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OpenWorld: 1,500 companies adopt Oracle Unbreakable Linux

A better Red Hat than Red Hat? It's a touchy subject

By Eric Lai
November 14, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle Corp. on Wednesday said that 1,500 companies have signed up for its Unbreakable Linux discount support program since it was announced one year ago.

The number of customers is impressively greater than the number Oracle announced six months ago: 26. And that was with "virtually no selling at all" of Unbreakable Linux, CEO Larry Ellison bragged during his keynote speech at Oracle's OpenWorld 2007 conference.

"We did all of this while just building up our Linux sales team," he said.

Unbreakable Linux includes enterprise support for applications running on either Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) or Oracle's close clone, all at half the price of Red Hat Inc.'s offering.

"It doesn't matter which Linux distro [Red Hat or Oracle] you're on; Oracle will support you," said Cole Crawford, IT strategist at Dell Inc., during a panel at OpenWorld on Tuesday.

Dell is running a 16-node megagrid with Oracle's new 11g database on RHEL for which it is getting Unbreakable Linux support, Crawford said. Dell is also running Red Hat and SUSE Linux.

Customers announced by Oracle in March included Yahoo, video game maker Activision, restaurant chain IHOP and others.

Besides Dell, new customers of Unbreakable Linux include clothing store chain Abercrombie & Fitch, newspaper chain Cox Enterprises, McKesson, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Stanford University and others.

Despite Oracle's fast growth, Red Hat remains the top dog in the enterprise Linux market, with tens of thousands of subscribers to its support business. During its first-quarter 2008 call with analysts, Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik said it added "multiple of thousands of customers" in that quarter alone.

For its most recent quarter, subscription revenue, including support contracts, was $109.2 million, up 29% year over year. All 25 of its largest support customers renewed their contracts at 122% of their prior contract's value, the company said.

Yet, Red Hat appears vulnerable. Multiple users at OpenWorld -- both on Oracle panels and not -- cited dissatisfaction with the quality of Red Hat's support.

"The price is half of Red Hat. And we feel we get twice the attention," said Brad Maue, CIO of Stuart Maue Co.. The St. Louis, Mo., legal auditing firm switched its Linux support wholly from Red Hat to Oracle a year ago.

Maue said Oracle is even willing to help with problems involving third-party software that Oracle has not technically certified to run on Unbreakable Linux.

"There were some bugs in Linux that, beyond Red Hat introducing RHEL 5, we weren't able to get the pressure to get them fixed," said Tim Heath, senior database engineer at Yahoo.

Yahoo has about 50,000 servers running RHEL 4 out of a total of 150,000 servers. Yahoo continues to get support from Red Hat even while subscribing to Oracle.

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