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CowboyNeal Reviews Oracle Linux 170

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
CowboyNeal writes "Last week, Oracle announced that they were making Oracle Linux available free of charge, and also provided a script that makes switching to Oracle Linux nearly painless for existing CentOS users. What makes Oracle Linux unique, and why would anyone want to use it? Read on to find out, as I delve into what Oracle Linux has to offer."

What is Oracle Linux?

On its face, Oracle Linux feels like just another Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) derivative. It uses anaconda for an installer. It uses yum for handling packages. Configuration is handled just like RHEL, CentOS, or Scientific Linux. To be honest, the reasons why anyone would switch to Oracle Linux aren't immediately apparent after installing. It feels like nearly any other Linux with the Oracle name bolted on. Under the hood, however, are some rather compelling features.

The Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel

I have to start off with saying that I hate the name "Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel." I've seen enough crazy stuff in my time, to know that no software is truly unbreakable. It might be pretty good, but unbreakable is like calling the Titanic unsinkable. Given a poor enough captain, or in this case, an administrator, I don't have any doubts that the kernel could be broken in at least some fashion. However, I suppose that "Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel" sounds a lot better than the "Pretty-dang-tootin'-robust Enterprise Kernel," and with a target like enterprise customers, terms like "Pretty-dang-tootin'" just won't get stuffy execs to authorize using Oracle Linux.

With that off my chest, let's see what the Unbreakable Linux Kernel does have to offer. Oracle has added a number of their own enhancements into a Linux 2.6 kernel. These include networking optimizations, NUMA optimizations, and enhancements for OCFS2, asynchronous I/O, SSD disk access, OLTP, and more. They clearly work pretty well, as back in March, Oracle submitted a TPC-C benchmark for a Sun Fire server that was the fastest x64-based non-clustered system.

Ksplice: Update Your Kernel Without Rebooting

Ksplice was acquired by Oracle roughly a year ago, and as a result is married to Oracle Linux rather nicely. Ksplice is the holy grail for any administrator who is obsessed with uptime. It gives you the ability to update your kernel, with no downtime necessary. This is by far the best reason to use Oracle Linux, but it also comes at a steep price. While support for Ksplice is present in the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel, it does nothing without the Ksplice Uptrack service enabled.

How does one get Ksplice Uptrack? It's only included with an Oracle premier support contract. While Oracle is quick to note that it costs less than a similar-tier RHEL support contract, it's also still more than most people would want to pay for just reboot-less kernel updates. Sure, there's also actual support included in the contract, but the lack of an ala carte option for just Ksplice Uptrack doesn't make a premier support contract any easier to swallow.

I should note here, that regular package updates via yum, and regular kernel updates via yum, are still totally free. If you don't mind rebooting, Ksplice isn't a must-have. If Oracle wanted to attract more customers, an ala carte option for Ksplice Uptrack would be a step in the right direction. If they wanted to really build some good will with the Linux community, they'd make Ksplice Uptrack free for everyone. I know it may sound weird to mention Oracle and good will together, but I'd never thought I'd see Oracle and "free" mentioned together either. As it is, it feels like Uptrack is being used as the bait for a support contract, when the support contract should really be able to stand on its own.

DTrace: Debugging and Troubleshooting in Real Time

To be fair, the DTrace modules can be plugged into a lot of Linux kernels already out there, but Oracle Linux has done the leg work for their users. Maybe you're not doing the sort of development that requires DTrace, but it's still something handy to have in the toolbox when something breaks. It's also a handy way to profile already running processes at any moment, with little to no impact on performance when tracing a process. Oracle maintains a long list of DTrace resources on their OpenSolaris site.

Should I give this a look?

If you're already perfectly happy with your RHEL or CentOS Linux install, Oracle Linux is a hard sell, even at the price of free. After toying about with the system, I'd say it's at least worth a hard look. As it is, you get the benefits of CentOS or Scientific Linux, with Oracle's own stuff bolted on, and their enhancements, even minus Ksplice, make a compelling argument to use Oracle Linux. If you are setting up a machine to use Oracle's database software, Oracle Linux is the best choice, since it's been designed to support Oracle DB, and is the same Linux that Oracle uses in-house. While Oracle's premier support contract is cheaper than the RHEL alternative, the actual cost of switching from RHEL to Oracle in a given case may not be. While this release is a good first step for Oracle, more options, like free Ksplice Uptrack, or even a Ksplice Uptrack subscription, would make it an easier sell.

