Technology Insight PaperSwitching to Oracle Linux—a Total ValueAnalysisBy John Webster, Sr. Analyst at Evaluator GroupJune 2020Enabling you to make the best technology decisions
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.1
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis2Executive SummaryLinux is now a foundational operating system for enterprise IT organizations. Linux allows them todeploy a secure, full-featured, cloud native-compatible and production class operating system that isbased on open source development processes. In fact, according to the Linux Foundation, Linux is theprimary platform for building the cloud and is experiencing continual year-over-year growth. One reasonthis is the case is that a majority of enterprise IT organizations feel that Linux is more secure than mostother operating systems.1Presently, enterprises have choices when it comes to acquiring Linux and related support services, themost common of these being Red Hat with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). However, many enterprises,and especially Oracle database and application users, are now leveraging and in many casesconsolidating, all of their Linux-based applications to Oracle Linux. This move simplifies their overallLinux application environment, increases security, while further reducing costs associated with a Linuxoperational and cloud-consistent environment. We have heard Oracle Linux users refer to this trend as a“One Linux” strategy.Here we review Oracle Linux which is free to download, use, and redistribute without a supportcontract. We highlight its features and compatibility with the Linux standard. We then look at thefeatures and competency of Oracle Linux support which is available on a yearly subscription basis. Wefurther illuminate our research with the perceptions of Oracle Linux users. These users have all hadexperience with moving applications from RHEL to Oracle Linux and use Oracle Linux support. Amongthe benefits derived from the switch were: Increased application performanceA reduction in annual OS support costsIncreased operational automation leading to faster deployment of new IT resourcesReductions in staff time required to manage and support large Linux server farmsWe study these and other economic factors that are allowing these users to reduce cost for their Linuxoperating environments.1Example: Linux is now more used on Microsoft’s Azure public cloud than Windows Server. 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis3Oracle Linux EssentialsIn 1998, Oracle Database Release 8 became the first commercial database to be ported to Linux in spiteof barely discernable interest in Linux by enterprise users at the time. Oracle Linux was launched atOracle OpenWorld in 2006 and in September 2010, Oracle announced the Unbreakable EnterpriseKernel (UEK) for Oracle Linux. Oracle Linux is 100% application binary compatible with Red HatEnterprise Linux. It is developed and continually updated using the latest stable kernel release includingthe latest features and is optimized for Oracle enterprise software and Oracle Engineered Systems. It issupported by third party hardware2 and applications.Oracle Linux can be run directly on bare metal or as a virtual guest on many virtualization technologiessuch as KVM, Xen, VirtualBox, Hyper-V, and VMware. Oracle Linux powers Oracle Cloud and OracleEngineered Systems such as Exadata. Oracle Linux images are also available on other public clouds suchas Amazon Web Service and Microsoft Azure.Oracle offers two different kernels for Oracle Linux:Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel (UEK) which is developed using the latest stable Linux kernelrelease from the mainline/upstream source. UEK testing is widespread across IT developmentsystems running the portfolio or Oracle Database applications. In addition, all of Oracle’s x86based engineered systems use the UEK. UEK is open source and available atgithub.com/oracle/linux-uek.Red Hat Compatible Kernel (RHCK) for users requiring strict Red Hat compatibility. Oracle Linuxincludes both the UEK and RHCK which are included in the same Oracle Linux ISO. Aconfiguration setting sets which kernel to boot.The Oracle Linux customer base exceeds 18,000 enterprise users. Many are attracted to Oracle Linuxspecifically because of the UEK which we profile in more detail below.UEKThe Oracle Linux Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel (UEK) is optimized for software performance, especiallyin Oracle database and applications environments. For example, Oracle Reliable Diagram Sockets (RDS)offers a low-latency, connectionless protocol for delivering diagrams to thousands of endpoints. The2For more information, on Oracle Linux hardware compatibility, visit: https://linux.oracle.com/hardware-certifications 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis4implementation of RDS results in fewer data re-transmissions which thereby improves databaseperformance on Linux during times of peak processing load. Oracle subsequently contributed RDS to theopen source community and it is now part of the Linux kernel. Other enhancements stem from thegrowth of multicore processing and advanced systems architectures that include increasing mainmemory capacities. Query performance is enhanced via optimized libraries and system calls. The endresult is that the UEK can now support expanding cloud environments that are characterized by heavytransaction-oriented workloads coupled with a growing list of database user groups.UEK-specific FeaturesDTraceDTrace is a dynamic tracing framework that owes its origins to the UNIX/Solaris environment. It providesrobust monitoring and management of the operating system. IT administrators can explore an