Oracle has made an interesting offer to companies using a free version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux: Switch to our free Oracle Linux instead.It’s even being kind of funny about it — using some self depreciating language that plays on Oracle’s reputation for selling very expensive software. It says this in a FAQ:
“Q: Wait, doesn’t Oracle Linux cost money?
“A: Oracle Linux support costs money. If you just want the software, it’s 100% free. And it’s all in our yum repo at public-yum.oracle.com. Major releases, errata, the whole shebang. Free source code, free binaries, free updates, freely redistributable, free for production use. Yes, we know that this is Oracle, but it’s actually free. Seriously.” [Emphasis ours.]
But because of Oracle’s long, and not always pleasant, history with the open source community, people are getting really upset about this offer. They don’t trust Oracle because it didn’t maintain free versions of some open source software it got when it bought Sun, including Open Solaris, an open source version of Sun’s Solaris operating system, they say. They also viewed Oracle’s lawsuit with Sun over Java as an attack on open source. And there are lots of other stories of Oracle and open source like the history of OpenOffice.org.
There’s a lot of strong language being thrown at Oracle over this. One person writing on Hacker News, says: Oracle “cannot wage war against Open Source and software freedom, and expect the Open Source community to just look the other way and choose Oracle products.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Oracle’s offer, but it does point out that Oracle has a lot of work to do rebuild its reputation with an important group of IT people and developers — those who prefer open source.
Oracle can certainly do that. Among all the major traditional enterprise software companies, Oracle perhaps does the most for and with open source. It just needs to be better seen for its contributions and not just its missteps.