Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

Summary: Oracle has bought Ksplice, a zero downtime Linux upgrade software company to improve its Oracle Linux distribution-to the chagrin of other Linux developers.

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I may reboot my Linux systems once every six months. That's great for my personal use and a small business. For an enterprise, that's not good enough. Even twice-a-year reboots is twice a year too often for them. That's why Ksplice, which enables running systems to update even critical files without rebooting was so popular when it came out in 2009. Now, Oracle has bought Ksplice, and it appears it will be keeping it services available only for Oracle Linux.

Ksplice, according to its developers, "enables running systems to stay secure without the disruption of re-booting. Specifically, Ksplice creates re-bootless updates that are based on traditional source code patches. "These updates are as effective as traditional updates, but they can be applied seamlessly, with no downtime."

That's quite a claim, but Ksplice works. I've tested it myself.

Ksplice does this by monitoring a computer's activity. When it determines that none of the CPUs or cores are doing any work, it takes over the system applies the patch, and then changes all function references both on the drives and in memory. Thus, when a program next calls for any patched functions it immediately finds and uses the updated ones.

While Ksplice itself is open-source software, and the service for individual users, under the old ownership was free, you'll need to pay a service fee if you're a business using Ksplice to keep your servers up-to-date. More to the point, and the annoyance of other Linux distributors, Oracle now states that "It will be the only enterprise Linux provider that can offer zero downtime updates, and expects to make the Ksplice technology a standard feature of Oracle Linux Premier Support."

In a letter to Oracle customers, Oracle underlines this point that the Ksplice service will now only be for Oracle Premier Support customers: "The combination of Ksplice technology and Oracle Linux Premier Support is expected to be the only enterprise Linux provider that can offer zero downtime updates, and Oracle plans to make the Ksplice technology a standard feature of Oracle Linux Premier Support. " This would leave users of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) on the outside looking in.

Oracle's move has enraged some Linux users. Some are calling for a fork.

That wouldn't be that easy to do though. While "Some Ksplice software … is available in source code form under the terms of the GNU General Public License and other open source licenses," not all of it is. In any case, it's not so much the program that would need to be forked. That would be relatively easy. But, forking the service would not be trivial. The Ksplice service provider must edit each patch for semantic changes to kernel data structures before applying the patches to a running Linux instance. This service could be duplicated, of course, but it's a job for a company, not just a few open-source developers.

I suspect one of the other major Linux distributors, Red Hat, SUSE, or Canonical, will do it. In the meantime, Oracle finally has a strong selling point in favor of its Linux for enterprise customers over its competitors.

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Topics: Software, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Oracle

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32 comments
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  • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

    Even though I tend to prefer proprietary software, this just seems to be a dick move by Oracle. Oracle just seems to be doing its best to make everybody hate them.
    Aerowind
    • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

      @Aerowind ... No, they are doing their best to make a profit as any company must if it's going to stay in business. With negative cost beneftis, no company is going to last for very long. Oracle is simply typical and taking a chance; one which I believe is going to backfire on them.
      tom@...
      • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

        @tom@...
        This is typical short term thinking from Oracle.
        Short term gain and long term solid mistrust.
        hkommedal
  • oracle customers...not anymore!

    Oracle has been added to the list of Linux enemies:
    http://techrights.org/company-blacklist/
    Since the big FOSS customers are going to stay away from it, I think Oracle it's becoming irrelevant since
    L. Eli$$on can't count on M$ customers anyway.
    Linux Geek
    • And this is a big problem

      FOSS is more than happy to devour itself.
      Michael Alan Goff
  • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

    "I may reboot my Linux systems once every six months."

    I'm going to make an assumption that you are not running updates, because if you were you would be rebooting at least once every week.
    statuskwo5
    • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

      @statuskwo5 Unless SJVN has been using Ksplice on all of his servers. Seriously, though, Linux kernel updates do not occur on a weekly, or even a monthly, frequency.

      To continue from the article:
      "That?s great for my personal use and a small business.

