HP wins over Oracle in Itanium legal battle

HP wins over Oracle in Itanium legal battle

Summary: A California superior court finds for HP in the ongoing litigation with Oracle relating to the Intel Itanium platform.


Oracle just can't catch a break in any of its courtroom battles lately. Hewlett-Packard has just won a major court ruling in the Itanium case against the hardware giant.

Here are the key points in the ruling handed down by the Superior Court of California on Wednesday afternoon:

  • The Settlement and Release Agreement entered into by HP and Oracle in September 2010 required Oracle to continue to offer its product suite on HP’s Itanium-based server platforms and didn't permit Oracle to decide on its own whether to do so or not.
  • That agreement also pertains to any Oracle software products that were offered on HP’s Itanium-based servers at the time the deal was signed.
  • Thus, Oracle was required to continue to offer its products on HP’s Itanium-based server platforms until HP discontinued sales of Itanium-based servers.
  • Oracle was required to port its products to HP’s Itanium-based servers without charge to HP.

For reference, HP filed a civil lawsuit against Oracle in June 2011 to support the Itanium platform after Oracle said the previous March that it would stop supporting HP's Itanium platform because Intel planned to shut it down in the long run.

HP and Intel both had denied Oracle's claims.

HP has already issued the following statement:

Today’s proposed ruling is a tremendous win for HP and its customers. The Superior Court of the State of California, Santa Clara County, has confirmed the existence of a contract between HP and Oracle that requires Oracle to port its software products to HP’s Itanium-based servers. We expect Oracle to comply with its contractual obligation as ordered by the Court.

Much like the patent and copyright infringement battle with Google this past spring, Oracle is already planning to appeal the verdict. Oracle has also responded with a statement of its own:

Last March, Oracle made an engineering decision to stop future software development on the Itanium chip. We made the decision as we became convinced that Itanium was approaching its end of life and we explained our rationale to customers here: www.oracle.com/itanium. Nothing in the Court's preliminary opinion changes that fact. We know that Oracle did not give up its fundamental right to make platform engineering decisions in the 27 words HP cites from the settlement of an unrelated employment agreement. HP’s argument turns the concept of Silicon Valley ‘partnerships’ upside down. We plan to appeal the Court's ruling while fully litigating our cross claims that HP misled both its partners and customers.

Check out the full decision from Judge James P. Kleinberg:

HP v. Oracle: Proposed Statement of Decision

Topics: Legal, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Oracle

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  • Just one question

    Regarding "The Settlement and Release Agreement entered into by HP and Oracle in September 2010", what is the duration of the agreement and how does Oracle get out of the agreement, other than reaching the end of the duration?
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Non performance would be one way.

      But, as far as can tell, HP never agreed to extend the life cycle in favor of Oracle. It just wasn't in the contract. Too bad for Oracle to develop technology that didn't have a guarantee from the HW mfg.
    • Escape clause

      In 2011, Oracle decided they wanted "distance" from HP. This is after signing agreements in 2010 that bound them to HP. The main reason (my speculation) is Leo Apothaker, a "software guy" who headed HP for a brief go between the signing of the agreement and Meg Whitman's ascendency last Fall. Leo wanted HP to become a "software company," among other idiotic things, and I can see how that would have made Oracle nervous.

      Speculation has been high that Intel wants to get away from Itanium. Perhaps HP will find another platform to support those features, perhaps not. My hunch is that this "agreement" will end in a few years regardless of how things wash out in court. Even if Oracle is "forced" to develop software for Itanium, who wants to be a customer of THAT? I therefore suspect that the court ruling is a stop-gap measure until HP can produce a different hardware platform that fills the current Itanium niche. (Defense, stock exchanges, hospitals, etc.)

      Microsoft announced they would quit supporting Itanium, as well ... but I don't think they have any hard agreements. That means that support is already shrinking. The question is, "What if you are one of the customers who really, really needs it?" There isn't much out there that can do what Itanium does ... Might be a good opening for AMD or nVidia to pick up a niche Intel might just as soon leave behind ...
      • Other options

        "The question is, "What if you are one of the customers who really, really needs it?" There isn't much out there that can do what Itanium does"

        IBM Power systems are the more than 2-1 market leader in the Unix market. They do everything that HP Itanium systems do and then some.
  • Serves Oracle right

    "engineering decisions" - fine; "engineering decisions" to to perk up one dying platform (Sparc) by stopping support support for another dying platform (Itanium) - fine; "engineering decisions" going against previous legal agreement - WTF were you thinking, Oracle?!
    • More likely...

      ...a futile effort to punish HP for firing Mark Hurd and replacing him with Leo Apotheker. Of course, if that could be proven, I think a shareholder lawsuit against Larry Ellison would be in order (hard to claim that a vendetta is a good use of corporate money).
      John L. Ries
      • Vendettas ...

        Apple and Oracle are the king and queen of vendetta legal battles. Jobs was notorious for it.
        • The key phrase

          "If that could be proven". I suspect that's not so easy.
          John L. Ries
  • Itanium

    The Itanium was based on patents owned by HP/Compaq and based on the Digital Equipment Corporation Alpha chip, including the L2 cache. HP has every right to insist on the upholding of the agreement that software still run on Itanium servers, but also the continued manufacture of chips utilizing HP's patents. Larry Ellison is well-known as a rip-off artist and deserves all of the hand slaps he gets.
  • finally some justice

    Finally some justice for HP, now they got to stop hiring retarded CEO's (aka LEO the software idiot). Its funny because even if LEO is a software guy, he was trying to kill off webOS. I guess he hates linux?
    • HP wins over Oracle in Itanium legal battle

      "...they got to stop hiring retarded CEO's (aka LEO the software idiot)..."
      tell that to ibm - a hardware giant and a software juggernaut! software and services have a much higher rate of roi than hardware alone, combine the three and you have a winner. why do you think oracle bought sun micro in the first place? you need hardware and software guys to integrate the three... software idiot? get a grip!
  • An unenforceable contract

    Even though the court can force Oracle to create a port for Itanium, they cannot force them to do joint marketing, create reference architectures, build any enhancements for Itanium, do any testing, staff the support organization with knowledgeable people, etc. They may be able to force Oracle to support Itanium, but they can't force them to do it well.
    • They could be sued for breach of contract

      If it can be proven that Oracle isn't supporting properly.

      And making patches/updates late or don't work would be evidence.
    • Not a big problem

      I wouldn't worry about that. If only they will keep providing ports of new versions of software in reasonable time (let's say no later than 6 months after it's released for their own platforms) and if only they will keep providing patches in reasonable time, the rest is not a problem. This is not a kind of platform used by SMB, these are only huge enterprises. Each of them has their own competent people to take care of the rest, quality of oracle support was always so bad that none of them would survive without having own competent support for mission critical applications.

      And as already Jesse Pollard said - if Oracle won't provide software/patches in reasonable time, HP will again sue them and again for sure receive some penalties. And the same should do any other affected customer.

      Regarding sales, marketing, tests - HP can easily do it by itself. Besides this it's mostly a matter of existing customers and legacy applications, new customers have full freedom to choose linux instead of HP-UX if they are too worried, especially that soon HP will provide full scope of HP-UX specific functions also under linux.
      Mr Wrong
  • I Am Surprised

    Everybody should be aware by now that Itanium is circling the plughole. Everybody, that seems, except Intel and HP.

    My only question is, why did Oracle let itself be bound into such a contract? Presumably it thought it was getting something in return; what was it?