Oracle gives Linux on Intel a boost –

Oracle Corp. is expected to announce general availability Wednesday of the second release of its Oracle9i database, and to provide details about a partnership with Red Hat Inc. to promote the use of Oracle's database on Intel Corp.-based servers running Red Hat's Linux distribution.

At a press conference scheduled for Wednesday morning at Oracle's Redwood Shores, California, headquarters, representatives from Red Hat and Dell Computer Corp. will join Oracle in a series of announcements which a pair of analysts said Tuesday could give a major boost to Linux in the enterprise.

Oracle is expected to detail plans to optimize its database and clustering software for Red Hat's Linux Advanced Server operating system, according to a statement from Dell. Oracle software already supports a variety of Linux distributions including Red Hat. However, Oracle has worked closely with the Raleigh, North Carolina, company over the past few months to tune its software to run best on its version of Linux, analysts said.

Dell will join the fray with news that it has certified its PowerEdge servers to run Oracle9i database Release 2 and Red Hat Linux Advanced Server, the Round Rock, Texas, computer maker said. In the coming months, Dell will also offer certified configurations of its hardware for Oracle9i Real Application Clusters (RAC), the company said. Oracle's RAC allows users to run its database across multiple servers, which it says is beneficial for providing load balancing, fail-over support, and greater scalability.

A Dell-certified configuration for Oracle9i on Red Hat Advanced Server will cost US$11,900 per node, Dell said. This includes a PowerEdge 6400 server with a single processor, 1G-byte of RAM and four 36 G-byte hard drives, as well as the Red Hat Advanced server OS license.

Dell has also agreed to resell Oracle software licenses with its hardware products, the computer maker said. Until now, customers had to go to Oracle to receive a license key that would activate their database.

The renewed effort by Oracle to offer its database software on Intel-based servers running Linux could spell trouble for Sun Microsystems Inc., which builds powerful Unix servers that are widely used to run Oracle's software. Because Linux is a close cousin of Unix, customers who don't need the power of a Sun server could turn to Linux as a less expensive alternative, and one that has a familiar feel for system administrators, said Mark Shainman, senior research analyst with Meta Group Inc.

"There's a huge percentage of database customers that could be running on a four-way box," he said, referring to servers that have four processors, such as the one being announced Wednesday by Dell. "If (Linux) sucks those customers away from Sun, they're looking at only competing in the high-end, eight-way and above arena."

For Microsoft Corp. the announcement is also a concern, said Stacey Quandt, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc. The Redmond, Washington, software maker is going after many of the same Unix customers that Linux vendors are aiming at. However, switching from Unix to Windows is more complex than the switch from Unix to Linux, she said.

There is also the issue of how much performance users get for the price. According to Shainman, Oracle software running on Linux trails only slightly behind that same software running on Windows in terms of performance.

"The potential price-performance with Oracle on Red Hat will be much more preferable over (Microsoft)," Giga's Quandt said.

Joe Yong, product manager for Microsoft's SQL Server division, countered those claims. In terms of moving to Windows from Unix: "I don't see that as a huge pain," he said. "We actually see it as a fairly easy switch. Even if you move from one flavor of Unix to another, you still have to learn quirks and differences between different versions."

As for cost, Yong said the total cost of installing and maintaining Oracle9i on Intel servers running Linux exceeds the cost of running SQL Server on Windows software.

Elsewhere on the competitive front, IBM Corp. has stormed the Linux market. For instance, the company has been supporting clusters of Linux servers with its DB2 database software since December 2000, the Armonk, New York, company said in a statement.

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