Thursday, October 26, 2006

Oracle Linux Download

Yesterday, Oracle announced that they will be supporting Red Hat Linux, as well as releasing their own clone of the OS, just like CentOS and others have done. There had been speculation for weeks that Oracle was going to get into the Linux business, either by creating their own distribution, or purchasing a Linux company. While there have been some negative reactions to this announcement, I view it as a great opportunity, and a means of forcing more innovation into the market. The download itself is available here. You simply need to fill out a form to gain access to the files.

Those of you who have read previous entries in my blog may realize that I'm a fan of the Red Hat clone, CentOS. I've used it on laptops, desktops, and servers, and have had very few problems. The stability it provides is far better than I've experienced with Fedora, SuSE, or other distributions. However, if I wanted to install it in a corporate environment, my support options would be limited. Red Hat charges a great deal for support, even rivaling Microsoft in terms of pricing. With Oracle now offering support, the cost of deployment is greatly reduced. Some have argued that this is a low-blow by Oracle, as they are simply repackaging Red Hat's work and distributing it as their own. That is exactly what they're doing. However, that is the risk with open source software. Just because Red Hat is "loved" by the open source community doesn't mean it should be treated any differently.

For the past several years, open source advocates have argued that it is a superior business model. The thought that releasing a product as free, open-source software and charging support will give you a lock on a given market is laughable, at best. A company like Red Hat cannot compete with Oracle in terms of size and resources. As a result, they are vulnerable to having their prices undercut by a company that is able to deliver better support for less money. MySQL, Alfresco, and all other open-source companies are vulnerable to this as well. The key is not just providing support, but providing some additional value that your competitors are incapable of providing. And, currently, Red Hat is not taking these measures.

Red Hat provides no value-added resources on top of their existing OS distribution. For those individuals who don't need support, there is no incentive to purchase a commercial distribution of the product. They can simply download CentOS or one of the other clones that are available. Now that Oracle is offering cheaper support, there is even less of an incentive for a company to purchase support from Red Hat. If, however, Red Hat began to provide offerings that only they were capable of, they would regain their advantage in this area. Oracle has learned this lesson the hard way. After growing tired of being "just a database company", they began developing and acquiring applications that were designed to run on top of their database as a complete stack. By providing an all-in-one solution, companies were able to get all of their products in one place, from one vendor, with one support contract. Red Hat does have some closed-source applications in their product library, such as their Certificate System which was purchased from Netscape some time ago. However, this is such a niche product that it is not important to the majority of Red Hat's customers. Providing other applications, however, may provide them with an advantage. For example, an identity management system similar to Active Directory, using their LDAP directory server and Kerberos for single sign-on. Or, tightly integrated management applications for administering Apache, LDAP, MySQL/PostgreSQL, and other system services.

I am not surprised by Red Hat's sudden drop in share price following this announcement. For existing Oracle customers, there is now a very good reason to drop support contracts currently offered by Red Hat. For those not running Oracle on Linux, they now have a very good reason to think about it.

Monday, October 9, 2006

MySQL Master-Master Replication

I came across a great article detailing how to accomplish Master-Master Replication on MySQL 5. While there are other technologies that could be used to create high availability MySQL instances, such as MySQL Cluster, these often provide a less-than-ideal solution because of the additional requirements they impose (e.g. the use of in-memory databases or a different storage engine). The solution provided in the article is to use circular replication. That is, if we have 2 databases, A and B: A is a master to B, while B is a master to A. Because each node acts as both a master and a slave, changes to either database get propigated to the other. Take a look at the article to find out more.

Friday, October 6, 2006

Great Workspaces

I came across a great article depicting some of the best workspaces in companies around the world. Pixar, Google, Red Bull, etc. The pictures show just how creative these offices can be, and show that this creativity can lead to creativity in their employees. As someone who has worked in a private office, cubicle, and now a shared workspace, I can certainly understand how offices like this can make the daily 9-5 grind a much more pleasant experience.