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Oracle Linux Open Source

Don Burleson



2008 Update: 

Please see Bert Scalzo's great book "Oracle on VMware: Expert tips for database virtualization". 

You can buy direct from the publisher for 30%-off.

Oracle Corporation has announced that they are migrating all of their internal systems to Linux, and they appear to be encouraging other Oracle shops to move to Linux. Personally, I believe that this probably has more to do with Oracle Corporations heated market battle with Microsoft than it does with anything inherently inferior about MS-Windows.
Recently, Oracle announced a VMware tool that creates a "virtual machine", allowing Oracle Windows users to try-out Linux on their Oracle Windows servers:

These toolkits provide a VMware Linux virtual machine to evaluate Oracle on Linux (Red Hat Enterprise or SuSE) on existing Microsoft Windows systems."
  • Get up and running with a pre-installed and fully configured Oracle on Linux solution in less than an hour using VMware Workstation
  • Test an Oracle Database and Linux solution without procuring additional hardware by leveraging VMware Workstation running on your existing Microsoft Windows system
  • See how easy it is to standardize on Oracle on Linux
The relatively inexpensive cost of 64-bit Intel-based Oracle servers has increased competition between Linux and Windows. Both Linux and Windows claim superiority based on TPCC benchmarks.

The Rise of Linux

For many years, Linux languished in the backwater of operating systems. Initially developed by Linus Torvalds in 1991, Linux started as a simple, open-source operating system for small minicomputers.

Embraced as a reliable, stable, and "free" alternative to proprietary operating systems, Linux has evolved significantly over the past several years and is now being adopted for large-scale industrial-strength Oracle databases.

Both Oracle and IBM (the DB2 database) offer database management systems on Linux, and both companies have seen a dramatic rise in sales (Figure 1):

Figure 1 - The acceleration of Linux-based Databases

According to Yahoo News, the market for databases on the Linux open source operating system more than doubled to $299 million from $116 million a year earlier. Most of that growth was with Oracle, which had 69 percent of the market and growth of 361 percent.

When properly configured, the Linux kernel is indeed highly stable, but savvy IT managers know that this stability is not automatic. For any given release level of Linux, different versions of the kernel exist, each designed to accommodate specific hardware.

The problems with using a generic Linux kernel with different routers, hubs, disk I/O subsystems, and external devices has led to a whole new Linux support industry. Both RedHat and SuSE have evolved from small companies into giant OS corporations, primarily because of the huge challenge of providing custom Linux solutions for an almost infinite number of hardware configurations.

Unless you have a Linux internals guru on staff, Linux requires support from a company like RedHat who provide support, patches, and custom Linux distributions to match your computer configuration. In return for this support, many companies may pay as much as they would for a proprietary UNIX solution. Some complain that these costs are beginning to counteract any savings from Linux.

The promise of open source

One of the promises of Linux is that it is an open source, and possibly cheaper solution. However, many of the promises of open source are difficult to fulfill. Unless you have a software engineer on-staff who understands the complex hardware protocols the benefits of an open source operating systems can be elusive.

Another issue with Linux is the lack of single-source support. For example, there was an Oracle Linux client with a sporadic Linux problem and the solution required the extended services of an expensive Linux internals consultant. Worst of all, this company was unable to find any company vendor that would provide the immediate emergency support that this client needed for their mission-critical system.

On a positive note, once Linux is properly configured for its hardware environment, it provides unparalleled performance and scalability. Let's take a close look at the specific issues surrounding Oracle on a Linux server.

Oracle on Linux

As we have already noted, Oracle has always optimized its database software to take advantage of the special features of each operating system and Linux is no exception.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has recently has touted the Linux platform as a more secure alternative to Windows and predicted last year that the open-source operating system would trounce Microsoft in the data center market.

As we have already noted, Oracle Corporation has openly embraced Linux as their internal operating system and has announced that by the end of 2004 Linux will be the core platform for Oracle's internal systems. According to Oracle, this migration was driven out of a desire to standardize on an operating system and because they view Linux as a less expensive and faster option.

We also see major Oracle customer such as Amazon adopting Linux for their servers and a growing interest in the market for the promise of a fast and reliable operating environment.

Oracle has also expanded their Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) certification program to include a Oracle/Linux Accreditation in Oracle9i. Oracle9i DBA's who have already earned their OCP certification may take this special accreditation exam and receive recognition for their skills in managing the Oracle9i Database on the Linux platform.

The Gartner group has also noted the meteoric rise of Linux usage for Oracle databases:
  • Gartner states that Oracle's growth on Linux in 2003 was 361 percent
  • Oracle holds dominant Linux market share with 69 percent.
  • With our exponential growth in the enterprise software market on Linux, Oracle remains well-positioned to command an increasing share of revenues on this platform.
Oracle Database 10g and Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 is specially optimized for enterprise databases. Oracle's Linux kernel team adds:
  • Improved I/O throughput.
  • Improved memory utilization.
  • I/O and SMP scalability.
  • Improved reliability, manageability and clustering.
So, what's so special about Linux anyway? As an "open source" operating system, Linux has several features that we cannot find in any proprietary operating systems. Let's take a look at the specific internal features that are popular for the Oracle database.



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