Does HP's Oracle Itanium support suit fly?

Hewlett-Packard said that it has filed a civil lawsuit in California forcing Oracle to support its Itanium platform.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

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

In March, Oracle said that 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 22 March 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 back in September 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 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 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 as to 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 that it could drop support. A lawsuit over Oracle's legal obligations isn't likely to change that decision over the long run.

Via ZDNet US

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