Linux Kernels, Blog-o-Frenzy And Why You Should Care

Fall is in the air in New England and I am still sifting through the thousands of product announcements from Oracle OpenWorld 2010 (held in September).  One of the questions I keep being asked by soluti

Oracle Guest Blogger

November 11, 2010

5 Min Read
Linux Kernels, Blog-o-Frenzy And Why You Should Care

Oracle Linux

Fall is in the air in New England and I am still sifting through the thousands of product announcements from Oracle OpenWorld 2010 (held in September).  One of the questions I keep being asked by solution providers is “What does this new Oracle Linux Kernel mean to me?” Knowing how astute the VAR Guy’s readers are, I jumped at the chance to share my thoughts on this exciting announcement.

A colleague of mine wrote a great post on the press coverage surrounding how the introduction of Oracle’s Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Linux that he termed a “Blog-o-Frenzy.”  It’s great to see the community so passionate about open source technology! The primary discussion points in the press seem to center around scary words like “proprietary” or “lock-in.”  Since when does open-source equal lock-in?  Isn’t the whole point that if the community does not like what one company, group or individual is doing, they are free to go in an entirely different direction?

In thinking about this topic, I remembered a recent blog post by Jeff Gould at Peerstone research titled Oracle to Red Hat: It’s Not Your Father’s Linux Market Anymore.  I don’t agree with all of Jeff’s conclusions but completely agree with the assertion that “the non-proprietary nature of Linux distributions is a myth.” Going back to the premise of open-source being about choice and community development, Oracle Linux being branded proprietary because we are offering the community (in source and binary form) the latest kernel advances has me especially confused…is being open now considered proprietary?

How we got here

Oracle software, particularly Oracle databases, runs extremely well on servers with a lot of memory. As the price of memory has declined, our customers have taken advantage of this trend and deployed servers with huge memory capacities like the new Sun Fire X4800 Server with 1TB of RAM. Think about it: 1TB of RAM in an x86 server was unheard of when Oracle Linux 5 (or RHEL 5) originally shipped in 2007.  During this same period, Intel and AMD made huge advances in x86 processor technology including 4, 6, 8 and up to 12 core processors later this year.

The Linux development community is quick to recognize those trends and optimize the Kernel to take advantage of those hardware advances. Unfortunately, most commercial Linux distributions have fallen behind the development trend. Generally speaking, kernel updates /advances have been reserved for major distribution updates, leaving users  waiting to leverage all the capabilities of the latest hardware platforms.  For example, Red Hat has been shipping the same RHEL 5, 2.6.18 kernel with security updates since March 2007, nowhere near the latest stable mainline kernel of 2.6.36.

Enter the Oracle Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel for Linux

In case you have not heard, Oracle is in the hardware business with the introduction of the Exadata Database Machine, Exalogic Elastic Cloud and the acquisition of Sun Microsystems.  Our goal from the start has been to provide the best products, support and performance from application to disk through the optimization of hardware and software.  Could we get maximum performance and reliability from Exadata, Exalogic or the latest Sun x86 hardware using Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 or the Oracle Linux Red Hat  compatibility kernel?  In a word, no.

Starting with mainline kernel advances and adding data integrity features, optimized infiniband, a new version of the OCFS2 file system (and more) plus a LOT of testing, Oracle has introduced a new kernel for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 or Oracle Linux 5 called the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel.

The performance impact of the new kernel is immediately apparent, up to a 75% performance increase on 4 socket, large-memory machines.  Performance is only one part of the value proposition:  The magic behind this new kernel is that all Oracle software is developed and tested exclusively using this new kernel on Oracle Linux in our development farms along with Oracle VM.  Oracle is the only company with the resources to test this new kernel with enterprise databases, middleware and applications and ensure stability with 128 threads and a million IOPS.  What does this mean to you?  Oracle software is optimized to leverage the latest hardware, kernel advances and deliver the best performance and reliability on Oracle Linux.

Putting performance aside for a moment, one of the primary reasons ISV’s, System Integrators, Resellers, and Cloud partners should be promoting and using Oracle Linux is our integrated support and platform management. As customers or partners, do you prefer to be the coordinator of support relationships between applications, middleware, database, OS, hypervisor and hardware vendors? Would you prefer to make one phone call to Oracle to isolate and resolve problems? Oracle provides tuned, tested and supported solutions with integrated management to our partners and customers.

Putting the pieces together

Let’s go back to the question of open.  If open means you can have the best performance, reliability and support then why wouldn’t Oracle Linux be your distribution of choice for your customers and in your own data center?

Want to learn more?  A great place to start is the Linux Knowledge Zone on the Oracle PartnerNetwork.  While you are there, get started on your Oracle Linux Specialization by enrolling in the free training including a module dedicated to the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel.

Jeff Doolan is the director of virtualization and Linux channels for Worldwide Alliances & Channels at Oracle. Monthly guest blogs such as this are part of The VAR Guy’s annual sponsorship.

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