Oracle deepened its commitment to supporting Red Hat Enterprise Linux with a new cloud partnership to better accommodate users' multi-cloud environments.
Oracle has long provided its cloud users with RHEL, even offering updates to the Red Hat offering. But that was just an accommodation for long-time RHEL users. Oracle always preferred users run their Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) workloads primarily on the company's own Linux distribution, Oracle Linux.
Now the company is taking a more democratic approach by making RHEL a first-class citizen in the Oracle environment.
"This is a great example of Oracle demonstrating a willingness to work with past rivals to further grow its cloud business," said Dave McCarthy, vice president overseeing IDC's Cloud and Edge Infrastructure Services practice. "Oracle has been on a mission to change the perception that OCI is the best place to run Oracle workloads to one that says [OCI] is a cloud that can address any workload."
Enterprises are looking for consistency in their cloud environments, especially if those environments span a growing number of deployment locations, McCarthy added.
"For those who have standardized on RHEL, this announcement makes OCI a viable alternative to the more established cloud providers," McCarthy said.
Oracle's official support for RHEL sets the stage for further collaboration with the Red Hat product portfolio, including OpenShift and Ansible.
OCI, Oracle's public and private cloud service, now offers a variety of RHEL instances for a variety of OCI virtual machines running on AMD, Intel or Arm processors. All instances are now in general availability for both public and private OCI customers.
Many Fortune 500 companies use Oracle technology, typically as on-premises software or hardware, and Red Hat Linux is among the most popular distributions of the OS available.
Although Oracle has its own flavor of Linux, the widespread adoption and popularity of Red Hat Enterprise Linux makes it a sensible addition and partnership to further both Oracle and IBM/Red Hat's cloud ambitions.
Red Hat on Big Red's cloud
Oracle has made aggressive push to increase the adoption of OCI among enterprise customers, especially customers apprehensive about expanding into their multi-cloud strategies.
Many popular enterprise capabilities are already available on OCI alongside cloud capabilities developers use, such as Oracle's Container Engine for Kubernetes, said Leo Leung, vice president of products and strategy at Oracle.
Leo LeungVice president, products and strategy, Oracle
This new interoperability between Red Hat and Oracle Cloud further helps customers of both companies adopt cloud capabilities, he said.
"We're going to collaborate going forward. This is a first step," Leung said. "For both companies, this is all about supporting [customers] with what they want to run where they want to run it."
RHEL forms the technology backbone for many enterprises, providing an entire ecosystem of storage, applications and other technology stack services.
Many enterprises have rolled their own versions of RHEL for Oracle hardware. But having a more streamlined version available on demand helps Oracle meet those customers' potential cloud needs faster.
Popular services in Red Hat's catalog, such as the OpenShift Container management service, may get their own OCI variants similar to the Red Hat OpenShift service on AWS, said Sid Nag, vice president of the technology and service provider group at Gartner.
New partnerships, past history
When the first version of RHEL launched in 2003, Oracle was quick to endorse the product, which gave it a "really big boost," coming out of the gate, said Mike Evans, vice president of technical business development at Red Hat.
But with common customers much more focused on migrating to the cloud, this deal is well timed. Evans said the deal marks the first time since the early 2000s where both companies have expanded the relationship beyond "just the basics" of databases and apps, Evans noted.
"There has never been an agreement to have a supported version of RHEL on their cloud," Evans said. "But RHEL is the foundation for any Red Hat products going forward, so this [deal] is the starting point for our [cloud] relationship."
Another advantage to the relationship for users is the association both companies have with IBM's Global Technology Services group, Evans said.
"IBM has conducted a significant amount of business involving Oracle's enterprise apps," Evans said. "This deal now gives them another opportunity to support Red Hat technologies, whether they are on-premises or in the cloud."
Over the past 20 years, the two companies have created a "massive customer overlap" centered around Oracle's on-premises databases and other enterprise applications, according to Evans.
Oracle's push into the cloud market hasn't been without challenges. OCI comprises just 2% of the overall cloud market, according to market research.
Oracle's early cloud ambitions lacked the technical capabilities modern cloud customers expected, Nag said. But revisions in tools for serverless functions and containerless layers have matured the platform. Hiring from AWS' and Microsoft Azure's teams likely bolstered the company's technical depth as well.
"OCI has matured dramatically in the last few years," Nag said. "They're a serious contender."
Tim McCarthy is a journalist living in the North Shore of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.
Ed Scannell is responsible for writing and reporting breaking news, news analysis and features focused on technology issues and trends affecting corporate IT professionals.