Using Linux as a corporate server operating system to host database services and applications is one step closer to reality. Oracle is releasing its flagship Oracle8 database and its Application Server on the Linux platform.
Oracle is not alone in its adoption of Linux. Rivals such as Sybase, Informix, and IBM are also moving to embrace the platform. Sybase has released its Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise on Linux and Informix has released its Informix-SE database on Linux. IBM has also announced plans to migrate DB2 to Linux in the near future.
The database race to the Linux platform is neck and neck and it's too early to pick a clear-cut winner. In some respects, Oracle8 on Linux outpaces rival offerings, while in other areas, such as enterprise feature support, the company still needs to do some work.
Connected at the hip
For example, one real plus for Oracle8 on Linux is the fact that it is connected at the hip to the Linux kernel as opposed to being tied to a particular Linux distribution. In contrast, rival Sybase currently supports its database only on Linux distributions from Red Hat Software, Caldera Software, and S.u.S.E. Likewise, the Informix database is supported only on the Caldera and S.u.S.E Linux distributions.
Pricing and support for Oracle8 versus other Linux database offerings is also varied. Oracle does charge the same fee for Linux as it does for the same version on other platforms and it fully supports the database on Linux just as for any other platform.
In contrast, Sybase has made its Adaptive Server Enterprise available on Linux via a free development and deployment licence, though it is not providing support. Informix is targeting Linux in the small-to-medium size organisation with a free development licence, though deployment licences for the database do come with a fee. Informix support for its database on Linux is not yet clear.
The only real negative I found while testing my beta copy of Oracle8 on Linux had to do with installation and configuration. The early test version I looked at contained a command-line process to manually install and configure the database. The command-line process was well-documented though and I was able to get things working after a time.
Customers who purchase the production version of Oracle8 on Linux will probably not have to endure the lengthy setup process I went through. The company has completed migration of its more automated installation program for the production version of the product.
Having a separate installation program sets Oracle apart from its rivals. Sybase and Informix both provide installation services via whatever mechanism the Linux distribution supports.
For example, the Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise installation on Red Hat Software's Linux distribution uses Red Hat's package program.
Setup aside, Oracle has nicely ported the core services found in the Standard Edition of its database to Linux. Administrators will find features such as multithreading capabilities, row-level locking, dynamic sizing, and support for parallel queries, among others. Oracle is also supporting backup and recovery services while the database is online.
When it comes to core database services on Linux, Oracle and Sybase are neck and neck. Sybase's Adaptive Server on Linux sports many of the same core features, such as row-level locking and support for triggers and stored procedures.
Core database services in Oracle may also get some added competition from an unlikely place - the open source database called PostgreSQL. This academia-based open source database also has many of the same core features and has already been widely adopted. However, corporate IT managers who require product support will probably feel more secure with a commercial database version.
I was rather disappointed that Oracle8 on Linux does not yet support all of the enterprise outfitting found in Oracle8 on other platforms. For example, the ConText option that provides search capabilities in Oracle8 is not yet implemented on Linux nor are fail-over and parallel server options.
Furthermore, only basic replication services are currently supported. Oracle does have plans to add the same enterprise features to the Linux version as found in its other Oracle8 implementations.
Once implemented, IT organisations seeking advanced replication services, support for database clustering, partitioned queries, and similar capabilities should feel comfortable adding Oracle8 on Linux into multitier enterprise settings.
Oracle could also add greater clustering value on Linux and leap ahead by adding support for Red Hat's Extreme Linux clustering solution. Pairing Red Hat's cluster solution with Oracle8 would give customers greater scalability since it would expand the number of nodes that could be supported.
Developers writing applications that will include the Oracle8 database on Linux will find a good dose of programming interface support in this version. As you might expect, Oracle has included support for PL/SQL and the Oracle Call Interface. Development interfaces for C and C++ are also supported, as is Java Database Connectivity.
The release of Oracle8 on Linux moves the platform forward as a more commercially viable option for managing database services in corporate environments. Customers who wish to use core Oracle8 database services on Linux should test-drive this release now.
Those who need greater enterprise functionality, such as clustering, should keep an eye out for the addition of these features in future versions of the product.
Key features of Oracle8 on Linux
Multithreaded database server
Capability to dynamically resize database filesSupports parallel queriesBackup and recovery while database is onlineThe Bottom LineOracle Server Release 8.0.5 for Linux, early Adopters Release, betaIT sites with an eye on Linux as a commercial server operating system will find Oracle8 a highly viable option as a database solution.
Pros: Database tied to the Linux kernel as opposed to a particular Linux distribution; core database services work the same as Oracle8 Standard Edition on other platforms; can interoperate with other database servers in mixed platform settings; good options for application access.
Cons: Some issues with beta setup and configuration.
Platforms: Any Linux distribution with Linux kernel Version 2.0.34 and higher and glibc Version 2.0.7.
Price: Pricing available on application.
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