September 25th, 2014

Is Oracle Using Canonical to Counter Red Hat?

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.

Ubuntu Oracle kissing penguinsIn 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.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

14 comments to Is Oracle Using Canonical to Counter Red Hat?

  • Uncle Ed

    I took the “using Canonical” part of the title literally and gave it some thought. My impression is the Mark Shuttleworth is pretty smart and that just “being used” is not as likely as it might be in some other situations. That led me to the questions of what Canonical might be getting in return and whether that might be an issue for us.

    Then it occurred to me that I’m using Mint on my daily driver and I hope having Ubuntu upstream doesn’t become a problem.

    Have a great day. Make the world a better place for others–even the ones you don’t like. That can really *&^%$# them off.

  • lozz

    It was this sort of attitude that prompted my departure from K/Ubuntu some years ago.

    Like you said, some people ‘get’ FOSS, others never will. You have to include Canonical, and particularly Oracle, among the latter.

    Ellison just saw the sign saying “Free Software” and straight away started figuring how to start making some free money off of it.

  • Gonzalo

    Red Hat has managed to kill a lot of others’ work by pushing systemd down their throats. They also killed other initiatives with Wayland and many other things. Perhaps they were 50% right. is the other 50% that makes me cheer for Canonical on this one, passionately.

  • CanoniSoft and Oracle will be trying to co-opt each other to
    the extent that nothing will come of this but more crappy
    products. The sad part is that they will use the FOSS label.

  • I’m a Red Hat Fan. I use RHEL or clone on servers and Fedora on desktops.

    I support quite a number of students… and occasionally someone will want to run Ubuntu in a VM… on one of my EL hosts. For whatever reason, Ubuntu doesn’t run well with the combination of SPICE/QXL. I’ve seen it reported and the theory is that the combination of versions between Ubuntu and RHEL don’t work well together. You have to wonder if the conflict was done on purpose… although I seriously doubt it.

    Anyway, I think Red Hat should care about Ubuntu running well in VMs on RHEL and on their flavor of OpenStack (I haven’t tried OpenStack). Red Hat is generally sane and realizes that they have to work with competitors to serve customers needs. After all their RHEV for Desktops products is mostly used to run Microsoft Windows desktops, right?

    Anyway, I think Canonical and Red Hat should work more together… and have no idea what if any efforts have been made by either or both sides. It would be interesting to find out though.

    @Gonzalo – Regarding your systemd trolling… blow it out your _blank_.

  • Kevin

    @ Uncle Ed

    The Mint team is last I heard planning to do a release on Debian stable. Although I believe that is going to be based on the next stable release so it could be a while.

    I am looking forward to it… Debian testing has a newer version of Samba and I’m hoping it will clear up some SMB issues for me.

    @Ganzalo nobody can force free software down a developers thoat. Your systems maintainers made the choice to move to systemd probably because it makes their lives easier. I suspect do to the hardcore unix should be just like it was in the past crowd we will see some distros to support that.

    For the rest of us systemd looks usable and brings some features to the table and if it becomes an issue well we still have the source code for a bunch of other init systems…

  • […] molto semplice, stando a quanto scrive Christine Hall dalle pagine di FossForce.com: utilizzando Ubuntu. Alla luce infatti degli annunci mediante blog di […]

  • Kernel-bud

    OpenStack Icehouse contributions from Oracle=ZERO. OpenStack Juno contributions from Oracle=5commits from 2 developers. Enough said…

  • James

    I must be missing something in this article. It seems to me that the thesis of the article is that Oracle and Cononical are collaborating to make their products interoperable and that is in and of itself bad. For the past 20 year with my involvement with open source software I must have been under the mistaken impression that interoperability was one of the fundemental principals. All three companies, Cononical, Oracle and Red Hat have done things both beneficial and harmful to open source. All companies have competitive motives behind their moves. As a supporter of open sources should we support the good and call out the bad? It seem like this article draws the line based on products and not actions.

  • @James

    “It seem like this article draws the line based on products and not actions.”

    I can’t speak for other free and open source software supporters, but my problem with Oracle Linux precisely stems from Oracle’s actions, which I’ve attempted to explain in this article.

    As far as Canonical is concerned, I don’t particularly have a problem with them supporting Oracle Linux in their cloud stack, but find it curious that they’d want to brag on the fact (curious given the fact that Ubuntu’s installed base is almost certainly primarily made of users who are anti-Oracle). My guess is that this will further tarnish the Ubuntu brand – which is already more than tarnished enough in FOSS circles.

    As far as Red Hat is concerned, although the company sometimes makes decisions that are counter to my hopes, overall I would say that FOSS has no better friend in the corporate world than the guys and gals in Raleigh.

    Remember that those of us who support FOSS don’t always see eye-to-eye with the greater open source software (OSS) viewpoint.

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