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CowboyNeal Reviews Oracle Linux 170

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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  • 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.
  • dtrace (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:36PM (#40793907)
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 bungo ( 50628 ) on Friday July 27, 2012 @04:24PM (#40795485)

    Yes, so Oracle are trying their best to get a complete lock in.

    Why does that matter to you?

    Are you an Oracle customer? Well, the OS is free and open source, so you can use if if you want, or fork it.

    You're not an Oracle customer? Then what really is the point of attacking? How different is Oracle from MS or Microsoft? You don't think they didn't try their best for 100% lock-in?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @04:42PM (#40795661)

    My info is out of date. As of April, when the documents for this project were signed, over my objections, that certification was approved for OLE only. I apologize for making a false statement on the point of current certification. The rest of my objections stand: that was a dirty and underhanded tactic to secure support contracts and further the process of lock-in that I'm already having to deal with on a daily basis, and there is not a meaningful enough difference between the products for there to have ever been any kind of lag.

    I suspect we'll be restarting the entire planning process soon, which only shifts my rage from one target to another. Yay.

  • by bobaferret ( 513897 ) on Friday July 27, 2012 @05:07PM (#40795937)

    There is no technical reason why you shouldn't use OLE over SL/CENT/RHEL. This is all about their sun acquisition. let me have time for my tea leaves to settle to the bottom of my glass here.... Here's what I see. Oracle buys aligning sun micro systems who got their hat handed to them by Linux, but not just by Linux, but by Redhat . Redhat is the largest kernel contributor by far. This implies that the pay the most kernel developers. Redhat is funded by enterprise customers by and large. Not small shops who only need CentOS, but by the Shops that are more than willing to use Orcale DBs. Lets just consider for a moment that Oracle managed to switch everyone using oracle from RHEL to OEL. What kind of impact would that have on RHEL? Enough to put a dent into it? Enough to put RHEL out of business? Or enough to keep them from really throwing their support at the kernel? I don't know. But in the long run I think Oracle see Linux as the enemy, and their going to try and take it down by going after Redhat. I think Oracle is a much bigger threat to Linux than MS ever was, because Oracle is going to target Linux in the enterprise space, not the desktop. Do I think it will actually work? No. But do I think this is their plan? yes. I think Redhat could stop this amazingly quickly, by simply offering RHEL for free w/o a support contract. But they stopped that for a reason I can't remember long ago. Hell Redhat could just write their own damn script to port Cent over to RHEL. Perhaps push a fresher kernel choice out more often as well. So to recap, don't use OLE, because they don't actually LIKE Liniux, and will do everything they can to hurt it.

Information is the inverse of entropy.