Making Linux Unbreakable, Keeping Linux Open
Making Linux Unbreakable, Keeping Linux Open

LWM: How long have you personally been involved with Linux?
Wim Coekaerts: I've been using Linux since 1993, and I became seriously involved in Linux at work when Larry Ellison asked me to build a Linux-based network computer in 1999, a year after Oracle became the first vendor to release a commercial database available for Linux. Today, my team of very talented Linux kernel developers are responsible for ensuring that Oracle works collaboratively with the Linux kernel community.

LWM: What's Oracle's current commitment to Linux?
Coekaerts: Oracle makes Linux Unbreakable, collaborating with Red Hat, UnitedLinux - which includes Conectiva S.A., the SCO Group, SuSE Linux AG, and Turbolinux - and others in the Linux community. Together, we support, test, tune, and improve the Linux kernel to ensure stability, reliability, security, and manageability for all Oracle products on Linux. We believe Linux is a great choice for enterprises and are committed to helping our customers take full advantage of Oracle software on Linux.

LWM: What exactly does a "Linux liaison" do?
Coekaerts: As Oracle's Linux liaison, it's my responsibility to ensure that we cooperate symbiotically with the Linux kernel community. We embrace and support the open Linux architecture by contributing significant open source code to the Linux community. This helps accelerate the power, performance, ease of use, and dependability of Linux. And we provide enterprise-level, seamless technical support for Red Hat Advanced Server and all operating systems powered by UnitedLinux.

LWM: How does Oracle help its customers take full advantage of Oracle software on Linux?
Coekaerts: We've made numerous announcements over the years and much progress, underscoring our investment and commitment to Linux. Through our technical contributions, front-line support, initiation of security evaluations on Linux, and strategic partnerships, Oracle makes Linux Unbreakable so customers can safely, securely, and reliably deploy Linux in mission-critical enterprise environments.

LWM: How about open systems, do they play a role, from an Oracle standpoint?
Coekaerts: Open systems play an important role in our strategy, and our work with Linux is a hallmark of this strategy. Over the years, Oracle and our customers have learned a lot about running Oracle on Linux in the enterprise. This knowledge and the opportunity to dramatically reduce IT infrastructure costs are the catalysts behind our decision to provide front-line technical support for the Linux operating system, both Red Hat Advanced Server and UnitedLinux, in addition to Oracle products.

LWM: Is there any way to actually quantify Oracle's commitment to Linux, for the benefit of LWM readers?
Coekaerts: More than one million Linux-related downloads have already been downloaded from our developer network, Oracle Technology Network (OTN), and that number continues to grow. More than 4,000 independent software vendors (ISVs) are using Oracle products on Linux, and 550 ISVs have certified to run their applications on Oracle9i Database on Linux.

LWM: What do you think the primary reasons are for the explosive popularity of Linux?
Coekaerts: I think that there are many forces behind it but, for me, three primary reasons stand out the most.

First, the cost savings. Linux is a less-expensive alternative to other operating systems. Yes, this is obvious, but worth stating. Since Linux is free, the cost of implementation drops significantly. Second, Linux runs on lower-cost, nonproprietary hardware solutions, so you can deploy on low-cost commodity hardware. Third, Linux is open source, so dependence on a single OS vendor is replaced with greater innovation, freely shared. As with any new, low-cost, nonproprietary solution, it gets cheaper over time.

LWM: And how do these advantages translate for Oracle customers?
Coekaerts: Our customers benefit from running Linux in many ways. Everyone knows Linux costs less and - thanks in part to Oracle - it's faster and more reliable than ever before. My team has experienced this firsthand. We run Linux internally at Oracle, which allows us to test and prototype our software on Linux well in advance of new releases, thus ensuring reliability. In addition, my team can develop innovative features for the operating system and immediately share those with the Linux kernel community.

LWM: So in other words, you eat in your own kitchen?
Coekaerts: That's right. By running parts of our own business on Linux, we make our own infrastructure more efficient and less expensive. There are several Linux-based pilots and operational systems: for example, Oracle Outsourcing runs a large part of their business on Linux. And we recently converted our application demo systems - consisting of several hundred servers - to Red Hat Advanced Server; these demo systems are used by our global sales organization to give demonstrations of our products to prospects, customers, and partners.

