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Oracle/Linux interest high, spending flat

Gartner Research says Oracle customers have been slow to adopt Linux, but one former MySQL customer says the Oracle-Linux combination saved his assets.

Revenue from new licensing of Oracle products to Linux users in 2002 totals about $40 million, according to a Gartner Inc. analyst, who also said enthusiasm for the Oracle/Linux combination has not yet translated to major investments on behalf of clients.

"Adoption is not as high, but there is a lot of interest in running Linux and Oracle with RAC," said Betsy Burton, a research director at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner.

Oracle's Real Application Clusters (RAC)-on-Linux message has been loud and clear since last fall, when the database vendor company began showcasing happy RAC/Linux customers at its annual U.S. OracleWorld event.

However, the company will not disclose how many customers are currently running Linux or how much revenue its Linux-based software has generated since then. A company representative, though, did not dispute the Gartner estimate.

Burton said users have been slow to invest in an Oracle/Linux combination because the platform has taken time to mature. Linux was not designed as a database platform, she said. In addition, growth throughout the database market has been stalled.

"It was not until Oracle jumped on the Linux platform that we saw growth in its usage -- in the database area," Burton said.

"We've seen it move from just being on a lot of application servers and Internet-based applications to more of a database focus," she said.

Burton said she disagrees with predictions that the open-source Linux platform will explode into a multibillion-dollar market in the next five years. She said it's logical to expect that Linux will follow the same revenue path that the Windows platform did after its debut. That would make Linux about an $800 million market in the next decade.

Oracle, like competitor SAP AG, sees Linux partnerships as a way of owning more of the technology stack, Burton said.

"Oracle desires to be much more of a broad software stack provider, and I think that Linux is part of that strategy," she said.

Joshua Greenbaum, principal consultant at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, Calif., said that, while Oracle has openly stated its strategy of adopting Linux as a way of short-circuiting Microsoft, SAP has not been as public about its intentions. The German-based software company, which Oracle has targeted as a chief competitor, is a partner of Microsoft.

"In SAP's case, I would say there isn't an overt public strategy — none at all," Greenbaum said. "But there is no doubt that, by supporting Linux, in a back-door way, they are undermining Microsoft. And software vendors do gain more control of the technology stack by supporting Linux. With Linux, they don't have to face any major, dominant vendor, like Microsoft, in the technology stack".

Running Oracle's 9i on Linux has improved business processes at Vancouver, British Columbia-based SMS Active. In the end, the company's Oracle/Linux choice was about performance, though, not cost. Whatever savings was made on the operating system side was spent investing in an Oracle database rather than mySQL, said Andre Thompson, the company's vice president of operations.

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The company's mySQL database began to crash at about 500,000 users, and the company sought out a platform and application combination that would provide appropriate scalability, Thompson said.

"We are just beginning the implementation of our newest client, which will increase the database quite dramatically to well over a million, so obviously this was a concern to us," Thompson said.

In order to make mySQL more stable, Microsoft urged the company to change its underlying platform to Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003.

"We knew we didn't need all of the security bells and whistles that would have forced us in that direction," Thompson explained. "We've been very pleased with our Linux platform because it will run for months on end, without us having to restart the server."

The switch to Oracle began last October, with Oracle programmers spending three months looking at the design changes that had to be made to the system, he said. Programming started in the beginning of 2003, and the migration was completed earlier this month.

Wim Coekaerts, Oracle's director of Linux engineering, built a Linux-based network computer for Oracle in 1999, one year after Oracle became the first vendor to release a commercial database available for Linux. Over the next year, a team of Oracle developers led by Coekaerts will be working on getting Linux to run well on high-end hardware, including up to 64 GB machines.

"The main issue is the amount of memory available," Coekaerts said. "We can do up to 16 GB with no problem and 24 GB is fine, but beyond that things start deteriorating. Six months from now this will be solved."


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To provide your feedback on this article, contact Robert Westervelt.

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