the problems faced by so-called commercial open source vendors who make their income on support, services and education. If they are successful they face the risk of being undercut by a software giant like Oracle.
Red Hat does have a number of other products in addition to Linux, such as the JBoss product set (which Red Hat competed with Oracle to acquire). Ellison was asked if Oracle would support these additional Red Hat applications, and he replied this might be a possibility in the future.
The other risk to commercial open source products and their customers is acquisition of the product by a vendor like Oracle. I wonder if Oracle has a hidden agenda of driving down the value of Red Hat in order to acquire it at a later date at a lower price. The issue here of course is the open source community. I believe open source can only succeed if the community fully supports the vendor. If Oracle acquires Red Hat how will the community react?
As a side note, it was interesting to note that during the keynote one speaker referred to Ellison as Uncle Larry. I must admit this is not the image I have of Ellison. After the keynote I did a quick scan on the Internet to see if there had been any immediate reaction to the Oracle Linux announcement. One of the news feeds compared Ellison to Ghengis Kahn, which of course offers up a very different image than Uncle Larry.
Posted October 30, 2006 4:32 PM
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