As the highlight of his keynote speech here on the third day of the Oracle conference, Ellison announced the software giant would provide the same level of enterprise support for the Red Hat kernel as it does for its own database, middleware and applications products.
This was undoubtedly news to Red Hat, which was not told in advance of the plan, according to Oracle officials, and was conspicuous by its absence on stage with Ellison.
One of the first questions asked during a Q&A with the audience of corporate customers was "Is killing [Red Hat] an unintended side effect?" Ellison responded "I don't think Red Hat will be killed, I would expect Red Hat is going to compete very aggressively. This is how capitalism works. We're competing. We expect them to improve their product."
While Ellison said it was not his intention to harm Red Hat (Quote), investors did not see thing the same way. After being up 10 cents during the day's trading, it plunged 13 percent in after-hours trading when the news hit the wires.
Support would come through the Unbreakable Linux program, which Oracle (Quote) started in 2002 to fix kernel-level bugs.
Ellison cited the relative slowness of fixes in Linux as a major reason corporate customers have balked at deploying mission critical applications on Linux. Often times, fixes to kernel-level bugs aren't rolled into the version of the kernel in use, but in future releases.
This means a whole new kernel install, if not a reinstall of the whole operating system, when the fix is made available. "That really is not acceptable to our large customers. This I believe is the most serious problem facing Linux users today, and is slowing the adoption of Linux in mission critical apps," he said.
So Oracle is offering its Unbreakable Linux program for considerably less than Red Hat currently charges for its best support. This means bringing Oracle's support staff, which numbers some 7,000 people in 17 global support centers, to bear on fixing kernel-level bugs.
Oracle will offer updates through the up2date update service in Red Hat Linux, and it will also offer enterprise Linux binaries for free from Oracle. Pricing varies from Enterprise Linux Network Support for $99.00 per system, per year up to Oracle Lifetime Support, which will be $1,199 for a 2 CPU system per year and $1,999 for a system with unlimited CPUs.
Ellison said the company will submit all fixes it makes back to to Red Hat, Suse and every other Linux supplier. "The goal here is to make all versions of Linux better. The better Linux gets, the more successful we'll be, because we're betting heavily on this open standards software," he said.