Oracle Q&A: A Refresher on Unbreakable Linux Kernel



Oracle caused quite a stir in 2010 when it announced its Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Oracle Linux. With the New Year upon us, we checked in with the company’s Senior Director of Open Source Product Marketing Monica Kumar to get a refresher on the ABCs of this important introduction as well as the company’s latest take on Linux.

First, please remind us what exactly is the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel?

Kumar: Oracle Linux, our Linux software distribution, now offers customers a choice of two kernels – a Red Hat Compatible Kernel, which we have offered for a number of years, and a new, fast, modern and reliable Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel.

Here are some highlights of Oracle’s Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel:

* It is based on the stable 2.6.32 Linux kernel and also includes a large number of optimizations and fixes as a result of collaboration between Oracle’s Linux, Database, Middleware, and Hardware engineering and QA/testing teams.

* All enhancements made in the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel are open source and have been made available to the Linux community. Oracle Linux, including both the kernels, is free to download, use and distribute. You can download the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel at

* Source code is available, including a public git repository with full changelog and individual patches and checkins for convenience.

* Oracle developed the Oracle Linux Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel to provide extreme performance for Oracle Exadata Database Machine and Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud. The new kernel is recommended for any Oracle or non-Oracle application that runs on Linux on any x86 server.

* Oracle’s Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel brings the latest Linux innovations to market delivering extreme performance, advanced scalability and reliability for enterprise applications.

* Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel maintains Application Binary Interface (ABI) compatibility; userspace interface is unchanged and therefore existing applications run unchanged. Therefore, users can switch an application that is running on a system with Oracle Linux and the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel to a system running the Red Hat compatibility kernel.

* Both kernels are part of Oracle Linux and are supported through our Oracle Unbreakable Linux support offering. The new kernel does not incur additional support costs or fees. The support program covers all of Oracle Linux, which includes both kernels.

Who is seeing the biggest benefit from the Unbreakable Linux Kernel?

Kumar: Oracle recommends the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for use with not only Oracle software but for all enterprise applications running on Linux, so they can benefit from significant performance, scalability and security enhancements.

The Unbreakable Linux Kernel is touted as fast, modern and reliable. Can you elaborate on these benefits?


* Fast—Delivers more than 75 percent performance gain in OLTP performance tests over a Red Hat 5 Compatible Kernel; 200 percent speedup of InfiniBand messaging; 137 percent faster solid state disk access.    

* Modern—Optimized for large servers; improved power management and energy efficiency; fine grained CPU and memory resource control; derived from the stable 2.6.32 mainline Linux kernel.

* Reliable—Supports the Data Integrity Extensions and T10 Protection Information Model, improves application uptime.

What is it about Linux that makes it a compelling technology for Oracle to invest in?

Kumar: Oracle has a long-standing history of supporting open source computing to lower the cost of IT infrastructure for customers. Linux is one of the fastest growing operating systems for Oracle software deployments, and as such is very important to our customers. Oracle is deeply committed to delivering world-class enterprise Linux support and advancing Linux technology so that we service our customers better and at the same time accelerate the growth of Linux.
Oracle is a very active corporate contributor to Linux. How does that benefit your work with Linux?

Kumar: Over the years, a number of Oracle developers have made significant contributions to Linux in the areas of clustering, data integrity, file systems, virtualization, asynchronous I/O, testing and more. Oracle’s Linux development team is an integral part of the Linux community. Our team, working with the Linux community, understands how to make Linux even better in performance, scalability and reliability. Even the “optimized for Oracle” contributions can benefit all Linux distributions and any application that wants to take advantage of them. Plus, we offer one of the world’s largest Linux testing and real-world production environments. Oracle’s development teams and Global IT use Linux in the most mission critical environments. Oracle’s deep focus on continuing to enhance Linux benefits Oracle, its customers and everyone in the Linux community.

The Unbreakable Linux Kernel is based on the 2.6.32 mainline kernel. How will your new offering evolve as the mainline is updated and new kernels are released?

Kumar: While we don’t plan to pick up every new mainline kernel, we will continue to track the mainline kernel, likely on an annual basis, to maintain stability and remain current.

Based on moves like these from Oracle and other companies, we know that largest enterprise customers are demanding Linux. Can you tell us more about how your large enterprise customers are using Linux?

Kumar: Linux use is pervasive across all industries, geographies, and sizes of organizations and it is being used for a wide variety of enterprise applications. However, there are many enterprises that are using Linux for generic applications and are still not convinced that their mission-critical systems should be running on Linux. Oracle plans to continue to advance Linux through our work on Oracle Linux, addressing our customer’s most stringent performance and reliability requirements, and help ensure that Linux is clearly a strong choice for running business-critical enterprise applications and systems.

How do you see the Linux market evolving over the next five years?

Kumar: Linux is already a solid alternative to Microsoft Windows. It will continue to see stronger adoption across datacenters as more enhancements in performance, reliability, security, and data integrity make Linux even more valuable to all users.