HP sues Oracle over Itanium support: Does the lawsuit make sense?

HP sues Oracle over Itanium support: Does the lawsuit make sense?

Summary: Hewlett-Packard said it has filed a civil lawsuit in California forcing Oracle to support its Itanium platform.

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Hewlett-Packard said it has filed a civil lawsuit in California forcing Oracle to support its Itanium platform.

In March, Oracle said it would stop supporting HP's Itanium platform because Intel didn't plan to keep the platform over the long run. Both HP and Intel denied that claim.

Now the Itanium spat is escalating. HP said in a statement:

HP believes that Oracle’s March 22 statement to discontinue all future software development on the Itanium platform violates legally binding commitments Oracle has made to HP and the more than 140,000 shared HP-Oracle customers. Further, we believe that this is an unlawful attempt to force customers from HP Itanium platforms to Oracle’s own platforms.

According to HP, Oracle has to offer its product suite on Itanium.

Oracle issued its own statement mocking HP's lawsuit:

It just takes a few minutes to read the early drafts of the agreement to prove that HP's claim is not true. What is true is that HP explicitly asked Oracle to guarantee continued support for Itanium; but Oracle refused, and HP's Itanium support guarantee wording was deleted from the final signed agreement.

It is interesting, however, that way back in September of 2010, HP asked Oracle for a long-term commitment to support Itanium. At that time Oracle did not know that there was a plan already in place to end Itanium's life. Oracle did not learn about that plan until six months later, in March 2011. We believe that HP specifically asked Oracle to guarantee long-term support for Itanium in the September of 2010 agreement because HP already knew all about Intel's plans to discontinue Itanium, and HP was concerned about what would happen when Oracle found out about that plan.

What we know for certain is that Ray Lane and HP's current board members and Leo Apotheker and HP's current management team now know full well that Intel has plans in place to end-of-life of the Itanium microprocessor.

If you assume that there's some legally binding agreement for Oracle to support Itanium, perhaps the company will support the platform. However, as soon as that agreement is over Oracle will drop Itanium again. In other words, a court case and forced Oracle support does nothing to allay long-term roadmap concerns.

In addition, it's a bit fuzzy how unlawful the end of Oracle's Itanium support really is. HP argues that Oracle is trying to force customers to its stack. HP's Itanium boxes are targeted at the Unix market, a place where Oracle's Solaris also plays. However, these Oracle customers could also move to Xeon powered servers. Oracle's point is that it doesn't believe that Itanium has a future.

Back in March, Oracle said:

Oracle has an obligation to give our customers adequate advanced notice when Oracle discontinues development on any software product or hardware platform so our customers have the information they need to plan and manage their businesses. HP is well aware that Intel’s future direction is focused on X86 and that plans to replace Itanium with X86 are already in place. HP is knowingly withholding this information from our joint Itanium customers. While new versions of Oracle software will not run on Itanium, we will support existing Oracle/Itanium customers on existing Oracle products. In fact, Oracle is the last of the major software companies to stop development on Itanium.

Ultimately, the marketplace decides. If Itanium has mojo it's possible that Oracle would lose customers. Obviously, Oracle has looked at Itanium's risk and reward for its business and decided it could drop support. A lawsuit over Oracle's legal obligations isn't likely to change that decision over the long run.

Related:

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Hardware, Legal, Oracle, Processors

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27 comments
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  • Message has been deleted.

    Linux Geek
    • RE: HP sues Oracle over Itanium support: Does the lawsuit make sense?

      @Linux Geek

      They have a contract? If so why haven't HP enforced it with them?
      the.nameless.drifter
    • Oh give it a rest already!

      @Linux Geek: [i]next M$ should be sued by HP[/i]

      This had nothing to do with Microsoft yet here you are injecting your Microsoft hate into it. Why are you so consumed with hate for Microsoft?
      ye
  • RE: HP sues Oracle over Itanium support: Does the lawsuit make sense?

    Really? Microsoft has a legally binding contract with HP to support Itanium that they (MS) are breaching? Then yes, HP should sue. If not, this is just bluster, isn't it?
    swmace
  • RE: HP sues Oracle over Itanium support: Does the lawsuit make sense?