entireOracle Linux system to understand how it works, track down problems across many layers of software,and locate the root cause of aberrant behavior. DTrace gives the operational insights into memoryconsumption, CPU time or what specific function calls are being made by an application – all in real time.Database Smart Flash CacheThe Database Smart Flash Cache feature can be integrated with server-based PCIe Flash storage devicessuch as the Oracle Sun Flash Accelerator PCIe Card or other supported server-based flash storagedevices. Performance gains can be realized for I/O intensive database applications.Oracle Linux Cloud Native EnvironmentThe Oracle Linux Cloud Native Environment is an integrated suite of software and tools for thedevelopment and management of cloud-native applications. Based on the Open Container Initiative(OCI) and Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) standards, Oracle Linux Cloud Native Environmentdelivers a simplified framework for installation, updating, upgrading, and configuring key features fororchestrating microservices.Oracle Linux Cloud Native Environment includes Kubernetes, Kata Containers, CRI-O, unifiedmanagement, Helm, Istio and other open source services. The implementation of Kubernetes is CertifiedKubernetes by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).SupportAs previously stated, Oracle Linux is free to download, use, and redistribute without a support contract.However, when a customer needs support, it is available at Basic and Premier levels via a yearly 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis5subscription that includes support for the UEK and/or the RHCK. Both Basic and Premier supportincludes worldwide 24x7 phone and online support as well as access to enhancements, updates anderrata. Support levels can be assigned on a per physical server basis. Customers can choose eitherOracle’s Enterprise manager or Oracle’s release of Spacewalk for Oracle Linux (both included with OracleLinux support subscriptions). Full indemnification against intellectual property claims is included with allsupport licenses. Pricing is calculated on a per-system basis and varies with the level of support fromBasic to Premier.3Basic support includes:Oracle Enterprise Manager for Linux – management application for Oracle-based applicationenvironments, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle database management, and cloud management. Forcloud environments, Enterprise Manager includes self-service provisioning, policy-based resourcemanagement, integrated chargeback, and capacity planning.Oracle Clusterware – portable software for clustering independent servers into a single system.Clusterware is foundational to Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC)Spacewalk – provides a set of tools for managing the Oracle Linux software life cycle in small or largedeployments. Spacewalk also helps customers automate a kickstart installation, system configuration,and maintenance tasks, which enables customers to deploy consistent software configurations forOracle Linux systemsDTrace support – a comprehensive tracing framework for troubleshooting kernel and applicationproblems on production systems in real time. (see above)Oracle Linux Load Balancer – HAProxy is an application layer (Layer 7) load balancing and highavailability solution used to implement a reverse proxy for HTTP and TCP-based Internet services.Keepalived uses the IP Virtual Server (IPVS) kernel module to provide transport layer (Layer 4) loadbalancing, redirecting requests for network-based services to individual members of a server cluster.IPVS monitors the status of each server and uses the Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol (VRRP) toimplement high availability.3A system is defined by Oracle as the computer on which the Oracle Linux programs are installed. Where computers/bladesare clustered, each computer/blade within the cluster is defined as a system. 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis6Container Runtime for Docker – Oracle Container Runtime for Docker allows customers to create anddistribute applications across Oracle Linux systems and other operating systems that support Docker.Oracle Container Runtime for Docker consists of the Docker Engine, which packages and runs theapplications, and integrates with the Docker Hub and Oracle Container Registry to share the applicationsin a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud.Premier support includes everything in basic support plus:Ksplice zero-downtime updates – Ksplice is a unique technology provided as part of the Oracle LinuxPremier Support subscription. Ksplice updates the Linux Operating System (OS) kernel, while it isrunning, without a reboot or any interruption to the application and work disruption to users. Inaddition, Ksplice protects against vulnerabilities in the Linux kernel and critical user-space components,including glibc and openssl through ongoing security patches. Exploit detection in Ksplice senses theoccurrence of an attack targeted at specific OS vulnerabilities and keeps an audit trail of such attacks.With Ksplice, IT administrators can keep up with important Linux kernel updates, patches for both theUnbreakable Enterprise Kernel as well as the Red Hat Compatible Kernel and is one of the most popularfeatures with UEK users.Oracle Linux Virtualization Manager – a comprehensive virtualization management solution that can bedeployed to configure, monitor, and manage an Oracle Linux Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM)environment with enterprise-grade performance and support from Oracle.Oracle Linux Cloud Native Environment – includes Kubernetes, Kata containers, Istio, and Helm.Oracle’s