Ellison: Linux will wipe Microsoft out of data centre

At a gathering of current and potential Oracle independent software vendor (ISV) partners, Oracle Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Larry Ellison, extolled the virtues of Linux and predicted that the open-source operating system would soon decimate Microsoft in the battle for the data centre market.

"[Microsoft has]already been killed by one open-source product. Slaughtered, wiped out, taken from market dominance to irrelevance," Ellison said, speaking of the Apache Web server's displacement of Microsoft's IIS (Internet Information Services) technology. "They had a virtual monopoly on Web servers, and then they were wiped off the face of the earth. And it's going to happen to them again on Linux."

Ellison's version of Web server history is a bit shaky though, according to research and services company, Netcraft. The company's survey of Web server market share shows Apache already heading toward a leading market position by the time IIS appeared on the field in 1996. Although IIS is currently the No. 2 Web server technology, behind Apache, it never gained more than a 35 per cent market share, Netcraft said.

The company tracks IIS' current market share at about 30 per cent.

Ellison's characteristically dramatic predictions came during a showcase event following Oracle's announcement last week of new efforts to spur ISV adoption of Linux. The gathering featured several customers discussing their experiences with projects involving Oracle technology deployed on Linux, and a panel discussion among Oracle partner ISVs working on Linux support.

Ellison concluded the session with a few brief remarks about the speed, cost and flexibility advantages Linux offers over proprietary systems, then invited questions. A query about his view on Linux's future, especially on the desktop, prompted his dire predictions about what the open-source movement will do to key rival Microsoft.

While Windows got all the attention, the Office suite was Microsoft's real monopoly, and once a viable Office alternative was available for Linux, "all hell will break loose", Ellison said.

Ellison deemed the Sun Microsystems-backed OpenOffice.org suite "almost useable," and predicted that as such software became more robust, Linux would begin making inroads into the desktop market in price-sensitive regions such as China and India.

"It will take many years, but (Microsoft) will eventually have to compete," Ellison said. "It'll be a whole new world for them. I'm looking forward to it."

He also addressed the utility computing model being championed now by several major vendors, most notably IBM, which was heavily promoting its "on-demand computing" vision.

Vendors were correct to focus on offering customers simpler ways to handle their IT infrastructure, but too much emphasis was placed on hosted offerings, Ellison said. What should matter for customers wasn't whether their servers were located in their own data centre or in a vendor's; the real advantages of a utility, IT-as-a-service model was that it shifted the burden of installing and maintaining complex systems away from customers and toward their technology providers, who specialised in such matters, Ellison said.

The advantages of a one-size-fits-most, mass-production IT model and of labour specialisation should have been obvious to IT buyers long ago, he said.

"The computer industry is finally moving from a cottage industry to an industrial industry," Ellison said. "We're moving at breakneck pace toward the 19th century," Ellison quipped.

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