Is commercial Unix odd man out?

Oracle Corp.'s plans to run its entire business on Linux would mean displacing commercial Unix systems, including the Solaris operating system that is a crown jewel of its longtime partner Sun Microsystems Inc.

Two Oracle officials at the OracleWorld conference here on Wednesday, Jamshed Patel, senior manager in the Oracle Linux Program Office, and Andrew Mendelsohn, senior vice president of database and application server technologies, acknowledged the intentions of the company to run its entire business on Linux.

The intention of Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison is to move all the company's systems to Linux by the 2003-2004 timeframe, said Mendelsohn. Asked if this means displacing Solaris Sun systems already in place at Oracle, Mendelsohn replied, "Today, our production database runs on Sun and Hewlett-Packard (Co.), so you can say what you want."

Although Sun recently introduced its Intel-based LX50 server, which runs either Linux or Solaris, its bread-and-butter, established servers run Sparc RISC chips and Solaris. HP supports Linux on its Intel-based servers and Alpha servers and offers a porting kit to move Linux applications to its HP-UX Unix platform on PA-RISC chips.

Sun officials questioned Wednesday had no comment on whether Oracle was moving out Sun systems.

"What Oracle's procurement decisions are, we can't speak for that," said Alan DeClerck, senior director of the Oracle Global Alliance at Sun.

Sun itself has just made a huge investment in Oracle applications, DeClerck said.

Oracle recently has been partnering with Dell and Red Hat to push the boundaries of Linux and utilize it with Oracle's Real Application Clusters technology in a project called "Unbreakable Linux."

Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell, in an OracleWorld keynote presentation on Tuesday, hailed the alliance between Dell and Oracle, and called Linux the "new Unix." He also criticized Sun as selling systems that were too expensive.

Scott McNealy, Sun chairman, president and CEO, had been scheduled to give a keynote speech at OracleWorld Wednesday but he was replaced by John Gage, chief researcher and director of the science office at Sun. A Sun representative said McNealy had cancelled his appearance in August due to a scheduling conflict.

Oracle and Sun still share common interests and have traditionally lined up as the arch-rivals of software giant Microsoft. For example, Oracle recently proposed that the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) weigh a number of proposals for Web services choreography, including one from Sun, which has been competing with a similar proposal from Microsoft and IBM. The W3C vote to weigh multiple proposals was affirmative.

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