If you'd like to give Oracle Linux a try, without having to jump through a lot of hoops, the Oracle Linux Wiki has a list of download sites.

*

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CowboyNeal Reviews Oracle Linux

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  • by kdougherty (772195) on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:28PM (#40793781)
    Just don't navigate this kernel into any icebergs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just don't navigate this kernel into any icebergs.

      I'm waiting for the Linux Malware called "Iceburg" - or malware that targets Oracle Linux specifically.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:32PM (#40793845)

    Yeah, after Oracle tries to sue the planet for their most precious IP, I really want to use their products. No thanks. The fight with The Google showed their true colors. http://www.groklaw.net/articlebasic.php?story=2012053015590290

    As an product engineer for my company, I need to look out for sue-happy companies. This is one of them. Buh-bye.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Teresita (982888)
      Oracle tweaked a 2.6 kernel? Whoop de doo, Linux Mint 13 ships with 3.2, which is at least starting from a 2.6.39 baseline. For all we know, Oracle is tweaking a 2004 kernel from the SuSE 9.1 days. And we don't know, because it was closed source until this announcement.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        For all we know, Oracle is tweaking a 2004 kernel from the SuSE 9.1 days. And we don't know, because it was closed source until this announcement.

        How can Oracle keep a Linux kernel closed source while distributing it?

      • And we don't know, because it was closed source until this announcement.

        That's a huge assumption. Reality is everybody knows they track the RHEL5/6 releases and add their patches to those and all the kernel version information is a google away.

      • kernel 3.2 aka 2.6.42
      • That's an error in the article. It's a 3.x derived kernel but it reports as 2.6.x for compatibility reasons. Even "uname -a" shows it as 2.6.x. Just reviewed it for one of the mags.

        In a nutshell, the kernel enhancements offer some improved performance on massive hardware, such as the stuff that Oracle is selling. The appeal of the distro is a business one. Server admins like the idea of something that has been tested and certified by Oracle from the hardware to the kernel, all the way up to OracleDB. Other

      • by MrCreosote (34188)

        And Linux Mint is just what a Fortune 500 company wants running their mission-critical systems.

        https://oss.oracle.com/ol6/docs/RELEASE-NOTES-UEK2-en.html [oracle.com]

        which includes this little tid-bit

        "The Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel is available as binary RPM packages that can be installed from Oracle's public yum repository as well as the Unbreakable Linux Network. The kernel's source code is available via a public git source code repository from http://oss.oracle.com/git/?p=linux-uek-2.6.39.git [oracle.com]"

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Who needs to run a non-free version of Linux?

      People who buy expensive commercial software, that's who.

      If you are already running the megabuck database, a few more bucks for RHEL or SLES is really not a big deal.

      If you aren't already giving Oracle a big pile of money EVERY YEAR, then their version of Linux is pretty irrelevant.

  • What does that mean. Both vendors likely provide many packages with various options and configurations and discounts. How about a "for example".

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As with many salesperson-driven firms, the price varies A LOT from customer to customer.

      • With Oracle, that changed a lot in the late 90s, early 2000s. Larry learned his lesson when the company almost went under due to unprofitable contracts.

        Since then, Oracle's pricing has been pretty consistent.

        Keep in mind that Oracle needs to be very sensitive to potential claims of predatory pricing, as well as the fact that they need to give the US government "most-favored-pricing" terms... meaning that if they steeply discount for one customer, they'll need to offer the same pricing to the US governmen
    • You quoted it wrong.

      While Oracle is quick to note that it costs less than a similar-tier RHEL support contract

  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:35PM (#40793871)

    Can you spell L-O-C-K-I-N?

  • Oracle? No thanks. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by miltonw (892065) on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:35PM (#40793875)
    This is the Oracle that tried to kill Android? Then I'm not interested. Thanks.
    • by Daetrin (576516) on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:50PM (#40794109)
      This is the Oracle that writes poorly implemented and poorly documented installers for their weirdly designed (and poorly documented) database software? Still not interested.
      • This is the Oracle that writes poorly implemented and poorly documented installers for their weirdly designed (and poorly documented) database software? Still not interested.

