Oracle's decision last month to end software development for Intel's Itanium platform continues to roil IT professionals, many of whom see the software giant's move less over Itanium and more about taking a hard shot at Hewlett-Packard's high-end server business.
According to the results of a study by the Gabriel Consulting Group issued April 25, 77 percent of IT data center professionals surveyed said they believe Oracle's actions are primarily competitive moves aimed at damaging HP's HP-UX and NonStop product portfolios, both of which are powered by Itanium. In addition, 79 percent of the 450 IT professionals questioned also said the decision was only a first step by Oracle in a larger scheme to hurt hardware competitors while building up its own SPARC/Solaris portfolio, which it acquired in the $7.4 billion purchase last year of Sun Microsystems.
Those results dovetail with what Forrester Research analyst Richard Fichera is hearing from HP and Oracle users. In a blog post April 21, Fichera said that while there is little panic among most users he's spoken with, they are exploring options-including accelerating moves to Linux-and also are taking Oracle's decision personally.
"Customer emotions are running high around this event," Fichera wrote. "Every client that I have spoken to feels like they have been directly attacked by Oracle, and a common thread running through all of the discussions I have had is, -How can I move forward in a fashion that does not reward Oracle for this behavior?'"
In the short term, most options end up helping Oracle, he said. However, down the road, users could opt to migrate to Microsoft's Windows and SQL Server, Fichera said. In addition, some SAP customers may be "receptive to any attempts by HP and SAP to promote an -Oracle-less' solution."
Oracle sent ripples through the industry March 22 when officials announced they no longer would develop software for the Itanium platform. The company said that after discussions with Intel engineers, it was clear that Intel was phasing out Itanium in favor of its x86-based Xeon chips. However, Intel executives said that the Itanium roadmap stretched out at least 10 years, and HP officials accused Oracle of cynically trying to boost its own faltering hardware business with a move that ultimately will hurt customers. HP is by far the largest user of Itanium chips, and most users of its Itanium-powered servers run Oracle software on them.
Oracle followed Microsoft and Red Hat, both of which already had dropped software development for Itanium.
According to Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting, most of the IT administrators surveyed said they feel they are being used by Oracle as a tool to harm HP and other hardware competitors. More than half believed Intel's statements, while 29 percent believed Oracle.
"Customers just don't buy Oracle's version of the truth on the Itanium deal," Olds said in a statement. "While they don't universally believe Intel, the majority are taking Intel at its word in terms of Itanium. Customers always have a certain level of vendor distrust-it's natural, and often merited. But with Oracle, it's at a very high level right now. Further results from the survey make it clear that Oracle isn't on many (if any) customer -Favorite IT Vendor' lists right now."
According to Forrester's Fichera, users he's spoken with fall into three camps, including a majority who are in position to wait to see whether Oracle reverses its decision or HP develops Superdome-level x86-based system that runs HP-UX. Fichera said he doubts Oracle will change its mind, and that while HP has the technology for such high-end x86-based systems, it's still questionable whether Oracle will support HP-UX, since Oracle's Itanium decision "was clearly (IMHO) a competitively motivated decision."
Other users are either ramping up their move to Linux, particularly in light of Intel's introduction of its high-end Xeon E7 chips, though Oracle again appears to be gumming up the works, with lingering questions about the software giant's willingness to support Red Hat or SUSE Linux. Yet other businesses are looking to move to another Unix provider, with the big winner there being IBM, which not only can run Oracle software on its Power servers but also has a strong Oracle database alternative in DB2.