Oracle’s announced that the version of its GNU/Linux for Arm processors is now generally available and signalled its intentions to help “build out a very viable server/cloud platform for Arm.”
Big Red revealed its efforts in November 2017 with the debut of an unsupported developer release of Oracle Linux 7 Update 3. Come February 2018 and the company updated the release to one based on Oracle Linux 7 update 4, again with dire warnings it was for play, not work, and had no support.
Then last Friday, June 22nd, 2018, Oracle announced general availability of Oracle Linux 7 Update 5 on the 64-bit ARMv8 platform (aarch64). Two days later the company explained the release, saying “the time has come to put support behind it and make clear to customers and partners that this is a real product, not just a preview."
Just what Oracle hopes to achieve with the supported release is unclear. There’s a hint in the company’s announcement blog, which saw senior veep Wim Coekaerts offer the following:
In order to build out a very viable server/cloud platform for Arm. We (as everyone else) need our ISV partner ecosystem to follow us. This is one reason we decided to go GA. We want to ensure we show that we are serious about this platform and that helps partners move forward as well.
Which sounds like Oracle hopes its community of partners to port their stuff to Arm servers.
Why would Oracle do that when it runs an x86 cloud and a SPARC cloud?
We’ve asked but aren’t holding our breath as Oracle’s not chatty.
But it’s not hard to guess why Oracle cares: as we’ve previously written, Arm-powered servers have pleasing power consumption and density potential, so it could be that Oracle is betting it needs to be on the platform to nourish other parts of its business such as databases and applications. The new release could also signal an edge computing play, as it won't hurt to have Oracle Linux capable of running in all sorts of devices. Oracle is also a combative company, so perhaps it is niggling Intel and AMD.
Whatever it is up to, an organisation of Oracle’s size and influence backing Arm is a significant vote of confidence in the platform’s potential for servers and clouds.
What’s in the distro?
So what’s in this release?
It’s based on Oracle’s unbreakable kernel and the current long-term servicing release of the Linux kernel – 4.1. The release is “built from the same source packages as the corresponding Oracle Linux distribution for the x86 architecture, plus any patches and modifications that are required to support the ARMv8 platform.”
DTrace has been tweaked to run on the Linux and the release “includes a toolchain that includes version 7.3 of the gcc compiler”.
Oracle’s made MySQL Community 8.0.11 packages for ARM available too.
A developer preview of Docker that will run on the OS is in a developer preview.
More code is in the works. Oracle’s posts on the release say “We are also doing work on Java optimizations and looking at other products” and tease the arrival of Kubernetes too.
Oracle’s said the release will run on “generic 64-bit ARMv8 hardware” but the downloadable image “has been tested on and is engineered for use on” the Ampere eMAG platform and Cavium’s ThunderX2 processor. Stick to those: Oracle said “The majority of our testing and validation happens on these platforms and chips.”
In case that hardware isn’t in your lab, Oracle’s also released a Raspberry Pi version.