Penguinistas now have another reason not to adopt Ubuntu as their operating system of choice. Canonical and Oracle have each announced, in separate blog posts, that the two companies are working together to insure the compatibility of each company’s Linux offering on the other’s OpenStack cloud implementation.
Such a collaboration isn’t surprising. To be successful in the cloud, Canonical will need to support any Linux distro that potential enterprise customers throw at them, just as they’ll need to support Windows, and to a lesser degree, OS X. What is surprising is that Canonical thought it best to advertise the fact that they’re now holding hands with Oracle, if not in fact dating.
In a PR piece posted on Tuesday, Ubuntu stated, “…Canonical will support Ubuntu as a guest OS on Oracle Linux OpenStack, and Oracle will support Oracle Linux as a guest OS on Ubuntu OpenStack. Canonical will test Oracle Linux as a guest OS in its OpenStack Interoperability Lab (OIL) program. This gives customers the assurance the configuration is tested and supported by both organisations.”
Again, this isn’t surprising, but it would seem to be an ill advised move of desperation by Canonical. Indeed, if the two companies’ relationship has already moved beyond hand holding and the two are contemplating going steady, Canonical would be well served to determine whether Oracle is truly interested in forming an alliance with Ubuntu, or whether Ubuntu is merely a way for Oracle to get around Red Hat.
Oracle appears to have had little luck finding takers for its enterprise distro since first releasing it in 2006. The release came about as an apparent move to punish Red Hat for its acquisition of open-source middleware provider JBoss, which Oracle saw as a move into its territory by a company it had considered as something of a partner. In other words, Oracle Linux, essentially a slightly modified clone of RHEL, began life as one side of a tit for tat — as Oracle’s way of saying, “Two can play at that game, buster.”
According to Oracle’s blog post, the courting of Canonical is all about interoperability and meeting the demands of the marketplace: “…while Oracle provides solutions for OpenStack, Linux, and virtualization, Oracle also wants to help ensure that customers can receive the same world class support when running Oracle Linux on virtually any platform. Our goal is to continue to provide customers with the best-in-class products and solutions and a great customer experience.”
But it seems as if the company might still have issues with it’s old adversary, Red Hat. It’s probably no coincidence that this announcement came only a day after Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst announced a shift in focus by his company, away from traditional server/clients towards cloud computing.
“Right now, we’re in the midst of a major shift from client-server to cloud-mobile,” Whitehurst wrote. “It’s a once-every-twenty-years kind of change. As history has shown us, in the early days of those changes, winners emerge that set the standards for that era – think Wintel in the client-server arena. We’re staring at a huge opportunity – the chance to become the leader in enterprise cloud, much like we are the leader in enterprise open source.”
The trouble here for Oracle is that if Red Hat is successful, if it does eventually rule the cloud, Oracle might find itself left out in the cold. Yesterday, a spokesperson from Red Hat told FOSS Force that Oracle Linux is not supported on the company’s cloud. That’s not likely to change.
From its inception, Oracle Linux has been surrounded by controversy, especially in FOSS circles. When first released, Oracle actively pursued Red Hat customers by offering support for both RHEL and its own distro at prices far lower than Red Hat’s standard rates. Although these actions don’t violate the GPL, many saw them as unethical and as an affront to open source values. Although Oracle is no longer as obvious about stealing Red Hat customers as it once was, the rift between the two companies remains wide.
Canonical should tread very carefully going forward. Partnering with Oracle is nearly as dangerous as a partnership with Microsoft.