Larry Ellison: Oracle Betting On Linux

Move aside, IBM. Oracle is jumping on the Linux bandwagon.

Larry Ellison, the outspoken CEO of the world’s second-largest software vendor, revealed yesterday that Oracle is seeing “a stunning trend” towards Linux, and is “betting very heavily” on the open source operating system.

The combination of Linux running on powerful but inexpensive Intel processors, and Oracle’s new 9i Real Application Clusters (RAC) database technology, offers “a huge competitive advantage,” according to Ellison.

Ellison’s comments came yesterday, during an analyst conference call to discuss the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based software vendor’s quarterly results.

Oracle is seeing tremendous amount of customer interest in Linux, according to Ellison.

“It’s hard to believe the numbers,” he said. “In 25 years at Oracle, I’ve never seen anything with this much of an uptake. We think Linux is a huge opportunity.”

While Ellison and other company officials did not specify how much of the Linux activity involves the RAC clustering software, Ellison spoke at length about the advantages of running RAC on Linux.

RAC’s failover capabilities let users run Oracle database applications on groups of inexpensive Linux Intel-based servers, according to Ellison.

“You can afford to use a bunch of these low cost machines,” he said, “and it doesn’t matter if they fail periodically, because our software conceals the fact that you’re having hardware component failures. If one or two or three fail, the rest keep running, and your users don’t even notice it.”

Oracle says it has about 900 customers using RAC, although a large number of them appear to be in development, and not yet running the product for production applications.

The company would not say how many of these 900 RAC users are running on Linux, although it did mention several who are, including Southwest Airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration, and The Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation, which is using it for an online database which will allow people to look for relatives who entered the United States at Ellis Island. The database lists the names of 25 million people who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924.

RAC on Linux is also powering the online version of game maker Electronic Arts’ popular PC game The Sims, which that company launched earlier this week.

Oracle has released as open source several of the pieces required to run RAC on Linux, including its Clustered File System software, according to Rene Bonvanie, vice president of marketing for Oracle’s 9i database.

Pricing for Oracle’s 9i database starts at $40,000 per CPU. The RAC option costs an additional $20,000 per CPU. Oracle is running a half-price promotion on the product, so through February the cost is $10,000 per CPU.