Linux Cloud Native Environment is an integrated suite of software and tools for thedevelopment and management of cloud-native applications. Based on the Open Container Initiative(OCI) and Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) standards, Oracle Linux Cloud Native Environmentdelivers a simplified framework for installations, updates, upgrades, and configuration of key featuresfor orchestrating microservices.Gluster storage – a scalable, distributed file system that aggregates disk storage resources from multipleservers into a single global namespace.Premier backports – backport of fixes, using commercially reasonable efforts, for any Oracle Linuxprogram released from Oracle for a period of six months from the date the next release of the OracleLinux program becomes generally availableHigh Availability Services – several open-source packages, including Corosync and Pacemaker, toprovide the tools to achieve high availability for applications and services running on Oracle Linux. 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis7Lifetime sustaining support - access to Oracle online support tools, upgrade rights, pre-existing fixes andassistance from technical support experts.Oracle Linux Basic and Premier S ubscription PricingLevelInstallable binaries and errataBasic Limited(24x7 unlimited support for up to 2 CPUs)Basic(24x7 unlimited support for more than CPUs)Premier Limited24x7 unlimited support for up to 2 CPUsPremier424x7 unlimited support for more than 2 CPUsPrice per year (in US )Free 499 1,199 1,399 2,299Customer ExperiencesIn preparation for our Total Value Analysis, Evaluator Group reviewed case histories of customers whohad consolidated their Linux server environments to Oracle Linux. We found that they could reduce TCOby factors of 20 to 50%. Cost savings were realized in three main areas:System Lifecycle managementKsplice reduced total planned IT downtime by over 20% for one customer who manages 395retail store locations with two servers per location. An airline was able preserve revenue bypatching and updating their ticketing systems without any downtime and could continueoperating without a reboot. They were able to automate patching for 1500 servers over a fewnights – something that used to take months with seven hours of downtime.Reduced Administration time4Included as part of Oracle’s Premier Support for Systems 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis8One customer reported sys admin time demands had dropped from 54 hours to 7 hours percycle, and that patched or updated servers could continue to operate without requiring a reboot.Another reported a reduction of 35% in systems administration time per system.SupportOne customer saw a 50% reduction in their system support costs. Another cited saving 100K inannual support costs and being able to implement a single portal for all Linux system usersupport. Another customer cited a reduction of 50% in time to resolution from opening a troubleticket.Next, to get a better understanding of actual user experience with both RHEL and Oracle Linux (OL),conducted in-depth interviews with OL customers from different vertical industry segments.Healthcare ServicesAn organization delivering services to healthcare providers nationwide uses Oracle Linux to support theirclient services applications that are critical to everyday healthcare delivery—particularly so now with thestress placed on healthcare systems from COVID-19. The organization currently supports over 20,000servers with an average of between 15-20 virtual machines per server and a future growth rate ofbetween 10 and 15%. Prior to the migration of this environment to Oracle Linux, the organization wasusing RHEL but was looking for the most efficient way to host client software. Now the organization notonly hosts these applications on Oracle Linux but has also moved DevOps services and specialized clientsolutions to this environment as well.The client services applications are performance- and availability-sensitive, so they support these on theOracle Linux UEK. This allows them to use InfiniBand (IB) connectivity between the server and storageenvironments. IB is fully tested and supported at the scale in use by this organization.Regarding system availability and support, the organization has seen that Oracle has been quick torespond and resolve issues. They like the “all hands on deck” response they get with 7x24 support. Inparticular, clustering support is critical because they run client services applications in as close to a nonstop environment as possible. They also get support for large-scale, Gluster storage which they alsoneed. In general, the sense they have is that Oracle has become a partner as opposed to a supplier. Thesize of the server environment coupled with their need for near non-stop operations made initialdeployment challenging, but Oracle worked with them through the entire migration. 