ORACLEWORLD: Oracle, Red Hat working on desktop Linux

SAN FRANCISCO – Red Hat Inc. has been working with Oracle Corp. to improve the desktop version of Red Hat’s Linux operating system, with a view to providing an enterprise-class environment that will run Web-based versions of Oracle software applications, Red Hat’s chairman and chief executive officer said Sunday.

“We’re working now with Oracle to expand and improve the client version of Red Hat Linux, and certainly we see the opportunity to have Oracle applications running on Red Hat Linux,” said Matthew Szulik, Red Hat’s chairman and CEO, speaking at the start of the OracleWorld conference here.

The companies already have partnered closely on the server version of Red Hat Linux, tuning it to run Oracle’s database on clusters of Intel Corp.-based servers. That partnership apparently extends to client computers, providing customers with an option for running Oracle’s software on Linux-based desktops and notebooks.

Enterprise Manager, Oracle’s suite of database management products, and Oracle Collaboration Suite, its productivity applications including e-mail and calendering, are among the programs that will take advantage of improvements to Red Hat’s client operating system, Szulik said after his presentation here.

He wasn’t specific about timing, but a source familiar with Oracle’s plans said the database giant plans to announce a browser-based version of Enterprise Manager at its conference here this week.

After failed attempts in the past, open-source software is poised for widespread use on the desktop because programs like the Mozilla Web browser, the KDE user interface and the Gnome desktop environment have matured sufficiently, Szulik said. Sun Microsystems Inc., another big Linux backer, said recently that it plans to sell desktop computers running Linux, Mozilla and other open-source software.

The moves are seen as an attempt to unseat Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system from its dominant position on the desktop. Sun, Oracle and Red Hat all compete fiercely with Microsoft.

“For the last six or seven years people have been asking me about the future of Linux on the client,” Szulik said. “A couple of things had to fall into place. We had to make sure we can make money on the server side, we had to expand the competency (of open source products), and we had to create an alternative to IE (Internet Explorer). Mozilla had to improve.”

When Oracle approached Red Hat some 18 months ago to discuss joint development projects Szulik said he was “suspicious” of the company’s motives. Since then Oracle has “done all the things they promised they would do,” which include running many of its internal applications on Red Hat Linux servers and releasing an open source version of its clustered file system.

Oracle’s OracleWorld conference gets in full swing Monday with a speech from Paul Otellini, Intel’s president and chief operating officer. Otellini is expected to promote the perceived cost savings of running Oracle’s database software on clusters of standard Intel-based servers, as opposed to Unix systems from the likes of Sun and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Oracle is also expected to promote the benefits of running its software on Intel-based hardware, particularly on clustered systems running Linux. It has also said it will unveil a new version of Enterprise Manager and planned improvements to Oracle Collaboration Suite, including functions for “real-time” collaboration such as instant messaging.

The company will also outline the role it wants to play in grid computing, which draws on its database, its Real Application Clusters technology, its Linux offerings and a new Grid Developers Kit which will be released this week.