Oracle is studying whether to launch its own version of the Linux operating system and has looked at buying one of the two companies currently dominating the Linux world, according to Larry Ellison, the software company’s chief executive officer.

Such a move would redraw the software landscape and open a new front in Oracle’s long rivalry with US rival Microsoft.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Ellison said that Oracle wanted to sell a full “stack” of software that, like Microsoft, included both operating system and applications.

“I’d like to have a complete stack,” he said. “We’re missing an operating system. You could argue that it makes a lot of sense for us to look at distributing and supporting Linux.”

Like IBM, Oracle has counted on Linux – an open source system whose code is open to anyone to view and adapt – to act as a counterweight to Microsoft’s Windows, which has expanded rapidly from desktop PCs into corporate IT systems.

As part of a recent study of the open source software market, Mr Ellison said that Oracle had considered buying Novell, which after Red Hat is the biggest distributor of Linux. “We look at everything, play this thing out,” he added.

Red Hat’s own acquisition last week of JBoss – another open source company whose products compete with Oracle and IBM – could shake up alliances in the Linux world and provide another reason to act, said Mr Ellison.

“Now that Red Hat . . . competes with us in middleware, we have to re-look at the relationship – so does IBM,” he said.

On Red Hat’s growing influence and its ambitions to reach beyond the Linux operating system, he added: “I don’t think Oracle and IBM want another Microsoft in Red Hat.”

Mr Ellison also said he was pushing Oracle further into hosting software on behalf of customers, relying on regular subscription payments rather than upfront revenue. But he feels Wall Street has not given the company enough credit for this kind of move to alternative revenue streams.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023. All rights reserved.
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