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Open source community heckles Oracle Linux update

The Oracle Linux update is just Red Hat in Oracle clothing, observers say. But it is enterprise-ready.

The most recent Oracle Linux update, version 5.9, brought jeers from the open source community, who said it was just another follow-on release to a good Red Hat product.

Jordan Bedwell, a self-described "Linux ninja," said Oracle is anything but open.

"It's Oracle, so anything they make is always shrouded in secrecy, and that's a big disadvantage to Linux and customers/users," he wrote in a Twitter conversation.

Another open source community member posted on a Phoronix discussion board about the Oracle Linux update:

"Oracle Linux is just a spin off Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) with some minor fixes. Rather go with RHEL, because Red Hat contributes to Linux way more than those leechers Oracle do."

In an email interview, the same poster explained that his dissatisfaction with Oracle stems from the promise for good open source products that Oracle quashed when it purchased Sun Microsystems Inc..

"Sun was the world's coolest company; it was cooler than Google," wrote Fred, a Web developer who requested that his last name not be used. "It was really a geeky tech company. Then Oracle bought it and mismanaged everything."

And by everything, Fred meant OpenSolaris, OpenOffice, UltraSparc, Java and MySQL. All of these were open source products that Oracle acquired and their continued development has stalled under Oracle. In some cases, the developer communities have developed forks -- such as illumos, LibreOffice and MariaDB -- to get around the Oracle boondoggle.

"Sun was hip," Fred wrote. "Oracle is not."

The Oracle Linux update under the covers

This criticism is not unfamiliar to Oracle. Wim Coekaerts, the senior vice president of Linux and virtualization engineering for Oracle, spent time during his Oracle OpenWorld presentation in October 2012 defending the company's Linux development efforts. Coekaerts explained that the strategy of riding Red Hat's distribution coattails is a business decision that helps customers, not a technical need. By using the Red Hat distribution, said Coekaerts, customers who used RHEL can easily migrate their systems to Oracle Linux, and they do, he claimed.

Going through the release notes to Oracle Linux 5.9, the company highlighted the RPMs from Red Hat 5.9 that have been altered or removed, and the packages that have been added by Oracle. About 120 packages were altered, two dozen removed (many of which had to do with Red Hat logos and subscription management), and three dozen were added by Oracle (including many specific to Oracle logos and subscription management). The Oracle Linux update also includes the latest Linux kernels from Oracle Linux and Red Hat Linux, including a Red Hat Enterprise Linux kernel that is available only for x86 and x86-64, and which has bug fixes added by Oracle (kernel-2.6.18-348.

The Oracle Unbreakable Enterprise kernel 3.0.36 includes some new features, including Transcendent Memory (tmem), which is designed to improve physical memory usage in a virtualized environment by claiming underutilized memory in a system, and making it available where it is most needed. The Unbreakable Enterprise kernel also now supports AMD's "Abu Dhabi" processors, and offers a Network Block Device driver and Ksplice.

While open source community members may wish to send Oracle CEO Larry Ellison a copy of Jono Bacon's book, The Art of Community, they admit that the technical aspects of Oracle's Linux distribution are solid and enterprise-ready.

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