Quick -- name a company that has invested heavily and continuously in open-source, is one of the top contributors to Linux kernel development and offers full enterprise support for Linux to thousands of customers.
Were you thinking of Oracle Corp.? Probably not, but that's something the company would like to change.
"When I read magazines and there's a list of companies that are involved with Linux -- and Oracle is not on that list -- that's when I get angry," says Wim Coekaerts, Oracle's director of Linux engineering.
To be fair, Coekaerts showed no signs of turning emerald green or smashing anything when I spoke to him at the InfoWorld offices last week. Rather, he was soft-spoken and articulate -- in contrast, perhaps, to the popular perception of Oracle as being something of a bully in the open-source world. He did come armed with some impressive statistics, however.
Oracle is involved with Linux, Coekaerts says, foremost because Oracle uses Linux. A lot of Linux. Right now, almost 10,000 Linux servers are in use internally at Oracle. Essentially, every production server at Oracle is a Linux server. In addition, about 9,000 developers at Oracle are using Linux to develop products.
A lot of that can be attributed to one simple factor: cost savings. "We use Linux for the same reason all the other companies are using Linux," Coekaerts says.
But there's more to it than that. The Oracle database is a large, complex application that places a lot of demands on the underlying operating system. When Oracle wants to experiment, changing how the operating system works to optimize database performance is easier to do with an open-source, community-driven operating system than a proprietary one. Hence the number of Linux kernel contributions from Oracle engineers; as a fast research and prototyping tool, Linux can't be beat.
The end result of all this in-house Linux experience is a whole lot of in-house expertise. In a way, then, it was only natural for Oracle to enter into the Linux support business. It's not widely recognized, but Oracle has provided enterprise Linux support through its Unbreakable Linux program for about four years. Now, with its new Oracle Validated Configurations initiative, it is poised to take that a step further.
An Oracle Validated Configuration is essentially what that sounds like. Oracle and its partners have selected specific combinations of hardware and software -- including server hardware, chip sets, Linux operating systems, drivers, and storage -- and subjected them to approximately 60 to 70 tests designed to tax each system to the limits of its performance. The "Validated" label means you're getting a complete system that has been fully configured, certified and optimized to run Oracle, down to specific kernel module parameters.
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