Oracle has thrown down the gauntlet to enterprise open source vendors, and Red Hat in particular, saying it will support Linux and compete on pricing.

Oracle chief executive, Larry Ellison made the announcement during his keynote speech at the database giant’s annual US user conference, OpenWorld.

He said Linux was key to driving up adoption of grid computing, which pointed the way for the future of low cost, high performance, reliable enterprise IT infrastructures. And he claimed the move to challenge Red Hat would encourage more enterprises to migrate their mission-critical systems to the open source and grids.

“As of today we are offering full support for Red Hat Linux,” said Ellison. “If you are a Red Hat customer you can very easily switch to Oracle support, and we will ‘back-port’ fixes and indemnify customers. We will also charge way less than half of what Red Hat charges. The goal here is to enhance and speed the adoption of Linux in mission-critical data centres.”

The Oracle “Unbreakable Linux” support program has existed since 2002, and Ellison said the announcement to support Red Hat Linux was a result of the considerable in-house skills and capabilities it has built up in developing its Linux-compatible portfolio.

Previously, the support program was available to any Oracle customer. Now any Red Hat Linux support customer can switch to Oracle’s alternative offering even if they run no other Oracle products. And the binaries will be available free from Oracle.

Pricing is $99 (£54) per system per year for network support and its Basic package, including network access plus 24-hour global coverage, is priced at $399 (£213) for a two CPU system annually and $999 (£532) per year with unlimited CPUs. Its Premier level of support adds back port bug fixes to earlier Red Hat Linux releases, as well as Oracle Lifetime support and costs $1,199 (£639) for a two CPU system or $1,999 for unlimited CPU-based systems.

Ronan Miles, Oracle UK user group chair told CIO: “This is actually quite a profound announcement that could well cause a sea-change in the way Linux is prioritised in the enterprise, taking away some of the risk associated with moving to open source. For some it will be the tipping point they need, but it will depend on how important IT is to the business and how ready it is to take on grid and open source.”