Oracle announced that it is going to cease development for Itanium across its product line, stating that they believed, after consultation with Intel management, that x86 was Intel’s strategic platform. Intel of course responded with a press release that specifically stated that there were at least two additional Itanium products in active development – Poulsen (which has seen its initial specifications, if not availability, announced), and Kittson, of which little is known.
This is a huge move, and one that seems like a kick carefully aimed at HP’s Itanium-based server business, which competes directly with Oracle’s SPARC-based Unix servers. If Oracle stays the course in the face of what will certainly be immense pressure from HP, mild censure from Intel and consternation on the part of many large customers, the consequences are pretty obvious:
All in all a very rough move on Oracle’s part. Oracle claims that the move was not motivated by competitive issues with HP, and HP has been very vocal in decrying it as destructive and unfair to major enterprise Oracle customers. While it is always difficult to unravel the decision process of major shifts like this one, my gut feel is that HP’s claim probably has some merit. Oracle was in a position where an arguably reasonable decision on long-term strategy also had a potential negative tactical impact on a major competitor, and as such was probably much easier to make.
As a closing thought, note that I say “tactical” and not “strategic” in regards to the impact of this decision on HP. HP has the technology and the resources to port HP-UX to an x86 platform, and today even has x86 systems such as the DL980 that are worthy platforms for HP-UX, as well as the ability to build a Superdome variant based on x86. HP has resisted this move for many years as x86 matured and out of a desire to preserve Itanium system revenues. Oracle’s thrown gauntlet may be the trigger HP needs. From a customer perspective, there is no real need to consider abandoning a strategic HP relationship. The company has a good track record in bridging generations of hardware for its HP-UX users, and there is no reason to think that the transition to an x86 system would be different – current Itanium customers should expect multiple yeas of parallel availability, and HP has said they will support Itanium systems for at least a decade.