Ever since Oracle introduced its Unbreakable Linux support program in late 2006 there have been doubts about whether the company could continue to maintain compatibility with Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Doubts have increased recently following Red Hat’s decision to cut support for Xen in favour of the KVM virtualization technologies it acquired along with Qumranet, while Oracle remains committed to Xen.
While Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison made no mention of this issue he effectively delivered Oracle’s answer to it on Sunday night as he announced the launch of Oracle’s Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux (formerly Oracle Enterprise Linux).
The Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel has been developed by Oracle in relation to its Exadata and Exalogic integrated systems and is being positioned by Oracle as the recommended choice for all Oracle software.
Ellison maintained that Oracle will continue to support Red Hat compatibility, and Oracle Linux will continue to include Oracle’s “Red Hat Compatible Kernel” should customers require compatibility.
The Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel is optimised for flash cache reads, Infiniband support, solid state disks and OLTP transactions, according to Ellison, who added that a new kernel was required not just to add Oracle’s additional functionality, but also because, he claimed, Red Hat is “slow to pick up community enhancements.”
Ellison also noted that Oracle’s products have not been tested or certified on Red Hat Enterprise Linux for some time, but on the Red Hat-compatible kernel.
Ellison also noted that Oracle now has more than 5,000 customers for Oracle Linux. To put that in perspective, that is approximately 1.4% of Oracle’s 370,000 total customers. It is also less than half the number of new customers Red Hat adds every quarter.
CAOS theory: The launch of Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel appears to be the inevitable result of development work Oracle has been doing to optimise Linux on its Exadata and Exalogic machines, as well as Red Hat and Oracle’s divergent virtualization strategies. While Oracle maintains that it will continue to support Red Hat compatibility it is clear that Oracle Linux with the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel is the company’s Linux variant of choice, especially for its integrated systems and that overtime the need to maintain compatibility with Red Hat Enterprise Linux will diminish. The big barrier to cutting off ties with Red Hat remains ISV certification.