      This may be fine for your personal use, provided that your servers are firewalled off from the internet. But, does this also mean that you apply other updates (e.g., to your server applications) once every six months? If so, a vulnerable application could lead to your servers being compromised. Failure to apply timely updates, along with poor configuration and monitoring, is how servers (and PCs) get pwn3d.

      This is bad advice for small businesses.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

      @statuskwo5 Nope. I update constantly. The vast majority of Linux updates don't require reboots.

      Steven
      sjvn@...
    • What?

      @statuskwo5
      System updates usually only require a reboot if you're replacing the kernel, which doesn't happen all that often. It's Windows that requires a reboot most of the time when updating, not Linux or UNIX.
      John L. Ries
    • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

      @statuskwo5,

      It's Windows that need the weekly reboots. Linux/Unix can replace nearly all files without a reboot; the only files that can't be replaced without a reboot are the kernel updates. Of course, if you have only a Windows background you find this hard to believe since Windows seems to need a reboot after any new software is introduced to the system or any update is run.

      My OpenSuse tower at home has only been rebooted once since February, when I shut it down to go on vacation. Updates? Yeah, a lot of them. But no kernel updates, thus no reboots.
      benched42
      • It's Windows that need the weekly reboots

        @benched42

        Yep, even Microsoft recommends that you reboot Windows at least once a week.
        guzz46
      • @guzz46 .. so what's you're idea of

        .. achieving 5 9's in a corporate data center - when you're down so often?? Scribbling "5 9's" on the side of your racks with a fluorescent magic marker???<br><br>Scratch that, it was a silly question, because you're obviously NOT in systems admin' (..heaven forbid {.. shivers ..}).
        thx-1138_
    • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

      @statuskwo5 ... Exactly my point in an earlier post but better stated. Wonder how that affects things?
      tom@...
    • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

      @statuskwo5
      Nearly all updates to a Linux system do NOT require reboots.
      If a handful of programs are updated, you may restart the programs only, but even that is not always needed.
      hkommedal
      • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

        @thx-1138_@...

        Read it for yourself

        h-t-t-p://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Optimize-Windows-7-for-better-performance#section_8

        Quote "This tip is simple. Restart your PC at least once a week, especially if you use it a lot. Restarting a PC is a good way to clear out its memory and ensure that any errant processes and services that started running get shut down."
        guzz46
  • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

    You have to reboot every time you compile a new kernel. Makes no sense to keep a system up for 6 months unless you like running outdated software, which is what linux is.
    LoverockDavidson
    • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

      @LoverockDavidson
      Good grief, Lovey...I've been running SimplyMEPIS Linux for about 7 years now, and I have no idea how to compile anything. And like SJVN has said, the vast majority of Linux updates don't require a reboot...as opposed to Windows, where almost any update needs a reboot. My wife's laptop has Windows, and I probably spend 5x the time to take care of it as I do with my computer...but, to each their own.
      AmraLeo
      • But she gets more work done it

        @AmraLeo you can bet your money on that. If she is not a Linux user with a staunch Linux hubby, its obvious Linux is not doing something right.
        Mr. Dee
      • RE: Oracle acquires zero-downtime, Linux upgrade software

        @Mr. Dee
        Actually, she doesn't. Windows is just her choice, which I respect. I find her on my computer more and more, though...
        AmraLeo
      • @Mr. Dee .. He did bet

        <i>" ... you can bet your money on that. "</i><br><br>.. and he won; by saving a s@#tload of cash by using Linux over 7 years. It was pretty unequivocal; what part of the post couldn't you grasp? <br><br>Methinks, you need to put your spectacles on when reading ... you're selective visual syndrome is getting worse.<br><br>Oh, and nice try with the change of subject. The subject was that he had no need whatsoever to compile-recompile anything in 7 years (ergo: relatively problem free personal user experience) as opposed to his wife's far more frequent issues when using Windows.

        Unless you live with them, how could you possibly know - let alone claim - any different? Answer's simple, you can't.

        YEMD ... and that's the whole point, wiseguy.
        thx-1138_