After observing all the attention surrounding the Oracle Linux and Novell & Microsoft I decided not to blog about it, until now. One reason is that there are already MORE THAN ENOUGH blogs, articles, postings covering pretty much every angle, opinion and prediction. But more importantly I felt like all the hubub surrounding both announcements were motivated by potentially faulty reasoning. The most prevalent being an unhealthy focus on the immediate, short-term affects of each move. Granted, I'm in no way minimizing what the availability of an Oracle Linux or the partnership between Novell and Microsoft will mean. However, I remain convinced that these developments are going to take time to play out making it futile to panic/rejoice just yet.
Sadly, for those who are hoping for Red Hat's demise, Oracle's Red Hat Linux clone isn't going to send the company into oblivion. Much in the same way that Microsoft's newfound working relationship with Novell doesn't mark a new era of open source acceptance by the Redmond giant. As tempting as it sometimes is to jump the gun and prognosticate, there really is no basis for doing so. Sure Red Hat's stock took a little bit of a beating on announcement of the news, but that is to be expected. As usual, it's all going to come down to solid strategy and timely, concise execution. The companies which do the best in those areas will come out on top.
Oracle can't put Red Hat out of business anymore than Microsoft is going to put Novell 'over the top.' Hopefully, as time passes the realization that this kind of news is a sign of the predictable progression of the open source industry and not a herald of the end times. Honestly, companies as large as Microsoft and Oracle would be insane to not make themselves relevant within the open source conversation. Both have far too much to lose by totally divorcing itself themselves from the realities of this dynamic movement. And both companies already know this, hence their recent activity. Competitive maneuvers, partnerships, etc. are all apart of business as usual. I won't go as far to say this isn't newsworthy but I will say it isn't exactly earth shattering.
Am I implying that what we've seen over the past week will have no affect on the future? Of course not, but it remains critical to put events into a larger context that provides more perspective. It's almost as if people still think open source is little more than a house of cards waiting to be knocked over by some death blow. So when Oracle makes a tactical move to counter the momentum of one of the longest standing open source vendor, all of the sudden Red Hat is doomed, with the rest of open source bound to fall only at a later date and time.
When in reality, Red Hat has been granted the opportunity to further differentiate themselves as a Linux vendor, which will do the company more good than harm in the long run. Whereas Oracle might find itself stuck playing follow the leader, all while taking losses on its support of its own 'Red Hat copy cat Linux.' Then again, King Ellison and Co. can certainly afford to lose some in the short term without breaking the bank.
The area Oracle might be currently eyeing is the SOA infrastructure arena. Red Hat is currently in the process of harmonizing its own complete SOA platform that consists of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the JBoss Enterprise Middleware Stack (JEMS). Buyers interested in using Linux as a foundation for their SOA infrastructure would have had to consider the entire Red Hat stack for its potential as an 'out of the box' solution (a term I don't really like). While, buyers interested in JEMS might also have reason to consider an integrated RHEL option.
However, with Oracle being able to offer a cheaper, supported version of Linux, it now has the opportunity to capture peripheral regions of the open source SOA market (even without an open source product), all while boosting the value proposition for its own SOA technology stack. Either way it's way too early to make a call about the magnitude of this blow until sometime after 3Q 2007.
Perhaps it's a situation where very few people know what to think so they begin to exaggerate the clear and present reality, which again, is quite simply business as usual. You've got one company looking to do what it can to become more competitive with another. In this case it so happens to be the larger incumbent that is doing the mimicking, but the concept is as natural to for-profit enterprising as any other. Just another day at the office, really.