Oracle hopes to take advantage of Australian IT professional’s interest in Linux, with the release of a new version of its 9I database, which can be run across multiple Linux servers in a configuration known as clustering.

The enterprise vendor announced earlier this week that it had developed the Linux clustering technology in conjunction with server hardware maker Dell Computer and Linux distributor Red Hat.

Peter Thomas, director of 9i marketing for Asia Pacific at Oracle, believes the move will interest companies looking to deploy their enterprise applications on a Linux platform.

Thomas said Oracle had worked closely with RedHat and Dell to develop a certified platform which was able to run its new offering.

“I think Linux has been very popular, and is growing in popularity in Australia,” Thomas said. “It made its entry into IT organisations primarily as a platform to run Web-based applications.”

With more enterprise software available on Linux, Thomas believes organisations are now looking at it as a platform to run applications beyond this, such as database applications.

Thomas was unable to comment on what he thought the take-up of Oracle’s new version of its 9i software would be like in Asia Pacific, due to the pending release of the company’s financial results.

The clustering used on Release 2 of Oracle 9i, a revamping of its flagship database software, allows businesses to harness multiple servers to run a very large database, so servers can share work or take over from each other if one fails.

The company has also shipped new versions of its application server software and development tools. The new version of the database includes more fluency in XML (Extensible Markup Language), a Web standard for exchanging information that is a cornerstone of Web services software development.

Dell has certified that its PowerEdge servers will run Red Hat Linux Advanced Server, a more robust version of the operating system, and release 2 of Oracle’s 9i database software.

Red Hat announced the debut of Linux Advanced Server earlier this year. It includes features designed for more powerful servers, such as clustering, faster communications and load balancing to share jobs efficiently among several servers.

At a press conference at Oracle headquarters in the US on Wednesday, executives from Oracle, Red Hat and Dell said companies have begun to trust Linux and are using it for more of their critical business functions.

“Linux is hot. The technology is…much more vibrant and acceptable,” said Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said the combined Oracle/Red Hat/Dell products are aimed at companies of all sizes and offer better performance and cost than IBM mainframe systems, for example.

“We think the Linux operating system is extremely attractive,” Ellison said. “(People ask), ‘Is Linux ready for primetime? Can I trust it is reliable enough and fast enough?’ With clusters, it’s fast enough. And with clusters, there’s no single point of failure. If you lose one machine, you have three left. Linux is suddenly unbreakable, suddenly more reliable.”

Dell might have beaten competitors to the punch with 9i RAC support for Red Hat, the most popular version of Linux, but HP has had 9i RAC support with SuSE Linux since June 2001, when the database product started shipping, HP said. That certification includes as many as eight four-processor ProLiant DL580 servers.

HP expects to have the servers certified with Red Hat and 9i RAC this summer, an HP representative said.

Linux, a clone of the Unix operating system, hasn’t yet acquired the ability to run on large multiprocessor systems with dozens of processors. Those high-end Unix servers are popular for tasks such as running gigantic databases used in Colgate-Palmolive’s international sales and accounting operations, for example.

But Oracle, IBM and others are pushing ahead with technology that would spread a single database across a group of lesser servers. It’s a movement well suited to companies such as Microsoft, Red Hat and Dell Computer, which have little influence outside the realm of four-processor and eight-processor servers. IBM and Sun Microsystems, among others, have controlled the market for systems larger than those.

In the Linux clustering market, Oracle will meet a familiar competitor: IBM. Janet Perna, general manager of IBM data management software said the company’s DB2 database software has had Linux clustering capabilities for two years, and already has a long list of customers.

Stephen Shankland and Wylie Wong contributed to this story.