Linux received a vote of support as a platform for corporate business applications as Oracle announced that seven of its new customers in India have chosen to run the company's technology and applications software on the open-source operating system.
More than 180,000 developers from India are registered on the Oracle Technology Network, the online platform where Oracle developers interact with each other and Oracle experts.
Windows continues to be the most popular operating system platform among Oracle developers in India, but the fact that developers and users are embracing Linux is a sign that the operating system is challenging Unix - a traditional platform for corporate enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications - and making inroads against Windows.
Among the new Oracle customers are the treasury department of the government of the Indian state of West Bengal, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam, a Delhi-based, government-controlled telecommunications services provider.
Central Bank of India, a government-owned bank in Mumbai, another new customer, expects 20% to 30% savings on its total IT investments each year by using Linux , according to a spokesperson for the bank.
"We were looking for a platform capable of handling our complex and varied business needs," said Amitabh Pandey, group general manager for IT services at Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, a public sector company in Delhi owned by India's ministry of railways.
"It also had to be cost effective. Oracle E-Business Suite and Red Hat Linux was a perfect fit. We evaluated Linux as an enterprise-wide platform and were very satisfied with the performance."
India emerged as a battlefield in Microsoft's worldwide effort to stem the rising use of Linux when Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates visited the country in November 2002, and announced that his company would invest $400m in India over the next three years in a number of areas, including computer literacy and localisation of its software products.
Gates' announcement was seen by analysts as an effort to pre-empt attempts by the Indian government from making a formal decision to adopt open-source software.
Since then, Indian government has not made a formal announcement to adopt Linux, but Microsoft has come under increasing pressure from Linux and open-source proponents in India and around the world.
Oracle has been pushing Linux very strongly in the Indian market, which explains the growing popularity of the operating system among Oracle users in the country, according to analysts. "We have started actively recommending Linux to our customers, and we provide first level support on the Linux operating system," said a company spokeswoman.
"That is something that we do not do for any other operating system."
Oracle's customers who have support agreements with the company get Linux operating system support bundled free.
Having a software development centre in India has helped Oracle push Linux there, as the sales and marketing groups at Oracle India work with the Oracle India Development Centre to decide on the right configuration and solution for the customer's requirements, said Lakshminarasimhan Gopalakrishnan, director of the platform technologies group at the IDC in Bangalore. The IDC also works with Linux developers in India.
Oracle's IDC works with some key Linux distributors worldwide to strengthen the Linux kernel and make it enterprise ready. The IDC has also worked on a number of Oracle's projects in the Linux area, including the development of Oracle Database 10g.
John Ribeiro writes for IDG News Service