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis9A major benefit derived from moving to Oracle Linux was a reduction in IT spend that positivelyimpacted operating margins. However, the move also included implementation of a more automatedoperational environment. The organization was able to fully support healthcare clients under stressfrom the influx of COVID-19 patients. “We’ve stood up 1000s of servers over a weekend to support ourhealthcare clients. The work we did to automate totally paid off both in terms of security and time toservice delivery. With automation, loyalty to a brand is becoming less important.”Financial ServicesWe spoke to an Infrastructure Architect for a large financial services firm with responsibilities in the areas of Linuxand containers. This customer was also managing “tens of thousands” of Oracle Linux instances in production,client, development, and quality assurance environments. All new installs are on Oracle Linux as they are focusedon leveraging industry standards. Application stacks supported on Oracle Linux included those using Oracle,MySQL and Hbase. This customer migrated from RHEL and SUSE Linux to Oracle Linux and commented positivelyon Oracle’s support for the migration. They achieved the following results: Consolidation of different versions of Linux to one resulted in increased management simplification and amore stable operating environmentConsolidation of all Linux systems support to one Oracle support contract resulted in a “significant”reduction in support costs for business critical SMP and other secondary systemsIncreased application performance“Very satisfied” with Oracle supportConsumer and Enterprise SoftwareWe spoke to a large consumer and enterprise software provider with two large and several smaller datacenters. The total server environment was 80% Linux—approximately 22K servers running 400 differentapplications. Oracle Linux supports the Oracle applications and Oracle VM is used extensively. Inaddition, they use Oracle to support the entire Linux server base (RHEL plus Oracle Linux) and makeextensive use of Ksplice.The head of a group in charge of server updates and patches reported that application performanceimproved when the Oracle applications were ported from RHEL to OL. However, he was particularlyfamiliar with the use of Ksplice and its benefits. 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis10His group makes extensive use of Ksplice as well as home-grown scripts for the entire Linux environmentin order to leverage whatever is common to both RHEL and OL environments. They use the samemethods to update/patch both environments.His group does OS patching monthly. Ksplice is used to avoid application outages. No matter how briefthese outages may be, they are nevertheless disruptive to application users. Before the use of Ksplice,updates/patching processes would sometimes require downtime on all 22K servers/400 applications.Using Ksplice yields two significant benefits: They no longer have to notify application users of downtime periods required forupdates/patches—previously a continual source of frictionThey save 500 man-hours per monthInsuranceA final interview with a large insurance carrier focused on Oracle support for Linux. This organization has an ITstaff of 1,500. IT supports mainframe, Windows, and Oracle Database workloads in two data centers with disasterrecovery capability. IT ported the RHEL-hosted applications to Oracle Linux and the environment grew to over 450servers on Oracle Linux UEK. They reported encountering no issues when porting applications from RHEL toOracle Linux. Since porting the Oracle applications to Oracle Linux with UEK, they have seen the followingbenefits: Both their Oracle Database and Veritas NetBackup workloads have seen 18% faster throughputThe need to manually update ASM library modules was eliminated. Because these libraries are built intoUEK, the UEK automatically updates the ASM libraries.They are also using Oracle to support the Linux environment and the resulting benefits from Premium Supportinclude: The additional licensing cost for RHEL clustering was eliminated because Oracle Clusterware is included atno additional charge with the Premier Support contract.The additional cost RHEL Satellite for management was also eliminated through the use of OracleEnterprise Manager—also included with the Premier Support contract. Because Enterprise Managercollects performance and other data in an Oracle database, it can be easily exported to othermanagement and analysis applications.They now have single console for management that is shared by administrators as well as having theability to give multiple customized views to DBAs 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis 11Remote server management that once required complex planning around limited maintenance windowsis now simplified.In general, for this environment, the significant savings realized from using Oracle Support for their Linuxenvironment resulted from implementing the management pack components and clustering software that theywould have to otherwise pay for.From our interviews we see that: Oracle Linux is trusted in high-volume, transactional, mission critical production IT environmentsOracle’s Linux support is relied upon for applications that require continuous or near-continuousavailabilityApplication performance in general was enhanced as a result of the migration to Oracle Linux from RHELAutomation of processes that were previously done manually resulted in significant reductions in stafftime devoted to these functions.Economic Implications and AnalysisFrom our review of Oracle Linux software and support, we believe that tangible economic benefits canbe realized from consolidating the enterprise Linux environment to Oracle Linux. These benefits,gathered from our own analysis as well as the customer interviews outlined above, can be furtherexpressed as line items in a cost justification model or investment proposal:Increased PerformanceAll of our interview candidates reported seeing an increase in application performance as a result ofmoving to Oracle Linux. For transaction-oriented Oracle database applications, this increase inperformance equates to increased productivity among business users. Productivity gains translatedirectly to an immediate economic return on the investment in administrative time spent in migratingapplications to Oracle Linux. A positive ROI can also be seen on the customer side of the equation. Forbusiness user groups and corporate executives wanting to engage