We've discovered that Linux on low-cost, commodity hardware is a proven technology for mission-critical apps such as Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle9i Database with Real Application Clusters. In fact, we run Oracle E-Business Suite on a Linux/Intel middle tier. This Global Single Instance (GSI) in our Austin Data Center provides mission-critical applications to more than 40,000 Oracle employees worldwide; the Oracle E-Business Suite GSI on Linux is five times cheaper and three times faster than conventional Unix/RISC.

Looking more closely at Linux inside Oracle worldwide, we run more than 700 mid-tier Linux servers, including most of Oracle University, the Oracle e-mail system, the Oracle Web site, Oracle's ERP/CRM application middle tiers, and the Oracle File System. In fact, our own development organization uses hundreds of Linux servers, and Oracle even runs its demonstration environment - where performance is critical - on Linux. By the end of Oracle's fiscal year (June 2003), we plan to have 100% of our mid-tier servers on Linux. Finally, more than 1,000 developers at Oracle use Linux as their development environment. This shows our commitment to Linux because running our own production systems on it means that we trust and are serious about Linux.

LWM: How about Oracle's Linux Kernel contributions?
Coekaerts: My group works very closely with Red Hat and UnitedLinux to test and optimize Linux. For example, we collaborated to create a core set of enhancements in the areas of performance, reliability, clustering, and manageability in order to enable Linux to support our customers' enterprise-class deployments. We believe that our work with Red Hat and UnitedLinux to enhance the Linux kernel will benefit all Linux distributions.

The nice thing about Linux from Oracle's point of view is that we can prototype OS feature enhancements together with Oracle database enhancements in-house. This allows us to quickly determine if some new idea is feasible to implement or not, and if so, we can create a possible reference implementation for other vendors to pick up, or even show other OS partners how it will benefit them as well.

Oracle is actively supporting the Linux open source community by contributing source code for products such as the Cluster File System, driving development of the Linux kernel, and working with the Linux community to provide higher levels of security assurance for the operating system. We recently announced with Red Hat an intent to submit Red Hat Linux Advanced Server for a Common Criteria (ISO 15408) evaluation at Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL) 2. This evaluation is expected to enable security-conscious customers in both the public and private sectors to procure an evaluated Linux operating system upon which they can run enterprise applications.

LWM: Is there much debugging and Quality Assurance (QA) happening at Oracle?
Coekaerts: A lot. We run heavy stress testing on Linux kernels, from production kernels to the new 2.5 development tree, and provide feedback to the community on peformance characteristics - and of course fix bugs where we find them. When we first started to work with the Linux vendors to get Linux enterprise-ready, we had a set of features that included asynchronous IO, big pages support, reducing lock contention in IO drivers, and so on. We helped with the development and debugging of these features and shared our expertise in userland libraries or testcases (e.g., Async IO userland library with test tools) when available.

For fun, we even made Firewire driver changes to allow for shared-disk devices and fixed bugs in bus reset handling on Firewire. This is useful to Oracle users because it offers an easy and inexpensive solution for creating a shared-disk setup. A simple thing like this allows people to install and use our database clustering technology, Oracle9i Real Application Clusters, in a test and demo environment. In addition, it helps them understand the features and power behind our database clustering technology without having to purchase expensive equipment first.

LWM: Does any one project come to mind as being of special significance?
Coekaerts: The most significant project we started last year was to build a Cluster File System for Linux. This makes management of a clustered database much simpler because the file system is easier to work with than raw disks. We're also looking at Infiniband implementations. And, in keeping with the open source approach, all of this will of course be open sourced.

LWM: How about tech support?
Coekaerts: One of the great things about our commitment to Linux is our direct, front-line technical support for the Linux operating system. We offer this support for Oracle customers running Red Hat Linux Advanced Server and UnitedLinux, which includes Conectiva Linux Enterprise Edition, SCO Linux Server 4.0, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8, and Turbolinux Enterprise Server 8.

