Oracle Makes Linux Move

In a move clearly aimed at blunting IBM's Linux initiatives, Oracle on Tuesday delivered its first enterprise-level application server for Linux, along with announcing several joint marketing agreements with top-tier Linux distributors involving the new product.

The Java-based Oracle Internet Application Server 8i is the last piece of the company's enterprise Linux strategy to be put in place, according to officials at Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle. The product is intended to complement the company's Oracle 8i Data Base Enterprise Edition shipped last year and the Oracle E-Business Suite 11i shipped earlier this summer.

Oracle officials hope the now-complete series of applications will give them a more complete arsenal with which to fight IBM, which also has made an unwavering commitment to weaving Linux compatibility across all four of its major computing platforms: RS/6000 Unix servers, AS/400 minicomputers and NetFinity PC servers, and S/390 mainframes.

"We are really bringing out the big guns now to go after IBM directly in the application server space on Linux," said Bob Shimp, senior director of Internet platform marketing at Oracle.

Analyst Mike Gilpin, vice president and research leader at Giga Information Group, in Cambridge, Mass., refuted Oracle's claim that it was delivering the first application server available for Linux. In fact, there are a variety of open-source application servers already available, he noted.

"Given customers' proclivity to stick with open source, the open-source application servers, such as Enhydra, are the ones customers will most likely continue to use," Gilpin said. "Oracle's interest in the Linux market is more of a strategic move than one to generate revenue."In other words, Oracle and its competitors are using Linux as a piece of defensive armor. Oracle, for instance, does not want to lose bids to IBM or other competitors solely on the basis that it does not have Linux in its product line.

In a related announcement, Oracle on Wednesday will announce formally that it is expanding its joint marketing programs with several Linux vendors including Caldera, SuSE, and VA Linux Systems in order to include the new application server. Previously those agreements only covered marketing support for Oracle's 8i product. As part of the agreements Oracle and its partners will go to market with Web advertising and a number of developer-focused activities.

"We have built up a number of marketing relationships with a variety of the Linux vendors such as Caldera, SuSE, and VA Linux. We plan to go to market to promote these products where we think we can attract a lot of new customers," Shimp said.

Oracle officials say they have been pleased with the momentum in the Linux market over the past year, particularly since last spring when officials declared that the company was making the open-source platform its "Tier 1 platform."In July of this year users had downloaded 280,000 copies of its most recent release of Oracle 8i for Linux, about four times as many copies as it has it sold of Oracle 8 for Windows 2000. Company officials also are emboldened by the real-world performance of the Linux version of the database in large corporate accounts, proving it can withstand the strain placed on it by industrial strength situations, they say.

"We are getting more and more customers and ISVs starting to use it for high-level enterprise applications. One customer conducted 70 million transactions in July alone," Shimp said.

The Oracle Internet Application Server 8I Standard Edition and Internet Application Server 8I Enterprise Edition will be available this month and priced at $5 per universal power unit and $30 per universal power unit respectively.

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