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Oracle's Lucrative Linux Business?

As rumors swirl about Oracle's desire to buy a Linux distribution, some might wonder just how much money the company makes from its Linux pursuits.

It's important to note that the company is already a Linux power, offering its namesake database on Linux since 1998 and owning a majority interest in a Linux distribution.

So how much money does Oracle make from Linux? Neither the company nor its Linux partners will say for sure, but it's clear that Oracle runs a serious Linux business, and has been doing so for some time.

Both of the major enterprise Linux distributions, Red Hat and Novell, have relationships with Oracle, as do large vendors IBM and HP, all of whom ostensibly profit from Oracle sales on Linux. But just how much?

"Unfortunately, I can't provide you the data you're looking for," Novell spokesman Bruce Lowry told internetnews.com. "As a public company, what we can say publicly on finances is limited to what we break out broadly in our earnings statements and annual reports.

"Financial data derived from particular partnerships is not something we break out publicly."

Oracle did not provide an exact number, either, but it was able to provide direction on how to gauge the size of its Linux business.

Monica Kumar, director of product marketing at Oracle, said that Oracle has a very successful business on Linux, including database, middleware and applications.

In 2004, the size of the Linux RDBMS market was $655 million, with Oracle holding an 81 percent share, Kumar said, citing Gartner Group data for Oracle Database on Linux.

That means that in 2004 alone Oracle may well have generated nearly $531 million in revenue from its database sales on Linux. The data for 2005 will be released next month.

Oracle's Middleware business on Linux is also quite significant.

In the first three months of 2006, nearly half of Oracle Application Server 10g Release 3 shipments were on Linux. Only approximately 30 percent of 10g Release 2 shipments were on Linux.

"Similarly, product downloads from the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) demonstrate the same trend," Kumar said.

Nearly 40 percent of Oracle Application Server 10g Release 3 downloads were on Linux in comparison to nearly 25 percent of Oracle Application Server 10g Release 2 on Linux.

And Oracle E-Business Suite 11i has over 30 percent of its shipments on Linux.

Oracle's apparent growth on Linux isn't necessarily faster or slower than its growth on Window or Unix.

"We are unable to share numbers comparing our business by operating systems," Kumar said. "However, as you can see from the numbers provided ... Oracle's strength and growth on Linux is significant."

Beyond just simply selling versions of its software for Linux, Oracle is also technically involved in the Linux community in a variety of ways.

Though Oracle is not officially a member of the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), (the self-proclaimed center of gravity for Linux and employer of Linux creator Linus Torvalds), Oracle plays a strong role at the OSDL.

Wim Coekaerts, director of Linux engineering at Oracle, sits on the OSDL's new Technical Advisory Board (TAB), which, according to the OSDL, is comprised of leading Linux and open source software developers who will advise OSDL on technical requirements and issues important to the greater development community.

"Though not currently an OSDL member, Oracle understands better than many the role community plays in the world of open source software," said Bill Weinberg, senior technology analyst, OSDL.

"Recent acquisitions aside, Oracle plays a crucial role on the OSDL Technical Advisory Board and provides the Linux community with unique insight into the minds of its enterprise customers."

Oracle has also had its technology adopted by the Linux kernel, most recently the Oracle OCFS2 clustered file system which is part of the 2.6.16 kernel.

According to Oracle's Linux FAQ, Oracle On Demand, Application Demo Systems and Technology Demo Systems all run on Linux. They also claim that they have "more than 9,000 developers using a Linux infrastructure to do product development."

Despite its myriad efforts on the Linux operating system, Oracle does not have its own Linux distribution per se. Though it does have a significant interest in Asianux, one of Asia's emerging Linux distributions.

Asianux includes Miracle Linux and Red Flag Linux, both of which Oracle has a significant equity interest in. According to Miracle Linux, Oracle Corporation Japan holds a 50.5 percent stake in the company.

"Oracle continues to be deeply committed to Linux through contributions to the community and providing our customers with Oracle products as well as Linux support," Kumar said. "We are very pleased with the uptake and adoption of Oracle products running on Linux."