The State of Enterprise Linux - page 4
The enterprise Linux market has grown plump enough to attract interest from non-traditional parties. Sun, which has struggled with its proprietary hardware and Solaris software solutions since its peak during the dot-com bubble, recently released the latest version of Solaris under an open source license.
Sun's latest OS runs on hardware from competing vendors and, in a nod to the influence of Linux, is compatible with Linux software. Solaris' so-called "containers" enable Linux binaries to run without modification, a move Sun hopes can slow defections and attract newcomers drawn to particular Linux-based applications.
Oracle recently announced its intention to throw its hat into the Linux market, with a direct attack on Red Hat. Because RHEL is based on an open source foundation, several enthusiast projects, such as CentOS and White Box Enterprise Linux have emerged. They build on this free layer to build "clones" of the enterprise OS.
This is considered to be in the spirit of open source.
Seemingly inspired, Oracle is taking this enthusiast approach to the commercial level. The company's "Unbreakable Linux" is built on the free RHEL foundation, with Oracle-developed extensions. Wielding the RHEL platform against its parent, Oracle intends to support its Linux at a significantly reduced price to customers than Red Hat's own.
In its defense, Red Hat argues that Oracle's modifications will invalidate certifications for systems running Unbreakable Linux, and users should not expect compatibility between software certified for "genuine" RHEL and Oracle's spin-off.
Although most enterprise Linux customers continue to invest in Red Hat, the field is clearly widening. For the first time, Red Hat may have to compete against several threats. For customers in the enterprise Linux market, this can only be a good thing.