Oracle Upsets Red Hat Enterprise Linux Users

Many Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) users have become worried in response to a recent note released from Oracle Support. Initially released this spring but amended earlier this month, the note covered the ASMLib support library for Oracle Database’s Automatic Storage Management feature and how it will be supported in the future.

Automatic Storage Management’s (ASM) main purpose is to simplify database administration.  Instead of having to manage massive amounts of Oracle database files, database administrators can focus on managing certain disk groups that have been allocated to the Oracle Database.  The ASMLib support library increases the efficiency of an Oracle Database using ASM when it comes to accessing disk groups.    

The section of the note from Oracle Support that has some Red Hat Enterprise Linux users up in arms deals with RHEL6, which was released last fall and recently updated.  The support note reads: “For RHEL6, Oracle will only provide ASMLib software and updates when configured with a kernel distributed by Oracle.  Oracle will not provide ASMLib packages for kernels distributed by Red Hat as part of RHEL6.  ASMLib updates will be delivered via Unbreakable Linux Network (ULN) which is available to customers with Oracle Linux support. ULN works with both Oracle Linux or Red Hat Linux installations, but ASMLib usage will require replacing any Red Hat kernel with a kernel provided by Oracle.”

Oracle’s support note has been successful in striking up fear in some users accustomed to Red Hat’s support.  One such user is database administrator Marianne Gillfillan, who works with the Concordia Administrative Information System.  She said, “I do believe it’s their attempt to pull support from RHEL to [Oracle Enterprise Linux].”

On the flip side of Gillfillan is Tim Hall, an Oracle Certified Professional who runs  He believes that ASMLib has become outdated and is no longer needed on a modern Linux setup thanks to udev, a device manager in the Linux kernel.  Hall said: “The story goes that when Oracle came up with ASMLib, they planned on it being an API that storage vendors would work with.  The reality is that this didn’t happen, so all ASMLib ended up doing is disk discovery, permissions and ownership.  This can be done almost as easily with udev, which has the advantage of not needing to be upgraded every time the kernel version changes.”

While Hall’s theory does have merit, it is just speculation at this point, as both Oracle and Red Hat have not commented any further on the issue.  Hall sees much of the worry from RHEL users as an overreaction, as nothing is official as of yet.  He said, “But removing support for a product that most people don’t bother with and can be easily replaced by a bit of native functionality is hardly a glaring sign of impending doom for RHEL.”

It may not be overly popular, but there are still administrators who employ ASMLib and have become used to it, such as Gillfillan.  As such, she noted plans to simply switch support from Red Hat to Oracle if udev does not suffice as an alternative.

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