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According to principal analyst Noel Yuhanna at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., the answer to that question could be the latter. Customers who have already decided on Windows, for example, are a lost cause for Oracle, because Microsoft's SQL Server remains their preferred choice, he said. Combined with the stagnant growth of the Unix platform, this continued success of SQL Server on Windows may mean that Linux is Oracle's only remaining viable platform.
"What we see is that of all the various operating systems out there, only two are gaining strong adoption among enterprises: Linux and Windows," Yuhanna said. "Although Oracle database management systems [DBMS] used to dominate the Windows platform eight years ago, today it's SQL Server."
According to Forrester, Oracle's share of the DBMS market has declined to the point where the platform has become less strategic to Oracle, Yuhanna said.
"Oracle is already betting on Linux to succeed by putting strong R&D and marketing efforts around it," Yuhanna said. "Simply put, if Linux grows, Oracle grows."
For now the cards appear to be stacked in Oracle's favor, and Linux support may be all the database giant needs to increase its market share. Other analyst firms, including Westport, Conn.-based Saugatuck Technology Inc., see favorable trends for Linux as well. In a report made available earlier this year, the firm said that mission-critical deployments of Linux -- such as database deployments, for example -- would reach more than 50% of all data centers by the year 2011. A similar research note released in July amended the January research and pushed the watershed moment up to 2009. A Saugatuck survey due out later this year predicts that the trend will continue unabated.
When Oracle officially unveiled Oracle 11g at a press event in July, executives declined to say when support for Windows would be released. When 9g and 10g were released, Windows, Sun Solaris and HP-UX releases followed a few months later.
Oracle Vice President of Linux Engineering Wim Coekaerts said that specifics regarding the number of Oracle deployments on Linux and Windows were not available. But a report from Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. released last month found that since 2006, use of Oracle on Linux systems has grown 72%. That's a faster clip than the relational database management system (RDBMS) market's overall growth of 14.2%. Year over year, general RDBMS growth on Linux stood at 67%.Meanwhile, a July study from Huntington, N.Y.-based BZ Research found that of all enterprises, 74.7% use SQL Server, and 54.5% use Oracle. IBM DB2 came in third, with 23.5%.
In Oracle's crosshairs?
The trend toward Microsoft SQL Server may prompt Oracle to become even more aggressive about promoting Linux.
"We have already started to see strong database migration efforts moving in favor of SQL Server on Windows," Yuhanna said, "which means that Oracle should now seriously consider acquiring Red Hat if it needs to compete head-on against Microsoft in the coming years."
It would not be the first time a major Linux distributor was floated as an Oracle acquisition target. In April 2006, SearchEnterpriseLinux.com reported that Red Hat, Novell, and even Ubuntu were prime acquisition targets for Oracle, which at the time was trying to address the rising popularity of SQL Server.
Those rumors were quashed in October, however, when Oracle announced the Unbreakable Linux support program and Oracle Linux, which is a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 made possible by version 2 of the GNU General Public License.Pricing for 11g will remain the same; 10g will be priced at $15,000 per processor for Oracle Database Standard Edition and $40,000 per processor for the Enterprise Edition. 10g customers can upgrade to 11g free of charge.
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