with customers via cloud-basedapplications, better performance delivers a more positive application experience, thereby enhancingrevenue generation.Increased SecurityWe have noted that Ksplice enables live, non-disruptive patching for the kernel, hypervisor, and criticaluser space packages, detects attempts to exploit kernel vulnerabilities that have been patched inmemory. Ksplice also proactively alerts an administrator if any compromised code tries to get executed 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis12on a server. One customer was very specific regarding the value of Ksplice. In this case, using Ksplice formonthly updates and patches in a 22K server environment saved 500 man-hours per month. Assuming afull-time employee (FTE) cost of 125K per year, reducing IT administrative staff time by 500 hours amonth equates to a savings of 375K per year or the equivalent of three IT administrators.One Linux StrategyInterview candidates reported that consolidation of Linux systems support to one Oracle Supportcontract resulted in significant reductions in support costs for Linux systems environments that includedservers hosing critical as well as secondary applications. For one, consolidation of different versions ofLinux to one resulted in increased management simplification and a more stable operating environment.We note that, because all IT enterprise environments are architected and managed differently,quantification of operational expense (OPEX) savings will vary from one to the next. However, it is clearfrom the interviews that: OPEX devoted to annual Linux support costs can be reduced, possibly significantly,leading to an immediate return on investing in a single source for Linux support strategyManagement staff time expressed as OPEX can also be reduced through simplificationresulting in increased management staff efficiencyA more stable operating environment will result in lowering the cost of outages.Application stability is also an additional factor for determining ROI resulting fromapplication user productivity and customer satisfaction.Oracle Linux Added Value FeaturesOne of our interview candidates reported that, for his environment, the greatest value gained fromimplementing Oracle Linux resulted from implementing the management pack components andclustering software that they would have to pay for otherwise. Many other components are included atno extra charge with Oracle Linux support options such as Virtualization, Docker, Kubernetes andGluster storage.Evaluator Group AssessmentWe note that Oracle has made a substantial effort to assure compatibility with the other Linux kernelsand distributions and believe that will continue to be true. For Oracle users developing hybrid cloudenvironments, we note that Linux is by far the leading OS choice and that Oracle Linux now supportsKubernetes for cloud-native application development. In keeping with the practices of the open sourcecommunity, Oracle Linux source code is directly and completely published in public git repositories withall patches and commit logs left intact. Oracle is a platinum member of the Linux Foundation as well as 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any formwithout prior written permission is prohibited.
Switching to Oracle Linux – a Total Value Analysis13the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and Oracle Linux is supported on major public clouds such asAWS and Azure.Therefore, switching from RHEL or SUSE Linux to Oracle Linux is clearly an option worth examining by ITadministrators who manage Oracle environments and have a substantial commitment to Linux-basedservers. As mentioned, all users we have spoken to directly reported an increase in applicationperformance after they migrated. And all reported the realization of substantial savings but in varyingways and for different reasons. However, the ROI resulting from increased user productivity and OPEXsaved was immediate in all cases. For Oracle hardware and software customers, Oracle Linux is a way toleverage the synergy Oracle has built into its Engineered Systems and practice a “one Linux” strategy.About Evaluator GroupEvaluator Group Inc. is dedicated to helping IT professionals and vendors create and implement strategies that make the most of the valueof their storage and digital information. Evaluator Group services deliver in-depth, unbiased analysis on storage architectures,infrastructures and management for IT professionals. Since 1997 Evaluator Group has provided services for thousands of end users andvendor professionals through product and market evaluations, competitive analysis and education. www.evaluatorgroup.com Follow uson Twitter @evaluator groupCopyright 2020 Evaluator Group, Inc. All rights reserved.No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording,or stored in a database or retrieval system for any purpose without the express written consent of Evaluator Group Inc. The information contained in thisdocument is subject to change without notice. Evaluator Group assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions. Evaluator Group makes no expressed orimplied warranties in this document relating to the use or operation of the products described herein. In no event shall Evaluator Group be liable for anyindirect, special, inconsequential or incidental damages arising out of or associated with any aspect of this publication, even if advised of the pos
Oracle Linux Essentials In 1998, Oracle Database Release 8 became the first commercial database to be ported to Linux in spite of barely discernable interest in Linux by enterprise users at the time. Oracle Linux was launched at Oracle OpenWorld in 2006 and in September 2010, Oracle announced the Unbreakabl