After Oracle's surprising announcement that they would support Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat has posted a hard-hitting rebuttal on their site entitled "Unfakeable Linux" (a word play on Oracle's "Unbreakable Linux"). Some highlights:
Q: Oracle says their Linux support includes the same hardware compatibility and certifications as Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Is this true?
A: No. Oracle has stated they will make changes to the code independently of Red Hat. As a result these changes will not be tested during Red Hat's hardware testing and certification process, and may cause unexpected behavior. Hence Red Hat hardware certifications are invalidated.
Q: Will Oracle's product result in a "fork" of the operating system?
A: Yes. The changes Oracle has stated they will make will result in a different code base than Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Simply put, this derivative will not be Red Hat Enterprise Linux and customers will not have the assurance of compatibility with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux hardware and application ecosystem..
This is a key point. If you read the fine print, what Oracle is planning to do is start with the source code for Red Hat's version of Linux, remove all the Red Hat trademarks (logos, etc.) and "add Linux bug fixes". Thus, Oracle's developers be faced with some onerous merging whenever RH comes out with a new version.
Q: Can Oracle produce timely security updates to Red Hat Enterprise Linux as they stated?
A: No. There will be a delay between the time a Red Hat Enterprise Linux update is issued and the time the source code makes its way to Oracle. There is no guarantee that the source code for the Red Hat Enterprise Linux update will work correctly when integrated into Oracle's Linux code base; this integration and test will take additional time. In the case where the update corrects critical security flaws, Oracle customers may be exposed to additional risk.
How about Red Hat's other open source products, besides Linux? They're not included:
Q: Does Oracle's announcement include support for the Red Hat Application Stack, JBoss, Hibernate, Red Hat GFS, Red Hat Cluster Suite, and Red Hat Directory Server?
A: No. Oracle does not support any of these leading open source products.
So if you want, say, the GFS file system, it looks like you would need to get part of the OS from Oracle and part from Red Hat.
The Oracle move may give Linux a little more credibility in enterprise shops, but realistically its credibility is pretty high already. Expect Red Hat to feel some pressure to reduce prices, make more frequent releases, and try to out-innovate Oracle in ways that are not easily copied. Customers will benefit no matter who comes out on top.