Oracle has opened up its latest work with the Linux community to improve the enterprise capabilities of the open-source operating system.

Oracle has an interesting, complex relationship with Linux. The company first released a database to run on Linux back in 1998, and the OS is proving very popular with its customers. Oracle has been making steady inroads into the Linux space, most recently with its controversial Unbreakable Linux support program and its January move to provide Linux management tools.

Oracle set itself up as a competitor to leading Linux distributor Red Hat last October when it unveiled Unbreakable Linux, a program, to provide users with full support for the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) distribution at aggressive prices. Oracle Enterprise Linux is the vendor’s name for the RHEL-compatible distribution it makes available to customers. Oracle has remained reticent on exactly how many users have adopted Unbreakable Linux so far, but continues to claim that the program is off to a strong start.

At LinuxWorld, Oracle announced it’s making a number of projects it’s been working on to enhance Linux available under the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2). The GPL gives users the right to freely study, copy, modify, reuse, share and redistribute software. GPL version 3 debuted at the end of June and several hundred open-source projects have already adopted the new license.

It’s still unclear whether the Linux kernel, currently licensed under GPLv2, will move over to GPLv3, or remain on the current license.

“When Oracle contributes patches and features to Linux we do so under the license which the product we are contributing to is under,” an Oracle spokesperson wrote in response to a question about the choice of GPLv2 for its projects. “In this case the Linux kernel the product we are contributing to and the kernel is under GPLv2,” the spokesperson added.

One of the projects is the Btrfs file system developed by Oracle’s Chris Mason. Available in an alpha release, the software offers improved scalability and simplified management to handle large amounts of stored information. Btrfs has features not offered in Linux at present such as the ability to carry out quick incremental data backups and to capture flexible snapshots of data.

Another project is the porting of systems management tool Yast (yet another setup tool) to Oracle Enterprise Linux and RHEL. Yast was originally developed by Novell, the other leading enterprise Linux distributor, and so already supports openSuse and Suse Linux Enterprise Server. The tool makes it easier to install, configure and maintain Linux systems.

Oracle is also making its Linux Test Kit available under GPLv2. The tests help verify the functionality and stability of the Linux kernel ensuring that it can run an Oracle enterprise database. The Linux Test Kit is part of Oracle’s Validated Configurations program.

First announced in June 2006, the program lets Oracle customers know which Linux system configurations the vendor and its partners have pretested. Validated Configurations covers a mix of software, hardware, storage, drivers and networking stacks for running Linux. Oracle’s hope is that offering advice and documentation about pretested configurations should make it easier for users to more quickly and easily deploy Linux.

Oracle announced at LinuxWorld that it’s added six more Validated Configurations to bring the total number of pretested Linux stacks to over 30. The latest Validated Configurations running on Oracle Enterprise Linux involve combinations of technologies from Compellent, Dell, Egenera, EMC, HP, Pillar Data and Unisys.

Oracle also revealed it’s working with host bus adapter provider Emulex on an open-source data integrity interface that could help cut back on system downtime. Oracle hopes to make that interface available under GPLv2 in the next 12 months.

Oracle previewed its Authentication Services for Operating Systems at the show. A new piece of Oracle’s Fusion middleware, the product will help to make it easier to centrally and securely manage and authenticate Linux and Unix operating systems users. The preview version only supports Oracle Enterprise Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but the vendor plans to support other systems in future.