Oracle has thrown its hat in the ring with a quartet of vendors striving to create a standards-based distribution of the Linux operating system.

The database specialist Thursday promised enterprise-level, seamless technical support for the operating systems powered by UnitedLinux LLC project

as part of its “”Unbreakable Linux”” strategy. The only other version of Linux covered by the Oracle program to date is Red Hat Software’s distribution, which has been noticeably absent from the consortium driving UnitedLinux.

The SCO Group, Connectiva, SA, SuSE Linux AG and TurboLinux formed UnitedLinux last May. Their products continue to be sold under the partners’ own brands, but UnitedLinux is based on the Linux Standards Base (LSB) and the LiN18ux standards and will be focused on IA-32 and 64-bit server products.

This is where many Linux companies believe the open source OS holds the most promise as a competitor to established players like Microsoft. The first generation of UnitedLinux was released during Comdex Fall in Las Vegas late last year.

Dave Dargo, vice-president of Oracle’s Linux Program Office, said closer collaboration between the Oracle and the UnitedLinux companies will allow it to offer a single point of contact when Linux breaks down in the enterprise, speeding up the troubleshooting process.

“”Oracle is not getting into the distribution business,”” he said. “”We expect our customers to maintain a business relationship with both Oracle and the distributor.””

Paula Hunter, general manager of UnitedLinux, said the partnership builds on the completion of UnitedLinux certification with Oracle9i Database and its real application clustering technology last month. She said Oracle now joins a number of other large vendors who have aligned themselves with the consortium, most notably IBM and HP.

“”We have more than a few believers,”” she said.

Narcis Tesa, president of Toronto-based Linux consultant ntropiX Inc., said the Oracle announcement would probably have its greatest impact in Europe and South America, where companies like SuSE have a higher profile.

“”Here, Red Hat is dominant,”” he said.

Martin Sneath, president of Nuko Strategies Inc., said UnitedLinux has yet to gain much attention from the Canadian open source community.

“”Red Hat hasn’t raised their prices yet to the point where UnitedLinux is really in demand,”” he said. “”With Caldera/SCO, we’re really just dealing with them on a SCO basis.””

Dargo said there will be no additional charge or contractual obligation to get this support, which Tesa said could be attractive to some users.

“”I have one client which is actually looking to replace an old application with something based on Oracle,”” he said. “”It depends what you’re using. If it’s a just an e-mail server, file server or a different database, it doesn’t really make a big difference to them.””

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