HP Sues Oracle Over Itanium Support

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Oracle maintains Intel has plans to kill Itanium, while HP says Oracle wants to force users onto Sun Sparc servers

Hewlett-Packard has issued a lawsuit claiming that Oracle is breaking contracts with HP, and trying to force customers onto Oracle’s Sparc hardware by pulling the plug on support for Intel’s Itanium architecture. Oracle’s response claims that Intel has a secret plan to kill Itanium.

Oracle has reneged on commitments to support HP Itanium servers, says HP’s lawsuit, filed in the California state court. HP threatened to sue Oracle last week, and the company has faced sustained criticism from HP users after the move, which is the latest in an increasingly bitter dispute between the two rivals.

From partner to antagonist

This case arises out of Oracle’s failure to live up to a clear and simple promise to work with HP in the interests of both companies’ mutual customers,” says the lawsuit. “In a mere eight months, Oracle has gone from arm-in-arm ‘partnership’ with Hewlett-Packard to bitter antagonist.”

The move comes after HP received no response to a stiff lawyers’ letter last week, “The silence is deafening,” said HP’s chief communications officer Bill Wohl (pictured) in London yesterday, speaking before the law suit was announced.

“Oracle took a selfish anti-customer decision in March,” said Wohl. “It was a poorly disguised move to get users off HP onto Sun servers”. Last week’s legal demand was based on contracts with HP, he said, and was designed to give Oracle a chance to “do the right thing”.

Oracle has been pushing a “single-stack” approach, favouring the Sparc hardware which it acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems in January 2010, and HP claims this breaks its agreements with HP. The two companies have 140,000 customers in common, said Wohl.

The lawsuit claims that Oracle has refused to fix “critical bugs” in the current version of the software on Itanium, which will force users to move to the new version with a change of hardware. It also alleges that Oracle is making “below-cost offers to give away – free of charge – Sun servers”.

Oracle complains of HP trap

In response, Oracle has complained that HP tricked it into signing long-term support deals for Itanium, whilst knowing that Intel plans to discontinue the line – a claim that Intel denies, saying that the launch of its “Poulson” Itanium processor in February  guarantees years of life for the line, although it is faring less well than Intel’s Xeon processors.

“We believe that HP specifically asked Oracle to guarantee long-term support for Itanium in the September of 2010 agreement because HP already knew all about Intel’s plans to discontinue Itanium,” said an Oracle statement, “and HP was concerned about what would happen when Oracle found out about that plan.”

Despite denials from HP and Intel, Oracle maintains there is a secret plan to terminate Itanium. “Intel’s plans to end-of-life Itanium will be revealed in court now that HP has filed this utterly malicious and meritless lawsuit against Oracle,” the Oracle statement said.

Oracle and HP’s relations have soured since the appointment of SAP’s Leo Apotheker as chief executive of HP signalled a stronger move into services. HP is suing its fomer CEO, Mark Hurd over his swift move to Oracle immediately after he was deposed to make way for Apotheker.

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