Oracle: If RHEL were free, we wouldn't compete

The company's vice president of Linux engineering says that if Red Hat Enterprise Linux were given away, it wouldn't have offered Oracle Unbreakable Linux.

In the midst of an otherwise insightful analysis of Oracle's contributions to the Linux kernel (spoiler: they're significant), Wim Coekaerts, Oracle's vice president of Linux engineering, makes this baffling statement:

We're offering (Oracle Unbreakable Linux) only because Red Hat requires customers to pay for binary downloads of (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). If RHEL was free, we would have never done (Oracle Unbreakable Linux).

Let me get this straight. If Red Hat would just give away its product for free (as in price, source code, etc.), Oracle would be happy to not try to compete with Red Hat? Is that generosity, or what?

I'm sure that others would like to sign up Oracle to this plan. Maybe IBM and Sun Microsystems could simply abandon their database development if Oracle will simply give away its database for free.


Oracle is a great company that has made significant contributions to the Linux kernel. That is not in question. But the company's motivations for trying ( unsuccessfully ) to undermine Red Hat in the Linux market are far from clear.

First, Oracle says it is getting into Linux because Red Hat, which CIOs rate dramatically higher than Oracle each year , can't offer high-quality support the way Oracle does, only to discover that Oracle's Linux support pales in comparison to Red Hat's .

Now we find out that it's not a question of support at all, but rather that Oracle simply wants Linux to be free. Why? Because that makes its overpriced software seem cheaper.

At least Oracle is being honest now. Coekaerts' argument is cheeky, but it makes strategic sense for Oracle. It just makes no financial sense for Red Hat.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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