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Oracle Linux? It's All Good.

Reporter's Notebook: Shares of Linux leader Red Hat   got hammered this week on market speculation that Oracle will announce some kind of new Linux stack initiative at its upcoming OracleWorld Conference.

In my opinion, it's all much ado about nothing.

The most likely development to expect is that Oracle will certify or support the use of Oracle on Ubuntu Linux.

The move really shouldn't surprise anyone and shouldn't be a cause of concern for Red Hat either.

Ubuntu, led by space tourist Mark Shuttleworth, is set to release its next major release update code-named "Edgy Eft" on October 26th. So the timing of an Oracle-related announcement makes sense.

Oracle's support of Ubuntu would actually be as a late comer to the Ubuntu bandwagon. Nearly a year ago, IBM certified its DB2 database on Ubuntu.

That was well before the current Ubuntu Dapper release, which was the first to offer long term support for the distro. Now that Ubuntu offers longer term support for its distros, Oracle support really should be a foregone conclusion.

Competition is generally a good thing and as such Oracle's support of Ubuntu is likely to be a good thing for Red Hat, which is a major partner of Oracle's.

By supporting even more distros, Red Hat is likely to stand out even more as the likely choice and candidate for enterprise deployments. Instead of a Red Hat versus Windows or UNIX decision, the choice becomes a Red Hat versus other Linux distros, which, generally speaking, don't have the same degree of enterprise pedigree and functionality in mission critical environments.

But then again, maybe Oracle will actually come out with its own Linux stack. What then?

First off, Oracle already has its own Linux distribution in the form of a majority interest in Japan's Miracle Linux and a significant interest in China's Miracle Linux. The two Asian Linux vendors are part of the wider Asianux distribution which Oracle supports.

Secondly, the stack which would be an end to end rollout of everything that is needed to run Oracle is not likely since it involves a lot more than just Linux.

Oracle also already has a Linux stack initiative that defines an-end-to-end configuration stack of hardware, storage, networking components, as well as Linux operating system and application software.

Third, whether Oracle does in fact come out with some kind of branded Linux distro or stack (in addition to its current efforts), it doesn't really matter.

Wim Coekaerts, Oracle's Director of Linux Engineering, played down rumors of Oracle's Linux plans during a recent chat with internetnews.com.

"What's clear is that we can support our customers today on Red Hat, Novell or Asianux equally as well as if it were our own," Coekaerts said. "We solve their problems."

Oracle is a huge player in the Linux market already. That much is not in doubt. Oracle runs a very lucrative business on Linux that is worth well over half a billion dollars.

I expect Oracle to continue growing its Linux business. That means more support for more distros. It might even mean an Oracle Linux appliance at some point where hardware, operating system software and application software all exist on one device.

So, will Oracle's continued push to grow its Linux business hurt Red Hat or its principal competitor Novell?

Not terribly so. By growing its Linux business, Oracle will be growing the Linux business for everyone in the Linux market.

The success of Linux in the enterprise has a direct correlation with Oracle's support for Linux.

At this year's LinuxWorld San Francisco, panelists at a session called Why Linux is Successful cited Oracle's support of Linux in 1998 as a key milestone in its growth history.

When you look at it from that point of view, whatever the Linux announcement actually is next week, Oracle is really just continuing on the same Linux path it began to carve nearly a decade ago.

It's all good.

Sean Michael Kerner is a Senior Editor for internetnews.com.