HP Seeks EU Help In Oracle/Itanium Support Case

European regulators have been asked to investigate Oracle’s decision to end Itanium support

  • Hewlett-Packard is reportedly looking to make its legal dispute with software giant Oracle an international affair.

In the suit HP is bringing against Oracle for ending development of software on the Itanium platform, lawyers for both companies heard that HP is now asking European regulators to investigate Oracle.

According to a report in Reuters, HP wants the European Commission to investigate whether Oracle is using its powerful position in software to damage HP’s hardware business.

Titanic battle

Like the lawsuit in the United States, the contention in Europe centres on Oracle’s decision last March to stop developing software for systems that run on Intel’s high-end Itanium platform. That decision has had a particular impact on HP, which is, by far, the largest user of Itanium processors. HP uses the chips in its high-end Integrity servers to run such operating platforms as HP-UX, NonStop and OpenVMS.

In addition, HP and Oracle share about 140,000 customers, many of which run Oracle’s database applications on HP’s Itanium-based servers. Oracle’s decision to end its support of Itanium means that many of those joint customers will have to look for other platforms on which to run their Oracle applications.

During the court hearing in San Jose, California, Daniel Wall, a lawyer for Oracle, said HP was looking to recruit regulators outside of the United States to hear its complaints.

“They are going literally around the world to every antitrust jurisdiction, trying to say we’re trying to put them out of business,” Wall said, according to Reuters.

Attorney Robert Cooper, representing HP, said the arguments the tech company is making to European regulators are separate from the US lawsuit. “They turn on whether Oracle is abusing its position of power on software to drive us out of the hardware business,” Cooper said.

It’s unclear whether the European Commission will take up any investigation of Oracle.

The relationship between Oracle and HP, at one time strong partners, has deteriorated over the past couple of years. A significant change happened in early 2010, when Oracle closed on its $7.9 billion deal to buy Sun Microsystems. Oracle not only got Sun’s software – including the Solaris operating system – but also its Sparc chip hardware business, putting Oracle into direct competition with HP in the data centre.

Later in the year, when HP CEO Mark Hurd was forced to resign after the board of directors raised questions about his personal and professional conduct, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison lambasted the HP board and then hired Hurd as Oracle’s co-president.

The Itanium decision was only the latest dent in the relationship. Oracle officials claim that Intel plans to end Itanium development soon, and that their decision to stop developing for the platform will help their customers start making decisions on where to migrate their workloads. They also point out that other top-tier software makers – most notably, Microsoft and Red Hat – also have ended support for Itanium.

Oracle officials claim the only reason Intel continues to develop Itanium is because of payments from HP. HP officials have said that their company and Intel do have a contract to continue enhancing the Itanium platform and to use the chips in HP’s high-end systems.

However, Intel executives have said their Itanium roadmap goes through at least the rest of the decade, and HP officials have accused Oracle of using the issue to force customers off HP systems with hopes of propping up its own Sparc/Solaris platform.

On 22 November, HP executives unveiled “Project Odyssey”, a plan to enable its x86-based systems that run Intel’s Xeon EX processors to handle the same mission-critical workloads that its Itanium-based servers now handle, and to run on the same platform as those Integrity systems. Customers will start seeing the first products from Project Odyssey within the next two years, and the move could convince businesses to stay with HP systems rather than port their applications to another platform, most likely Oracle’s or IBM’s Power servers or mainframes.

HP officials said the programme will give enterprises options when considering which platforms to run their workloads on, and added that they have no intention of discontinuing innovating around their Integrity platform.

During the court hearing, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg reportedly urged the two companies to work toward a settlement, noting that at HP, Meg Whitman is now CEO. In September, she replaced Leo Apotheker, who had a strained relationship with Oracle dating back to his days as CEO of software maker SAP, a key Oracle rival.

However, both lawyers apparently were not encouraging about a settlement, with Oracle’s Wall saying the company would press its claim of fraud against HP – over its deal with Intel to continue developing Itanium – while Cooper said Oracle’s support of Itanium is of key importance to HP.

The two sides are scheduled to go to trial on the issue on 2 April, 2012.