October 26, 2006

Reports of Red Hat's death at Oracle's hand are premature

Author: Joe Barr

Commentary: Is it just me, or is Oracle biting off more than it can chew with its foray into the land of Linux support services? In one
corner, we have a finely-coiffed prince with a rapper's ego, Larry
, and his database empire. In the other, we have Red Hat:
almost synonymous with Linux, especially in the business world, and long
a pillar of the free/open source community.The story has been shape-shifting as it wends its way through the
press. At first it was widely speculated that Oracle was about to
introduce its own distribution. Now, after Ellison's
at Oracle OpenWorld,
it seems that Oracle will simply try to steal a slice of Red Hat's pie
by offering support services for the Red Hat distribution.

That's why the following question and answer reported in the story
above, when the reporter asked, "So what happens to Red Hat? Is killing
them the unintended side effect?" and Ellison's response, "We're
competing. We're offering a better product at a lower price," rings
every FUD-sensitive alarm I've acquired in 30 years of IT experience.

For one thing, Oracle can and apparently is undercutting Red Hat on
price, but they can't match Red Hat in performance. They lack the
knowledge, expertise, and sense of belonging in the Linux and Linux
kernel communities. Who would you turn to for help with your Red Hat
Linux problems, Alan Cox or Larry Ellison?

For another, Ellison's brave pose is contrived. He wants very much to
appear as Napoleon the conqueror, but in fact he is in the throes of his
own Waterloo. Ellison's moves are not the beginning of the end for Red
Hat and a cakewalk for Oracle, but rather an example of a last-century
icon whistling in the face of this new age of free/open source software.

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