Oracle finally taking Linux plunge?

Analysts speculate that customers can expect a tighter Linux-based appliance by the end of the month

Rumors are swirling yet again that Oracle wants to get cozier with Linux and at least one financial analyst says customers can expect a tighter Linux-based appliance from the database and application vendor by the end of the month.

Industry experts say such a move would be good news for small and midsize customers, who would be the likely target of pre-configured Ubuntu Linux-based packages from Oracle. Ubuntu, a European-based Linux distribution firm has gained widespread popularity on the desktop and released a server version earlier this year and is rumored to be working with Oracle.

Neither Oracle nor Ubuntu could be reached for comment for this story.

In May, Ubuntu announced that its server version would support Sun's UltraSparc T1 systems. Support for Oracle applications would help push Ubuntu into more enterprise data centers, analysts say.

"We have heard that Ubuntu is currently working to certify its recently introduced server OS to all of Oracle's major products, including database and middleware," writes Katherine Egbert, an analyst at Jefferies & Company, in a research note on Red Hat she issued last Friday.

The move, Egbert believes, "is perhaps the fallout from an attempt by Red Hat and Oracle to work more closely together."

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has had his eye on the open source world for sometime. In February, Oracle announced plans to buy open source database vendor Sleepycat. Oracle also was rumored to have had open source application server vendor JBoss in its sights, but Red Hat snapped it up in April.

Shortly after Red Hat announced the JBoss deal, Ellison, who has been building out Oracle's software portfolio ranging from the Sleepycat acquisition to the purchase of PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards, was more specific about his open source strategy.

Oracle partners with Red Hat and Novell and supports both of their Linux distributions with its software, but in an interview with the Financial Times in April, Ellison said Oracle's biggest customers want a one-stop-shop where they can get an entire stack of software, from the operating system to applications. Linux would be a boon in that effort, he said.

"I'd like to have a complete stack," he told the Financial Times. "We're missing an operating system. You could argue that it makes a lot of sense for us to look at distributing and supporting Linux."

In her note, however, Egbert was careful to state that there was "no evidence that Oracle will introduce a stand-alone version of Ubuntu's Linux OS, keeping them out of direct competition with RHEL [Red Hat Enterprise Linux] and SLES [SuSE Linux Enterprise Server]."

Instead, Egbert suspects that Oracle will introduce an Ubuntu-anchored software stack. "We think Oracle could introduce either a dedicated hardware appliance with a pre-loaded software stack, or a soft appliance bundle," she wrote.

She expects the announcements to come sometime during the Oracle OpenWorld show next week.

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