In October of 2006, Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison announced a bold new venture, with his company's own Linux distribution.
Nearly seven years later, Oracle Linux continues to power ahead.
"There are nearly 11,000 customers running Oracle Linux on non-Oracle hardware," Wim Coekaerts, senior vice president of Linux and Virtualization Engineering, Oracle, told ServerWatch.
In addition to those customers, Oracle's Engineered Systems, including Exadata Database Machine, Exalogic Elastic Cloud, Oracle Big Data Appliance, Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine, and Oracle Database Appliance, all run Oracle Linux.
During Oracle's most recent fiscal quarter, Ellison reported that the Exa-class systems had their best quarter ever in terms of sales. Over 1,200 engineered systems were sold in the fourth quarter alone, in a year in which Oracle sold over 3,000 engineered systems in total.
Coekaerts added that Oracle customers purchasing standard Oracle x86 servers have support for Oracle Linux included. Additionally, Oracle deploys many customers on Oracle Linux in Oracle Cloud and Oracle Managed Cloud Services.
Growth for the Oracle Linux business comes from a number of different areas. One of them is existing customers that increase the number of servers under Oracle Linux support at time of renewal.
Oracle is also growing its Linux base by converting Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) users. Oracle Linux is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and offers the promise of compatibility.
"Net new customers also come from different operating systems, but the majority are ex-Red Hat," Coekaerts said.
Oracle offers both the stock Red Hat Linux kernel that is included in Red Hat Enterprise Linux as well as its own Unbreakable Linux kernel, which is based on the newer Linux 3.x kernel.
Coekaerts noted that Oracle offers choice to customers and equal support, whether they stick with the total compatibility of the stock kernel or choose the Unbreakable Linux Kernel (UEK).
Many of Oracle's Engineered Systems run with the UEK. With UEK available on non-engineered systems as well, Oracle Linux users have the opportunity to run the same thing that Oracle runs on its most critical, highest-performance systems.
In addition to UEK, Oracle also offers its Linux customers the Ksplice updating technology. Oracle acquired Ksplice in 2011. At the time, Ksplice was just a technology used to patch kernel vulnerabilities with no system downtime.
"What we do that is new at Oracle is that we have integrated Ksplice knowledge into our support and sustaining teams," Coekaerts said. "In cases where customers run very important systems that cannot tolerate downtime but we need to find out what causes a problem, we can provide an online, zero downtime Ksplice diagnostics patch, apply it, gather data, and also undo this patch without downtime."
In cases where Oracle finds the cause of the vulnerability and there is a fix for it, they can then provide an actual fix for this customer’s system and apply it online.
"This is unique in the industry and since the majority of our customers are running critical systems, this is a very important differentiator and certainly helps with customer adoption," Coekaerts said. "We have used this technology also to provide hot fixes for some of our engineered systems."
Oracle Linux 5,6 and 7
When Oracle Linux first got started it was based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5. Since then Red Hat has updated to version 6 and is currently in the process of building out version 7.
Coekaerts noted that there there is a movement to Oracle Linux 6 for new deployments.
"What we typically see happen is that when customers do a hardware refresh, they take up a new version of the operating system," Coekaerts said. "So the majority of new deployments at this time are doing Oracle Linux 6. The majority of servers, however, are on Oracle Linux 5 for now."
Moving forward with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, Coekaerts expects that Oracle will continue the model it has used in the past.
"For a major release, we typically run extensive tests and as such we can lag a number of weeks in terms of release timing," Coekaerts said. "The extra time is focused on testing the product, not so much the ability to produce the code."