        But. But. But... It's unBREAKable!

      • by knarfling (735361)

        Poorly implemented?? How can you say that? Is it because when you try to install and older version of their middleware on a newer OS it complains because of the name of the screensaver? Or because they hide their log files in so many different places that you have to play "Where's Waldo" to trouble shoot anything?

        But they have gotten better, haven't they? They used to complain when you installed their software that the account wasn't named "root." It didn't matter if the account had the permission that wer

    • I'm Interested! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm interested! Wait a second ... *shuffles around in his desk drawer and pulls up an empty bottle of KY Jelly* ... awww, never mind :(

      Suddenly, a wild Oracle appears [i.qkme.me]!
    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      When did Oracle try to kill Android Linux?

  • dtrace (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:36PM (#40793907)
  • My company tries to enforce the use of Oracle Linux in our datacenter so I mostly wind up with it by default. I generally let the build guys do that and then I run a script to convert it to CentOS when I actually need to use it in production. That way, it mirrors what most of our developers have on their desk. The only real benefit I see for OEL is the faster turnaround for RH updates. In real-world usage, they've been pretty much the same for our typical use cases (busy LAMP boxes). If I were to avoid

  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raydobbs (99133) on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:37PM (#40793917) Homepage Journal

    Oh yeah, I want to run right out there and do business with a company that seems to be in the business of suing people over every little thing - like saying their database server products suck... or that you found a way to make money with one of their products they didn't think of... or that you use one of their products in a way they didn't think of themselves and charge you outrageous fees for...

    If I had wanted that, I would have bought copious amounts of SCO products to keep Daryl McBride employed. Let me put it more simply to you, for those at Oracle who might care:

    I'd rather eat razor sharp ground glass than use your products.

    • by mungtor (306258)

      Oh yeah, I want to run right out there and do business with a company that seems to be in the business of suing people over every little thing

      If I had wanted that, I would have bought copious amounts of SCO products to keep Daryl McBride employed. Let me put it more simply to you, for those at .... who might care:

      I'd rather eat razor sharp ground glass than use your products.

      -- Posted with love from my iPad

  • by mormop (415983) on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:37PM (#40793921)

    The only question I really wanted to hear answered is "Do you guarantee that once I've converted all of my servers to your free product, it will still be available further down the line? Or, to put it another way, am I likely to end up having to pay for the binary rpms or do a full re-install of CentOS later because you've changed the licencing and started issuing source rpms only"?

  • Fuck Oracle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jon3k (691256) on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:39PM (#40793951)
    I will do anything possible to not use their products and stop anyone I know from using them. Fuck Oracle.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    These include networking optimizations, NUMA optimizations, and enhancements for OCFS2, asynchronous I/O, SSD disk access

    NUMA is non-uniform memory access. Basically some supercomputers have memory dedicated to a processor that's much faster than regular memory (I believe this is NOT the same thing as a cache, and is directly accessible).

    OCFS2 Oracle Clustered Filesystem. So a filesystem from Oracle.

    Asynchronous IO, SSD disk Access, networking optimizations: Kind of vague, so I don't know what the improv

    • by billcopc (196330)

      NUMA is for any multi-processor system. Even dual-Xeon boards can benefit from NUMA, because each processor has its own memory banks and controller, though the fast QPI links do help in that situation. It becomes progressively more important with larger systems where inter-CPU bandwidth becomes strained. Any improvement here is most welcome.

      It really sounds like they applied a few in-house patches to streamline performance. I would rather see these sent back upstream, but again, this is Oracle we're tal

    • by Amouth (879122)

      You don't need to have a super computer to be using NUMA, current generation servers with multiple CPUs with integrated memory controllers use NUMA.