For DBAs, an elegant bug-free implementation for clusters has been a hurdle, and that's now been removed. Perhaps the next-biggest hurdle until now has been technical support. We not only certify and support our applications on these Linux distributions, we also support the Linux operating system itself. This is incredibly significant because Oracle, working closely with Red Hat and UnitedLinux, is a single point of contact for customer support. As a result, Oracle customers on Red Hat Advanced Server or UnitedLinux get improved response and faster resolution of critical issues. As a single support organization, we ensure the highest level of support and availability to our joint customers.

Any customer running Oracle products on Red Hat or UnitedLinux should turn to us for support if they have an issue that prevents the smooth operation of their Oracle implementation. We'll diagnose the issue and work with the OS partner for those cases where the operating system is suspected of causing the issue. For those issues of a mission-critical nature, Oracle will provide a fix to the customer regardless of the source - whether it's an Oracle, Red Hat, or UnitedLinux issue. And for additional support issues, Oracle will collaborate with the Linux partner so that the customer issue is resolved jointly. All this is done seamlessly for the customer without them having to get involved. It's important to note, however, that Oracle customers looking to benefit from this front-line support must have a support agreement in place with the Linux distribution.

LWM: How exactly is Oracle making Linux "unbreakable"?
Coekaerts: For 25 years, the Oracle brand has been synonymous with enterprise excellence and our commitment is continuing to grow with "Unbreakable Linux," which offers a unique combination of innovative technologies - like a modern open source operating system and database clustering technology that dramatically reduces the cost of computing while achieving the highest levels of performance, reliability, and security. We are unique in that no other company in the world provides all your enterprise software and full technical support on Linux.

In fact, we also offer thousands of compatible Linux-based solutions from partners. In conjunction with Dell and HP we deliver easy access to high-performance servers that are ready to run Oracle9i Database technology out-of-the-box, allowing customers to deploy high-performance, enterprise-class solutions on the lowest-cost hardware and operating system infrastructure available today.

Furthering our commitment to Linux, Oracle recently launched the Unbreakable Linux Partner Initiative, which gives financial, technical, and marketing incentives to ISVs delivering applications on Oracle's Unbreakable Linux software infrastructure. ISVs that join the initiative through the Oracle Partner Network get technical and support resources from my team and Oracle's support organization to help them build their applications.

Only Oracle has its complete infrastructure and applications product lines available on Linux, and strategic partnerships with Red Hat and UnitedLinux. Together, Red Hat and UnitedLinux serve more than 95% of the Linux OS server market worldwide. Oracle customers everywhere can now take advantage of our front-line support for the Linux operating system.

LWM: Developers, network administrators, and database administrators all have high hopes for Linux, which continues to be the fastest-growing enterprise computing environment. What do you see as the most likely future for Linux?
Coekaerts: One of the most important growth areas for Linux today is scalability. In the future, Linux will scale beyond 8 CPUs and we will begin to see 16- to 30-way systems with up to 64GB of RAM, not to mention greater support for a larger number of disks. We'll need to prove that Linux provides scalability beyond 8 CPUs and runs well on large-scale Numa systems, 16- to 32-way systems with 64GB or more of RAM. And finally, Linux will need to support many thousands of disks and provide features for better network and IO failover.

LWM: So what's coming in the future from Oracle?
Coekaerts: In general, clustering and cluster management is an area where Linux still needs improvement, and this is one area where Oracle can contribute our expertise. You'll also see us concentrating on delivering functionality that Linux still lacks (that other OSs already have), as well as new technologies. And we will continue to work on improving the kernel functionality in an open and collaborative development environment.

In short, stay tuned for even greater Linux things from Oracle and from my group! We have cutting-edge technology, and there are many more technical improvements that we can contribute to the Linux OS that no one has yet solved. We look forward to continuing our close collaboration with partners such as Red Hat and UnitedLinux to bring these technical improvements to the masses.

About Wim Coekaerts
As well as being a member of the distinguished International Advisory Board of LinuxWorld Magazine, Wim Coekaerts is director of Linux Engineering, Oracle Corporation, where he manages a team of talented Linux developers. Wim, Oracle's Linux liaison, was hand-picked by Oracle chairman and CEO Larry Ellison to lead Oracle's Linux kernel team and is responsible for ensuring that Oracle works collaboratively with the Linux community.

About Jeremy Geelan
Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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