Linux in the Enterprise: The Journey, Milestones and What's Ahead (Liveblog)

Edward Screven – Chief Corporate Architect at Oracle.

* In the late 90’s they were looking for an OS to recommend to their clients. They immediately ruled out Windows for a variety of reasons, both technical and political/personal. It came down to BSD and Linux. They went with Linux. “While it looks like an obvious choice now, at the time it was not”.
* 1998 was the first commercial database port for Linux. 2001 was the first 64-bit port for Linux.
* “We will run our whole business on Linux” – Larry Ellison in 2002. They now do.
* They spend about $3B a year on R&D. Most of it is done on Linux.
* “In retrospect, we are VERY happy with our choice to use Linux”.
* Oracle has 42,000 Linux servers and 10’s of Petabytes on Linux.
* Side note: LQ uses OCFS2 and I have been quite happy with it.
* Big on Virtualization. Oracle VM is based on Xen. It’s main goal is manageability.
* They would like to help make Linux the “default data center operating system” with “NO questions asked”. They see this manifesting itself in a fungible “Linux Grid Infrastructure”.
* Oracle likes btrfs better than zfs.
* “We make more money with Linux than ANY pure ‘Linux’ company”.


New LQ Infrastructure – First snag hit

As I previously mentioned, I’ve been working on moving LQ to an entirely new and updated infrastructure. Everything was going smooth and the project was actually ahead of schedule. The LQ Wiki, LQ ISO and LQ Radio are already being served by the new machines. I decided to implement Munin for performance monitoring. Like many related tools, it uses rrdtool for graphing. After a bit of debugging, it turns out that OCFS2 doesn’t support mmap yet, so all RRD writes are failing. In this particular case I can get around the problem easy enough, but I know applications (BDB comes to mind, but I am sure there are plenty of others) use mmap, so I’m wondering what else is going to fail. A post from an Oracle engineer on ocfs2-users from June 2007 said mmap support was coming soon, but I can’t find an ETA anywhere and am running the latest version. Aside from this snag, I’ve been really happy with OCFS2.


Oracle mulls vote on open source at upcoming shareholders meeting II

As a follow up to this post, Jonas just informed me that 127,717,018 shares voted in favor of the proposal. From his email:

In the end, we received the support of 127,717,018 shares. That is 3.58% of the vote and approximately $2.8 billion in assets. As I’ve mentioned before, taking into account Larry Ellison’s ownership that percentage can be viewed a bit differently. That number goes up to 4.99% if you remove his approximately 1 billion shares from the calculation.

While 3.58% may not seem like a significant number, it is a very respectable vote for a first year issue that nobody ever heard of and with no advocacy budget. These are the kinds of votes climate change proposals received years ago and now they pull in up to 30%. That is not to say that FLOSS is the same kind of issue as global warming, but it gives you an idea of how support often starts off in the single digits. It is also significant that we broke the 3% threshold, because under SEC rules we are now entitled to bring the proposal forward to the 2008 AGM if we wish.

3.58% may not sound like a big number, but as Jonas points out, since Ellison and institutional investors voted against the proposal it is a significant number. One hundred million votes is more than I’d have anticipated (although being new to this kind of thing my expectations don’t mean much), but it’s great to see the issue getting this kind of support right out of the gate.

Matt is also blogging about this here.


Oracle mulls vote on open source at upcoming shareholders meeting

I’ve been chatting with Jonas Kron recently about an issue that Matt just pointed out:

On Friday, November 2, Oracle will convene its shareholder meeting. As part of that meeting, this year it’s supposed to consider an open-source friendly proposal which, for a variety of reasons, it is asking its shareholders to reject. (See page 55 of its proxy statement here.)

What is the proposal? That Oracle adopt a resolution that the company consider the social and environmental impact of using open source. The underlying intention, I believe, is to nudge Oracle to take on a more protective approach to open source. Oracle wants the resolution axed.

The language of the shareholder proposal is fairly vague, which may be one reason it’s not getting much love from Oracle. However, as Jonas Kron, the attorney representing Lawrence Fahn (Oracle shareholder), told me, SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) rules significantly restrict what they can ask for in the proposal, forcing them to file a proposal that focused on social and environmental impacts – a very safe area within the SEC rules.

So, the proposal actually calls for this resolution:

RESOLVED: the shareholders request that the Board issue, at reasonable expense, an Open Source Social Responsibility Report to shareholders by April 2008 that discusses the social and environmental impacts of Oracle’s existing and potential open source policies and practices. We request the report be a policy level discussion which excludes proprietary and confidential information (including, for example, information that may interfere with litigation, legal strategies, lobbying or regulatory issues).

To my unstudied eye, this seems to not go far enough. But Kron indicated that the proposal is not meant to be a be-all/end-all for Oracle on open source. Rather, it’s intended to serve as a placeholder and an opportunity for Fahn/Kron to get the issue of open source on the Oracle board’s agenda rather than as a complete reflection of Fahn’s and Kron’s goals or interests. However, Kron noted that even despite this limitation to shareholder proposals this structure still enables him to use this mechanism to solicit real changes in corporate behavior through dialogue.

