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Oracle Stops Development of Oracle for Itanium Platforms

Update: June 20, 2011

On June 15, the following lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara: Hewlett-Packard Company v. Oracle Corporation, 11CV203163.  The essence of the suit is that Oracle Corporation stands in breach of an agreement with HP to continue development and support for the Intel Itanium processor, an integral component of HP's current server roadmap.  Oracle has issued statements regarding their available support options for existing customers on Itanium platforms and contends that no such agreement for continued development exists.

A press release issued by Oracle Corporation on the same day the suit was filed includes the following statements:

"What is true is that HP explicitly asked Oracle to guarantee continued support for Itanium; but Oracle refused, and HPs Itanium support guarantee wording was deleted from the final signed agreement."

According to the press release from Oracle, HP's request to Oracle for their long-term commitment to Itanium came back in September, 2015.  It was not until six months later that Oracle learned of Intel's plans to phase out the Itanium chip.  Oracle counters HP's allegation of breach with the argument that HP had early knowledge of Intel's intentions with regard to Itanium and with that knowledge strategically moved to secure long-term support of their Itanium-based servers by Oracle before the software giant was aware of Intel's plans.

At this point, it looks like the parties are headed for a formal, legal resolution of the issue of the existence of and/or breach thereof an agreement between the two IT giants over the future of the Itanium-based servers as part of their respective futures.  An equally interesting outcome of this lawsuit will likely be a clearer idea of what Intel's plans for Itanium really are.

June 13, 2011

In March, 2011, Oracle Corporation announced that it has plans to stop development for the Itanium platform.  This decision was made based on Intel's plans to phase out the Itanium processor.  Oracle continues to develop software for Intel's x86 processor family.  Oracle did have discussions with Intel regarding this change, and the following information was provided in a statement by Oracle:

 "After multiple conversations with Intel senior management Oracle has decided to discontinue all software development on the Intel Itanium microprocessor. Intel management made it clear that their strategic focus is on their x86 microprocessor and that Itanium was nearing the end of its life." 

Seeing as how Microsoft and RedHat have both already stopped developing software for Itanium, the announcement from Oracle should not have come as a shock. In the server market, industry powerhouses Dell and IBM dropped their Itanium development as far back as 2005. 

In the interest of protecting their customers' investments to date, Oracle will be continuing to offer support options for their customers on current versions of Oracle on Itanium-based servers.  The goal is to help customers transition smoothly to non-Itanium platforms.  There are three stages of support available through Oracle's lifetime support policies for customers that choose to transition away from Itanium.

The complete Oracle software stack will continue to be delivered and supported on a variety of current, popular platforms.  Customers transitioning away from Itanium platforms will be able to consider Intel x86-64 and Sun/Oracle SPARC architectures, among others.  With the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Oracle obtained Sun SPARC microprocessor technology along with the mission-critical server platform.  This technology has historically been in competition with Intel Itanium.

But where does Oracle's former technology partner, HP, weigh in on this announcement? 

Color them none too pleased.

HP has put pressure on Oracle to reverse its position on the plan to cease software development for the Itanium platform.  A letter, the specific contents of which remain undisclosed for confidentiality reasons, was transmitted to Oracle from HP just last week.  The premise of the letter is alleged to be to a declaration that HP will hold Oracle to its prior commitments to HP and its customers. HP's statement charges that Oracle's decision:

" ... violates legally binding commitments Oracle has made to HP and the more than 140,000 shared HP-Oracle customers ..."

It is clear that HP is expecting a response from Oracle on these charges.

HP's Integrity servers are produced with the Itanium chip.  There is a variety of application development companies that have targeted this specific platform based on the availability of the Oracle product stack.

HP has apparently taken specific offense at the statement by Oracle that their decison was made after discussions with Intel over the future of the Itanium chip.  There are rumblings from HP that Intel has roadmapped the future of a next generation chip that with its new microarchitecture would keep Itanium competitive in the market for years.  With confidence in this information from Intel, HP has reportedly included the Itanium processor in its ongoing mission-critical server roadmap.

Based on this commitment, the office of HP's chief spokesman, Bill Wohl, released a statement summarizing the actions taken by Oracle as:

 " ... an unlawful attempt to force customers from HP Itanium platforms to Oracle's own platforms ..."

The June 8, 2011 letter from HP is purported to include legal demands that Oracle reverse its decision on cessation of development for the Itanium platform.

Sources in HP say that Oracle was not given a response deadline, and to date, no public response from Oracle has been released. 


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