    • You can get a 64 core machine with 128GB of memory plus a disk or two for $9000. That's no supercomputer, but it's something that NUMA is needed for.
  • Oracle sucks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alien Being (18488) on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:58PM (#40794229)

    They make everything more difficult than it should be. They've given me headaches every time I've had to deal with them over the last 20 years. Pre-sales support, installation, bug research/reporting/resolution are all a royal pain. If you're in the process of buying Oracle software and they try to push *their* Linux on you, push back. Ask them why they are unable/unwilling to support industry standard distributions.

    • Re:Oracle sucks (Score:5, Interesting)

      by scubamage (727538) on Friday July 27, 2012 @03:36PM (#40794857)
      I will agree with that. I loved being able to get Sun support on the line when we had issues with our T5220's, and even our old SunFires. They worked quick, knew their stuff, and were, in general, awesome to work with. The last time we had an outage though, the problem was simple enough - the box had lost power, and when it was plugged back in openboot was set to autoboot? = false. So, it just sat there. Our operations team contacted oracle for support since most of them aren't very familiar with Sun. They were even more confused when they hopped on using a term server and saw iLOM's "Linux Kernel" prompts going by. The oracle support representative had no idea what they were talking about. By the time they got me on the horn, they had already been working with Oracle for about 3 hours. I had it fixed in 5 minutes (4 of which were trying to hunt down someone who had an RSA Keyfob I could use to log in to the term server). Considering the support money we give oracle, that was completely unacceptable. Sadly, I'm not the only one whose had this experience here - everything seems to have gone down hill since Oracle bought Sun.
    • Re:Oracle sucks (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Friday July 27, 2012 @03:43PM (#40794953) Homepage
      Speaking of making things more difficult than they should be, the ISO images for installation are not readily available for download. There is a heinous registration [oracle.com] form but no promise of the ISOs even if you fill in the form (with either fake data or real). If Oracle is going to be serious about establishing a distro, it has got to be available at all the usual download sites along site CentOS, Debian and the other established distros.
      • by MrCreosote (34188)

        Speaking of making things more difficult than they should be, the ISO images for installation are not readily available for download. There is a heinous registration [oracle.com] form but no promise of the ISOs even if you fill in the form (with either fake data or real). If Oracle is going to be serious about establishing a distro, it has got to be available at all the usual download sites along site CentOS, Debian and the other established distros.

        Yeah, like you can download RHEL without having to buy a subscription, and without having to register or anything, and its a full version, not some crappy evaluation version. Oh, wait..... [redhat.com]

    • by bungo (50628)

      Ask them why they are unable/unwilling to support industry standard distributions.

      Oracle support Redhat, Asianux, SLES10, SLES11 for the latest version of their database.

      Also, if you're running the correct kernel version and other associated libraries, then they will also support you.

      Pick your distribution, just make sure you're running the required versions of the various packages, and you're fine.

      If, on the other hand, you want to pay for Linux support, then yes, Oracle want you to run thier Linux (or Redhat). You can't say this isn't reasonable. Do you expect Redhat to support SLES,

  • by bigredradio (631970) on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:59PM (#40794239) Homepage Journal

    For those who are still waiting for the latest Oracle DB to be certified with RHEL 6, this appears to be one more reason to switch. Giving away an OracleDB certified OS seems like a pretty good ploy on their part. Then choke out Red Hat.

    Not going to get any karma points for this move, but I see what they've done here.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      yeah, it makes a lot of sense. There's nothing wrong with another supported Linux distro in the datacentre, and all those companies that require supported stuff can have Linux running their favourite DB (Oracle DB is good to be fair) and not install it on Windows like has been happening a lot. If they say "Linux is the preferred (or best) option" then Microsoft-only customers will start to get over their obsession and look at this alternative, and hopefully be pleasantly surprised.

      As for paid-for ksplice up

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Oracle is now certified with RHEL 6. (http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/press/1563775).

      Not sure about all the Oracle haters, but our issues have less to do with lockin and open source and more to do with system integration. Our other enterprise tools aren't certified with OEL, we end up supporting another HW stack (ie where do you think the IBM/HP certification for x86 is at...), on and on.