    I'd be interested in hearing what those commitments are? Did they make a written promise to support a platform with "x" amount of version releases or what? That is about the only thing I can think of.

    Now if they promised that they would support a certain version of a product for a period of time then Oracle is free to stop support for Itanium in future versions just as long as they honor the commitment to support the other versions that still run on Itanium for the promised length in time.
    bobiroc
  • This ship is going to sink

    See, this is what happens when you let your lawyers run your business. Even if you win your lawsuit, all you've done is blow the horns even louder that the Itanic is sinking.
    Robert Hahn
  • People keep a database platform over Hardware/OS almost every time.

    "If Itanium has mojo it?s possible that Oracle would lose customers."

    The rip-and-replace comparisons aren't anywhere near apples to apples.

    Saying I'm switching from Oracle to SQL Server/DB2/Informix/SyBase because I want to keep my hardware/OS combination is a little like saying I'm switching from Windows to Linux because I want to keep my current PC hardware. It does happen, but not very often.

    Infrastructure is built around the Database platform not the Hardware/OS combination.
    markh@...
    • Actually, a DB structure should be independent of platform,

      and that means independent of hardware/OS. Developing strictly for one database platform, locks you in to a vendor. Development with a DB should encourage the use of very standard SQL structure, as much as possible, in case migration is necessitated in the future.
      adornoe
  • RE: HP sues Oracle over Itanium support: Does the lawsuit make sense?

    The marketplace doesn't decide, unless by the "marketplace" you include companies like Oracle creating an effective monopoly by acquisition. Software companies with a large market share have the power to decide whether particular hardware platforms live or die, and when the software companies owns one of the hardware platforms, it's hard to describe that as "the market decides".
    Michael Kay
    • Absolutely

      @Michael Kay
      Oracle wins this without any real fight because the market is nowhere near being fair in this situation.

      - People build around DB platform not hardware.

      - Oracle had already decided within the last year to penalize Itanium servers with their core multiplier. This made licensing Oracle on Itanium much more expensive than licensing Oracle on Sun servers.

      - If if licensing costs don't drive people away from Itanium, not supporting the hardware should finally do it.

      - Larry doesn't like how HP treated his buddy Mark Hurd, so there may be a tiny personal edge to all the money Oracle is going to make on this.

      - No way any of this seems like fair and ethical business, but I can't really see the courts stopping it.
      markh@...
    • Down with everything!

      Let's smash them and make them move all their software development and support activities overseas!
      Robert Hahn
      • Huh?

        @Robert Hahn Apparently you enjoy tech support calls with overseas folks in India.
        skippe93
  • RE: HP sues Oracle over Itanium support: Does the lawsuit make sense?

    Wait... people are actually using Itanium?
    masonwheeler
  • It looks like HP is right

    Their customers are supposed to be supported according to the contract.
    digish777
  • RE: HP sues Oracle over Itanium support: Does the lawsuit make sense?

    The lawsuit makes great sense to the lawyers.

    If Oracle signed an agreement about Itanium support, then they should honor it.

    The market needs to learn from this experience about the methods used by vendors. The market's reaction with its purse will inform the vendors as to the degree they need to make some change.

    Would the market be any better off if they were on an open source database platform?
    pwatson
  • Jeez, isn't Itanium dead yet?

    I don't care for Oracle but they should be within their rights to decide to support Itanium or to not support it.

    This platform has been dead for some time now.
    balsover
  • RE: HP sues Oracle over Itanium support: Does the lawsuit make sense?

    When was the last time an itanium chip actually came out? What is the marketshare?
    Jimster480
  • RE: HP sues Oracle over Itanium support: Does the lawsuit make sense?

    HP has spent Millions supporting Oracle on HPUX. Doesn't make sense that the 2 companies would disrupt their customers...
    mschafer555
  • RE: HP sues Oracle over Itanium support: Does the lawsuit make sense?

    Our they could sue AMD for producing x86 64 and making the Itanium completely irrelevant....
    wizardb@...
  • It depends

    And what if they go for damages or try to push for a deal? A deal that could in their view provide enough support for Itanium that it can become a serious player in that market.

    I think it is very hard to comment on that with so little information. At least the documents of the litigation should be available, not only the press declarations.
    bezoeker