Oracle: Leading with Linux, Then and Now
Adopting Linux as a platform has helped change Oracle over the past 15 years from a fragmented, decentralized behemoth to a sleek, consolidated service provider, said Senior VP and CIO Mark Sunday in Oracle’s LinuxCon keynote presentation Friday morning.
In exchange, Oracle also played a large role in shaping Linux, especially in the server space, said Wim Coekaerts, Oracle’s Senior Vice President of Linux and Virtualization Engineering, during the presentation.
Linux is the standard operating system for all of Oracle’s internal business systems and product development as well as the basis for the business services the company offers its customers, he said.
“Everything we do… is done leveraging Linux,” Sunday said.
On the product development side Oracle now has 40,000 environments all running on heavily virtualized Linux servers. This “Oracle farm” was the company’s first cloud deployment, allowing on-demand provisioning of resources that are scalable and widely available, Sunday said. The company offers those same resources to customers with managed hosting on Oracle products and a wide variety of software-as-a-service products.
Now the company is scaling up again and integrating Linux into the systems it builds for customers. The roughly 100 acquisitions Oracle has made over the past eight years have been aimed at gathering all of the components to make a complete integration possible, Sunday said. For example, companies no longer need to buy servers and storage networking then layer in a file system and a database. Oracle packages it into a single IT product.
A Stable Enterprise OS Evolves
Oracle contributions to the Linux kernel helped bring the operating system up to speed with other Unix-based systems in the early days. The company’s involvement eventually led to the “somewhat controversial” decision to become a Linux distribution vendor, providing support for the whole stack, said Coekaerts.
The next step in Oracle’s evolution with Linux was building an extensive testing system in 2008 and 2009, Coekaerts said.
“It’s not just about development when you produce a product,” he said. “Bug fixing and QA is the less cool part but a very critical part.”
In the past few years the development model for Linux has changed and the pace of releases has become very rapid. New features are available for customers as soon as they are added and users are increasingly defining the platform.
After kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman pushed legacy vendors to be more current, Oracle began providing a kernel to customers that is more mainline-based, within five to six months of the new releases, Coekaerts said.
“Linux has been very useful to us in getting new features into the hands of customers sooner,” Coekaerts said.
“If we’re closer to what Linus maintains we have new features sooner,” he said.
The challenge now lies in continuing to improve the operating system’s performance and reliability. The QA process will be critical to this, Coekaerts said, but not all developers have in-house access to a test suite like the larger distributions provide to their developers, he said.
“We need to have a test suite for the operating system that ships with the kernel source,” Coekaerts said. “It’s important to start building test suites for Linux features as the kernel develops.”