LinuxWorld 2008: "It's a Feature"

I just returned from Moscone Center, having popped into LinuxWorld to catch the joint Oracle keynote this AM from CIO Mark Sunday and Chief Corp Architect Edward Screven.

I've never seen Mark speak before, which is unusual in itself; Oracle tends to trot out more or less the same pool of spokespeople. This fact, combined with the content of his keynote, was refreshing - after all, Mark is himself a practitioner, not a marketer, and his talk was a reflection of that status.

After describing what anyone would consider Oracle's monstrous IT environment - which makes Oracle "the largest user of Linux for running an enterprise environment anywhere in the world" - Mark explained not only the next-generation-data-center principles guiding the construction of a new data center (Project Sequoia) in Utah (green computing being a top priority), but also the "Grid Operation Life Cycle" that his organization is striving to implement, piece by piece, enterpriswide. In this life cycle, which is made possible principally by the combination of clustering (Oracle RAC) and virtualization (Oracle VM), the entire configuration and provisioning process is automated as well as "self-organizing". (The latter word is mine, not his - the point being that the process self-organizes toward maximum resource utilization.)

As Mark explained, a principal example of this process at work is the scenario in which software certification on hardware is no longer relevant; the question "What new hardware do I need to run my new app?" becomes moot. Instead, all enterprise resources are fully virtualized and managed in a single pool, even live-migrated if need be, across the grid.

Edward Screven, more or less the leader of Oracle's virtualization initiative, followed Mark with an overview of the free-to-used, free-to-distribute Oracle VM (which by now should be somewhat familiar to this audience). Edward put an explanation point on Mark's presentation by declaring that one of Oracle's virtues, which has served it well across 50+ acquisitions, is its "willingness and ability to change" - and that this virtue is crystallized in Oracle's grid-driven global IT infrastructure.

Edward also announced the release of new Oracle VM Templates for Siebel (templates for Oracle Database and Oracle Enterprise Linux have been out there for a while now), which he amusingly described as "freeze-dried" software. But his quote of the day - delivered in characteristic, full-speed-ahead fashion - had to be "Virtualization is not a product; it's a feature". (Stockholders of a certain Palo Alto-based company may be increasingly inclined to agree, but that's just a personal observation.)

On the general subject of the Oracle Unbreakable Linux program, I find it amusing (is that the right word?) that people out there who continue to confuse/conflate - and perhaps this is partially our fault for not making it crystal-clear - the Red Hat-compatible binaries that Oracle makes available with the Linux support program known as Unbreakable Linux. (Heard on Twitter today: "Is anyone actually using Oracle Enterprise Linux? What a flop..." Dude, it's NOT about this distro vs. that distro; in fact, that's where Linux is going wrong!) Use of said binaries is not required for support and is thus not a measure of its success; RHEL is 100% covered (for apps certified against it) by the Oracle Unbreakable Linux program, whether Oracle products run in the stack in question or not. As Edward said, "Linux vendors should compete on support and pricing, not on bits." Amen.

Comments:

I heard this speech aslo. The oddest part of hearing multiple Oracle people talk about Linux and Virt companies is when they say "the software is too expensive". I did not see you mention those points in your blog. Also I am skeptical when these guys say their support is so great, and they offer it cheaper than RH or Novell, but people don;t seem to be buying it. What am I missing ? If RH or Novell support was so bad, and Oracle's was better and cheaper, they should have 50,000+ Linux customers by now... Something is fishy here.

Posted by bass_fisher on August 07, 2008 at 07:32 AM PDT #

bass_fisher, why is that "odd"? Pricing is relative. I think the point is that this software is too expensive "for what you get" (that is, for what is in essence something that should be a feature). What information is your statement "people don't seem to be buying it" based on? Oracle is claiming 2,000 customers (http://www.oracle.com/technologies/linux/customers.html), which is a fraction of RH's customer base to be sure, but they have a 12-year head start!

Posted by Justin Kestelyn on August 07, 2008 at 04:38 PM PDT #

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