Oracle Prepping for Server OS Domination

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Oracle is planning to take over the world. Or, at the very least, the server OS world. That's the logical conclusion to reach after hearing the recent comments of Larry Ellison, Oracle's bombastic CEO. "Solaris is clearly the No. 1 Unix, and we're working very hard at making Oracle Enterprise Linux the number one Linux," InfoWorld reported he said at a company event last week.

Oracle claims the top spot for Unix with Solaris and reveals it has its eye on the Linux top spot for its homegrown Linux distro, Oracle Enterprise Linux. Red Hat and HP express a mix of consternation and amusement. But is that the right reaction?

Being the "No. 1 Unix" is a deliberately vague claim, and it's perhaps not surprising that HP, for one, took issue with it. Noises from HP's UNIX camp are that there's been a steady flow of defections from Solaris to HP-UX, HP's own-label UNIX server OS, for some time, and it shows no signs of stopping.

As HP wrote in its response last week:

HP is the No. 1 provider of enterprise servers in the world ... Larry Ellison bought a money-losing business that had steady market share declines for years, and which still ranks at the bottom of the market. Customers aren't fooled by outdated benchmarks, no matter what Oracle says. HP's market share results prove it. Sun customers are running to HP in droves because they recognize we deliver superior technology, performance and pricing,

Clearly the state of uncertainty over the future of Sun for the past year or two contributed to these defections, but it looks like Oracle believes it is now ready to fight back with the new, beefed-up Solaris 11 UNIX server OS it was touting last week and which is slated for release some time next year.

According to John Fowler, Oracle's vice president of systems, Solaris 11 will be "a complete reworking of the enterprise OS," with improvements in availability, security and virtualization. And that's not to mention the scalability and performance enhancements: Solaris 11 will support hundreds of processors and thousands of cores as well as the ability to run entire databases in memory.

Availability enhancements will include the ability to boot a Solaris server in a matter of seconds, and to update the server in many circumstances with the need for a reboot. The server OS will also have fault and application service management facilities that will enable failed applications and services to be quickly restarted.

When it comes to security, the upgraded Unix server OS will include secure boot, so applications and data are secure as they start. The OS will also enforce role-based root access and encrypt ZFS datasets to provide extra security to stored data.

As far as virtualization is concerned, Fowler said network virtualization would be included along with storage (and server) virtualization.

Given that Oracle acquired Sun less than a year ago, it would be hard to argue that Oracle has not pulled out all the stops to "completely rework" Solaris so quickly. Of course, Oracle does have plenty of engineers (and cash) at its disposal, and much of the work may have been done by Sun engineers before Oracle acquired it. That's assuming, of course, Oracle wasn't already working on Solaris source code on the sly before it got its mitts on Solaris.

Still, HP is not exactly quaking in its boots following the announcement of Solaris 11 -- or, if it is, it's not letting on. One can also suspect that Red Hat is not exactly looking around for clean trousers either, despite Oracle's avowed aim to make Oracle Enterprise Linux the No. 1 penguin.

But Oracle clearly means business, and it has an impressive track record. When a company like that aims to dominate the server OS space, it behooves the likes of HP and Red Hat to sit up and start thinking very seriously about what they are going to do about it.

Paul Rubens is a journalist based in Marlow on Thames, England. He has been programming, tinkering and generally sitting in front of computer screens since his first encounter with a DEC PDP-11 in 1979.

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This article was originally published on Dec 8, 2010
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