    • by bungo (50628)

      As I mentioned in a previous post (which has probably been downmodded to hell, like most of my other posts), Oracle has already certified RHEL 6 with Oracle 11.2

      Here's the info from Oracle support website:

      Certification Information for Oracle Database on Linux x86-64 [ID 1304727.1]

      Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 - Database 11.2.0.3 and higher

      Red Hat kernel 2.6.32-71.el6.x86_64 or later
      Oracle Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel (UEK R1) 2.6.32-100.28.5.el6.x86_6

  • Solaris (Score:4, Insightful)

    by feezly (2695307) on Friday July 27, 2012 @03:11PM (#40794447)
    After what they did with Solaris I would not trust them keep yum updates available with a support contract.
  • Fuck em (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom (715771) <[ten.00mrebu] [ta] [todhsals]> on Friday July 27, 2012 @03:16PM (#40794523) Homepage Journal

    While support for Ksplice is present in the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel, it does nothing without the Ksplice Uptrack service enabled.

    Any software company that locks on-disk, local software to an ongoing support contract can go fuck themselves. Ksplice should be part of the kernel proper; Oracle are holding back progress, plain and simple.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      your comment: plus over nine thousand.

      Fuckers. Oracle: ruining everything they touch, in one way or another.

    • I have used ksplice, back when it was an experimental project before Oracle bought it.

      The core ksplice code is part of the kernel. The issue is that in order to actually create the updates, you need to build fixes against the running code (like building a kernel module), then you need to have a developer go over the fixes and make sure that the automated tools didn't miss anything (and if they did then fix things up). Also, there are some cases that the automated tools can't handle in which case the devel

      • by makomk (752139)

        Nothing is stopping you from creating your own fixes

        Aside from the fact that Oracle took down the (formerly open source) tools required to generate your own KSplice patches when they bought out KSplice... good luck finding them now!

  • by scubamage (727538) on Friday July 27, 2012 @03:17PM (#40794553)
    Hey all, RHEL admin here. Honestly the only part of this that would be really beneficial for my company would be ksplice. I just can't figure out why the upstream service is required. You need to phone home to upgrade your kernel? Can someone explain this to me?
    • The core ksplice code is part of the kernel. The issue is that in order to actually create the updates, you need to build fixes against the running code (like building a kernel module), then you need to have a developer go over the fixes and make sure that the automated tools didn't miss anything (and if they did then fix things up). Also, there are some cases that the automated tools can't handle in which case the developer has to write the fix from scratch.

      Nothing is stopping you from creating your own fi

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Quite honestly, I see rather few compelling reasons to run Oracle Enterprise Linux. Really, the only reason I can see for it is if you're going to be running Oracle applications (database, Fusion, etc.,) under the "one throat to choke" point of view. I've had some unpleasant discoveries with OEL, not the least of which is that some of the low level filesets are rather significantly out of date.

    Here, if it's an Oracle app, it'll probably get hosted on OEL. If it's not from Oracle, we'll probably host it o

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've been wanting to try linux but up until now it was too expensive.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Every independent review has given OEL similar or marginally lower ratings than vanilla RHEL. Rightly so, since the only difference is a handful of proprietary, bolt-on modifications that even heavy Oracle DB users will probably never use.

    Oracle produced this OS, which is virtually identical to RHEL in every meaningful way, certified their DB on this OS, then withheld that certification from the RHEL release from which OEL originates. It's a dirty and underhanded tactic to muscle into the OS market, and the

  • No Way (Score:5, Informative)

    by assertation (1255714) on Friday July 27, 2012 @03:38PM (#40794883)

    I'm a Java Developer. I've had the displeasure of being forced into contact with Oracle after they borged Java and several other technologies I use.

    Their documentation is almost deliberately terrible - perhaps to sell support and classes. They are very difficult to communicate with.

    They have very little regard for users and developers.

    Their help forums fun on bad technology that is very old that even someone putting up a personal web site would be ashamed to use.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday July 27, 2012 @05:03PM (#40795877) Journal

    Got nothing in particular against Oracle. We use their database products. But RHEL and Suse both being established, robust distributions that are more than good enough, there's really no compelling reason to switch. Combine that with an inherent (but not absolutely deal-killing) distrust of Oracle's business practices, and we'll just stay where we are, thanks.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday July 27, 2012 @05:45PM (#40796343) Homepage
    See Subject.
  • But will it run PostgreSQL?

    :-)

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