What could be accomplished with the proposal? It’s a way for Oracle’s shareholders to demonstrate support for Oracle’s open-source efforts (noted in Oracle’s opposition statement on page 55), and to vote to encourage them to go further.

As pointed out to me by Jonas, it’s not that Oracle is doing anything predatory to Open Source now, it’s that his client thinks they can and should do more. Unlike Matt, I’m not a lawyer. Jonas took the time to explain a lot of the procedure to me, and as indicated the request is more of a place holder then a complete request. You should see page 55 of the proxy statement for complete details. I’m not an Oracle shareholder, but if you are this is your chance to be heard. If you have any questions, let me know and I’d be happy to pass them on to Jonas. From what I’m told, a small number of votes here can make a very real difference. Here’s why (from Jonas):

Given the fact that Larry Ellison owns just shy of 25% of Oracle shares and mutual funds and other institutional investors who invariably will vote with management as a matter of practice own around 40%; a vote in favor of just 5% would actually be very meaningful because it means that 15% of shareholders who as a practical matter would actually think about how to vote, voted for the proposal. Put another way, if a single shareholder owning 15% (or even 5%) of the company asked management to pay attention to an issue, they likely would. In fact, under securities laws, 5% ownership is considered significant enough to warrant specific disclosures of information. The point being that this shareholder resolution presents a leverage point that can be used to communicate to management in a powerful way that its investors think Oracle should continue to take positive steps towards open source.

Edit: Here’s a good link if you’d like to learn more about shareholder activism.


Unbreakable Linux: The untold story

Mike Olson, vice president of Embedded Technologies at Oracle, recently posted an interesting entry on his blog about Unbreakable Linux (via Matt). The article details why RHEL was chosen and how Oracle contributes to Linux. Keep in mind that Mike works for Oracle, but via the Sleepycat aquisition. He knows Open Source. Now, I never found it odd that Oracle chose RHEL. I’d have found it odd if they chose anything else in fact. In the Oracle Linux space, Red Hat dominates. I did wonder why the respun CentOS though. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. They’re directly competing with Red Hat with Red Hat’s own product. Sure the GPL allows that. I just don’t think it makes sense from a business perspective. Not when they could have partnered with Red Hat and gotten 95% the same thing. The 5% will make a real difference in the long run. As a major partner, they would have been providing real value to Red Hat. This in turn would encourage Red Hat to provide value to them. Early access to code, development road maps, etc. Enterprise customers would have gotten the proverbial one neck to choke (which the really do like) and Oracle would have been the single point of contact for Linux support on the RHEL product for their customers. The way they have it now, they will be in a perpetual state of playing catchup with new RHEL releases, with no help from Red Hat. In the end, what they wanted to do made a ton of sense… I just don’t think they went about it the best way. How it will play out long term remains to be seen.


Oracle Linux adopters labelled 'idiots'

Just ran across this odd story over at ZNNet AU. From the article:

One of the first converts to Oracle’s support for Linux has revealed the public backlash it has endured since their decision to drop Red Hat.

Melbourne company Opes Prime Stockbroking told ZDNet Australia that in the weeks following its announcement to adopt Oracle Linux, upset Linux enthusiasts phoned, e-mailed and wrote about the company online to complain at the decision.

“People called us out of the blue to tell us we were idiots,” said Opes executive director Anthony Blumberg.

He also fielded a call from an unhappy Red Hat Australia and New Zealand managing director Max McLaren.

I’m not familiar with Opes Prime Stockbroking and hadn’t seen any bashing going on, but I have trouble imaging why any Linux enthusiast would take the time to do something like that. If they did, it’s surely not indicative of the attitude of the larger Linux community. Looking at the history, the company seems like a prime target for the Oracle product anyway. First, they weren’t even a Red Hat customer. They had acquired the licenses through Dell, which means Dell provides the first level of support…not RHT. Second, the company has a very small number of servers, but is a heavy Oracle user (both database and application server). If this story is true, and isn’t the result of some misguided astroturfing, I hope it doesn’t end up reflecting poorly on the greater ecosystem. The level of professionalism I have seen recently in the Open Source realm is second to none. It’s a shame when a disingenuous few tarnish the hard earned reputation of most.


Open Source Business Models: A Wall Street Look at a Wild 2006 and the Prospects for Even More Fun in 2007

Stephen Walli points to a presentation from EclipseCon by Brent Williams entitled: “Open Source Business Models: A Wall Street Look at a Wild 2006 and the Prospects for Even More Fun in 2007”.  The presentation is fairly long at 48 slides, but contains some very good information.  You might not agree with all the specific details presented in the slide, but the end result comes together nicely.  His interface standard vs implementation standard explanation using a Lamborghini Murcielago vs. Hyundai Excel drives home the point nicely.  He also covers commoditization issues and the recent Oracle Linux foray, among others items, quite well.  Overall the presentation is definitely worth the read.  I wish I’d have been at EclipseCon to see it myself.