One of the bigger challenges Linux has faced in gaining acceptance as a platform for enterprise-class services is the lack of applications and support from big-name software vendors. Oracle Corp. recently released a complete Linux port of its Java-based Oracle Internet Application Server 8i (Oracle iAS),which represents the last piece of Oracle's foundation technology to be ported to Linux.
Bob Shimp, senior director of Internet platform marketing at Oracle, based in Redwood City, Calif., spoke to P.J. Connolly, senior analyst at InfoWorld, about the release of Oracle iAS and its place in the company's strategy.
InfoWorld: How do you see Linux's role in the enterprise, and how does this release support that role?
Shimp: Oracle8i was introduced on the Linux platform in July of 1999, so it's been a little bit over a year for us now. We've garnered some experience now in the marketplace [regarding] where and how customers are using it. In the early days, Linux was primarily a developers-oriented product. But in the last year, we've definitely seen an uptake by the dot-com community and other Internet types of companies. But [what] we're also seeing is that Linux is definitely moving out beyond the classic dot-com and beginning to enter into the enterprise.
InfoWorld: Would you categorize the past 12 months as building the Linux foundation?
Shimp: Yes, we've established the credibility of the Linux-based product by demonstrating the value to dot-com companies. Once we get [this proof] to enterprise customers and can point to customer examples, [the companies will] gain a lot of confidence in it. And we are getting the product in the hands of more and more IT developers.
InfoWorld: Are there any fundamental issues with Linux that need to be addressed?
Shimp: In general, we're seeing the product generally done. It's rapidly maturing and growing in acceptance, and people seem to be reasonably satisfied with the overall performance. Obviously, the product can always be a bit faster, and clustering is an area where we need to test more to continue development. There needs to be a little bit more support for management tools from different vendors. We want to see more of the enterprise applications.
InfoWorld: What additional benefits do 8i and the release of Internet Application Server offer for businesses?
Shimp: There are a lot of companies that prefer Linux because its open-source nature enables them to get a better handle on any particular bugs or issues they need to deal with that are unique to their business. They can go in and look at the source code and analyze what's going on. Secondly, Linux tends to offer a bit better performance and stability than some of the other operating systems. With Oracle 8i on that platform, they're essentially getting a tier-one port of the most popular database in the world. That's extremely valuable to customers, because now they've got a major brand-name vendor providing a port for one of the key components of their IT strategy.
InfoWorld: What prompted Oracle's investments in the Linux platform?
Shimp: The initial foray into the market over a year ago could be termed experimental; we wanted to see how much customer demand there would be. The interest level of our developer community has been just amazing. We had over 285,000 downloads in just the last month, [which is] more downloads for Linux than any other platform. When you see those kinds of numbers, that starts to attract attention.
At Oracle, traditionally our business strategy has been to identify new markets early on and try to be the first mover into the market with a full, committed product set. Linux is clearly in that category.